Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chicago Foodie Holiday Gifts 31 ideas for December

Okay this list will continue to grow but here is my idea list in no particular order for farm to table, farm to bar, artisanal foodie gifts for the holidays!!!

1. Burton's Maple Syrup - Really good maple syrup is hard to find and not something that most people will really search out to buy for themselves so what a great gift, locally made, really tasty maple syrup. Personally, I prefer Grade B because it is a little higher in nutrients and when I try to do the master cleanse, maple syrup, lemon juice, cayenne and water to flush out all the holiday excesses, it tastes better.

2. Spices from the Spice House - Spices perk up a meal without adding calories. I think people don't realize the difference between fresh spices and the supermarket variety or the difference herbs mixed with salt make. Spices are great hostess gifts, stocking stuffers and I firmly believe you can never have enough spice in life!!!!!!!

3. Pastoral Artisan - Gift basket, cheese, wine, gift certificate to wine/cheese classes. How can you go wrong shopping here. Do happy people eat cheese or does cheese make people happy? Greg and Ken the owner's of Pastoral are the Chicago source for all local cheeses within the region, they know the makers, they have visited everyone, and Pastoral offers so much more, like really yummy sandwiches. You cannot go wrong giving clients, friends, family a gift basket from Pastoral. They put the A in showcasing artisanal products.

4. Hum Spirits- What if you were told, there is a spirit out there that you will likely be hangover free and is good for your health and tasty at the same time, hello, welcome to Hum Spirits..Hum is high in antioxidants, cardamom, ginger, lime and hibiscus. It is the new world of botanical spirits...I love this world and it is definitely something your friends, family may not know about, so something new and it will be a hit to whomever you gift it to.

5. Rare Bird Preserves - ELizabeth Madden the chief cook and bottle washer of Rare Bird Preserves puts so much attention and focuses on all the littliest details to make these preserves so incredibly tasty. If you ever heard her describe the process of making these preserves including making her own pectin, you would not believe she prices these delectable spreads where she does. Yet again, you can never have enough preserves to put on breads, meats and cheeses. Another great gift, stocking stuffer or house present.

6. Nicole's Crackers - Who can miss the purple and white boxes of Nicole's crackers, they are made locally in Chicago and being the carb lover that I am, the boxes disappear very quickly. Nicole gives each cracker a witty name and description, and she is always coming up with ideas for new products. Who does not want an extra box of crackers? Yet again another great gift that you can't go wrong with. And Nicole, herself is such an interesting person who constantly recreates herself and that personality is in her crackers.

7. City Provisions, CP Deli - So much to say, so little time... CP Deli is ground zero for almost any locavore product in the Illinois universe and the merchandising is beautiful and we haven't even gotten to the food. Every product listed here plus more can be found there, plus my favorite salad dressing in the universe to date, Aquaranch Basil vinaigrette dressing, and so much more. This is just a have to go, locavore destination in Chicago, even if you aren't you have to go....that's all I can say and if you want to give the foodie in your life something you both can do together, buy a gift certificate to one of Cleetus Friedman's Farm dinners, I still have not gone for full disclosure but it is on my bucket list of locavore/foodie things I have to do.

8. Marion Street Cheese Market -When in Oak Park go to Marion Street, when not in Oak Park, make Marion Street a stop and their dining room keeps getting better and better, Marion Street talks the talk and walks the walk when it comes to artisanal cheese and commitment to all things sustainable and local plus they have a might fine menu to guide you to wine/beer and food pairings, gifts, gift certificates, another place you just cannot go wrong.....

9. North Shore Distillery- Oh, I love local spirits, nothing like having a still at your home, the more you read about their story and hear about their spirits and the energy, love, and care that goes into their products, absinthe anyone? You cannot go wrong giving this as a gift and making it a must have spirit when you go out.......

10. Koval Spirits - Another husband /wife team another distillery, (who knew?) in Chicago and KOSHER as well. Ginger liqueur includes hand grating ginger.....Speaking of care, taste, quality of ingredients and did I say KOSHER????????????

11. Flight Chicago - Okay for the ultimate foodie gift, and for the insider Chicago foodie welcome to Flight Deck Chicago. The gals behind this great company bring their joy and enthusiasm to the ultimate insider foodie gift, have a tour, meet with the chef, have a private tasting of top locavore/foodie Chicago restaurants and get behind the scenes........ Okay I am a populist but also an elitist and this is for the ultimate Chicago foodie experience.......

12. The Olive Tap - I am obsessive about condiments and this is THE place to go for the absolute low down on oils, vinegars and much more. Long Grove is a a little foodie oasis and if you can't get to Italy to buy from the source then this is the place to be. I can't always justify stocking up on the olive oils I really want but I absolutely would love them as gifts, one short cut to great food is great ingredients and this is an absolute destination location to buy them, that is if you aren't going to Italy or France in the next month.....

13. Salted Caramel - Oh the mix of sweet and savory, a great snack food that everyone will love, popcorn and bacon among other combos.....another local Chicago product that will never be turned down if you give it to someone........

14. Katherine Ann's Confections - Katherine Ann sells her chocolates at a lot of the local Chicago farmer's markets, hand dipped chocolates, need I say anything more??

15. Slow Food Chicago Membership - Give a gift of a membership to Slow Food Chicago to get on the mailing list for a slew of reasonably priced events at local restaurants, involvement in the local food community, learn about child health and nutrition and just get a huge glimpse at what is going on the food activist community in Chicago and in the world at the same time eat well and drink well, where can yo go wrong??

16. Green City Market Membership - Get on the GCM's mailing list and get an entree to many of the farms that chefs in the Chicago locavore community source from. Expand your vegetable, meat, cheese and dairy knowledge and get access to so much great local product and learn from the many chefs that support the market as well...a locavore must.....

17. The Season's on Henry's Farm - Is your locavore/foodie an avid reader, wanting a local Chicago foodie read, or is your loved one just wanting a great read period, well, The Season's on Henry's Farm is a story about love of family and a great guide to the cycles of vegetables and livestock and what to cook when if you live in Illinois and learn a lot about growing, cooking the local produce of Illinois.

18. Chicagourmet Membership - Give a gift of a membership to ChicagoGourmets, a group organized around the great chefs of Chicago, get a years worth of dining events each with a slighlty different angle and theme and experience the restaurants in a very unique unable to duplicate way. Find out about new places and meet new people, what is not to like about new place, food and friends?

19. River Valley Ranch Mushrooms, Tomato Soup, Portabello Chili- RVK's are not only the mushroom people, they are the mushroom product people. For a person like me who likes the whole area of umami tastes, RVKs is the place to go. Yes, it would be great to make your own portabella chile but their's is fresh and already made. I just loved quality, jarred, local products and RVK keeps coming out with more. Most of their products are only available online, farmer's markets or selected stores(most of which are listed here).

20. Tomato Mountain Salsa - Another company whose products are made locally and jarred. I love the TM chipotle salsa with scrambled eggs. There are very few calories in salsas so it is a win/win food product that you cannot go wrong giving anytime of the year. Another product that spices up your life, woo hoo!!!


22. Nice Cream - Hand made, small batch ice cream sourcing local, seasonal ingredients, yum....

23. Prairie Fruit Farm - I call Wes and Lesley the happy goat cheese people, they love their goats and they make cow cheese as well, honey and host farm dinners. Their cheese is very yummy that is all I can say.....it is a must buy cheese!!!!!!!!!!! They both are so committed to quality products and sustainable farming...it is overwhelming...

24. Nordic Creamery Grumpy Goat Cheese - Personally I love the butter he sells at the Green City Market, it acts like clarified butter and for a lazy cook like me, that is a beautiful thing when it comes to sauteing things up quickly. I have gravitated to their grumpy goat cheese which tastes like a cheddar cheese, their cheeses are mostly available at the GCM and other farmer's markets.....

25. Dirk's Fish, Whitefish salad, Crab salad, a gift certificate to one of their cooking classes and in my mind there is only really one place to buy fish in Chi-town and that is Dirk's. You have to get on his monthly email list you will laugh and learn at the same time and really learn a lot about fish. I have still not gotten over my phobia about cooking fish in an apartment without great ventilation but Dirk is moving me in the right direction. And I know longer have champagne tastes, I have King crab tastes, I really never liked crab until I tasted King Crab, it didn't taste like crab, or is there really no crab like King crab???

26. Crop to Cup Coffee - One more obsession I have coffee and like with most things I truly believe, you get what you pay for. We have a lot of great local coffee companies in Chi-town but I have drunk the C2C coffee and it is incredibly tasty...I have still to learn more about where it is sourced, how it is roasted but for the coffee afficionado in your life, C2C is a must and speaking about sustainable and committed the more I read and learn about C2C the more I am astounded.....

27. Templeton Rye - Okay this is another product that I gush over. Yes it is made in Iowa but when you read their newsletter, read about what a family business it is, read how it is made you will gush as well...Yes.. one more reason to drink spirits!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yet another product you cannot go wrong giving...

28. Seedling Fruit- One of their fruit mustados, their tart cherry cider, or any of their other fruit and fruit/savory spreads. Yes, yet another company that makes all these small batch condiments, most of which you can only find at the GCM and other farmer's markets. I am a lazy chef and if you add a sweet savory quality condiment to a simple roasted or baked meat it turns a so so meal into a fantastic meal....this is a great gift gift for someone who loves food but does not have a whole lot of time to cook.

29. Snookelfritz Ice Cream - Yet another ice cream that defines artisanal. The flavors that come through in all her seasonal ice cream flavors just cannot be repeated except by Nancy Silver the artist behind the ice cream. She can be found at the Green City Market and it is just "to die for" flavors.

30. Flora's Confections Flora's Pate de fruits and other confections are yet another incredibly delicate, seasonal, not to be repeated product that you cannot go wrong giving for any occasion. Flora is yet another mulit-talented artisan who is also the producer of the film, Kings of Pastry.

31. Kinnikinnick Farms Arugula or Basil Pesto - Yet another multifaceted farm, I love their arugula pesto which I can buy at the GCM, I love all things green and it works with pasta, on meat, as a tasty snack....they also sponsor farm stays but yet again, I am a lazy cook and a jar of their arugula pesto makes for a quick, yet healthy tasty pasta dish....

31a. Heritage Prairie Honey or a Gift Certificate to one of their farm dinners - Heritage Prairie is one of the "go to" places for farm dinners in the Chicagoland area. They are experts at in and their different honeys, including lavender is a hard to find, very tasty little gift to anyone.

31b. Mead from Wild Blossom Meadery - Who knew that mead is alive and well in Chicago thanks to Greg Fischer from beverage art. He sources his honey from hives all over Chicago and on tops of some of the hotels in the downtown area.
31c. Cooking classes at the French Pastry School or at Kendall College - Giving cooking classes as a gift is a win/win situation for the giver, you get to be the tester. Both of these Chicago instituations are incredibley active in giving back to the community and supporting the local Chicago food community and you will learn a ton at the same time!!!!!!!!!

31d. A subscription to Edible Chicago magazine - Okay, this really should have been number one on my list, but a subscription to ECHIC gives you a window to all things local in Chicago, exposure to incredible writers, inspiration, ideas and inclusion into the growing nationwide Edible Communities.....

31e. Capriole Cheese - Yet another and incredible local farmstead cheese....Available at the GCM and the cheese shops listed above, yummy, yummy, yummy..all I can say is so much cheese, such little time!!!

31f. Learn Great Foods - Buy a gift certificate for one of these farm dinners that are throughout the midwest and there are great little food books on the website as well that focus on specific vegetables and give help with how to prepare them and include recipes from some of the farmers....

This list will be continued........I hope to be at least up to todays date the 8th by the end of today....I will add additional info to these entries as the month progresses. And I am sure I forgot places that I love but this is a start and idea list for anyone looking for really quality gifts for the locavore, foodie or just lover of food and beverages in your life.............

Ciao and happy holidays.....

JB

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