Section: Non-Chocolate Gift Foods
We all know
them, we all love them: people who can't or won't eat
chocolate. Want to get them some special food gifts for
the holidays? Following is a highly selective list of
companies, all of which make at least some commendable
non-chocolate food products. Not all of the companies
have websites or shop-on-line capability, but even those
that do not are worth looking into.
1716 Apples Road, Chapin, IL 62628, (217) 245-7589 or
(toll free) (800) LUV-FUJI, website is: www.applesource.com.
How many varieties of apples can you find in your local
market? Six or seven? Applesource has over eighty, many
of which are "antiques"- -older apples that have been
replaced in the flood of so-called progress by strains
that are more disease-resistant or bear greater yields.
Fortunately, Applesource sells many interesting and flavorful
"antiques", as well as more familiar varieties; the apples
have been taste-tested by customers, and those that have
fared especially well have "A" or "B" letter grades. Distinguished
"antiques" Esopus Spitzenberg and Northern Spy compete
for your attention with more recent introductions such
as Goldrush and Honey Crisp in this incredibly diverse
listing. Your apples will arrive in excellent condition,
too, ready for casual munching or an apple tasting party.
There are fun and clever assortments, where you can choose
your own apples--or let the company choose for you.
Pasta Company, 9815 Main Street, Whitmore Lake, MI 48189,
(734) 449- 8522 or (toll free) (800) 536-PASTA, website
not yet on line. When I want to make a special pasta dinner
or just treat myself to something of really good quality,
this is the pasta I often use. The packaging is eye-catching,
but it's what's inside that really counts, and I believe
I could eat Al Dente's fettuccine every day and never
tire of it. The company seems to stick primarily to fettuccine;
varieties range from egg to fennel bell pepper to spinach
to red chili (spinach and egg linguini are also available,
however). In addition, Al Dente sells several organic
pastas and two kinds of sauces; they even have pasta "kits"
which include both pasta and sauce (rotini with spring
pesto sauce, for instance). Their fettuccine is done in
three minutes, too--a great boon for a busy cook!
Lulu Gourmet Products, Inc., (toll free) (888) 693-5800,
website at: www.restaurantlulu.com. I go to as many Fancy
Food Shows as I can. Every time I go to a Show, Restaurant
Lulu is there; as samples, they always have pieces of
bread spread with unsalted butter, topped with prosciutto,
and drizzled with their White Truffle Honey. It is paradise.
This honey is so good you can eat it right out of the
jar; I've never tasted anything quite like it. There's
enough food at any of these Shows to dull the appetite
of an elephant, but I can always make room for just one
more piece of bread, provided it's drizzled with this
honey. I have also sampled their fig balsamic vinegar
and their black cherry-currant balsamic vinegar, and both
are terrific. Check out their website for other condiments,
sauces, and mayonnaises.
Family Farms, Richvale, CA 95974-0369, (530) 882-4551,
website at: www.lundberg.com. Rice is rice, right? Nope.
Lundberg Family Farms offers rice and rice products in
a staggering array. California Basmati Brown Rice not
to your liking? OK, no problem--how about some organic
sushi rice or Wehani, an aromatic brown variety? Maybe
a risotto or rice pudding mix, or wild rice cakes instead?
You have a lot of choices here. I am never without a package
of this company's Wild Blend (a mix of several gourmet
brown rices) in my kitchen; I love it! I especially like
this company's agricultural practices, which include crop
rotation and soil conservation. Many of their products
are organic. If you think rice isn't exciting enough for
your tastebuds, take a look at Lundberg.
Original Beverage Corporation, 28926 Boniface Drive, Malibu,
CA 90265, (toll free) (800) 997-3337, website at: www.reedsgingerbrew.com.
Reed's is serious about ginger. The company actually brews
their own ginger-based beverages, using fresh ginger root
and filtered sparkling water. There are five varieties:
original, extra (with more ginger for more of a "bite"),
premium (the no-fructose version, sweetened with honey
and pineapple juice), raspberry, and spiced apple. In
addition, Reed's makes crystallized ginger, but they use
only baby ginger root (more tender than it's mature counterpart)
and raw cane sugar, so you get a lot of flavor in this
candy. To me, the raw cane sugar lends a wonderful flavor
to the ginger root without overwhelming it, and this is
my first choice for any recipe I make containing crystallized
ginger. This fall, they'll be coming out with a certified
organic crystallized ginger. Check out their informative
and amusing website. The company also sells Tianfu Colas
and Malibu Teaz; as of this writing, plans to sell Virgil's
Root Beer from the site are in the works.
Sardines, Blue Galleon, 1007 Chestnut Street, Suite C,
Newton, MA 02164, (617) 558-7156, no website. Now you
think I'm crazy, right? Sardines as a gift? Ah, but these
are special; they are whole sardines (no heads or tails),
caught in non-polluted waters off the coast of Portugal.
Bela-Olhao (pronounced "bela-ol-yow") sardines are canned
within eight hours of being caught, and the fishing practices
used are dolphin-friendly and ecologically supportive.
These all-natural sardines don't smell nasty when you
open them, either. Sardines are a fantastic source of
vitamin B12, and they also contain calcium and omega-3
oils. They're a good source of protein, they're convenient,
and (take it from me) they taste really good. The sardines,
lightly smoked, are available in olive oil, soybean oil,
hot sauce, lemon sauce, and tomato sauce. They are distributed
nationally (but most heavily on the East and West coasts);
the company will do mail-order if you can't find them
in your area.
Crystals Corporation, 50 Cocoanut Row, Suite 215, Palm
Beach, FL 33480, (561) 366-5200, website at: www.floridacrystals.com.
Florida Crystals grows and produces sugars and rice, but
they are very environmentally aware and responsible; using
renewable energy to power their mills is just one example
of that. Their website is filled with all kinds of information,
including recipes and advice on "natural living", and
you can shop on line. I haven't tried their rice, but
at least some of their sugars are wonderful. I love their
milled cane sugar, a light tan sugar with a gorgeous molasses
aroma. Several friends have told me it lends a distinctive
flavor to coffee and tea. And their demerara, a coarse-
grained brown sugar, would be ideal for beverages or for
sprinkling atop unbaked muffins, scones, or sugar cookies.
They also sell powdered sugar and a certified organic
of Tea, Inc., P.O. Box 1284, Cooper Station, New York
City 10003, (718) 302-0780, website at: www.inpursuitoftea.com.
Doesn't it seem as though tea companies have gone crazy
in the past few years, flavoring their products with almost
anything? Here's a company that's different; they sell
only unflavored, loose teas. No herbal teas, no added
flavorings or sweeteners or perfumes, just hard-to-find
types of genuine tea. There are green, black, oolong,
white, and pu-erh varieties, some of which have wonderfully
evocative names such as "Snow Dragon" or "Phoenix Bird".
Teas are sold by the quarter-pound, and some prices will
seem expensive until you realize that you can make up
to seventy-five cups of tea with just those four ounces.
I like this company's simple, basic approach. They also
sell gift certificates and tea gear, including an Easy
Steep Cup for brewing individual servings, one of the
most clever little gadgets I've seen in a long time. The
website has lots of information. In Pursuit of Tea is
for people who love real tea and those who want to expand
their tea horizons.
Harvest Specialtifoods, Inc., P.O. Box 845, 909 Paul Bunyan
Drive SE, Bemidji, MN 56619-0845, (800) 294-2433, website
at: www.indianharvest.com. Good Mother Stallard. Tiger
Eye. Mortgage Lifter. You'll find these heirloom beans,
and many more, at Indian Harvest, which bills itself as
"The Ultimate Rice, Grain, and Bean Catalog". That doesn't
appear to be an idle boast, based on the amazing variety
the company offers. Black quinoa, purple Thai rice, and
crimson lentils are side-by-side with pilafs, pressure
cookers, and pepper mills. There are gift assortments
and samplers, too. It's hard for me to describe much of
what's in this catalog, because there are so many different
items packed into the pages. Eating more beans and grains
can be a great start to a healthier diet, and Indian Harvest
presents many intriguing choices, whether you're an experienced
cook or just getting started.
Spoon Foods, P.O. Box 566, Petoskey, MI 49770-0566, (616)
347-9030 or (toll free) (888) 735-6700, website is: www.spoon.com.
Think "preserves". Now, think "better-quality preserves".
Good, you're getting the idea. There are many manufacturers
of jam/jelly/preserves in the US, but this company is
one of my favorites in that line. I find their preserves,
fruit butters, and jellies less sweet than most, and they
truly capture a good fruit flavor. American Spoon Foods
also offers dried fruit and mushrooms, interesting condiments
(portobello mushroom relish and ginger plum grilling sauce,
for example), salad dressings, a few sweets, and a number
of gift assortments that sound mighty appealing.
Candies, 4969 Colorado Boulevard, Denver, CO 80216, (303)
333-5588 or (toll free) (888) CANDY-99, no website. Hammond's
is famous for traditional hand-made hard candies, including
large and small "whirl suckers", candy canes, ribbon candy,
and art candy "cut rock". I have tried the candy canes,
which are large and resplendent in their festive stripes;
they taste as good as they look. The art candy is small
sections of striped-on- the-outside hard candy, each with
a tiny scene related to the season in the middle. The
result is fascinating, and I have no idea how it's done.
Again, these candies really have flavor; they're not just
sweet. Candy coal (for those who've been naughty), Christmas
straws (a hard candy shell surrounding a creamy filling),
peppermint pillows, and gift boxes of brittles or assorted
candies are offered, too, as well as specialty popcorns.
Hammond's also makes chocolates. Call them for a brochure.
Acres Organic Farms, Penns Creek, PA 17862-0800, (toll
free) (800) 433- 3998, website at: www.walnutacres.com.
This company has been farming organically since 1946 (!),
and their catalog includes a wealth of fresh, dried, and
canned fruits and vegetables...but that's only part of
the story. Quickly thumbing through the pages of a recent
catalog, I found apricot nut cake, organic navy bean soup,
a yogurt maker, whole wheat croissants, organic popcorn,
vitamins and supplements, full-spectrum lightbulbs, organic
ketchup, preserves, cookware, cheeses, gift assortments,
and natural turkey hot dogs. How's that for a range of
products? I have tried some of their soups, which I like
very much, and I adore their nut butters. It would be
an easy matter to make up a gift basket for anyone on
your holiday list just by searching through this company's