If there’s anything this unprecedented year has taught me, it’s this: I have to learn to appreciate life’s “small” moments more. 2020 has been a watershed year, and in the midst of the uncertainty, joyful celebration of the simple things and the most natural encounters has made me very happy. Some of the companies I “met” in 2020 have made a world of difference to my approach to food and to my quality of life during the pandemic- and for this, I am very grateful.
My holiday gift guide is a summary of this year’s best culinary encounters. I hope you will decide to support these small businesses during the pandemic and beyond – and I hope their products will inspire you 🙂
- Sitka Salmon Shares
Arguably this year’s best culinary discovery for me, Sitka Salmon Shares has a vision that breaks the mold of industrial fishing practices. At a time when large scale international fishing is marred by overfishing, questionable imports, and downright fraud, there are signs of hope and change for the better.
I cooked with Sitka Salmon Shares’ fish many times this year, and I was moved by the flavors and freshness of the fish as much as I was by the underpinning values of the company. Can there be humanity and interpersonal connection in an age of large scale fishing, with all its aforementioned downsides? Sitka Salmon Shares is giving me reasons for optimism.
You can read more about Sitka Salmon Shares here, here and here. If you like what you read, now’s a great time to purchase a share for 2021 – the perfect foodie gift for yourself or your loved ones 🙂 Join SSS now and get $25 off one of their Shares – just use code CLP at checkout! This code expires December 31st, 2021.
Small businesses need our support now more than ever before, and one obvious way to support them is to buy their products either directly or indirectly. For impressive bundles of delicious Chicago favorites, you can check out modern convenience store Foxtrot, which offers same day delivery of curated holiday gift boxes that fit anyone’s tastes. Options include: Season’s Greetings ($50); Espresso Martini Cocktail Kit ($75); Coffee Friend Bundle ($75); Treasure Chest of Sweets ($150); All Things CBD ($250); Red, white & sparkling wine bundles (prices vary). All of these gift packages can be picked up in-store or delivered to Chicago-area residents during the holiday season.
The Big Foodie bundle I received from Foxtrot featured a variety of Chicago favorites – and it was absolutely gorgeous, to begin with!
I was super excited about Monteverde‘s gnocchetti. I cannot wait to experience joy while cooking with this product from esteemed Chef Sarah Grueneberg!
Big Fat Cookie was another favorite of mine from the gift basket. This moist, rich, delicious peanut butter cookie oozing chocolate and sprinkles through all its pores was gone in no time – ooops!
I used Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits’ granola included in the basket in my breakfast bowl with labneh, organic flax powder, ground cherry preserve, and fresh ground cherries and apple. Featuring oats, maple syrup, pecans, pumpkin and sunflower seeds and dried Michigan cherries with a touch of flaky sea salt, this granola’s sweet and slightly savory mix was simply irresistible.
Perfect on a cold day – and perfect any day!
You can select and order Foxtrot gift baskets online. There is something for everyone, and their offerings are sure to please foodies and aesthetes alike. Highly recommended!
- Truffle Shuffle
Back in August I had an amazing time attending a Truffle Shuffle Zoom cooking class (you can read my full review here).
Truffle Shuffle was created by Chefs Jason McKinney and Tyler Vorce (of The French Laundry Michelin star reputation) along with Sarah McKinney (who worked the front of the house at TFL). They launched Truffle Shuffle “as an honest truffle company to provide the finest truffle products and consciously sourced and traced fresh truffles.” Truffle Shuffle’s founders intend to “bring clarity and integrity to the complex world that is truffles,” and they work with truffle-hunting families all over the world.
Created under the Chefs’ patient instructions, the Spaghetti & Wagyu Meatballs with Truffle Pecorino I had made during class were mind-blowingly delicious, and nothing like any meatballs I’d ever made/tasted. Undeniably, the addition of truffles pulled this dish from the myriad of other spaghetti and meatball renditions to help it stand out in a most compelling and flavor-enchanting way. The high quality protein was an excellent choice – the Wagyu beef was juicy and full of flavor. The pasta was cooked to perfection, still al dente and ready to soak in all that goodness from the tomato sauce. Absolutely exquisite!
Want to attend a Truffle Shuffle class or to surprise your friends and/or family with a wow holiday gift? You can purchase one of their classes on the Truffle Shuffle website – and get 10% off with my special discount code!
- Nielsen-Massey Vanillas
Nielsen-Massey Vanillas’ Holiday Flavors Bundle is back this holiday season! A great gift for your favorite home baker or to use in your own kitchen cabinet year-round, Nielsen-Massey Vanillas’ bundle includes three iconic products: Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract; Pure Almond Extract; Pure Peppermint Extract. With this assortment, you’re guaranteed to have the best seasonal flavors at your fingertips when crafting your holiday creations!
From cheesecake and hot drinks…
… to cookies and cakes…
…I have used Nielsen-Massey Vanillas extensively for many years, with incredible results (you can check out some uses/recipes here, here and here). I love this company’s products and underpinning values, and I highly recommend them this holiday season and beyond!
- Maple Leaf Farms
Maple Leaf Farms is a company I collaborated with towards the end of the year, when they offered to send me their Holiday Duck Package to try out (you can read my post here). I cooked the duck breast with seasonal fruits and veggies, and the whole family enjoyed it during Thanksgiving weekend. I thought the sweetness of seasonal quince and apples coated in pomegranate molasses would go great with the duck and would tone down its gaminess. I also used my go-to mix of veggies for roasting (fingerling potatoes, parsnip, onion and peppers), which I sprinkled with dried oregano and harissa seasoning. I served my seasonal duck dish with a salad which featured watercress, parsnip, and pomegranate arils soaked in a fresh herb vinaigrette.
While it’s too late to order duck products in time for the upcoming holidays, you can still check out the Maple Leaf Farms website and order gift cards as presents. That’s one sure way to make the holidays and next year extra special for the foodie(s) in your life 🙂
*Disclaimer: While I received complimentary products to facilitate the writing of this gift guide, all opinions expressed here are my own.