The Local Beet’s Holiday Gift Guide for Eating & Drinking Local – UPDATED

December 6, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Wendy Aeschlimann

It’s that time of year, and everyone, and I mean, everyone, is doing a gift guide. Not ones to sit on the sidelines, we’re doing a gift guide, too, although ours has a distinct locavore slant. These are meant to be suggestions, so please don’t be mad if we left anything or anyone out (but do post below if we did). Oh, and please excuse any quirkiness. We like an odd gift here and there.

For The Food-Lover

Local cheese. For instance, Uplands Rush Creek Reserve. (Keighty wrote about it here.) Uplands’ newest cheese, and it’s already a sensation.

Local Honey. Honey Co-op’s honey is made from Chicago bees.

Sustainable, local caviar from Collins Caviar.

A deck of restaurant discounts from A La Card.  This well-curated, Beet-approved, list of restaurants includes many that are focused on sustainable, local cuisine.

For The Home Cooks

Martha Bayne’s Soup and Bread Cookbook. Already have it? How about Martha’s newest soup delivery, a Soupscription? For $60, you’ll get five new soup recipes and a bread recipe delivered to your door every month through November, 2011.  Part of the proceeds from sales of both the Soup and Bread Cookbook and Soupscriptions will be donated to the Greater Chicago Food Depository to help fight hunger.

Chef Susan Goss is about as local as they come – born and raised in Indiana, and a Chicago restaurateur since 1991. Hot off the presses, she has co-written The West Town Tavern cookbook, along with her husband and fellow restaurateur, Drew Goss. As West Town Tavern focuses on regional contemporary cuisine, the cookbook includes many recipes that utilize our Midwestern bounty.

For The Local Tippler

Home cocktail-crafting has developed an avid and passionate following in recent years. For the mixologist in your life, select one of local Koval’s liqueurs, which can be creatively integrated into original cocktails. Koval is Chicago’s first post-prohibition distillery, and its liqueurs are made in a variety of unique flavors such as chrysanthemum honey, ginger, jasmine, coffee, and my favorite, Rosehip. Or buy a bottle of Adam Seger’s Hum, a botanical spirit blend of hibiscus, organic ginger, green cardamom and kaffir lime, created and distilled locally by the Chicago-based mixologist.  On the other hand, for those who don’t want to play bartender, get them the excellent Tomato Mountain Bloody Mary mix for easy fixings. Also sold at Green Grocer in Chicago. (*Note: Rob’s wife works for Tomato Mountain.)

Ever go to The Violet Hour and covet their eyedropper bottles of housemade bitters behind the bar? For $10, Bittercube Bitters gets you close to having one, as well as a terrific stocking stuffer. They’re made in Milwaukee (one of the partners is a former Violet Hour bartender). Some varieties include Cherry Bark Vanilla (with hints of cherry, cocoa and Madagascar vanilla), Jamaican #1 (with Jamaican Spice overtones and hints of ginger and black pepper), Jamaican #2 (with grapefruit and hibiscus overtones and underlying island spice notes), and Blackstrap (with molasses, clove, sassafras and sarsaparilla aroma and flavors). They are sold at Lush wine stores.

For a wine-lover, might I suggest ordering a few bottles from the somewhat obscure Wyncroft, which produces premium estate-grown wines on Lake Michigan shore. Probably the closest thing the Midwest has to a garagiste-style winemaker, Wyncroft sells its wines only through its website or mailing list. The only other ways to try their fantastic quality wines are at a restaurant, or at Reserve Wine Bar in Grand Rapids, which pours them by the taste or glass. Wyncroft’s whites, in particular, its chardonnay, have gained a following among winedrinkers. I recently tasted the 2006 chardonnay, which is reminiscent of a California chardonnay, has a gorgeous yellow color, and tastes of a variety of tree fruits with a lingering finish.

For those friends satisfied with a good brew, they’ll be happy to know you live in a beer drinking Mecca.  Look at your options.

For The Outdoorsperson

Dead-of-winter can be tough for those who like outdoor activities, but one activity that you can engage in year-round is fishing. Give the fisherman or woman in your life a “certificate” for a day of fishing at Rushing Waters in Palmyra, Wisconsin (no license required). Rushing Waters’ fish is served at many Chicago restaurants for a premium (with good reason), and catching them yourself costs only a fraction of the price. Otherwise, you can order fish from them directly. Rushing Waters promises that all orders are filled when placed – so your fish will be swimming at the time you order.

The Gift That Says You Should Eat Local

A CSA subscription!  Our full searchable, sortable list from 2010 is a great place to start.

For The Preserver

Most grocery and hardware stores carry starter packs of Ball jars in assorted sizes (I recommend 1/2 pints for jam, pints for canning vegetables, and quarts for juice). But for the more ardent and experienced canner, check out the sleekly-designed Weck canning jars, produced in Crystal Lake.

Just getting started, get them some lessons from the Glass Rooster.

For the Preserver Who Never Gets Around to It

Dried fruits from Seedling Farm.

Jams from Rare Bird Preserves.

For The Marketeer

Consider a membership to the Green City Market for an ardent GCM shopper.

Know a fan of the much-lauded Madison farmer’s market? The market offers signature logo totes.

The Local Foods Wheel will help you eat seasonally even in winter (Rob collaborated with several others on this project).

For The Meat Lover

Although the benefits of sustainably-raised meat are many, it can be expensive. One way to reduce costs is to buy a side of cow or pig that can be butchered into cuts and stored in your freezer during the winter. Two options for sides and quarters are Dietzler, in Elkhorn, Wisconsin (for beef), and Cedar Valley, in Ottawa, Illinois (for Angus and “Milk and Meadow” beef, and pork).

A holiday ham or turkey.

Rob’s wife, the Cookbook Addict, suggests you also get your meat lover Good Meat by Deborah Krasner.

For The Gardener

Worms. (Need I say more?)

Our resident urban gardeners, Ava George Stewart and Peg Wolfe, have weighed in with their suggestions.  Ava suggests that Earthboxes would be great gifts for urban gardeners. Here’s a starter kit.  Also making great gifts:  Heated seed flats  or Kneeling cushions.

Peg suggests subscriptions to really good gardening magazines, such as Garden Design, BBC Gardens Illustrated, Organic Gardening, or Horticulture.  Ava vouches for Garden & Gun

For The Charitably-Minded

If you’d like to make a donation to an hyper-local organization in lieu of a gift, may we suggest the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry (an organization close to the heart of Beet Founder, Rob Gardner), or Purple Asparagus, Melissa Graham’s organization dedicated to bringing families back to the table by promoting and enjoying all the things associated with good eating.

Some other worthy organizations that we support:



  1. Melissa says:

    To give a plug for charitable giving, Purple Asparagus very much needs the help to continue meeting the need for its serves. Last year, we provided over 125 hour of free educational programming to nearly 5,000 parents and kids with an ALL volunteer team. Demand has doubled this year and we’re getting calls from schools on almost a daily basis. We haven’t turned anyone away yet, but we’re getting close to capacity. Any donation amount would make a real difference in a child’s life and their relationship to their food.

  2. Martha says:

    Hey, thanks for the plug! FYI, the Soupscription doesn’t include a loaf of bread, it includes *a recipe for a loaf (or several) of bread.* And, to continue the charitable giving theme, a portion of the proceeds from all sales of Soupscriptions — and cookbooks and other Soup & Bread-related stuff — is donated to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

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