Make your holiday gatherings extra merry with these decadent goodies

By Jessica Koslow

Clockwise: Impress your host with boozy scoops from Humphry Slocombe, scrumptious pies from The Pie Hole or pure chocolate from ChocoVivo

It seems like every day another evite or email pops up in our inboxes requesting our presence at another party: an office party, holiday gathering, family potluck, or end of the year celebration. It’s a wonderful — but also busy — time of year, and because you can’t show up empty-handed, here’s a list of delicious sweet and savory snacks to bring to your next soiree.

1. Terrific Tamales

For many Mexican-American families, tamales are a Christmastime tradition. Tamara’s Tamales on Washington Blvd. has been filling holiday orders for 27 years and counting. You’ll most likely see Tamara herself walking around in the kitchen overseeing every hand-packed tamale. Things get serious right about now. The cutoff date to order half dozen and a dozen tamales is Dec. 15. After that, it’s walk-ins only. If you do walk in, ask for whatever’s just out of the oven. Impress your party host with machaca beef or chicken verde tamales, or specialties like the king crab or traditional sweet tamale — stuffed with pineapple, raisins, sugar and anise.

13352 W. Washington Blvd. | (310) 305-7714;

2. Impressive Empanadas

Another tasty pocket-sized meal that’s perfect to feed a function is an empanada. Grand Casino in Culver City has them ready to go: beef, chicken, spinach, eggplant or ham and cheese. Remember to ask for chimichurri sauce, a blend of chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano, and red wine vinegar that you can drizzle over every bite. This Argentinian bakery and café also sells boxes of traditional sweets that are hard to pass by without stopping to stare (or drool) for a few minutes. On offer: Alfajores, a “sandwich” cookie with dulce de leche; canoncito, a puff pastry with dulce de leche; or Palmeritas, also known as “elephant ear” cookies. Factura is another traditional Argentine pastry, sort of like a Danish, that is filled with pastry cream, quince jam, dulce de leche (of course)
and more.

3826 Main St., Culver City | (310) 202-6969;

3. Sensational Slices

Everyone loves pies. You’ll automatically score points and assure yourself a repeat invitation. The Pie Hole in Venice brings a much-needed dose of sugary sweetness to Lincoln Blvd. near Rose Avenue. Be bold and select the crunchy on top, gooey in the middle Mac n Cheese Pie. Or, if you’re opting for dessert, go with a Salted Caramel Pecan, Classic Banana Cream, Chocolate Brownie or the Pie of the Month, Peppermint Mocha. Just a little slice is enough to power up the dance floor all night.

324 Lincoln Blvd., Venice | (310) 314-3114;

4. Charming Chocolates

ChocoVivo smells like chocolate — it wafts of whole cacao nibs being ground into dark chocolate. The Culver City chocolate factory prides itself on using methods similar to those of the Mayans and Aztecs over 2,000 years ago. No milk powder, soy lecithin or additional cacao butter is added — it’s just whole bean chocolate here: 65% to 100% cacao. Pre-wrapped gift baskets cost $45, or pick up a few à la carte items. Bring your buddy a blended bar with cherries, almonds and black peppercorns, or the Mayan Tradition, which is a cinnamon-y and spicy chunk of chocolate. ChocoVivo even has products for hair and body, or chocolate dust — a custom blend of ground cacao beans and coconut sugar perfect for lining a cocktail (such as an Old Fashioned), or sprinkling on top of
a coffee.

12469 Washington Blvd., Culver City | (310) 845-6259;

5. Bubbly Ice Cream

The newly opened Humphry Slocombe on Abbot Kinney Blvd. is a different kind of ice cream shop. It’s sort of … for grownups. It bills itself as ice cream with attitude and uses the hashtag #lickthat. Scoop up a pint of Cherry Fizz, a boozy holiday cocktail ice cream flavor made with a splash of brandy, Amarena cherries, a hint of orange zest and Brut Vintage Cuvée from Napa-based winery Domaine Carneros.

1653B Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice | (424) 387-8161;

6. Delicious Donuts

Everybody knows Randy’s Donuts — it’s the building with the massively huge donut on the roof, right off the 405 in Inglewood. The landmark bills itself as the most recognized donut shop in the world and one of the most iconic locations in Los Angeles. They’ve been hand making their circular sensations every morning for over 55 years, and there’s not a bad variety in the bunch. Show off like a peacock with a box of fluffy, fresh and large donuts. There might be a line, but as their website boasts, it’s worth the wait.

805 W Manchester Blvd., Inglewood | (310) 645-4707;