There was a time when an edible food gift often meant a fruit cake, a gift that often got tucked away in the back of the refrigerator never to resurface again. But fortunately times change and now foodies can exchange a wonderful assortment of food-centric gifts. Here are a few that made our holiday list.
European-style Christmas goodies
Bit of Swiss Bakery
4333 Ridge Road
A quarter of a century ago, when Tim and Pat Foley bought Bit of Swiss Bakery in Stevensville, Hans Kottman, a Swiss trained baker from Austria and the original owner of the bakery taught them how to make stollen, a Christmas sweet bread filled with brandy marinated fruit and almond paste. Every holiday since, the Foleys have continued the tradition – a laborious process that includes making almost a 1000 pounds of marzipan, marinating Christmas fruits in brandy for a month or so and then when it’s time to begin baking, rising early in the morning (stollen making at Bit of Swiss starts at 2:30 in the morning) to begin mixing dough, blending ingredients and waiting through numerous rise cycles. In the time leading up to Christmas, Bit of Swiss, which recently was named the 2012 Retail Bakery of the Year by Modern Baking Magazine, often makes 100 stollens a day. That’s in addition to their artisan breads, pastries, torts and elaborately iced holiday cookies. Bit of Swiss ships and orders can be made online or by phone.
Forget time, how about a pear in a bottle
Black Star Pear and It’s Spirit
Black Star Farm
10844 E. Revold Rd.
Suttons Bay, Mi
In the spring, as tiny pears buds begin to appear in the orchard, the winemakers at Black Star tie bottles over the branches in hopes that in time luscious sweet pears will ripen inside. When this happens, the pears are harvested, cleaned, the bottles filled with pear brandy from the same orchard and then hand labeled for this special limited presentation. Located on beautiful Sutton Bay north of Traverse City, Black Star Farms is a unique agricultural destination featuring two winery production facilities with adjacent tasting rooms, a distillery, Inn, dining room and café as well as an equestrian facility.
Just one word says it all: Chocolate
A chocolate perfectionist (chocofectionist?), Tina Buck, owner of the Chocolate Garden in Coloma, Michigan whose decadent truffles earned the #1 position in Midwest Living magazine's “Fantasy Box of Chocolates,” recently introduced three new truffle flavors – Citrus Ginger White Chocolate, Salt and Pepper Caramel Milk Chocolate and Milk Chocolate Pomegranate – to her list of 23 plus two seasonal varieties—candy cane and holiday spice.
Perfect presents from Northern Michigan--award winning wines and cooking classes
Entice Ice Wine Brandy
15900 Rue de Vin
Traverse City, MI 49686
With its hints of sugar and spice, this rich and full bodied dessert wine--a blend of Riesling ice wine (made from grapes after the first hard freeze) and brandy aged in oak barrels, is one of many wines made at Chateau Chantal Winery and Inn on Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan. It’s a charming spot surrounded by vineyards and near the water in one of the state’s premiere wine areas.
Take a class and stay at the Chateau (not mandatory for those taking classes but not a bad idea either). The 2014 schedule s already up and includes Valentine's Treats with Grocer's Daughter Chocolates, Wine Boot Camp and Spanish food from Tapas to Paella.
An enduring tradition that gets the job done
KitchenAid Stand Mixer
The origins of KitchenAid’s classic stand mixer date back to 1908 when an engineer from Troy, Ohio watched baker mix bread dough with a heavy iron spoon and decided there had to be a better way. Six years later the Hobart model H, an 80-quart capacity giant mixer was introduced and quickly became a success. In 1919, the Hobart model H-5, a home mixer with the unique planetary mixing action that is a KitchenAid exclusive, was introduced. When wives of Hobart executives tested the H-5, one remarked, “I don’t care what you call it, it’s the best kitchen aid I’ve ever had”. From that day forward, that brand name has been the KitchenAid trademark. But the cost was high-- $189.50 or about $1900 in today’s dollars. Retailers were hesitant to make that inventory investment so Hobart sent a sales force mostly comprised of women home to home, lugging these 65 pound machine and an easy payment plan of $150.00, with 10% down and 10% a month for ten months. Fast forward to the 21st century. Still the warhorses of mixers, they now come in a variety of colors—tangerine, Green Apple, Empire Red, Onyx Black, Gloss Cinnamon and Majestic Yellow to name a few as well as 12 attachments including food grinders and pasta makers.
How easy can it be?
KitchenAid Hand Blender
KitchenAid’s Hand Blenders seemingly do it all, blending, mixing, crushing, chopping, whisking, puréeing and frothing a multitude of ingredients, foods and beverages with one do-it-all appliance. Hand Blenders are available in three speeds and are accompanied with attachments as interchangeable Bell Blades which include covers to prevent the scratching of metal and plastic cookware and a removable 13” Blending Arm for blending or pureeing in deeper pots and bowls. Another plus--these sleek gadgets also take up a minimal amount of counter space.
Middle Eastern cuisine by way of London
Ottolenghi: The Cookbook
Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Ten Speed Press $35
In this book by Yolam Ottolenghi, author of Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London's Ottolenghi and the award winning Jerusalem: The Cookbook which he co-authored with Tamimi, the two team up again, culling 140 recipes from the four London Ottolenghi restaurants—each a patisserie, bakery, deli and restaurant combined. The recipes such as Pistachio and Rose Water Meringues, Honey Cilantro Lamb Chop, Cauliflower Fritters with Lime Yogurt Dipping Sauce and Figs with Young Pecorino and Honey and Honey Cilantro Lamb Chops are inspired by the diverse culinary traditions of the Mediterranean.
Cupcake cookbook with an attitude for the non-traditions chef
ROBICELLI’S: A Love Story, with Cupcakes…with 50 Decidedly Grown-up Recipes
Allison & Matt Robicelli
Viking Studio, $35
Robicelli’s Bakery in Brooklyn is known for its adult cupcakes. No, that doesn’t mean porn themed goodies but instead cupcakes made with adult tastes in mind—figs, friend chicken (yes, fried chicken) and whiskey. Though some of the recipes in this witty book which also includes the couple’s take on life are the sweet if not traditional variety such as Brooklyn Blackout Cake-- chocolate cake with chocolate custard buttercream, dipped in homemade fudge and rolled in chocolate cake crumbs but others almost border on the savory like the fresh fig cake topped with goat cheese buttercream, fig balsamic gastrique, and crisp prosciutto flakes and Chicken ’n’ waffles cupcakes. This is a very fun cookbook for home cooks willing to look beyond classic cupcakes and explore new flavors and ingredients.
Sweeten ice cream, rescue abused and abandoned animals
13686 Red Arrow Highway
Butterscotch, once a starved and beaten dog, now graces the label of Butterscotch Schnapps Dessert Topping since being rescued by Charlie Moore, a rescue dog adopted by Charlie Moore, owner of Seasons Harvest, a specialty foods producer in southwest Michigan. Moore’s company does private labels for such food emporiums as Williams-Sonoma and so it was a simple step for Moore to create a rich and thick butterscotch with a kick topping. Seasons Harvest gives rescue shelters including the Michiana Humane Society their own label and a deep discount to sell the toppings as a sweet fundraising product. Butterscotch’s topping along with their pasta sauces, salsas, salad dressings, marinades, condiments and a long line of other products is also available online and at their retail store in the lakeside town of Harbert. Visitors there also get to meet Butterscotch who now is the store’s greeter.
Sechler’s Fine Pickles
5686 State Road 1
St Joe, IN
Fall in love with these flavorful pickles, made in the traditional way since the company was founded nearly a century ago. With 54 products (personal favorites are Candied Sweet Orange Strips, Horseradish Chips—beware of their kick, Sweet Jalapenos, Apple Cinnamon Chunks and Mango Salsa) using locally grown fruit and vegetables (okay maybe not the mangos, but definitely the pickles as well as cauliflowers for the jars of sweet cauliflower and peppers for the Sweet & Mild Hungarian Pepper Relish. Gift packs are available.