Every year I promise myself I’m going to be finished with my Christmas shopping by early December. But every December 22, I’m fighting traffic at the local mall to pick up the last-minute items I’ve put off purchasing until it’s almost too late.
If you find yourself in that same boat, you may be looking for some no-fail purchases for friends, family, neighbors, customers, or the local community volunteer who needs a bit of praise for all the work she does for everyone. We taste tested more than 40 products to find the best of the best at five stores: Williams-Sonoma, Target, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Sur La Table. Here, our verdicts:
Best at Williams-Sonoma: This holiday tradition from one of America’s favorite kitchen and food stores is by far the most delicious peppermint bark we tasted. The peppermint is assertive but not fake. The chocolate is creamy and smooth. Each bite is a bit of sweet treat release. $29-58, williams-sonoma.com
First runner-up: S’mores, available in store.
Best at Sur La Table: Marshmallow Snowmen are the perfect finishing touch for a gift of a mug and hot chocolate. They’ll feel a bit guilty biting into that precious face, but the pillowy marshmallow is so worth it. $8, available in stores.
First runner-up: Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Cookie, $2, available in stores.
Best at Target: This trio is a nice change from your typical packaged nuts gift. Wrap this up with a bottle of wine or carton of hot chocolate, and you’ve got a delicious way to say “You’re swell!” to a favorite friend. $6, available in stores.
First runner-up: Archer Farms Bavarian White Chocolate-Peppermint Pretzels, $5, target.com
Best at Trader Joe’s: Hands down, Trader Joe’s much-beloved Peppermint Joe Joe’s won, but it had some serious competition from the Gingersnap Joe Joe’s. Gift the best of both worlds with the assorted set of Joe Joe’s. $6, available in stores.
First runner-up: Butterscotch Shortbread Wreath Cookies, $4, available in stores.
Best at Whole Foods: Dark Chocolate Marshmallows are crazy addictive. They make delicious individual treats, but dunked in hot chocolate or coffee, they take on a whole new level of yum. $9, available in stores.