Right after Thanksgiving, I started to notice that everyone was talking about local gifts. I was too, but being a little slow on the uptake, I felt like everyone had already taken the spotlight. Then I remembered my best resource, the thing that I am most thankful for when it comes to SGT, the bread and butter...the writers. Who was I to try and suggest locally sourced gift ideas when I had a whole cache of brilliant writers brimming with ideas about all things local?
I crafted an invitation (begging really) for them to share their favorite local gift ideas...and with no further ado, here they are:
I try to go double local if I can, by buying local items at local, independent shops.
My favorite and easiest place to shop for local gifts is my co-op. I can get local jewelry, local food, and other thoughtfully sourced items. Perennial favorite gift items are Ames Farm honey, B.T. McElrath chocolate, and earrings from Robin Rife.
I find books from local authors like Chris Monroe and Judith Yates Borger at Micawber's and Magers and Quinn.
I find a wealth of locally made jewelry and other lovely items at I Like You.
This year I'm going to the Electric Fetus to get some music from local bands: Doomtree, the Minnesota Beatle Project 3 and The New Standards Holiday album.
Debbie Morrison, Sapsucker Farms
Oh, that's easy...for me it is Sapsucker Farms certified organic maple syrup and wildflower honey. It's what all of our gift recipients receive during the holidays. :-)
In fact, we are so home-spun, that we still are not set up for online shopping or take credit cards. We are still a little old fashioned, but it works for us so far. Here's info: Sapsuckerfarms.com
Being from the Lanesboro area, my local ideas are sourced here, often from the Lanesboro local market. Besides finding lots of local nuts (ahem...I mean locally grown black walnuts, hazelnuts and chestnuts), you might find a Backpack market basket to free up your hands at farmer's market or wherever you forage. A beautiful, useful gift for about $60.
Finally, don't forget about the gift of experience. Too often we forget how we can enhance someone's life with a great experience such as theater, dance, or even a tour. Here are two local tours I love:
Leigh Ann Ahmad
Next to the gift of love, the gift of food is well received by all.
“Sir, is it correct that your box contains turkeys and various meats?”, the friendly Delta agent inquired as my husband loaded the 40 lb. box onto the luggage carousal. The agent along with other holiday travelers wondered out loud whether or not our vacation destination had any of it’s own turkeys for sale.
Upon arriving, our relatives found the extra baggage humorous and a lot of banter and jokes, likening our family to the village folks bringing their livestock to the big city were told. The host, however, did not bat an eye when we came bearing gifts of food.
Being that Minnesota is the largest US producer of turkeys we decided to grace this year’s table with a local bird (or two). Bought from Specialty Meats & Gourmet in Hudson, Wisconsin, we chose two free-range heritage-blend turkeys bred in Thief River Falls. Other travel companions in the “from Minnesota with love” box were a few pounds of ground bison from Eichtens and free range venison from a local Wisconsin farm.
In the third suitcase, dedicated solely to locavore gifts, were 15 pounds of Honeycrisp and Haralson apples from Whistling Well Farm. Yes, we wanted the cousins to experience fantastic-tasting, in-season, local apples, but truth be told, I don’t think we ourselves could survive two weeks away from our apple a day habit. Bouncing around in the suitcase full of apples were local wild-rice, pastas, honey, and delish FunkyChunky sweets. The laughs and stories that our gifts elicited were priceless. Yes we are a global world, more connected and unified than ever, but this fact doesn’t mean that we have to stop celebrating the unique gems and local craftsmanship from each area of the country/world in which we hail.
Wood from the Hood Solid Maple Cutting Boards. Minneapolis-based Wood from the Hood harvests fallen trees from urban landscapes and transforms them into beautiful handmade reclaimed wood products. Their solid maple cutting boards are available in three sizes starting at $24. What I love most? The label for each board is custom printed with the area of the Twin Cities metro where the reclaimed tree was harvested.
B.T. McElrath Chocolate. Sneaking a B.T. McElrath chocolate into my cart at the end of a shopping trip is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. This Minneapolis chocolatier offers some of the area’s finest award-winning truffles and chocolates. They offer traditional boxes of truffles with some non-traditional flavors (zinfandel-balsamic, chile limón, salted butter), as well as the ultimate chocolate bar bundle, one each of their seven signature chocolate bars. The Salty Dog and Prairie Dog are divine.
They Draw and Cook: 107 Recipes Illustrated by Artists from Around the World. Although not local, this book ($13.95 on Amazon.com) should definitely be on everyone’s shopping list this year. A collection of the signature illustrated recipes from the blog theydrawandcook.com, this book is not just cookbook nor is it just coffee table art. Each recipe is hand illustrated in bright vivid colors by a different person, some foodies who make art, some artists who make food. Either way, it’s my new favorite way to be inspired in the kitchen.
Simple! Buy someone you love a CSA share. It could be a whole, half or quarter share. Any way you do it, our local farmers benefit and someone you love will get a load of fruits, vegetables, etc. A gift that keeps on giving. Check out the list of CSA farms on the Minnesota department of Agriculture website. Also, the MDA's home page has a links for local wineries and even a category called "great gift ideas".
For those of us who lean towards the savory side, the holiday season’s abundant sweets can become unwieldy. Can’t eat another ginger snap or Russian teacake? Try baking these buttery cheese biscuits for your own holiday treat, to serve at holiday gatherings, or to give as gifts. They are as simple to make as your average Christmas cookie and will satisfy sweet and savory-toothed folk, alike.
These biscuits combine the best attributes of a flaky cookie and salty cheese cracker and you can easily adapt this recipe to fit your palate and cheese preference. If you want spicy biscuits, add more cayenne pepper or use spicy cheese such as pepper jack. Other ideas include the additions of fresh herbs, chopped nuts, dried fruit, and spices. For easier cheese-grating, place your block of cheese in the freezer until firm.
Spicy, Buttery Cheese Biscuits: Not quite a Christmas Cookie (I enjoyed improvising on the base of this Epicurious Recipe as posted on Vegetable Matter.)
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
8 oz cheese, grated finely with a microplane (I used a mixture of white cheddar and habanero-cheddar)
1 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
(Optional) Pinch of cayenne, to taste
With a mixer or by hand, combine the softened butter with the sea salt and cracked black pepper.
Add the flour and cheese to the butter mixture and stir until incorporated, or a dough ball forms. Use your hands to work the dough and form into a ball.
Roll the ball into a log to be cut into round crips, or into a flat sheet, about a ¼ inch thick, to be cut into shapes.
Wrap the shaped dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm. At this point, you could also freeze the dough and defrost later to cut and bake.
When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Cut the dough into your desired shapes or thickness.
On a sheet pan or cookie sheet covered with parchment paper, bake for about 15 minutes or until the bottoms and edges are slightly golden brown and the biscuit is firm enough to be removed from the pan.
Cool the biscuits and store in airtight containers or plastic bags at room temperature.
For holiday gift giving, nothing beats the thrill of opening a present made and purchased locally. I enjoy the annual hunt for the unusual gift, and my daughters, who have just embarked on their adult journey, really appreciate presents that include food, wine and other tasty delicacies. Last year I discovered two local gems, Collegeville Artisan Bakery in St. Joseph, MN and Fieldstone Vineyard in Redwood Falls, MN. The crusty bread, croissants and buns made in St. Joseph, are sold at the bakery, at the St. Joe Meat Market, and at the Maple Grove Farmers Market. Pair these tasty edibles with my favorite sweet white wine, Frontenac Gris, bottled by the vintner’s at Fieldstone. Retailers across the state carry the Fieldstone label, just follow the link above to find out more. Have a wonderful holiday season. Hope you find the perfect local holiday goodies for your friends and family.
“Be joyful because it is humanly possible.”
Sometimes I suspect that I have someone that looks like Zack Galifianakis lurking under my skin because my two favorite foodie gifts for this holiday season would have to be beer and nuts. Not beer nuts. Beer and nuts.
With the Fulton Beer guys having recently opened their brand spanking new Minneapolis brewery after years of garage brewing, I can think of no better gift than a growler of Sweet Child of Vine. Plonking down a growler on a friend’s kitchen counter just says “celebration” to me. Growlers are meant to be shared, so they’re inherently festive - cracking one open makes an instant party. Also their squat little shape makes me smile. Kind of like Zack.
Homemade treats are also a good bet at the holidays because to me, cooking = love. Here’s a recipe for my Not-Really-Famous-But-Totally-Should-Be Almonds. Spicy and sweet, they are perfection with a cold beer.
3 Tablespoons peanut oil
2 cups whole blanched almonds (you must use the blanched kind, otherwise the skins burn – believe me, I’ve tried it)
½ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon ground cumin (or ¾ tsp cumin and ¾ tsp Spanish pimenton)
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 additional Tablespoon sugar
Mix salt, cumin, red pepper flakes and tablespoon of sugar in a small bowl and set aside. Heat oil on medium high and sauté almond and ½ cup sugar until almonds are golden and sugar caramelizes. Mix with rest of the dry ingredients to coat. Spread out on a parchment lined cookie sheet to cool.
Where to begin? I have been giving food and drink to people ever since I left college. It started as a way to find something on a budget. A $10 bottle of wine is way more appreciated than a random $25 thing. For guys, its usually beer. I try and pick those local craft beers that seem extra special or seasonal. I've never had anyone of the male persuasion look down upon beer. Even my totally sober friends receive craft root beer, and love it. I think it might even be a welcome relief from all of the times they had to pretend to like an ill-chosen gift. Need to up the ante? Pair it with some local cheese or meat. Manly.
I also love making local food gift packages. I often include a piece of pottery from Fire on the Greenway or other local potters. Then I add coffee from Dogwood, granola from the Birchwood, Lucia's or Great Harvest and add any manner of local goods from one of our lovely food co-ops. Some get Whole grain milling chips and a local salsa, others a selection of local chocolates and treats. The combinations are endless and if I know anything about my friends, it is often what they love to eat. Still stuck? I have never gone wrong with a gift card (often wrapped in a ridiculously sized box) from a favorite local restaurant. Again, I think of Lucia's because they have the triple threat: wine bar, fancy restaurant, and bakery/deli.
Finally, I would be a fool to not suggest my wife's business. Here in South Minneapolis, her and her dear friend Sarah Grudem design and sew a line of women's and kid's clothing branded, Sassy Knitwear. They use sustainably sourced organic cotton and/or upcycled materials.
That's it. A pretty good list when I think of it. So, get out there and rethink your holiday shopping, avoid the mall and feel better. Don't forget to leave your comment, telling us what your favorites are.
Pottery photo above features a bowl made by local potter Alice Nelson of Parkway Pottery.
Happy Holidays from all of us at Simple, Good and Tasty! Thank you for reading and sharing all of our work. Please take just a second to thank one of our writers who work tirelessly to bring you in-depth, interesting and important information.