Nia & Company (2, 88 Louisiana SE, 243-2222) is a tiny, eclectic gift shop that's groovy enough to give a certain Nob Hill institution a run for its money. The store leans toward Asian items but is packed to the rafters with cool collectibles from around the globe. If you know someone who needs a Hello Kitty fix, the display of Sanrio items is impressive. (Three words: Badtz Maru boombox!) There are loads of unusual Japanese bath products, some gorgeously mod Torre Tagus ceramics, an assortment of comically rude “Kid Evil” backpacks and a selection of ultra-hip Uglydolls. A fine array of cards, wrapping paper and ribbons make this a perfect one-stop shop.
I guarantee Fremont's Fine Foods (3, 1100 San Mateo NE, 792-3463) has the perfect stocking stuffer for the gourmand in your life. Organic jams, fanciful marzipan creations, unusual soft drinks (cassis soda?), a wide variety of teas and coffees: These are just the tip of the iceberg. Need truffle oil? Or blood orange vinegar? They've got it. Candy? How about Belgian chocolates, Dutch licorice and Jamaican rum balls? Looking for something to fill the Anglophile's wish list? Fremont's has such tasty British treats as spotted dick, mushy peas, pork bangers and bloater paste. Yum! Don't forget the Christmas pudding.
Mama's Minerals (4, 1100 San Mateo NE, 266-8443) isn't just for geologists. This upscale rock shop is half museum and half hunter's paradise. You can spend hours digging through the store's stock of sexy rocks. Selection runs the gamut from inexpensive beads (thousands of 'em) to moderately priced fossils (fish, ammonites, trilobites and the amazingly exotic petrified palm wood) to expensive quartz crystal towers and geodes the size of surfboards. Check out the blacklight room for unusual fluorescent minerals as well. Pretty and scientific.
Chile Addict (5, 325 Eubank NE, 237-9070) has got exactly what you need for that New Mexico transplant who's moved out of state and just can't get his or her hands on a much-needed chile fix. Choose from cookbooks, gift packs, cookwear, clothing and—of course—a dizzying assortment of house-brand salsas. (Can't decide between red or green? How about Nuclear Meltdown? Or Chipotle Honey?) Festive holiday ristras and chile wreaths? Of course you can pick them up here. The store also specializes in uniquely Southwestern gifts, so keep an eye out for lots of local crafts as well.