When in doubt, go with food.
When you're really stumped for a gift, think regional. Who doesn't love something from his hometown, whether that's Papaya King hot dogs, Rocky Road from the Penn State Creamery, or a rack of ribs from Alabama (hands down, one of the best gifts I've ever given.)
We love the Lower Eastside Girl's Club, which runs all kinds of amazing programs to help underserved girls develop their potential. They also sell all kinds of yummy, girl-made treats. We particularly like the Bipartisan cookie tin, which includes both elephant and donkey cookies, thus forestalling any family political fights.
Bacon-of-the-month is so last year. But who wouldn't be delighted to receive a "Macaron of the Month?" No one, that's who. Bonus: good for the gluten-intolerant!
Although, when it comes to bacon, people won't mind being demode.
If you're shopping for a sweet tooth, a religious Catholic, a religious Catholic with a sweet tooth or simply someone who appreciates really good candy accompanied by the occasional religious tract, think Monastery Candy. Not only are the caramels absolutely divine, but they help keep the Trappestine Sisters of Our Lady of the Mississippi self-supporting. People will be delighted, or confused and then ultimately delighted: these are the best caramels I've ever had.
If you love someone very, very much and want to express that love with the outlay of money, why not spend it on my personal dream gift, a subscription to the Tell-Tale Preserve Co.'s monthly CSA? For $35 (per month's package), your true love will receive a mixed bag of 6 or 7 seasonal, artisanal treats, like preserves and coffee and cake. And needless to say, this helps support small farmers and producers, too!
For the friend who's into healthy living. Obviously.
You might hear "dried beans" and think "crappiest gift ever." But you'd be wrong! Because these are scrumptious, organic heirloom beans...with gorgeous package art to boot!
Another gift that might seem kind of impersonal but is in fact stealth-awesome: really good citrus fruits from Florida. People will think it's some kind of weird, corporate present and then realize their winter has been enlivened by the sweetest, juiciest grapefruits they've ever eaten and they don't have scurvy. And they'll praise your name.
Women Helping Other Women is an amazing organization that helps women get back on their feet. But much as we admire it, it still wouldn't be included here did it not sell one of the best cakes we've ever tasted, so good that the fruitcake need not be restricted to that one weirdo who genuinely loves fruitcake. In any case, they also make scrumptious preserves and a berry cake to die for.
If, like some of us, you enjoy making cookies, candy, or other treats that end up being surprisingly expensive and time-consuming, fill all your wrapping needs (boxes, cellophane wrappers, tins) at a baking supply store! And wrap your gifts beautifully while you're at it! (Yes, those are my offerings.)
And for the man who has everything? Really good brownies. And seriously, wasn't Eric everyone's favorite on "Top Chef: Just Desserts?" Yes. He was. So give him the business. Not in the sexual sense.