Arizona is known for its spicy tastes, desert scents, sounds of nature and, of course, spectacular sights. But there are treasures, too, that characterize Arizona – chile ristras that adorn adobe homes, Soleri Windbells and handcrafted cowboy hats. These are just a few of the perfect gifts for the Arizonan in all of us – winter visitors, transplants, new and longtime residents or those who simply wish they lived here.
Just in time for the holiday season, when we’re all on a quest to find that unique gift, here’s a hand-selected list of gift ideas that give a taste of all this state has to offer.
Savor the Flavors
Forget the fruitcake and chestnuts roasting on an open fire. In Arizona it wouldn’t be the holiday season without tamales, masa-and-meat bundles hand-wrapped in cornhusks that have been traditional Mexican Christmas Eve fare for centuries. Unless you happen to be invited to a tamalada, a social event to prepare this labor-intensive feast, your best bet is to place an (early) order with Tucson Tamale Co. or Phoenix’s The Tamale Store.
From mild-mannered to fire-sparking spicy, salsa bursts with flavors of the Southwest – jalapeño peppers, tomatillos, cilantro, tomatoes and poblano chiles – making it a favorite Arizona gift from El Charro Café in Tucson and Arizona Spice Co./Arizona Salsa Co. in Mesa. Pair it with those tamales as a topping.
Like salsa, olive oil has a surprising range of aromas, flavors and hues, and Arizona’s only extra-virgin olive oil from Queen Creek Olive Mill makes a perfect gift for a discerning cook.
For a fresh take on holiday sweets, consider farm-direct, hand-sorted Medjool dates at Yuma’s Basket Creations & More or Martha’s Gardens Date Farm. Find Black Sphinx dates (grown exclusively in Arizona, they’re smaller, sweeter and thinner-skinned than Medjools) in a decorative gift tin or tray from the Sphinx Date Co. Palm Pantry, located just south of Old Town Scottsdale.
Home for the Holidays
If you’d rather brave a tornado than Black Friday, Arizona has plenty of alternatives that could result in a few more checks off your gift list. In Tucson, Native Seeds/SEARCH offers Native American and artisan crafts such as hand-woven baskets and pottery; a collection of books on Southwestern cooking, gardening and regional plants; and a wide selection of indigenous heirloom vegetable and wildflower seeds.
Not everyone has a green thumb, making a boxed potted cactus from Tohono Chul (Tucson) or Desert Botanical Garden (Phoenix) an ideal alternative.
Your favorite bibliophiles will enjoy cozying up in their favorite reading chair with a book by one of Arizona’s famous authors – Zane Grey, Stephenie Meyer, Edward Abbey and Leslie Marmon Silko, to name a few – available at local bookstores such as Mostly Books in Tucson, Antigone Books in Tucson, Changing Hands in Tempe and Phoenix, and Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale.
In Paradise Valley you’ll discover a bronze-bell foundry called Cosanti founded by the late visionary architect Paolo Soleri, who designed ceramic and bronze windbells known as Soleri Windbells. Today artisans carry on his work, creating the windbells of varying sizes that are sold on-site, online and in museum stores nationwide.
For those on a smaller budget, consider bright red chile ristras from Son Silver West in Sedona or Kactus Jock in Scottsdale.
Wear It Well
Arizona sparks Old West nostalgia – the heart’s longing for a simpler time closer to the land. Even if you never feel the chafe of a saddle, there’s still something irresistible about cowboy and cowgirl finery that captures the spirit of the West, such as custom handmade cowboy boots from Paul Bond Boots in Nogales or Stewart Boot Co. in Tucson and fine hand-woven Panama straw hats and custom-blended fur-felt fedoras from Óptimo Custom Hatworks in Bisbee.