Eat, Drink and Choose Great Gifts

Get some ideas for the best gifts for those with a culinary inclination.

As the end of the holiday shopping season draws near, sometimes you’re left looking for the perfect gift for the last few people. If you have someone on your list who likes to cook, bake or brew beer—or anyone who finds themselves in the kitchen from time to time—we can help. We checked in with experts we’ve spoken to in the past and they pointed us toward some of their favorite food-related gift ideas.

Annie Wobbeking of personal chef and catering service Annie’s Cooking Tonight is partial to homemade food gifts. “I think it’s nice to can garden tomatoes and make pesto to give as gifts in the fall and winter,” Wobbeking says. If you have your own stores set aside, consider giving some to a special person on your holiday list for an extra-personal gift. For those of us who don’t have any preserved summer bounty on hand, Wobbeking recommends giving an immersion blender. This handy kitchen tool can take the place of a blender for many recipes and is especially useful for blending soups and sauces.

Sunshine Factory chef Andy Ortis highlights another kitchen instrument. “I’m kind of fond of Chinese cleavers,” he says. “They’re versatile, excellent for chopping; when you’re on the fly you can use them for a spatula, you can peel and de-vein shrimp with them, you can do anything with that knife that you can do with any other knife. You can go through bones.” Ortis has always bought his cleavers at restaurant suppliers, but suggests checking Bed Bath and Beyond, Restaurant Depot or any Asian store. “It doesn’t have to be a high-end, special knife—low-end [can be] better because they sharpen easier.”

“I love to give gifts of food at the holidays,” Lunds & Byerlys food expert Denise LeClaire says. “I like to pick a couple of my favorite things I have discovered over the past year and things I really use at home—and that is what everyone gets for the holiday.” Her suggestions range from loose-leaf tea and cookies for the tea drinker, to locally roasted coffee and a mug for coffee aficionados, towels made by local company Vestiges Inc. with Lunds & Byerlys deli recipes printed on them, to truffle oil or truffle salt “for the gourmet.” LeClaire also likes giving cook books. “A favorite of mine—the one with all the spill spots on it—is Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucque’s. She has a couple restaurants in California, but I have found I can adapt the recipes to ingredients we have right here in Minnesota,” LeClaire says.

If you have a brewer or winemaker on your list, Medina homebrewing supply store Beer Meister should be on your radar. Brothers Randy and Ryan Mader along with homebrew expert Jon Kammer are the store’s owners, and they have plenty of suggestions for shoppers. During the holidays, their Christmas Cheer Beer kit is a big hit. This specialty beer has nutmeg and cinnamon sticks that give it a seasonal flair. Kits for making stouts are also popular in the colder months. “Stouts are a heavier style, more malty, with a roasted and chocolate flavor base,” Randy says. “A lot of times they can be a little higher alcohol content depending on how you brew them.” Lagers are also an excellent choice for this time of year because a concrete basement floor is almost the perfect temperature for making lager right now. Beer kits start at $25, or from $19.99 during holiday sales. Wine kits are also available for around $59.

John Slattery, store manager at Haskell’s, has some tips for giving wine as a gift. His suggestions for giftable wines are Gearbox Chardonnay ($16.99), which includes flavors of fresh peaches and pears with a touch of oak; 29 & Oak Napa Red Blend ($24.99), “a great blend with lots of dark fruit, predominant dark cherry with mocha and chocolate notes”; and Nightfall Barbera ($12.99) with flavors of dried strawberries, plum, blackberries and cherries. “Low tannins and higher in acidity makes this a great selection for your favorite pasta dish or pizza,” Slattery says. Gift boxes, wine glasses, wine openers and closures are great accessories to add to any wine you select, too. “And always buy two bottles, one to open and share with the host and one to give as a gift.”

Wayzata Public Schools culinary express supervisor Mary Anderson is a fan of giving spices as gifts. “Sometimes it’s those simple gifts that are some of the best ones, like a really good vanilla or cinnamon or Italian seasoning,” she says. Anderson often shops at Penzey’s for spices. “I also think homemade jam and homemade bread is a nice combo,” Anderson says. “Anytime you’re making something homemade and you can share it, that’s great too. Personalize it!”

Looking for more ideas?
Here are picks from Julie Jansa, a senior buyer from Patina

MN Shaped Hot Dish - Ceramic Dish
Ah, who doesn’t love a hot dish? Minnesota classic with hot dishes from around the region. $39.95

Someone in MN Loves You Tea Towel
A great gift for any out-of-town family and friends, this is a Patina exclusive. $12.95

Silly Cow Hot Chocolate, variety of flavors
This cute hot chocolate in a tiny milk bottle comes in three flavors. $9.95

MN Hot Dish Wooden Spoon
Crafted in Minnesota, this hot dish spoon would be a wonderful addition to anyone’s utensil crock. $11.95

Jingle All the Way Tea Towel
Because we all need a little humor this time of year! $9.95