Stumped for gift ideas this holiday season? Well, everyone eats. Plus, food and drink are required for any celebration. We scouted area markets (St. Paul’s new Keg and Case and artisanal purveyor Golden Fig, among others), distilleries and coffee shops for the best of what’s being produced in the region. Enjoy this feast for the eyes, and we hope it sparks your giving spirit.
Be the hero of any gathering when you show up with hearty sausage, herbed cheese or lovely pâté for the charcuterie board. Or, be your own savior when you’re the host; the cheese tray shown above from Gazta represents a gift of time, saving you the trouble of shopping and decisionmaking. That, in turn, lets you focus on more important things — like your guests.
Pictured above at left, from Gazta and Enhancements at Keg and Case: a variety of goat, sheep and cow’s-milk cheeses, featuring pretty shaved Petit Basque and Brie topped with Ames Farm honeycomb, plus dried pear and pistachio dust. Order trays to serve 8 to 25 people, from $50-$165 depending on selections.
If you’re near Duluth, pick up beautiful smoked Atlantic salmon, ($21, pictured above, right) and rich Country Pâté ($15, lower right) from Northern Waters Smokehaus, or order in time for the holidays. Add zest with Spanish-style chorizo ($12) from The K’nack at Keg and Case. Mill City and Fulton farmers markets carry marinated chèvre ($12) from Singing Hills Goat Dairy in Nerstrand, Minn. The tiny Craquers ($3), from Croix Valley, come in Memphis and All Meat flavors.
Making spirits bright
At Tattersall Distilling, they sell chic cocktail kits. At any Haskell’s, recommendations on the best bubblies flow freely. Gifting a bottle of liqueur, a 12-pack of the host’s favorite brew, cocktail fixings or soda in fun Christmas flavors, all from local purveyors, will surely spread good cheer.
Lawless Distilling’s Fernet ($15) is perfect as a post-feast, after-dinner digestivo; Tattersall’s Nordic Martini kit ($70) includes its Aquavit, Americano and Filthy Pimento Olives, with stemless glasses; and Bittercube’s variety six-pack ($54) helps the cocktail-maker in your life get creative. Cavatina Premium prosecco’s gorgeous gold bottle makes this gift pleasing inside and out (Haskell’s, $10). Mionetto prosecco DOC ($13, Total Wine) uses organically-grown grapes. (For the difference between Champagne, cava and prosecco, see our guide here.) Build your own variety pack of pop from Blue Sun Soda Shop in Spring Lake Park, $2.50 each. Put a Frost Pack under the tree for your Surly-lover, featuring Liquid Stardust, Furious, Mortal Sun and Xtra-Citra, $18.
Some like it hot
With so many new condiment options being made locally, why not add a kick of spice to someone’s stocking? Teachers, colleagues and maybe your best frenemy need one of these. You know what they say: If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.
Want to tease a younger sibling? Cry Baby Craig’s Habanero & Garlic Hot Sauce, made in Minneapolis, could send a message ($8, Golden Fig). The tagline for Lucky’s Racha Hot Pepper Salsa ($10, Golden Fig) is better suited for a beau: “Wanna get Lucky?” Croix Valley’s Honey Dijon ($6, Keg and Case) works for your barbecue and brat lover'. Gift your vegan friend K-Mama Korean Hot Sauce ($7, Golden Fig). For low-and-slow barbecue, try Croix Valley Pitmaster’s Bold sauce ($6, Keg and Case). This Sriracha is a collaboration between St. Paul’s Isabel Street Heat and Roseville’s Bent Brewstillery, perfect for your favorite east-of-the-river buddy ($14, Golden Fig).
Call of the wild
Tired of foraging for gift ideas? No need to get yourself into a pickle. Minnesota’s bounty can be packaged into perfect presents for the cooks and food lovers in your life. (We know preserved lemons aren’t local, but the heat of peppercorn and chili peppers make it uniquely ours.)
Let a friend experiment with Cooks of Crocus Hill’s bright Meyer Preserved Lemons ($15). For someone you really like, Forest to Fork sells precious dried morel mushrooms ($20/ounce) at Keg and Case. Hand harvested wild rice from Singing Pines makes a classic soup or side dish ($20, Golden Fig). Your hostess can serve Zesty Beets, with a hint of jalapeño, straight from the Hobby Farmer jar ($10, Keg and Case). Worker B’s shop at Keg and Case offers multiple varieties of honey, including this raw poliflora ($20). Red Hot Pickled Peppers and Zesty Garlic and Pepper Pickles also make a lively offering ($5 and $15, Hobby Farmer, Keg and Case).
Sweets for your sweetie
Forget candy canes. Decorate your tree with stunning ornaments made of chocolate. Robyn Dochterman at St. Croix Chocolate Company created the beautiful orb ($15-$30, shown above) — just one of many ways local makers and bakers are adding sweetness to the season.
Serve Valhrona Chocolate Crunchy Pearls ($14, Cooks of Crocus Hill) straight up or as cake and cookie accent. You may need to keep these bonbons from Rose Street Patisserie (RSP, box of six, $15) and St. Croix Chocolate (box of nine, $22) for yourself. Now, help fill desserts trays and tummies. Bottom tray: French macarons (RSP, six for $14), maple toffee with cocoa nibs by Terroir Chocolate ($10, Golden Fig), assortment of halva from House of Halva ($8, Keg and Case), chocolate orange peel (RSP, $15). Middle tray: Cinnamon babka (RSP, $16/loaf), traditional Zimtsterne cookies (RSP, $3 each). Top tray: Tiny Thumbs Cookies are cute and come in a to-go trio of dark chocolate chip, cinnamon and sugar and peanut butter sea salt. Vegan and gluten-free options are available, too ($25, several locations, thumbscookies.com).
Winter calls for warming drinks. Coffee to jump-start the dark, still mornings. Hot chocolate after a robust run of sledding, skiing or skating. And tea is lovely any time of day. Minnesota companies are developing ever-finer takes on these cold-weather classics.
Local coffeemakers have brews especially for the season: Winter Break Blend beans ($16) from distinctive Bootstrap Coffee in St. Paul, North Shore Blend beans ($15) from beautiful Fika Coffee in Lutsen, and Snowshoe Brew ($11) from Minneapolis’ Peace Coffee. Earl Grey’s Classical Blend ($10), by Cup of Joy, was inspired by a St. Paul Chamber Orchestra performance; you can see the bergamot, rose petals and lavender used in the tea. Find retailers at cupofjoytea.com. Drop a hot honey cocoa bomb ($5) by St. Paul’s Mademoiselle Miel into any type of hot milk and stir. From Golden Fig in St. Paul, this Yukon hot cocoa blend ($7) has a hint of maple.