The Gift of Grub
This holiday, make your foodie friends grateful enough to cook for you
What do you get your favorite foodie for the holidays? Every December, food publications nationwide print their gourmet gift guides, which often take the form of Top 10 lists or collections of the year's hottest new items. But here at Seven Days, we know no two gastronomes are alike. Try asking a consummate carnivore and a virtuous vegan to swap gifts, and see what happens.
Applying labels to your friends and family members may be reductive, but it can also be pretty handy. To use our gift guide, just determine the type of food lover you're shopping for and peruse our suggestions. Most of the items are made in Vermont; a few aren't. Prices may vary depending on where you forage.
Vermont is famous for its microbrews, but it's hard to stuff a six-pack into a stocking. Holiday "spirits," on the other hand, slip right in there. Vermont-made hard stuff is the way to go.
- Stair's Pear Brandy, Flag Hill Farm, Vershire, 685-7724, www.flaghillfarm.com. $19.30.
- Flag Hill's Sparkling Hard Cyder also goes down easy on a cold winter night. $10.99.
- Sunshine Vodka, Green Mountain Distillers, Stowe, 253-0064, www.greenmountaindistillers.com. $22.40.
- Sapling Liqueur, Saxtons River Distillery, www.saplingliqueur.com. $24.50. Yes, they found a way to combine booze and the sugar maple.
Vermont has more artisan cheese makers per capita than any other state, so it's a great place to shop for delicious dairy. Under the tree may not be the best place to keep it, however. The good stuff is easy to find at co-ops and gourmet stores statewide, but not all handmade cheeses are available year-round. If you plan to pair another, less perishable, present with the cheese, here are a few ideas:
- The Vermont Cheese Book by Ellen Ecker Ogden, Countryman Press. $19.95. With 58 scrumptious photos, this book guides the reader through the world of local artisan cheese, profiling both farms and their products.
- Cheese knives with a curved, serrated tip and a choice of handle colors, Danforth Pewter, Middlebury, Burlington, Quechee, 388-0098, www.danforthpewter.com. $32.
- Cutting boards, J.K. Adams, Dorset, 800-451-6118, www.jkadams.com. $16.50-72. Or splurge on the 3-inch-thick, solid maple "end grain chunk board," $176.
- Cherry or maple cutting boards crafted by carpenter Bob Gasperetti, Mount Tabor, 293-5195, www.gasperetti.com. $95-109.
Almost everybody likes chocolate, but some people really like chocolate. You can satisfy every preference in the Green Mountains, from the adventurous eater who yearns for Daily Chocolate's green-chile pistachio chocolate bark with cranberries, to old-fashioned butter-cream types. We've come a long way since Russell Stover.
- The obvious choice: Truffles and treats from a bevy of local chocolatiers:
- Birnn Chocolates of Vermont, South Burlington, 800-338-3141, www.birnn.com.
- Blackflower Chocolate, Charlotte, 373-9313, www.blackflowerchocolate.com.
- The Chocolate Wizard, Jericho, 899-3443, www.thechocolatewizard.com.
- Creative Chocolates of Vermont, Milton, 891-6048, www.creativechocolatesofvt.com.
- Daily Chocolate, Vergennes, 877-0087, www.dailychocolate.net.
- Dan's Chocolates, Burlington, 800-800-DANS, www.danschocolates.com.
- Lake Champlain Chocolates, Burlington, 864-1808, www.lakechamplainchocolates.com.
- Laughing Moon Chocolates, Stowe, 253-9591, www.laughingmoonchocolates.com.
- Sweet on Vermont Artisan Chocolates, Burlington, 862-5814, www.vermontchocolate.com.
- Snowflake Chocolates, Jericho, 899-3373, www.snowflakechocolates.com.
- Vermont Chocolatiers, Northfield, 485-5181, www.vermontchocolatiers.com.
- Vermont Nut Free Chocolates, Grand Isle, 372-4654, www.vermontnutfree.com.
- If they want to take the next step: Making Artisan Chocolates by Andrew Garrison Shotts, Quarry Books. $24.99.
- For those who are chomping at the bit to assemble their own chocolate bark and dipped pretzels: classes on chocolate making with Linda Grishman, Sweet on Vermont Artisan Chocolates, Burlington, 862-5814, www.vermontchocolate.com. $275-350.
Most java junkies already have a French press, grinder, milk frother and super-deluxe espresso machine. But how many have personalized their own coffee cups? And there's nothing wrong with throwing in a nice nibble or tying a bow around a bag of freshly roasted beans. We advise buying them whole — most coffee connoisseurs turn up their noses at the pre-ground stuff.
- Gift certificate for a "paint-your-own" pottery, Blue Plate Ceramic Café, Burlington, 652-0102. $20 and up.
- Shortbread in flavors such as plain, almond and lemon curd, Vermont Shortbread Company, Huntington, 264-4835, www.vermontshortbread.com. $3-22.
- Coffee beans from a local roaster:
- Café Alta Gracia, Bristol, 453-2776, www.cafealtagracia.com.
- Awake, Middlebury, 453-BEAN, www.awakecoffee.com.
- Brown & Jenkins, South Burlington, 800-456-JAVA, www.brownjenkins.com.
- Capitol Grounds, Montpelier, 223-7800, www.capitolgrounds.com.
- Fresh Coffee Now, Winooski, 654-7100, www.freshcoffeenow.com.
- Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Waterbury, 244-5621, www.gmcr.com.
- Speeder & Earl's, Burlington, 658-5149, www.vtcoffee.com.
- Uncommon Grounds, Burlington, 865-6227.
- Vermont Artisan Tea & Coffee Company, Waterbury, 244-8338, www.vtartisan.com.
- Vermont Coffee Company, Middlebury, 398-2776, www.vermontcoffeecompany.com.
The givin's just as good for those who prefer a smaller dose of caffeine.
- Yixing teapots made from special Chinese clay in styles ranging from "Brown Squirrel" to "Double-Handled Dragon." You'll find a wide selection at Burlington's Dobrá Tea, 951-2424, www.dobratea.com. $30-65.
- Loose-leaf tea from around the world, Dobrá Tea, Burlington, 951-2424, www.dobratea.com or Vermont Artisan Tea & Coffee Company, Waterbury, www.vtartisancoffee.com. $2.25-8.50 per ounce.
Don't forget your favorite ethical eater. The holidays can be hard on those who eschew all animal products, so they'll welcome a little reward for their dedication.
- Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, Marlow & Company. $27.50.
- Dagoba Single-Origin Gourmet Dark Chocolate Bars, available at grocery stores and co-ops. Listed at $3.99.
- Three-tier bamboo steamer, so those veggies don't get soggy. Widely available for $10 and up.
Vegetarians, avert your eyes! According to a recent New Yorker piece, it's cool again to be a carnivore. For a steak fanatic, hard-to-find USDA prime dry-aged beef can bring on paroxysms of pleasure. If you want to shop for stuff raised closer to home, try the Vermont meat, poultry and game — from venison to quail — in our markets, including what The New York Times called "possibly the finest bacon on the planet."
- Rosie's Beef Jerky in flavors such as cobb-smoked, maple and teriyaki. Rosie's Vermont Beef Jerky, Swanton, 888-515-8083, www.rosiesjerky.com. $5.49.
- Barbecue sauce, including a hot sauce and a "game sauce" recommended for fish. Richard's Vermont Made, St. Albans, 524-3196, www.vtmadebbqu.com. $5.69.
- Vermont Smoke & Cure Bacon, Vermont Smoke & Cure, South Barre, 476-4666. $8.99.
- Prime, dry-aged New York strip steaks, Shelburne Meat Market, Shelburne, 985-1145. $29.99 per pound.
It's always a good idea to encourage folks who love to bake. That way you're likely to reap the rewards. And no, I don't mean that kind of "bake" . . . the scale is for weighing flour and sugar.
- Escali Digital Scale, widely available. Listed at $27.95.
- Aprons in colorful patterns such as Devon Rose Patchwork. April Cornell, Burlington, 888-332-7745, www.aprilcornell.com. $29.
- The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion, Countryman Press, King Arthur Flour, Norwich. $35.
- Leaf Measuring Spoon Set with hardwood hanging rack. Danforth Pewter, Middlebury, Burlington, Quechee, 388-0098, www.danforthpewter.com. $80.
Seekers of homegrown produce tend to be environmentalists and creative cooks to boot. While some simply know 36 different uses for rutabagas and beets, others get back to basics by making their own bread, pickles and cheese. The ideal gift is a share at the localvore's favorite farm, but if that's too pricey, anything eco-friendly will do.
- Set of six or nine unbleached muslin produce and bulk bags, Green Sacks, Montpelier, www.greensacksvt.com. $22-32.
- Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook That Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon, New Trends Publishing, Inc. $25. The manifesto — with recipes — advocates a return to traditional food production.
- Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz, Chelsea Green Publishing. $25. This book by a self-described "fermentation fetishist" shows how to make micro-organisms work for you.
- A CSA membership, $300-750. Find a community-supported farm at www.nofavt.org/csa-list.php or www.vermontagriculture.com/buylocal/buy/csa.html.
At some point, post-college, you take stock of your kitchenware. A good knife — and pan — are crucial items. So is a basic cookbook that covers everything from frying pancakes to tying up a turkey. You can't eat take-out every night.
- Salad spinner by Oxo. Widely available. Listed by manfacturer at $29.99.
- How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman, Wiley, 1998. $35. Also comes in a vegetarian version.
- Eight-inch Cook's Knife by Wusthof or 5-Star Chef Knife by Henckel. $99.
- Ten-inch iron skillet by Le Creuset. $99.95.
This is the friend who whips up coq au vin without glancing at a recipe and has subscribed to Gourmet since he was 14. But he doesn't have everything . . . yet.
- Individual membership to Slow Food USA, the Vermont Fresh Network or the American Institute of Wine and Food, www.slowfoodusa.org, www.vermontfresh.net www.aiwf.org. $30-75.
- Pasta machine by Atlas, widely available. Listed at $49.99.
- Solid maple pot racks, J.K. Adams, Dorset, 800-451-6118, www.jkadams.com. $50-120.
What do you buy for the gourmet who has everything — a set of Mauviel copper pots and a six-burner Viking stove to use them on? Some unique creations of local artisans may fit the bill. Beware, though, they don't come cheap.
- "Farm and Field" series of prints and cards by Mary Azarian, Plainfield, 454-8087, www.maryazarian.com. $2.75-135.
- Hand-painted wooden bowls and serving sets, Peggy Potter Bowls, Waitsfield, 496-3029, www.peggypotter.com. $40-200.
- Farmer's Market I print by Janet Biehl, Frog Hollow website, www.froghollow.org. $50 unframed. $100 framed.
- Star anise earrings and necklace, Jen Soderberg Silversmith, Manchester Village, 362-1100, www.jensoderberg.com. $152-248.
- Turned wooden bowls, Tursini Woodturning and Bowl Works, Cambridge, 644-5131, www.vermontwoodturning.com. $150-700; and Alan Stirt, Enosburg Falls, 933-2125, www.alstirt.com. $150-400.
- Gulf waters bowls and platters by Liisa Reid of Laughing Brook Pottery, Artisans Hand Craft Gallery, Montpelier, 229-9492, www.artisanshand.com. Contact gallery for prices.
- Handcarved wooden bowls, Wrenwood Troll, Middlesex, www.wrenwoodtroll.com. $900-1750.
- Sgraffito-carved porcelain platters and bowls, Natalie Blake Studios, Brattleboro, 254-9761, www.natalieblake.com. $300-1800.
- Ceramic art teapots, Ray Bub Fired Clay Art, Pownal, www.raybub.com. $1400-2000.
So, you have one of those loved ones who decries consumer waste and insists, "I have everything I need." But you want to put a little something under the tree besides that donation in her name to Oxfam International. Here are a few ideas:
- Certified Organic Herb and Vegetable Seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds, Wolcott, 472-6174, www.highmowingseeds.com. $2.50 and up.
- For the crafty type who wants to make her own clever cocktail napkins: "Sushi Bar" or "I Luv Veggies" Embroidery Pattern by Sublime Stitching, Made Boutique, Burlington, 651-0659, www.shopmadeboutique.com. $3.
- Always comes in handy: Rosemary Lime Kitchen Soap, Whisper Hill Bath & Body, Bridgewater, 672-7627, www.whisperhill.com. $4.50.
- Guaranteed to rev up the taste buds with luscious, seasonal food pics: Eating Well 2008 Calendar, Eating Well, Charlotte, 425-5700, www.eatingwell.com, $10.95.