Each year, our collaborators and contributors round up their best gift ideas for cooks, eaters and those curious about the kitchen. Read on for the best advent calendars for counting the holidays.
When I was growing up, the holiday season meant two things: Christmas at the Pee-Wee Playhouse Special loop and Trader Joe’s Advent Calendar. Each day in December, I carefully opened a perforated flap in the cardboard box, revealing a quarter-size milk chocolate in the shape of a bell or a star or a gift. Hell if I knew what Advent was (still pretty fuzzy, tbh), but this month-long tease was something I looked forward to all year. As an adult, my tastes matured, meaning I went from milk chocolate to Advent calendars with black licorice, loose teas, and experimental truffles. Pee-Wee remains non-negotiable.
Below are some of the best Advent calendars for 2022 – and they’re, no kidding, selling out as I file this, so if one catches your eye, don’t sleep above. If these bestsellers are out of stock, let me tell you Neiman Marcus, Food 52 (we I haven’t forgotten youHanukkah watchers), and—if skincare and beauty advent calendars are your vices—Sephoraall of which have excellent selections.
If you have a kid (or if you are that kid yourself) who can’t get enough of those Hogwarts Christmas scenes, this Williams-Sonoma Harry Potter Advent Calendar is for you. You’ll find Fizzing Whizbees, Gummy Owls and, of course, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. Although I didn’t get booger jelly bean, I ate something that tasted decidedly like mulch. Fun for the whole family?
Nicole Patel’s truffles sound whimsical; the Austin chocolatier is known for flavors like Thanksgiving Stuffing and Smoked Brisket. I would dismiss Delysia as catering to the booger-jelly-bean crowd, except Patel’s flavors actually work. Her chocolate advent calendar features a grid of numbered five-by-five truffles, each inspired by a different holiday song. Vanity is a bit of a lofty concept, a perfect pairing for flavors like roasted squash and chestnut (legitimately delicious) and wheatgrass (…difficult!).
For all but the most thirsty tea lovers, the Vahdam Advent Calendar is the gift that will continue to be given long after December is over. Each day you’ll unpack a different box containing 17 grams of black, green, or herbal tea, more than enough for multiple servings. Most are mixtures (the different varieties of Chai are my favourites), but for the purists you will also find Darjeeling, oolong and Assam. My Christmas countdown calendar oddly skipped December 20 and contained two December 22s, which I didn’t mind since that meant a double serving of Vahdam’s deliciously floral rose black tea.
You’ll need a few cookies to go along with this new daily tea habit, and you could do a lot worse than Walker’s shortbread. It’s a classic for a reason. The ingredients for their traditional shortbread fingers are flour, butter, sugar and salt – no nonsense, no antics. The craziest he’s going to get is four rounds of chocolate chip shortbread and a few squares that have salted caramel bits all over them (those days are going to be big days), but mostly you’re here for the unmistakable buttery flavor .
If jam is your jam, Bonne Maman’s Holiday Advent Calendar is back for 2022. People don’t care about this calendar and look, I get it. Every day, you’ll be rewarded with a one-ounce serving of fruit spread in this iconic French jar, magically transforming your home into a charming bed and breakfast. There is also a single container of honey hidden behind a closed door. The flavors are a cut above your standard deli offerings – there’s cocoa nib pear, yuzu pineapple and cardamom fig, the apt descriptor of which I believe is “scrummy” .
Your dentist is going to absolutely hate this one. For the uninitiated, wine gummies are firm, fruity gummy candies that contain no wine and lodge in the teeth like Swedish fish, but more sticky. These particular wine gums are classier than the ones you’d buy on impulse from a UK pharmacy; each day’s packet contains five small cubes that look like Turkish delight, dusted with a punch-flavored powder. There’s quince wrapped in lime, pomegranate with dragon fruit, and a lovely floral elderflower with yuzu. A thoughtful design detail: each compartment has a standard Roman numeral as well as the Braille numeral.
At the opposite end of the gummy spectrum are Lady M’s Apple Cider, Tangerine, and Raspberry Jellies. Their soft, fruit jelly-like texture puts up no resistance, and they burst with a concentrate of fruity flavors. There are also a variety of non-gummy confections, from white chocolate covered almond cake chips to absolutely revealing chocolate covered corn nuts. Chocolate. Covered. Corn nuts. This advent calendar is shaped like a wheel of fortune, with a keepsake snow globe in the center. It’s an advent calendar and white elephant gift in one!
This guy reminds me of Trader Joe’s calendars, and I mean it in the best possible way (see intro). Behind each window is a square of high-quality milk chocolate, stamped with a festive design like holly or fairy lights. The chocolate is sweet, it is milky, it is not filled with wheatgrass ganache. Like the calendars of my youth, the packaging is simple – a plastic tray in a nice cardboard sleeve – and that’s reflected in the price. At $22, it’s the most affordable option on the list.
If you’re chocolatey, check out this Christmas advent calendar of individually wrapped toffees hidden behind a wintry anthropomorphic street scene featuring a car full of hamsters, just like those Kia Soul commercials. McCrea’s Candies, based in Massachusetts, makes caramels that strike the right balance between melty and firm in the jaw in classic flavors (maple and chocolate mint) and less conventional (sea salt with rosemary truffle and the mysterious ” ginger fusion”).
For fools like me, 24 Days of Christmas Licorice is the best holiday gift imaginable. Danish brand Lakrids by Bülow is one of my all-time favorite confectionery companies, and its countdown calendar doesn’t disappoint. Hidden behind each door is an individually wrapped two-pack (one for me, one for me too) of chocolate-covered licorice in flavors like salted caramel, strawberries and cream, and vanilla mango. These sweet-and-salty, crunchy-shelled, marble-sized balls might convert even avowed licorice haters, but if not, no more for you.
Compartés, based in Los Angeles, is, according to its website, “the hippest and trendiest chocolate factory,” but its killer whale and polar bear-themed advent calendar gives Lisa Frank circa 1992. Each day reveals a different square of chocolate filled with ganache; my favorites punctuate the dark chocolate with aromas of fruit or spices such as Hawaiian mango or gingerbread. My only complaint is that the packaging is a little tricky. The truffles are wedged firmly into their compartments, and it takes a combination of deft fingers and sharp taps on the back of the box to dislodge them. Each time I left with chocolate under my fingernails.
This advent calendar weighs six pounds. (Or thereabouts – it was too heavy for my bread scale, so I weighed myself on the bathroom scale with and without the calendar, like it was a baby.) It opens like a jewelry box, and inside each pull-out drawer are two individual sachets of hot chocolate. I use this term loosely – is “White Hot Chocolate with Sticky Caramel Pudding” technically hot chocolate, or just sweet flavored milk? Either way, it’s caramelized and creamy and served nicely with a pinch of salt.
Like Vahdam’s Tea Advent Calendar, this offering from Scottish chocolatier Coco yields generous portions – every day of the holiday countdown, you can expect a beautifully wrapped mini bar of chocolate. Coco invests in origin (meaning where the cocoa is actually grown), so its chocolate is made near the source before being shipped to Scotland and processed into flavors like chocolate with salted caramel milk and dark chocolate with sea salt from the Isle of Skye. This heavy (over a pound of chocolate) calendar is not decorated with snowmen or singing cats, but with bold, colorful graphic prints – very non-denominational, very modern.
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