It’s a challenge every year—what’s a creative gift to give the food lover in your life? You want originality. You want to exhibit great taste in every sense of the word. And you want it to be just a little bit fun. With those criteria in mind, here’s our gift list for a bit of last minute shopping.
1. A year ago we called out maple as a big flavor for 2014 and we were right. Bring it to life with a gift of pure Vermont Maple Syrup in a stocking or boxed up and under the tree! We tried a sample from the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association and take it from us—you can tell the difference with the real thing. This gift can be used in recipe after recipe, from baked goods to salad dressings. A little-known hint: this is the year Vermont began using a new system for grading syrup, adding color and flavor descriptors so you can choose from Golden with Delicate Taste all the way to Very Dark with Strong Taste.
2. We liked the idea of barkTHINS even before we saw any press materials, and bought a bag to try them out. Then we bought another. That’s the effect these snacks will have on you. Is it a cookie? A candy? It’s a combo that you have to taste to understand. Made with non-GMO ingredients and fair-trade chocolate, in flavors like Dark Chocolate Pretzel . . . wrap up a couple extra for under the tree!
3. There’s nothing plain vanilla about a bottle of specialty vanilla, especially not when it appears in a food-lover’s stocking. We like Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste, which is made from a combination of vanilla extract and seeds from the vanilla pod. It is thicker in consistency than extract, meaning it won’t thin out your batter, and is much easier to use than scraping a vanilla bean pod. For the holidays, go for the pure vanilla flavor and ramp your baking—or someone else’s—up a notch.
4. Don’t even get us started on Murdick’s Fudge. We fell in love with these products, which are all made fresh and shipped from their Mackinac Island clapboard fudge shop. Trust us, go for the toffee. Or the fudge, especially this year’s top hit Double Chocolate Caramel Sea Salt fudge. Or the brittle. Wait, definitely the toffee. Oh, just get it all!
5. Fustini’s caught our attention on a table at a fine dining clubhouse in the company’s home state of Michigan, where we sampled the garlic olive oil and one of the balsamics. We found fresh flavor and a great complement to any meal. There are so many gift ideas here, starting with a membership to Fustini’s Oil & Vinegar Club, or a certificate for a School of Cooking class. Of course, you can try the sampler to get started—each sampler has two oils and two vinegars so you can try them out and see what you love. Fustini, by the way, are the stainless steel containers used in Italy to store olive oils and balsamic vinegars.
6. How about a culinary book? We peruse the latest cookbooks regularly, and could easily recommend a few. But how about something for a little deeper immersion into the culinary world? Try Kitchen Literacy for starters. It’s essentially food history brought to life, walking the reader through the changes in the last several generations around how Americans have shopped, cooked, and thought about their food. Or Knickerbocker Glory – A Chef’s Guide to Innovation in the Kitchen and Beyond. This book is really about innovation and how to turn inspiration into something tangible. We also liked Vegetarian: A Delicious Celebration of Fresh Ingredients for its subject matter and imaginative recipes. And, our attention was caught by The Greek Yogurt Cookbook—talk about a niche, and yet it’s a cookbook that can help you incorporate this healthy and tasty product into your menu in ways you may have never thought of yet. There’s nothing like sitting down with a good book after the holiday rush, so think about one for the culinary enthusiast in your home!
7. The Graze Nibblebox is the gift that keeps giving. Sign up and pay a small monthly fee and you’ll get surprises in the mail on a regular basis. You can customize your box to get what you like—we’re big on the nuts and seeds in our shop, but there’s a little of everything snackable. Try the dried apples with caramel dip for something portable and out of the ordinary!
8. Seawind isn’t necessarily glamorous, but it is good—and it falls right on trend with the interest in healthy snacking. It’s all natural dehydrated food that just might help keep you out of the candy bowl quite so much!
9. When you are ready for decadence (and a little bigger budget), who wouldn’t love receiving a Chocolate Cravings Crate from Shari’s Berries. (Yes, we know we’ve got candy in this list twice, and we’re a little heavy on the chocolate. It’s the holidays, after all!). This wooden crate has unusual items such as Chocolate Covered Gummy Bears and Vanilla Marshmallows, not to mention Dusted Chocolate Peanut Butter Toffee Balls. Yes, please!
10. If you need a great little stocking stuffer, consider something offbeat like the CLIF Bar. Their seasonal flavors include Iced Gingerbread, Pecan Pie and Spiced Pumpkin Pie . . . and who wouldn’t like to find those in their stocking! You’ll not only give something healthy (with organic rolled oats and wholesome ingredients), but will also be part of donating a portion of proceeds to the not-for-profit organization Protect Our Winters.
Bonus: Give the gift of you. Many cooks and bakers are the unassuming type who don’t think about sharing their knowledge. So offer a family cooking lesson, or create a family cookbook with some heirloom recipes, or finally divulge that secret ingredient you’ve been holding back! The best times in the kitchen are those that are shared, and there’s nothing like the holidays to make those memories last.
Those ideas should get you out of any “I haven’t started my shopping yet” rut and well on your way to the best holiday ever!