I started jotting down notes for what to include in my 2012 gift guide several weeks ago and quickly realized that we are utterly spoiled rotten with the abundance of local food products, cookbooks and specialty shops etc available to us. Not to mention the many non-local products that I can’t seem to live without. That being the case, I narrowed it down and finally ended up with a 3-part (possibly 4-part) series of ideas for what to get your favorite foodie this holiday season.
I’ve broken the list up by food products, books and specialty stores for easier categorization. The lists will be posted every couple of days over the next week. Please add-on in the comment section anything you feel has been missed with a link to that particular site for easier navigation…….and shopping.
My first list consists of items that easily fit into a stocking or gift bag.
Big Spoon Roasters: I am a peanut butter junkie. I eat it on toast with jam or bananas and honey, with apples and celery or simply by the spoonful. With the introduction of Big Spoon Roasters handcrafted nut butters (made from scratch right here in Durham, North Carolina) I am truly in heaven. The five flavors of butters are made using carefully selected nuts and wildflower honey sourced from local farmers who share the commitment to quality found in each jar. Each small batch is roasted, ground, and packaged while still warm to produce nut butters that are uniquely fresh, delicious, and nutritious. For information on where to purchase locally, or on-line go here.
The Blackmere Company: Delicious handmade foods made from authentic English recipes, using the finest local farm cream and butter and seasonal produce. You will find traditional English cakes, tarts, lemon curd, shortbread, hand-made jams and chutneys, savory herb butters, fresh soups and more, all made right here in North Carolina. An especially delightful treat is their “Devonshire Delight,” their handmade version of English clotted cream. It is rich, buttery, nutty and slightly sweet, perfect for slathering on fresh from the oven scones for a weekend brunch.
Cackalacky (kak-uh-lak-ee): Born in Chapel Hill, this zesty sauce, made using NC sweet potatoes, works as a dip (just swirl it in some sour cream), topping (over eggs, potatoes, beans, pizza, etc) or marinade (chicken, pork, steaks, you name it). Personally I am a fan of pouring it over a whole chicken or pork butt and letting the meat cook low and slow in the crockpot for a delicious weeknight meal. And never a soup or chili goes without a healthy dose of it either. For an extra stocking stuffer pleaser, be sure to add a jar of their newest product; Cackalacky Spice Nuts.
Escazu Chocolates: From bean to bar to confections, this locally owned chocolate shop in Raleigh is whipping up award-winning treats everyone will love. My personal favorites include the Good Food Awards winning Dark Goat’s Milk and Cerenero bar or the Punmpkin Seed and Guajillo Chilli bar. The handcrafted truffles and confections are stunning and beautiful and you can choose an assortment of your favorites chocolates to be packaged in an eco-friendly gift box handmade from cocoa leaves for a nice touch.
Farmers Daughter: Indulge in the flavors of the season, pickled or preserved, all made using locally sourced ingredients.Founded in 2007 by April McGreger, who learned the art of preserving at the elbows of her mother and grandmother amidst a rural farming community in Mississippi. Farmer’s Daughter seeks to promote the value of sustainable, small-scale agriculture as well as traditional, handmade methods of preserving. Award winning products include Bourbon’d Figs, Spicy Green Tomato Pickles and Strawberry-Honeysuckle Preserves (which by the way pairs very well with Big Spoon Roasters nut butters).
French Broad Chocolates: Just a short trip up the road to Asheville, NC and you will find another source for delectable chocolate treats. Look for handcrafted truffles, caramels, brownies, chocolate bars and pastries all made using local and organic ingredients. When in Asheville, a stop at the Chocolate Lounge is a must for enjoying a desert or two, while sipping a fine wine or frothy beer. For a sublime holiday gift, give the one you love a 6 or 12-month chocolate subscription. Each package may include a truffle assortment, gourmet caramels, brownies or other delights.
Guglhupf: The Dresden-style Christmas Stollen is so popular during the holiday season, I highly recommend placing an order on-line to ensure your loaf of this spectacular bread. Christmas Stollen is a dense leavened bread made from a sweet dough with citrus peel, raisins, almonds, and a complex blend of spices. Dipped in butter and rolled in sugar (which seals the loaf and gives it a protective coating), the Stollen is finished with powdered sugar which looks like snow. It’s the perfect hostess gift. I posted a blog about the process of making the famous stollen last year. Go here to read it.
Lusty Monk Mustard: Heading back up the hills of the Appalachian Mountains, we stop once again in the artisan town of Asheville, this time for mustard. The slogan “Indulge, Repent, Repeat” perfectly defines these fresh-ground handcrafted mustards. As the they say “Once you meet the Monk, you can kiss mediocre mustards goodbye, and say hello to a new world of hearty food. No more boring sandwiches. Bratwurst has never been so heavenly. It’s the pretzel’s best friend, the cook’s secret weapon, the perfect companion for lovers of spice and heat.
Miss Jenny’s Pickles: Yup, we’re back to those things preserved. And how can we not delve into a jar of local pickles made right here in our NC backyard. Started by Jenny and Ashlee, as a means to an end to the economic down turn that landed them unemployed, these two ladies picked up their proverbial skirts and, using Maw Maw’s (Jenny’s Grandmother) recipe, set the bar for delicious, high quality pickles. I am wildly addicted to the Jalapeno Salt and Pepper, but all four flavors are worth seeking out on-line or in a store near you.
Nello’s Sauce: Made from scratch, in small batches, Nello’s Sauce is naturally, vegan friendly, cholesterol free, gluten-free and low sodium. While all that is just fine and dandy, and good to know, it is the flavor of this tomato sauce that won its place on this list. Simply made from vine-ripened whole peeled plum tomatoes, Sicilian sea salt, pepper, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil, it is the perfect sauce to dress any pasta or pizza or for dipping homemade meatballs and fresh crusty bread.
Sling Shot Coffee: Perfect for the coffee lover, this cold brew coffee is hand brewed and bottled in small batches in Raleigh, North Carolina. The coffee is made using only two ingredients — quality, in-season, organic coffee beans roasted locally by Counter Culture Coffee; and filtered tap water. If you’re anything like me, than your day doesn’t begin until after that first cup of coffee and I often make mine Sling Shot. Sling Shot is available in 16 ounce bottles of both ready-to-drink and concentrate options. You can find it locally in various stores and restaurants or online.
TOPO Distillery: Had-crafted vodka, gin, & whiskey, created from scratch, using only organic Carolina wheat and botanicals distilled in a copper pot and columns from a 5th generation German still maker. Your Bloody Mary will never be the same. For the Whiskey lover in your life, don’t pass up on the Age-Your-Own Whisky Kit. Look for the spirits and kit at your local ABC store.
Hope you enjoyed this first part to my gift guide. Be sure to check back in a few days for my list of must have cookbooks and food related books.