Food lovers gift guide: Palatable picks for just about everyone on your list
I might be biased, but when it comes to gift-giving, it's pretty difficult to go wrong with food-related gifts, even for those who don't consider themselves to be gourmands. After all, everyone needs to eat.
Fortunately for all of us, our beautiful state is burgeoning with artisans and craftspeople of all stripes, there are countless options from which to choose. This year, I'm honing in on some of my very favorite finds, a good number of which can be found in local shops or easily ordered online. And it's a list that includes both accessories and edibles for even the most persnickety – and difficult to buy for – folks on your list.
For folks who love cheese (aka everyone)
I've already waxed poetic about the merits of Rush Creek Reserve, a cheese that's simply perfect for holiday eating and gift giving. I've since discovered that Uplands Cheese is offering (for the first time ever) a series of holiday gift boxes for the cheese lover in your life. And each one is decked out with everything needed to whip up a delicious holiday cheese board.
The Everything & More Cheese Box (pictured above) includes a round of Rush Creek Reserve, a whole pound of extra aged Pleasant Ridge Reserve (!!), rye crackers and cranberry hazelnut crisps from Potter's Crackers, artisan finocchiona salami from Underground Meats (made with whey-fed pork from the Uplands farm), fig and black tea preserves from Quince & Apple and a packaged of spiced pecans from Treat Bake Shop. It's packaged in a lovely branded wooden cheese box, and it's an absolute steal at $115.
If that's a bit too rich for your blood, you can scale back a bit and order either the Rush Creek Reserve gift box or the Pleasant Ridge Reserve box, each of which includes crackers, preserves and sausage ($60-65, depending on which you choose). Each box is shipped FedEx Ground in an insulated container, so your cheese will arrive fresh and delicious.
For the tea lover
If you know someone who relishes the ritual of tea, treat them to something beautiful like this gorgeous copper tea tin ($17). It features a double lid to keep tea ultra-fresh, and it's attractive enough to leave out on the table or countertop. I'd recommend adding a packet of one of my favorites from Rishi's Garden Select line: ruby oolong Qingming special ($25). It brews to a gorgeous red color and sports notes of dark cherry, aged balsamic and dark chocolate.
For your politically incorrect bacon-obsessed friend
When they say there's a gift out there for everyone, they really mean it. And that includes those who appreciate a bit of snide humor ... and bacon! If you know someone who'd love to believe that bacon is really a vegetable, make them squeal with this tongue-in-cheek serving tray featuring a porknographic quip ($42). You can find it at Barcelona - Artful Living shop at 5927 W. Vliet St.
For the host
Don't show up empty-handed at your next holiday party. It's easy to throw together a great gift that shows your appreciation for your host's efforts.
A gift of wine and a tea towel is a classic choice (and useful to boot), and you can find both at The Village Cheese Shop, 1430 Underwood Ave. in Wauwatosa.
If you'd prefer, you can also pick up a ready-made cheese box like this one which contains crackers, jam and a nice variety of three Wisconsin cheeses ($40).
For your friend with incessantly cold hands
It's getting to be brisk out there. And there's nothing better than wrapping cold hands around a cup of steaming hot coffee, tea or hot chocolate. It's even better when they're wrapped around something adorable like one of these colorful Milwaukee-loving mugs. Peruse the impressive selection of locally-made ceramic mugs at The Waxwing on Milwaukee's East Side (most priced $18-25). If you're feeling particularly generous add a pound of locally roasted coffee, a container of Rishi tea or some Dark Chocolate Sea Salt hot chocolate mix from Indulgence Chocolatiers.
For your spicy DIY lovin' friend
We all have a friend who loves to push the boundaries of their palate with tear-inducing condiments. If that friend also happens to be interested in creating their own fiery sauces, I've got the perfect gift suggestion.
"Fiery Ferments" by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey ($24.95) is a great book for chile-heads who might enjoy tackling projects like fermented kimchi, hot sauce and more. Get it at Boswell Book Company, 2559 N. Downer Ave.
Of course, that same friend will love you even more when you include an Easy Fermenter kit ($26.99), which contains lids with a waterless airlock valve (and bonus air pump) to keep mold at bay. I've found them to be some of the best (and easiest to use) for fermenting just about anything ... including my increasingly large collection of hot sauces!
For the cocktail (or mocktail) lover
When it comes to locally made cocktail ingredients, there's not much better than products from Bittercube. Among their newer offerings is their Winter Botanical soda essence ($16), a versatile product that can be used to enhance everyday drinks like gin & tonics or rum & cokes. This particular soda essence features notes of cocoa, orange peel and cinnamon. Even a non-drinker can enjoy this product in spaces: a few drops added to a cup of coffee, cocoa or a glass of seltzer is positively transformational. And a little goes a long way, so
Go one better still and treat them to a selection of Milwaukee-made Bittercube bitters. Choose from popular options like orange or cherry bark vanilla (great for old fashioneds and Manhattans) or orange bitters (1-ounce bottle for $8 or 5-ounce for $16). Or branch out with a limited edition holiday blend like ginger spiced cherry bark vanilla, which is delicious with bourbon and makes a phenomenal holiday old fashioned (5-ounce bottle for $18). Can't decide? Get the variety pack for just $45 at the Bittercube Bazaar.
For your frugal dining buddy
Know someone who loves to dine out, but loves saving a bit of cash while doing so? There might be no better gift than a 10th Anniversary Milwaukee City Tin, which includes 25 coasters worth $10 off $25 at a wide selection of restaurants (including Blue Bat, Centro Cafe and MOVIDA). Or celebrate iconic Milwaukee mainstays with the Heritage Edition, which features over 20 restaurants and bars that have been around for two decades or more (think Beans & Barley, Bryant's, Packing House and Ristorante Bartolotta).
If you've got a friend who loves to travel, gift them with exploration that's further flung. This year's City Tins editions include tins for Cedarburg, Madison, Lake Country (new!), the Fox Cities and even the Twin Cities in Minnesota (new!).
Not only are they the perfect little gift for someone who loves to explore new restaurants and bars, but at $30 each, they're a deliciously budget-friendly steal. Order them online or at any number of local retailers.
For the popcorn lover
We all know someone who likes nothing better than cuddling up on the weekend with a good book or movie and a big bowl of steaming hot buttered popcorn. Make their life more interesting with a gift that will up their popcorn game a notch.
This Popcorn Seasonings gift box includes a diverse selection of blends – from spicy Vulcan's fire salt and Gateway to the North maple garlic seasoning (which will make your popcorn taste a bit like kettle corn) to cheesy options like cheddar cheese powder and the Italian inspired Old Taylor Street cheese sprinkle ($29.95). Tuck in a bag of popping corn, a gift subscription to Netflix or a beautiful popcorn bowl to round things out.
For the chocoholic
Chocolate is a beautiful way to say "thank you" to a holiday host or to round out any number of delicious gifts. Among new releases for the holiday season are these Kohler Original Recipe Chocolates Peppermint Crunch Terrapins (nine pieces for $25.99), which feature a cookie crumble base, snowflake-like flakes of crushed peppermint in a cloak of silky dark caramel and dark chocolate. They're festive, bold and perfect for the sweets lover in your life.
Of course, there are plenty of other chocolate delights to consider; check out my chocolate guide for more options at local shops around the city.
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