The best food boxes and edible subscriptions to gift this year
This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2020, CNET’s gift picks with expert advice, reviews and recommendations for the latest tech gifts for you and your family.
Food boxes, baskets and edible subscriptions make a great gift in any year but even more so in 2020. At the risk of belaboring a well-worn point, this holiday season has looked and will likely continue to look very different than in years past. Those with geographically sprawled families may not be planning in-person celebrations and gift exchanges, and so sending a thoughtful gift basket or subscription box of tasty eats or drinks can help keep the spirit of the season alive, while simultaneously keeping airports less crowded and loved ones safe.
There are boxes on boxes of curated food and drink subscriptions and one time gift baskets to sift through, filled with all sorts of delicious things to nosh and sip. Many of them make excellent presents but sussing out the very best food, snack, whiskey and wine baskets to order online might take a little work. Alright, fine — we’ll do the work. From snack boxes filled with hard-to-find treats to rare bourbon tastings, tailored monthly wine hauls and even fresh fish delivered to their door, these are some of the best food and drink gift boxes to send by mail this holiday.
Oh, and in case you were wondering: We checked and everything is in stock and confirmed to arrive on or before Dec. 24 (as of the time of this writing). If you’re gunning for earlier, we’d recommend checking with the individual vendor to ensure timely delivery by your target date.
The Japanese have snacking down to an art form. Bokksu knows this better than anyone, which is why they took the top spot in a ranking of best snack boxes I wrote earlier in the year. Bokksu collects some of the best snacks from Japan and compiles them in a one-time or recurring monthly curated tasting box. I’ve both given and received a Bokksu and boy, are they fun. The best part about these high-end snack packs is that almost none of the Japanese treats remind you much of the snacks we already have here.
Inside the unmistakable bright orange boxes, you’ll find eats like seaweed tempura, green tea and lemon cakes along with Japanese candy such as yuzu gummies and matcha-strawberry Kit-Kats. What’s more, Bokksu includes some slick literature explaining a bit about each treat including historical and cultural significance, where it applies. Bokksu boxes start at $40 per month for subscriptions and $50 for a one-time send.
Read more: The best snack subscription boxes in 2020
If you’re trying to win someone over from afar (or near, for that matter), being responsible for good, new and interesting coffee showing up at their door each month has got to be the path of least resistance. Trade sources some of the best beans in the biz from indie roasters and ships them at a frequency of your choosing. Expect a nice variety in flavor profile, but it’s easy to update and is customizable in case you want something different. Communication is also clear and concise and, best of all, the beans are fresh as heck, with some arriving as soon as two days after roasting.
Gifting a subscription — which starts at $13 for 12-ounce bags and goes up from there — is not the only option. You can sort through Trade’s a la carte gift options, including individual bags or bundles that start at $48.
Read more: The best coffee subscriptions for every type of drinker
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If anyone I know is reading this, a delivery of fresh seafood is what I pick. For someone without a good fish market in their neighborhood, some quality fish by mail is a total treat. Wary of frozen fish? Well, unless you live near a dockside fishmonger, the stuff you’re buying at the market has likely been frozen and then thawed. That’s all to say, fish that is caught, flash-frozen, packed and sent — like what you’ll get from Fulton Fish Market — is probably fresher.
Fulton has a massive selection of a la carte seafood so you can order fish by the piece, box or a curated bundle. Different species like fresh tuna, wild snapper and cod are available in different counts, and you’ll generally save more per pound if you order in bundles. A 10-pack of 8-ounce salmon filets, for instance, can be had for around $89, or a halibut and salmon stock-up bundle goes for $99. You can also subscribe and Fulton will send a monthly, bimonthly or weekly curated box of fish starting at $65 per month for four 6-ounce portions, but ordering a la carte seems to net the best value.
Read more: The best seafood delivery in 2020
If you’ve got a luxury hound on your list but can’t settle on a single item, you can give the gift of many surprise gifts with a subscription to Vices. Here’s the thing: Fancy candy, high-end booze and quality handmade leather goods aren’t the sort of things most of us buy ourselves often. To be surprised each month by a curated delivery of a few of the finer things has got to count for something.
Subscriptions for Vices boxes start at $100 per month when you sign up for a year. A single month will run you $130. Each one follows a vague theme like this Italian Design box which included a handsome leather-bound notebook, a very fancy inkless pen, a bottle of Italian aperitivo, Illy espresso and biscotti.
While we’re on the subject, a box of high-end meats is never a bad call, and your gifting options abound in 2020. ButcherBox is perfect for gifting a meat box or subscription — which right now includes free bacon for life when you sign up. Others specialize in niche beef such as KC Cattle Co‘s stock of 100% American wagyu. Another newcomer, Porter Road, has some interesting cuts and holiday bundles, while old standby Rastelli’s will let you curate a box of meat and seafood to send. See our favorite online butchers to find a little something meaty to gift to your favorite carnivore.
Read more: The best meat delivery services in 2020
For the brown liquor nerds, Flaviar is the way to go. This fine booze membership club entitles your giftee to one premium bottle of whiskey along with a themed tasting box every quarter. Plus you’ll get access to rare, exclusive bottlings, tailored recommendations and invitations to unique members-only events. Flaviar is $190 for six months or $300 for a full year, which amounts to four bottles along with four themed tasting flights that arrive in cool vials, and the other, aforementioned perks.
It’s likely that the chef on your list has knives, and just as likely that many of them are dull. Sharpening knives at home by hand is a bit of a tricky business, so I say leave it to the experts. The startup Knife Aid sends a package out to safely pack and ship knives back to them to be sharpened by pros. I had this done and the results were impeccable; the blades came back in just over a week.
You can send a gift card so they can decide when the time is right, or go ahead and order a sharpening and the initial box will just show up in the mail. It’s $59 for four knives (less than $15 per knife) but if you consider one only really needs this kind of treatment once a year or so, it’s absolutely worth it. It’s also a perfect gift to give someone you may not be seeing in person.
Read more: The best direct-to-consumer knives for 2020
Wine may seem like the fallback gift with a, perhaps rightful, reputation as impersonal. Winc along with a few of the other flashy new wine clubs are hoping to change that by delving deep inside your palate and making ordering wine by mail an engaging experience. If there’s someone on your list you suspect would love to learn more about wine or their own preferences — strange as that may sound — a Winc subscription is a great place to start. The company starts you off with a profile and palate analysis, and then sends wines they think you’ll like. Each time you rate them so the shipments from various producers start to jibe fully with your taste.
Winc monthly memberships start at an affordable $39 (plus $9 shipping) for three bottles per month. You can buy a gift card for as few or as many months as you’d like to bequeath, or just send a one-time shipment of wine. Who doesn’t love that?
Read more: The best wine subscriptions in 2020
Fuego Box isn’t new but it is a great idea and makes a perfect gift for the hot head on your list. Hot sauce subscriptions start at $18 per month — although $30 per month for three bottles is a much better deal. There are also plenty of one-off gift boxes like this one with hot honey, peach habanero hot sauce and spicy garlic seasoning. Plus, Fuego Box is a small business that supports other small businesses so you can feel good about that.
Getting a reservation at Cochon Butcher in New Orleans is no easy task (trust me), but getting some of its famous cured meats is as easy as a few clicks through Goldbelly. This charcuterie pack for four people is all made in-house by Cochon Butcher’s team. It includes mortadella, salami cotto, soppressata, hog’s head cheese and lonzino (cured pork loin) with a jar of the butcher’s signature giardiniera Italian relish.
Jeni’s gourmet ice cream has gained a bit of a cult following for delicious and unusual ice cream flavors like brambleberry crisp and Chandon sparkling wine with berry. While you can’t find it everywhere, Jeni’s will send the sweet frozen treats nationwide. Any one of the bundle packs such as this holiday collection ($68) would make a perfect gift for the ice cream fanatic on your list. The ice cream is guaranteed to ship and arrive frozen for as little as $13.