Katie Sterns had grown bored by the gift baskets her school-age kids would peddle each year for fundraisers. So she came up with her own, curating a selection of Minnesota-made food products that were actually exciting to buy and give to others, and called it the You Betcha Box.
Four years later, Stern’s company offers more than a dozen themed packages filled with locally made sweets, snacks and sauces, and the boxes have become popular holiday gifts.
“Why give Harry & David or Hickory Farms when we have incredible, award-winning food right here that we’re proud to share?” Sterns said.
With pandemic-related restrictions on dining, markets and even grocery store sampling, more Minnesota food makers are steering their products to consumers in giftable bundles. And local chefs and sommeliers are sharing their expertise by curating boxes of food and drink they love to consume.
Gift cards are great presents that support the local hospitality industry, but if you’re looking to give a tangible, edible treat to food-loving friends, family or employees — while keeping local food businesses running — here are 10 tasty gift baskets that put Minnesota food front and center.
Holiday Cheer Package
Cookie Cart, $40
Taste your way through the bakery that trains teens in jobs and leadership. This seasonal gift box comes with a dozen cookies in all of Cookie Cart’s signature flavors: ginger snap, snickerdoodle, oatmeal raisin, chocolate chip, double chocolate and M&M. Another dozen cookies are hand-decorated with a winter theme. Proceeds go right back to the nonprofit’s mission.
Order: cookiecart.org; local delivery and bakery pickup (946 Payne Av., St. Paul); nationwide shipping available.
Miracle Cocktail Kits
For its first winter in business, Stilheart Distilling’s cocktail lounge was planning to host Miracle, a Christmas-themed pop-up event that takes residency in bars around the country. Instead, it has come up with a to-go option. The North Loop distillery is selling festive cocktail kits with its own spirits plus custom cordials made by Minnesota’s Hamel Syrup. (Sibling distillery Lawless is also putting out the kits with bottles of its spirits.) Miracle Kits come with extra touches like cocktail parasols and coasters. The distilleries also offer Spirited Gift Sets ($25 and up) that pair simpler drinks with fun glassware.
Somm Gift Kit
The Wine Workshop, $60-$100
Sommelier Jason Kallsen took his Twin Cities Wine Education business online at the start of the pandemic, offering classes such as “date night” over Zoom. Optional course materials: curated “Somm Kits” that participants could buy and drink along. For the holidays, Kallsen has hand-picked six more mini-kits that each feature three bottles on the following themes: bubbles, pinot, organic, Italian, French and Spanish wines. No class necessary, although each kit comes with educational materials and a fun video of Kallsen and his wife, Angela, tasting their way through the picks.
State Fair to Go Holiday Edition
State Fair to Go, $60
After selling a Minnesota State Fair-themed meal kit this summer, State Fair to Go is back with a holiday edition. Wild rice soup, beef sticks and caramel and cheddar popcorn accompany hot cocoa mix from State Fair Mini Donuts and funnel cake mix for frying your own Oreos. Bonus: a State Fair ornament from fair vendor Holly’s Hobby Christmas Shop. The summer fair box is still available, too, with a bag of Sweet Martha’s cookie dough and a Market Bar-B-Que turkey leg (also $60).
Order: statefairtogo.com; nationwide shipping available.
BIPOC Makers of Minnesota Box
You Betcha Box, $80
A collaboration with the upcoming Food Ag Ideas Week (Dec. 3-10) led by Grow North, this box is filled with sauces and ingredients made by entrepreneurs of color. (BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous and people of color). The eight products inside include wild rice from Red Lake Nation, Basbaas Somali-style salsa and K-Mama Korean hot sauce. Bonus: For the conference, each food maker represented in the box has been paired with a local chef of color, who is building a dish around that product. Tune in to a free Zoom demonstration at 5 p.m. on Dec. 8 and taste along with a box of your own.
Order: youbetchabox.com; shipping included. Register for the Food Ag Ideas Week at foodagideas.com.
Twin Cities Holiday Gift Box
A food tour in a box, these packets bring together samples you might get on one of Experience the Twin Cities’ public food crawls. Coffee, nuts, hot cocoa, a Minnesota-shaped snowman cookie, a truffle from St. Paul’s Regina’s Fine Candies and cheese-and-caramel popcorn mix from Candyland in downtown Minneapolis are some of what you’ll find inside. “Santa” (or an elf) will deliver boxes within 20 miles of Minneapolis on the company’s tour bus.
Order: experiencethetwincities.com; nationwide shipping available.
Five packages highlight the array of products sold at this just-opened Mexican bakery and market in northeast Minneapolis from the team behind Centro taqueria. In this package for agave fans, find a book on Mezcal, a packet of chili-lime crickets, worm salt for seasoning oranges, two copitas (ceramic shot glasses), cactus picks, a small cactus and a Mexican chocolate bar made especially for Vivir.
Order: vivirmpls.com; local delivery and market pickup (1414 NE. Quincy St., Mpls.).
Food Building Provisions Box
A box brimming with cheese, salami, cookies, flour and more — all from under one roof. These packages showcase the bounty of the producers based in northeast Minneapolis’ Food Building: Alemar Cheese, Red Table Meats, Baker’s Field Flour & Bread and the restaurant Kieran’s Kitchen Northeast. Boxes start at $25 and go up to $2,000 (that one comes with a whole pig salumi package).
Order: kieranskitchen.com; local delivery or pickup (1401 NE. Marshall St., Mpls.).
Essential Gift Basket
Chowgirls Catering, $210
A portion of the proceeds from these food baskets benefits Minnesota Central Kitchen, the hunger-fighting partnership that Chowgirls Catering launched with Second Harvest Heartland at the beginning of the pandemic. The caterer’s own seasoned nuts and appetizer cookbook, “Chowgirls Killer Party Food & Cocktails,” are joined by foods from local artisans such as Mademoiselle Miel, Peace Coffee and Bare Honey.
Order: chowgirls.net; local delivery or pickup (336 NE. Hoover St., Mpls.).
The Big Kit
Grand Cafe, $360
For an ultra-luxe gift, have your friend or loved one’s meals catered for a week by James Beard-nominated chef Jamie Malone. Each meal kit comes with enough food to serve two with leftovers: three breakfasts, two lunches and three dinners (some assembly required), plus a bread basket, desserts, midnight snacks, flowers, candles, an art lesson and more. Or, for $145, Le Snackie Box contains more than a dozen victuals for grazing, including ham, marinated anchovies, rustic sourdough and a sherry spritzer kit.
Order: grandcafemn.com; local delivery or pickup at Eastside (305 Washington Av. S., Mpls.).
Game Night Gift Box
Rose and Loon, $129
After a lot of evenings at home, family game night might need a little jazzing up. Rose and Loon, the Rosedale Center store that features products from a collective of Minnesota and Upper Midwest artisans, has bundled games and snacks with local flair. While playing cribbage on a board crafted in Winona, or doing a puzzle featuring Adam Turman’s art, munch on Annie B’s caramel corn from Mahtomedi, marshmallows from Golden Valley-based North Mallow and Mike & Jen’s Cocoa Mix from Duluth.
Order: roseandloon.com; or buy at Rosedale Center (1595 Hwy. 36, Roseville). Nationwide shipping available.