The snow has blanketed the world in a sparkly, downy cover, my birthday dinner reservations are set (thank you kindly, Spoon & Stable) and I’ve got “Last Christmas” playing on an endless loop. The holidays are here and it’s the time I get to share all that I love with those I care most about. And it’s no surprise that most of these items are consumables.
Twin Cities’ Chef’s Table by Stephanie A. Meyer
I never shop early, but I’ve already got three copies of this book at the ready to send to friends near and far. Meyer collected all of the best restaurants and chefs in the Twin Cities and took stunning photos of their divine dishes. The recipes range from introductory to intricate, but all are easy to follow. The ramen from Zen Box Izakaya is the best excuse I’ve ever seen to cook for one. It’s a love letter to the dining scene in our cities and I couldn’t be more smitten.
Duluth Coffee Company
Don’t tell my mom, but I have a family visit strategy: I wait until she wakes up and makes us coffee before I’ll get out of bed. She lives in Duluth and, if I’m lucky, she’ll have picked up a pound from this roaster run by Erik Faust. He’s a Twin Cities transplant and for my money, these are the best beans money can buy. Just smelling a bag is revelatory, but the taste is even better. Order up a sack and wake up with a house filled with happy revelers—even on New Year’s Day.
The best way to combat the cold is by staying near a warm oven. I had always struggled with making bread until I dug into the recently re-released Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Now, I’ve always got a bowl of dough in the fridge for quick pizzas and pita breads for weeknight dinners. Now, there’s a way to share all that love with my (growing) list of friends with gluten sensitivity. These recipes are so good; you won’t believe they’re gluten-free.
Far North Spirits
This year I’ve immersed myself in the bottom of several bottles. The craft cocktail scene continues to explode and it includes several locally made craft spirits. There is much to love about several of these distilleries, but the one that can do no wrong by me is Far North Spirits. Summer was made sweeter by the subtle flavors in their Solveig gin that fast became my favorite. For fall they have Alendar spiced rum that is the ideal way to spike a glass of hot cider. Available in late 2015, they have Roknar, a Minnesota-made rye whiskey. All of these bottles build a better bar for holiday celebrating.
As much as I want to get out there and pull together a personalized gift for everyone, I’m often tied to my computer, banging away at a tight deadline, or snowed in and there are all these back episodes of The Fosters I need to catch up on. There’s a new local website that has curated a glorious list of edible yum-yums that can be packaged together and easily shipped. They have Dashfire bitters, Gray Duck chai, barrel-aged honey, Groveland confections, flavor extracts, and more. It’s dizzying and makes shopping for those far away a breeze.
Schell’s Brewery Sampler Pack
I can’t even pretend to keep up with all of the craft breweries that have opened lately. I’m not a beer nerd, but I do know that I will always enjoy a bottle of Schell’s. Besides, everyone brings wine to a dinner party, why not bring a big selection of ice cold, locally made beer that pleases everybody from the hardcore snobs to those who might be more middle of the road suds appreciators.
Froz Broz Ice Cream
Some events rush by in a swirl, other times there are dinners that stretch for hours and the memories last for years afterwards. The first time I tasted the Froz Broz ice cream was one of the latter. There were so many amazing people around that table that have since become dear friends. We were all passionate about food and warmed by homemade wine. Our evening ended with these flavor powerhouses. A study in textures from ultra rich and creamy to salty-crunchy, these guys have a gift for creating astounding flavor combinations. And now, finally, their wares are available for purchase two days a week. It’s easy to kill a pint yourself, but grab a few and share with friends. The memories last a lifetime.
Marvel Bar Old Fashioned Candle
One of my favorite things to do before enjoying a cocktail is to lean in and inhale the beautiful perfume. The aroma builds anticipation of the taste, but mostly I just love the way the drink smells. I loved the scent of several bottles in my parents bar long before the idea of ingesting them appealed to me. Now, I can get the smell without having to manage the buzz with Marvel Bar’s new candle sold through the Dayton brother’s next door retail shop Askov Finlayson. It smells like heaven and home.