The Sustainable Cook’s Holiday Gift Guide PLUS BLOG GIVEAWAY!!

December 14, 2009 at 6:53 pm

Melissa Graham

I was recently quoted by Crain’s Chicago Busines as saying that December is the caterer’s best friend and worst nightmare. Without holiday parties, my business may be sustainable in its practices, but not in its existence. Even this year with its down economy, the days of November and December are a marathon forcing a slow start to my own holiday preparations.

The house is only half decorated, we haven’t yet made our visit to Santa, and I’ll be lucky if the holiday cards hit the mail box before New Year’s Eve. However, things are looking up. With our biggest event of the year behind me, I can now turn my attention to gift giving. Fortunately, I’ve already taken care of my client gifts, who receive a recycled berry box full of house made preserves – these were made months ago. It’s time to shop for the rest of our motley crew of friends, family, and neighbors. I took a little time last night and put together my gift list. Keeping in the spirit of the holidays, I thought it would be fun to give you readers a gift: our list chock full of products, which are, unsurprisingly, locally available.

Also, in the spirit of giving, I’m having my first holiday blog giveaway. My little locavore has pulled a number between 1 and 30 from his winter hat. The poster whose post corresponds with that number shall win a berry basket filled with local preserves made by me, The Sustainable Cook, including Tomato Marmalade, Golden Raspberry Jam, and Strawberry Jam. Rules include 1 post per person and no editor of The Local Beet can win the item (sorry Rob). Let the reindeer games begin!

The Literary Locavore

Henry's Farm

There has been a whole slew of new books on sustainable and local eating this year. One of my favorites is The Seasons on Henry’s Farm by friend, Terra Brockman. Terra is the founder of The Land Connection, a non-profit dedicated to supporting, developing, and training local farmers. She is also the sister of the Evanston farmers’ market stalwart, Henry Brockman of Henry’s Farm. Terra’s beautifully-written book is about a year on the farm, giving us city folk the insight to the rhythm of a Midwestern farm life. The literary locavore would also appreciate a subscription to Edible Chicago, a quarterly magazine dedicated to the exploration of our local food culture.

The Lushy Locavore

Green Grocer

Throughout the winter, many locavores like to drink and eat their potatoes. Fortunately, neither locally grown potatoes nor locally distilled vodkas are in short supply. My husband and I are a big fan of North Shore vodka especially when partnered with Tomato Mountain‘s tomato juice and Mike’s secret blend of spices (which I am forbidden to reveal). Tomato Mountain also makes a Bloody Mary mix for those of you who prefer not to practice mixology on Sunday mornings. I think that the pairing of Tomato Mountain’s mix and the North Shore vodka would be a lovely gift for the lushy locavore. Cassie Green carries both of these at Green Grocer. For another great source of local liquor, try Lush Wine and Spirits. Be sure to say hi to the Lush girls for me. We’re big fans.

The Globalvore

Provenance logo

We all know them. The folks that refuse to buy into the eat local movement. The folks who find it downright silly. Some don’t care much about food (they’re the eat to live ones), but there are others who just don’t get the philosophy. For the truly recalcitrant, ask Tracy Kellner of Provenance Food and Wine to pull together a gift basket of global delicacies, like Spanish chorizo, exotic honeys, delicious chocolates, and assorted olives. For the converted, she’s got a great array of local delicacies on hand.

The Hostess with the Localness

Chicago Downtown Farmstand

The Downtown Farmstand has a ton of a baskets awaiting your selections that they will then fill with and package decoratively. A lovely gift for your holiday host.

Your Little Locavores Kid

The Kids' Table logo

All of the aforementioned food shops carry a great variety of locally produced treats that would satisfy your child’s sweet tooth. For something both healthier and longer lasting, check out the selection of cooking tools at The Kids’ Table, which they can use to make the many family-friendly recipes found on this blog. If you become a member of Purple Asparagus, a non-profit dedicated to bringing families back to the table, you’ll receive a 10% discount on classes and parties at The Kids’ Table.

The Locavore Who Has it All


For the locavore who wants for nothing, consider a charitably minded gift such as a membership to Green City Market. Not only will you be supporting a pioneer in the eat local movement, but membership affords some experiential benefits available no where else, like advance access to Green City Market barbecue tickets, one of the city’s hottest events – a sell-out two years in a row.

The Budding Locavore

Real Food Rehab

For the friend or family member who really wants to eat locally, but doesn’t know how, treat them to a sustainable cooking class. Not to toot my own horn (honk, honk), but I have a whole series of cooking classes appropriate for a variety of circumstances, including Sustainable Cooking 101, To Market, To Market and Sustaining Family Traditions. To sign up, email me at You could also purchase Dana Altman’s terrific Real Food Rehab’s Pantry Essentials Guide, which recommends many wonderful local products to add to your larder, helping you reintroduce real food into your diet.

The Loquatious Locavore

Across the Table

The chatty cathy among your friends would enjoy Across the Table, a non-profit dedicated to uniting Chicago one meal at a time. Founder Lauren Grossman seeks out restaurant and caterers who source locally to host the events at which participants discuss hot topics, such as food justice, friendship, and race. To give a friend the gift of delicious food and dynamic conversation, visit Across the



  1. Jacky says:

    Love all the gift ideas, guess I better get shopping!

  2. Ray Masterson says:

    Thanks for all the suggestions. I’ve found a few places or sites I did not know about and will be looking into them.

  3. Damien says:

    So Melissa, do I post here or on your blog to be eligible? If I don’t win, want to do a trade of preserves? Many Candid Wines’ clients are receiving some form of apple butter, and I just might have a few more of the “adult” butters that I spiked with dried apples, reconstituted in Bourbon. Let me know. Speaking of tooting one’s own horn, I would point out that the wines of Barra and Girasole are available at Green Grocer too – ask Cassie to show you the picture of her with Charlie and Martha.

    Happy Holidays – now stop writing for a second and go see Santa. The Sox need another starter and I can only assume that one more little voice asking the bearded one for help will be a boon to their chances of landing one. It does not appear that anything is coming from the winter meetings, but I digress…

  4. Lisa says:

    now I’m just hungry! I suggest another local place for a gift basket—The Poison Cup wine shop on Armitage. They put together beautiful baskets with wine, chocolate from Grocer’s Daughter, and more!

  5. The Wife says:

    What an original gift guide. Enjoy the holidays!

  6. Julie says:

    Great ideas! Definitely using one for my boyfriend who’s a cook!

  7. Nate says:

    Thanks for the suggestions! Love the idea. :)

  8. adrienne says:

    Thanks for all the great ideas!

  9. Megan D. says:

    I’m going for the book, “season’s on henry’s farm”. Go midwestern farmers, go!

  10. Helen says:

    Thanks for all the suggestions. I have passed on the link to my food group. Can’t wait to get a copy of Henry’s Farm.

  11. Pauline D. says:

    I’m new the Midwest so all these suggestions are very helpful! Thank you!

  12. Julia says:

    I love jam! I hope I got the magic number.
    P.S. I found this blog from twitter

  13. Bookworm says:

    Great suggestions, Melissa — happy and delicious holidays to all!

  14. Rich says:

    Mmmmm, tomato marmalade. How about the recipe for that as a consolation prize?

    Thanks, Melissa.

  15. And we have a winner. The little locavore has pulled the number from the hat and that number was 1, so Jacky you are the winner. Please email me ( your home address and your basket of preserves will be on its way. Thanks everyone for participating!

  16. Kris says:

    I never though catering would be a big thing during the holidays. We learn something new everyday! thanks Melissa for the post.

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