Gift Food List
Yes, the holidays are stealing upon us once more. You want to
find something different, something special, for those friends and
family who can’t or won’t eat chocolate, so here are
—Steap Green Tea Soda, www.steapsoda.com, (215) 860-8180.
Here’s an original idea: brewed green tea is combined with
soda to make a not-too-sweet, refreshing drink. But there’s
more: these products are kosher, certified organic, and contain
no corn syrup. I tried the Key Lime, and to my amazement could taste
both the fruit flavor and the tea. A light touch with the carbonation
is a nice bonus, too. Available in the Key Lime I tried, as well
as Raspberry, Lemon Dew, Orange, Root Beer, and Cola. You can also
find this product at www.mybrandsinc.com. Is it the revolutionary
beverage the founders claim it to be? Why not try a bottle or three,
and decide for yourself? I guarantee you’ll enjoy the experiment.
—Deep Mountain Vermont Maple Syrup, www.deepmountainmaple.com,
(802) 525-4162. I’ve just tasted Deep Mountain products for
the first time ever. Wow! Wonderful maple syrup; maple candy that
has a true, deep flavor; and other products I didn’t get to
try, such as a raspberry maple syrup and maple sugar. Deep Mountain
Farm, in Vermont, is an organic operation, and the forest is managed
sustainably. In addition to being the home of the agricultural operation,
the farm is headquarters for a band, a theater company, and the
Monte Verde Cultural Exchange! You can order maple syrup in sizes
ranging from a half pint to a 30 gallon drum and in four grades
(my favorite is the darkest, most maple-y, called Grade B). The
candy is a bit fudge-like in texture, and it’s available in
pure, pecan, ginger, and coconut. I’d use the maple sugar
in a shortbread, but you might also like to sprinkle it on buttered
toast or oatmeal. Fine for gifts—but maybe even better for
—Sonoma Sausage, www.sonomasausage.com, (707) 258-9400;
shop at 414 First Street East, Sonoma, CA. I had never heard of
Sonoma Sausage until the morning I stumbled into their store, lured
in by an irresistible aroma of grilling meat. I was promptly handed
a sample of bratwurst. I’ve eaten bratwurst before, and it’s
never been any big deal, but this was really different. Spiced perfectly,
obviously made of good ingredients, and just as obviously fresh;
this sure ain’t your standard supermarket offering. Sonoma
has some 25 different types of sausage, ranging from North Country
Polish to Irish Banger to Hot Beer to Chicken Pesto. And you’re
in luck, carnivores—they ship! The website is under construction
but still has some information, and you can call to ask for more.
If there’s a grilling enthusiast or connoisseur of fine sausages
on your holiday shopping list, make this your first stop.
—Floribbean Key Lime Mustard Sauce, www.floribbeanproducts.com
(under construction), (800) 282-8459. If I were limited to a one-word
description of ths product, that word would be “bright”.
I’m not talking about the color, although that could fit in
under the same descriptor. But the flavor of this product wakes
up your tastebuds; it’s sauce with sparkle! Serve it over
grilled or boiled shrimp or crab legs, and you’ll feel as
though you’ve taken a quick trip to Key West. I’ll bet
this would be incredible on bluefish or pompano, and it would give
a whole new perspective on poultry. The company advises that it’s
a natural over warm or cold vegetables, too, so pass the broccoli
or have it as a dip with cauliflower or carrots. An inspired combination
—Palette Fine Foods Golden Raspberry Jam, www. palettefinefoods.com,
(403) 270-7339. As a bona fide raspberry freak, I naturally love
a good raspberry jam. But golden raspberries are hard to come by
in my neck of the woods, and I’ve only ever seen one or two
other examples of a golden raspberry preserve. A lovely golden color,
with a not-too-sweet, really fruity taste. If I had my choice, I’d
eat this with freshly-baked croissants; the company suggests using
it to top a cheesecake and has even thought of savory applications!
Palette also offers a number of other unusual condiments, including
a purple basil jelly and a lavender citrus spice rub. I applaud
Palette for their use of wholesome ingredients, as they eschew artificial
flavors, colors, and preservatives.
—The Original Adams Rib Rubb, www.ribrubb.com, (888) RIB-RUBB.
Why didn’t I think of this first? Rib Rubb is an herb and
spice blend, a so-called “dry rub” for pork, beef, chicken,
venison, etc. You rub it on, then cover and chill the meat. While
it chills, the rub liquefies into a marinade; after the meat has
marinated, you cook it as you normally would. I tried this on salmon
at the Fancy Food Show this summer, and it was outstanding; the
flavor of the salmon was enhanced but not at all overpowered. The
“rubbs” are available in two varieties: original and
ultimate (the spicier version). Michael Adams, the founder and president,
also suggests using the rubbs on vegetables and in baked beans.
I love the company slogan: “The longer it sits, the better
it gits”. A nice gift for the grilling enthusiasts in your
life, but equally good if you’re looking to add a little pizzazz
to meals at home. Fun website.
—Jungle Juice Coconut Honey, via www.gratefulpalate.com,
“The Sweets”, (888) 472-5283. I think of coconut as
a fairly delicate flavor, so when I heard about coconut honey I
was expecting a pale golden honey with a mild taste. Shows you what
I know! The world’s only coconut honey, produced in the Cocos
Islands, looks like a beautiful cross between honey and molasses,
and tastes like…well, not quite like anything else I’ve
tried. It’s rich and almost spicy, sweet but not cloying.
Great for a strongly-flavored tea, but my favorite way to eat it
is drizzled on top of good butter or cream cheese on some whole
grain bread—when I’m not licking it straight off a spoon,
of course! This is a genuinely unique sweetener with a story as
exotic as its flavor.
—Star Hill Dairy Water Buffalo Yogurt, via www.igourmet.com
(877) 446-8763) or www.dibruno.com (888) 322-4337). So you think
you’ve tried all of the yogurts out there, eh? Think again!
I didn’t even realize there were water buffalo in the United
States, but evidently there are some in Vermont, where this yogurt
is produced. It’s delightfully creamy and has just a bit of
a tang to it. And Star Hill makes some great flavors. Sure, they
do Plain and Vanilla, but you can also choose Honey, an amazingly
good Vermont Maple Syrup, or Black Currant. Better yet, there are
some very interesting varieties in the works. This water buffalo
yogurt is high in calcium and contains live, probiotic cultures,
and the folks at Star Hill are big believers in sustainable agriculture,
which earns them some major points with yours truly. If you never
thought yogurt could be a gourmet item, you need to dip your spoon
into a carton of this.
—Dreamfield Farm/Goobin’s, no website, (267) 972-3861.
I was attracted immediately to Goobin’s Sauce by the slogan,
“It’s as thick as his head”. And indeed these
sauces are thick, which would make them ideal for grilling or gussying
up a sandwich or adding to a dip or just about anything else you
can picture. Goobin’s Unmellow Yellow is a mustard-based beauty,
while the Grillin’ Sauce almost dares you not to slather it
on whatever you fancy cooking over the flames. Both, it should be
noted, have a definite spicy presence; these are not sauces for
those who can’t take the heat! The Dreamfield Sauces include
a Barbeque (a winner at the 2002 NJ State Agricultural Fair) and
a Southern Style hot sauce. Old family recipes got the creative
cooking going at Dreamfield Farm. So often did they hear, 'You know,
you really ought to bottle and sell these' that they finally did!
If you are tired of the same old sauces, give these a go.
—Bariani Olive Oil, www.barianioliveoil.com, (415) 864-1917.
This olive oil all but intoxicates you with its lush nature. Cold-pressed,
unfiltered, a complex flavor that isn’t overly-peppery, and
the smoothness of Don Giovanni; if this is not sensuality in a bottle,
I don’t know what is. The Bariani family (and this actually
is a family business) uses techniques developed in Italy on California
varieties of olives suited for the microclimate in the Sacramento
area. Amazingly, when the family emigrated to the US from Italy,
they had no professional experience in making olive oil. They learned
by doing, but evidently this clan learns quickly and very very well.
Makes a pesto you won’t be able to stop eating (guess how
I know?). Outstanding for any food where you want an olive oil with
personality. Interesting website, with lots of information.
—Lagier Ranches Organic Almond Butter, www.LagierRanches.com,
(209) 982-5618. This is to ordinary almond butter what the sun’s
warmth is to that emitted by a 15 watt lightbulb. A serious almond
aroma and a great fresh taste, with the slightly sweet flavor good
almonds always have. I suppose most people would spread it on bread,
but I’m usually too busy licking it off a spoon (or my fingers).
Lagier Ranches grows their own almonds and grinds their own almond
butter monthly—far more frequently than some of the large
manufacturers do. And, unlike many producers who make almond butter
from the damaged nuts left after sorting, Lagier sells their damaged
crop and grinds almond butter from #1 grade nuts. Another important
note: this almond butter is made in a plant that does NOT process
peanuts, a bonus for those who are too often shut out of consuming
any nut products due to a peanut allergy. Smooth or crunchy almond
butter, almond snacks (in flavors like cinnamon or tamari), and
spreadable fruit (bing cherry, marion blackberry, or boysenberry),
and all are certified organic. No e-commerce yet, but give them
a call Monday through Friday during Pacific Time business hours
to order. Also available in some stores and Farmers’ Markets
in California. Delicious!
—Gegenbauer Black Currant Vinegar, www.gegenbauer.at, www.chefshop.com,
www.deandeluca.com. Please don’t dismiss this because it’s
one of a plethora of fruit vinegars on the market. Many of those
are just that, vinegars flavored with fruit. Gegenbauer harvests
fruit and actually makes it into wine before adding a vinegar culture
to it, and the difference in flavor is simply astounding. Sure,
you can tell it’s vinegar, but there’s a definite black
currant presence, and the combination is wonderful. By all means,
use it on salads or add a bit to a glass of sparkling water, but
I’d toss a few drops with lightly sweetened berries and serve
that over a good vanilla ice cream, and I can see a place for it
in some alcoholic drinks. Incidentally, Gegenbauer vinegar is available
in a wide range of tastes, from asparagus (no fooling) to cucumber
to fig to melon. There are other sites that offer several varieties
(for example, zingermans.com has a number of the fruit vinegars),
but chefshop.com and deandeluca.com are the only ones I’ve
found who have the black currant.
© Stephanie Zonis provides the above information
to anyone, but retains copyright on all text. This means that you
MAY not: distribute the text to others without the express written
permission of Stephanie Zonis; "mirror" or include this information
on your own server or documents without my permission; modify or
re-use the text on this system. You MAY: print copies of the information
for your own personal use; store the files on your own computer
for your personal use only; reference hypertext documents on this
server from your own documents.