The holidays are upon us, the shopping bags are piled in the back of the car, winter coats are on and Christmas lights twinkle on downtown streets. It’s my favorite time of year! When I was little it was all about the presents. I’d wake up at 5am and try to get my parents up to open gifts.
“It’s too early, wait until 6,” my mom would say and roll over.
I would shuffle back down the hall of our tiny apartment, bypassing my bedroom and on to the living room. I’d lie awake under the Christmas tree looking up at the lights until it was time. I couldn’t help it; there was a pit of excitement in my stomach. Between the illuminating lights and boxes with glittering paper there was no possibility of sleep.
It’s different now. I’m not sure when it happened. My dad asked me for a Christmas list and I really had to think about it. What did I need? Nothing really. A Costco sized bundle of toilet paper would be awesome – maybe a new shower curtain… what had happened to me? Socks are actually exciting now! To be honest all I want for Christmas is time with my friends, laughter with my family and to end the night under a warm blanket with my honey.
There’s an energy that accompanies the holidays. A celebration of bustling exuberance that feels good in your heart. It’s true: the best part about the holidays is giving. I love shopping for others to pick out something silly just because I know (hope) my closest and dearest people will appreciate it.
So en lieu of the festive spirit, I’ve compiled a list and insider tips for Foodie gift giving. Some ideas add a Do-It-Yourself element that is anything but store bought. Also, many of the vendors and services are Seattle based, but certainly translatable to another city.
Fancy Salt: Large flake salt is the perfect finishing touch to any homemade dish, sweet or savory. It feels really gourmet but doesn’t take any effort (which I love!). Choose any type you like (Cypress, Himalayan Pink, Black Truffle, Black Lava) and buy it in bulk at nicer grocery stores or spice markets. You can pick up really cute spice jars at World Market, fill it with 2oz of salt and tie a bow around the top. The whole thing will cost less than $5.00. www.marketspice.com
Balsamic Vinegar: The holidays are about buying things for people that they would never buy for themselves, like expensive soap or good foot cream. Good balsamic vinegar should be sweet and syrupy. Last year I gave bottles tied with a recipe for divine marinated mushrooms. You can print the recipe my site, paste it to pretty paper, and you’ve got a wonderful gourmet gift. Here are my favorite sources for balsamic vinegar:
1. Town & Country Markets have a fabulous private label balsamic in their deli department. Visit one of their locations to purchase.
2. A California favorite - Napa Valley Naturals: Cherry Wood Aged Grand Reserve.
3. West Seattle based company turned Pacific Place store front, 11 Olives has a great variety of balsamic vinegar.
Mixing Bowls: Never underestimate the power of usable gifts! Eddie’s mom gave me great Portuguese ceramic bowls last year and I use them all the time. You can get a fabulous deal on nice kitchen accessories at TJ Maxx or Marshall’s.
Mini Food Processor: My friend recently told me that if a recipe calls for a food processor it’s a deal-breaker. “It just seems like a hassle!” I have a mini-sized one that is easy to whip in and out of the cabinets and easily thrown into the dishwasher. It’s probably dirty more than it’s clean. Even if someone has a shiny full-sized Cuisinart, a little one makes pesto and homemade dressings easy and accessible.
CSA membership: One of the healthiest things I’ve done this year is subscribe to a Community Supported Agriculture service. Every other week I get a bin of organic farm-fresh veggies delivered to my door and we are eating more vegetables now than ever before. The gift of good health is invaluable! I use New Roots Organics and can customize, cancel or ‘vacation’ the box as needed. There are CSA’s for meat and even baked goods! Links:
Bakery: Sign-up for a holiday delivery when your family’s in town, send someone a box of baked treats or utilize their service year round. www.troubadourbaker.com
Meat: Preorder organic beef, lamb, chicken or pork and buy in bulk. There are multiple pick-up locations around Seattle. Crown S Ranch also offers a Haycation where you stay on the farm, learn about sustainable farming practices and help with the animals. www.crown-s-ranch.com
Produce: New Roots Organics offer organic seasonal produce (fruit and veggies) delivered to your door. Customize your order online if needed, vacation a delivery, and get recipe ideas. www.newrootsorganics.com