It's getting to be that time of year when we're encouraged to buy, buy, buy. But when you're thinking about gifts this year, why not shop local? We've got a round-up of local Twin Cities and Minnesota gift suggestions from our writers. There's something for everyone on your list, from hand-crafted goods like pottery and knitwear to experiences like a tour of local inns to a gift that keeps on giving like a flower CSA share. You can also check out gift guides from 2012 and 2011 for some perennial local gift suggestions.
As always, thank you for reading and sharing 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. Happy Holidays from all of us at Simple, Good, and Tasty!
A last-minute day trip leads to holiday spirit and unique gift shopping. The Lanesboro Christmas Inn Tour is Sunday, December 8 from 2 to 6 pm. This is a once-a-year chance to tour eight of Lanesboro’s Bed and Breakfast Inns. Eahc inn is charmingly decorated for the Christmas season, each offers tour guests a delicious sampling of holiday refreshments. Tickets are limited – advance sale $20; day-of ticket is $25. You can purchase tickets online or call (800) 944-2670. There are also half price tickets for guests staying at participating inns on tour weekend. See more details here.
While in Lanesboro, save shopping time to check out fun holiday attire and great gifts at Bittersweet, a women’s wear store on par with the best in Edina’s Galleria — but Bittersweet’s prices are amazingly modest. Lately when I compliment a friend on a really unusual and stylish outfit, the reply is often, “Thank you, I got it at Bittersweet.’” Also, check out Bittersweet’s Facebook page here.
As anyone who knows me well can tell you, I adore butter. I have certainly eaten my fair share of it thus far in my life, but something I’ve just come to realize in the past few years is that fresh, locally-made butter is (like everything else fresh and local) AMAZING. Rochdale Farms, which is a brand that actually represents a co-op of local farms, makes butter that is just fantastic. It looks a little out-of-the-ordinary at first glance, since it’s actually hand-rolled, and not packaged into perfect 4oz. sticks like the butter so many of us are used to. I’d say that’s part of the charm, though, and it really lets you know the butter was made with care and intention. And the taste! It is so pure and rich—definitely some of the best butter I’ve ever had. It’s delicious just spread on a slice of good sourdough, and can elevate your cooking and baking to a whole new level. I just can’t say enough about it!
As a final note, I’m also a pretty big fan of yogurt, and Rochdale makes some wonderful whole milk and Greek yogurts as well. They use non-homogenized milk that has been very gently pasteurized, so the flavor and texture are exceptional. Both the butter and the yogurt from Rochdale would be great to use for holiday cooking/baking, and would make great gifts as well—I know I’d certainly be excited to receive a basket full of local dairy products!
If I'm putting local goodies in a stocking or bringing a quick-and-easy hostess gift, I almost always go for sweet treats. Thankfully we have great choices in Minnesota for custom candies, chocolates and guilty pleasures. If I have time for homemade, I will often package up a batch of the Star Tribune's winning holiday cookie of the year with a printed copy of the recipe. It's usually a brand-new taste and many of them end up in my friend's cookie collections in upcoming years.
For the people on my list who like spending time in the kitchen, I'll wrap a quart jar of golden maple syrup from our family's sugarbush with a sack of Whole Grain Milling pancake mix. If I'm looking for extra "ooh's and aahs" when the wrapping paper comes off, I'll go for a box of truffles from Just Truffles in St. Paul. It's hard to compete with flavors like pumpkin pleasure, lemon cheesecake, and tenor's temptation. Finally, for the most serious of my chocolate-loving friends and family, I go with Minneapolis' own B.T. McElrath's chocolate bar bundle. The bundle has one of each of their seven custom chocolate bars, including my favorite prairie dog bar with buttered toffee and sea salt. It's enough chocolate to satisfy any sweet tooth and it's local, too!
If I had to farm without flowers, I would probably abandon the profession. After a blustery, seemingly endless winter followed by a spring riddled with torrential downpours, I would have fallen off the butt dragger while transplanting kale and remained in the fields if the sight of flowers pushing against and persevering through the elements hadn’t reminded me of the beauty that blooms while farming. Thanks to Jennifer, Mike, and squealing, stumbling, scooting baby Earl at Humble Pie Farm (an incubator at Gardens of Eagan), my fix for flowers was met. And if you or one of your loved ones, too, fall into the gloom of Minnesota winters, bruise easily from slip sliding on sidewalks’ black ice, shove your head in the snow and feel it will never melt, you would definitely enjoy a flower CSA share, (8 or 16 weeks of organic, local, lovingly arranged bouquets) from Humble Pie, or what I like to think of as the light at the end of a very snowy tunnel.
I am a fiend for baked goods and sweet treats – ice cream, cookies, pie, and cake (in that order), bring me more joy than a raw kale salad or even a slab of locally pastured bacon. But after a summer of persistent stomach irritation, I felt I might need to give up my addiction to flour. Lucky for me, I’ve got connections with a master baker of gluten-free delicacies, from a Viennese almond tart to toffee squares to buttermilk buscuits. Molly Schaus, who suffers from Celiacs disease and runs Early Riser Bakery from her home in South Minneapolis. If you know someone whose stomach can no longer accommodate gluten, email Molly and she’ll be happy to help you get your fix (email@example.com).
I'm excited to gift friends bottles of Gamle Ode Dill Aquavit this year. Gamle
Ode is a Minneapolis-based company that distills its products at 45th Parallel
Spirits, in New Richmond, Wisconsin. They have a variety of aquavits, but the
Dill is my favorite: bright and herbal and clean, it's great served cold, sipped
as a shot after a large holiday meal. It's also excellent as the base for a
martini shaken with an extra amount of dry vermouth and garnished with lemon.
Gamle Ode Dill Aquavit is available at Surdyk's, Zipp's, Haskell's, Fance
44, and more locations throughout the Twin Cities.
I'm also a huge fan of Parka, a restaurant/coffee shop in Longfellow. The cafe serves food all day long, and also sells some of the best coffee (Dogwood) and pastries (Rustica) in town. A pound of their Neon Espresso, a pack of Rustica's Bittersweet Chocolate cookies (so rich, so addictive,) and a gift card to Parka itself would make a fantastic gift basket.
I insist on being redundant in my perennial promotion of my wife's business, Sassy Knitwear. Located on 48th and Chicago, this is an all-in-one clothing store for women and children. By all-in-one, I mean that they design, dye fabric, cut, sew and finish all in that one space. It is a great picture of sustainability, when most of the textile world is anything but.
I also love going to Fire on the Greenway, a local pottery studio/gallery/co-op that houses some amazing talent (including SGT contributor Ben Krikava, whose pottery is pictured at the top of this post). They are only open for a few hours on Saturdays (and by appointment), but don't miss a super fun open house coming up on the 6th, 7th and 8th of December.
Once you have the pottery, it is easy to pair the food/drink. Some of my all-time favorite packages: a mug and some locally roasted coffee, a bowl and some local granola, a nice platter with charcuterie, or all manner of drinking vessels to be paired with our fine local craft beers and craft liquors.
I love cookbooks of all kinds, and I think they make lovely gifts — many people are hesitant to buy a cookbook for themselves, but are always excited to receive them. I've been rounding up cookbooks all year — which you can read here, here, here, and here — but I want to focus on a few local cookbooks here. Lawrence reviewed local writer Beth Dooley's simple and elegant book Minnesota's Bounty: The Farmer's Market Cookbook back in June. Locals Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François released the latest installment in their anyone-can-bake-bread series, The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, this year. And, of course, there's Minnesotan and Food Network star Amy Thielen, whose book The New Midwestern Table is garnering widespread attention and praise, and re-elevating the profile of Midwestern food.
Lastly, since this is a local gift guide, I'm not including any links to buy these books online; instead, please consider buying a book at your local independent bookseller. We're so lucky to have so many independent bookstores here in the Twin Cities, and we want to help them keep fighting the good fight!