The Local Beet’s Gift Guide for 2011

December 13, 2011 at 5:56 pm

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most locavores were not standing in line at midnight on Black Friday for the latest hot gift. Locavores, those strange denizens that avoid the convenience of the supermarket for the rush of finding the perfect, but odd-shaped heirloom tomato, generally favor, well, odd gifts. If you’re like us, then this is your gift guide.

For The Food-Lover

Local cheese. For instance, Uplands Rush Creek Reserve. (Keighty wrote about it here.) A cult favorite, it is released periodically and sells out. My suggestion would be to contact either Marion Street Cheese Market, Provenance or Pastoral and ask about their stock, and maybe request to be put on a list for when the next shipment arrives. It’s worth the wait.

Local Honey. Chicago Honey Co-Op’s honey is made from Chicago bees. As reported recently on the Beet, Chicago Honey Co-Op lost the land for its apiaries, and is soliciting support. This is as good a time as ever to support them.

Sustainable, local caviar from Collins Caviar. Or Jo Snow syrups for coffee, Italian soda, or snow cones. Or canned goods from River Valley Kitchens. How does rum or bourbon-infused local maple syrup sound to you? Then try Burton’s Maplewood Farm. Or some of Lee’s scrumptious local pantry items.

For the meat-lover, The Butcher and Larder is offering gift cards, as well as taking orders for Allie Levitt’s famous Migas Bark and Shortbread (but hurry – orders need to be in by December 18th).

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

As Kim our Cookbook Addict wrote, Martha Bayne’s Soup and Bread Cookbook is a local find. All recipes in the cookbook are for soups brought by volunteers in Martha’s soup-and-bread events at The Hideout in Chicago. (Stay tuned for Kim’s list of locavore-focused cookbooks.)  You might have been following David Hammond’s Root Cellar Diaries or maybe you started a root cellar yourself — Rob suggests this cookbook to help you find recipes for those overwintered vegetables.

For The Local Tippler

For the mixologist, I recommend two whiskeys — both local. I’m really enjoying Lion’s Pride single-barrel, single-grain organic whiskeys, and they’re made in Chicago by Koval, Chicago’s first post-Prohibition distillery. Another favorite is Templeton Rye, made in Iowa.  Check Lush Wine & Spirits (throughout Chicago), Green Grocer, and Binny’s for these bottles.  I’d also recommend one of Koval’s liqueurs, made in  flavors such as chrysanthemum honey, ginger, jasmine, coffee, and my favorite, rosehip. On the other hand, for brunch, nothing beats a bloody mary, and Tomato Mountain has a mix made from organic tomatoes, celery and jalapeños grown on their farm in Wisconsin. (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 or so, Bittercube Bitters gets you close to having one, as well as a terrific stocking stuffer. Bittercube makes “slow-crafted Midwest bitters” (they’re made in Milwaukee) in unique combinations like cherry bark vanilla, two types of Jamaican-inspired bitters, and Blackstrap (with molasses, clove, sassafras and sarsaparilla aroma and flavors). They are sold at Lush Wine & Spirits, Green Grocer, and most liquor stores in Chicagoland.

For those friends satisfied with a good brew, Tom’s tried all the local, seasonal beers.

For The Outdoorsperson

For the year-round fisherman, how about 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 2011 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 Gardener or the Home

It’s paperwhite and amaryllis time — Green Grocer offers them from Illinois Specialty Cut Flowers, a family owned sustainable flower grower in Huntleigh, Illinois.

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, the organization that Melissa Graham (aka the Sustainable Cook) is dedicated to that brings families back to the table by promoting and enjoying all the things associated with good eating.

Some other worthy organizations that we support: