It’s Back! The Local Beet’s Last Minute, Quirky Gift Guide for 2012

December 21, 2012 at 12:50 pm

From Letherbee’s facebook page

If you’re last minute and didn’t order the hottest gift two weeks ago before it sold out, or you’re not willing to believe the online retailers’ claims that they will get your gifts to you by Christmas, then check out our quirky, but definitively locavore-minded gift suggestions.

For The Learner

The Red Meat Market is offering a whole hog butcher breakdown class on January 26th, 2013. This three-hour class at Centered Chef in Chicago will feature Buedel Fine Meats and Provisions, who will teach you how to break down a whole hog carcass from Slagel Family Farm into special cuts not found at your grocery store. Then, the chef of The Loft at Centered Chef, Ryan Hutmacher, will teach you how to make several dishes with the meat you just butchered.

On Sunday, January 13, 2012, one of the best bakeries in Chicago, Floriole Cafe & Bakery, is offering its very first bread baking class. Space is limited. The price is $50 + tax per person, and includes the course, a take-home loaf, and dinner. (Drinks extra.) Call to reserve: 773-883-1313.

For The Food-Lover

How about delectable sweets from a butcher shop? You probably know all about the artisanal butcher shop, The Butcher and Larder, and its sustainably-raised, family-farmed meat. But the desserts made by Allie Levitt (wife of butcher Rob Levitt), have gained a cult following dating from their tenure at their former restaurant, Mado, in Bucktown, when Allie was the pastry chef. For the time being anyway, some of Allie’s sweets — like her shortbread, marcona almond nougat, migas bark and vanilla caramels — are being offered specially through Butcher & Larder.

If you’ve had Black Dog Gelato once, then you want to have it again. How about 2 pints, six times a year? Sign up by December 24, 2012 for the Black Dog Gelato-of-the-Month club, and you’ll get 2 pints of rotating Black Dog flavors delivered to your home once a month from January to June for $119 (roughly $9/pint). To order, go to, or call the store at 773.235.3116 or email

For The Avid Restaurant-goer

Becoming a classic Chicago-centric gift, you can’t go wrong with a deck or two 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

Look no further than the diverse list that Kim, our Cookbook Addict, provided here.

Co-op Hot Sauce, “Good Sauce For Good,” started out when Mike Bancroft, the founder of Co-Op Image, a youth arts program, saw making small-batch hot sauce as a good way to raise money for the program. The sauces, made from locally grown ingredients, garnered a following, and transformed Co-op Sauce into a full-time commercial enterprise (though it still donates half of its profits to Co-Op Image ). Try giving the “Rum Barrel Gift Box,” which includes “The Rum Barrel” sauce,  applewood smoked sea salt, jalapeno pork sticks from Jake’s Country Meats, and a Wild Mary Bloody Mary mix. Or buy a bottle or two as stocking stuffers: “The Barrel” combines two of my favorite things in a Louisiana-style sauce: bourbon & Dark Matter coffee (the hot sauce is aged in bourbon barrels that last held porter and is infused with coffee). There are also other creative, complex flavors such as Mole (a riff on the Mexican sauce), Batsauce (named for the musician/producer/DJ Batsauce, and which has a sweet-hot dichotomy of Michigan blueberries & ghost pepper) or their version of Asian Sriracha called “Chi-racha.”  You can order Co-Op hot sauce online or at Green Grocer in Chicago. (See here for more retailers.)

For The Local Drinker

The most gratifying local spirit to me this year is made by Ravenswood-based Letherbee Distillers.  Its “Gin for Wellness”  has been getting a fair amount of attention lately, and with good reason: Its smooth herbaceousness will turn a gin lover in anyone. I challenge anyone who doesn’t drink martinis to make one with Letherbee and see if they still feel that way. If you can find a bottle of this small batch gin to give as a gift, you’d make a cocktail lover very happy. Try any of the Lush Wine & Spirits locations or In Fine Spirits for a bottle.

I won’t make any claims as to its healthfulness, but who doesn’t love old-fashioned soda pop now and then? A local institution, Filbert’s, has been making their “draft-style” root beer since 1926 on Chicago’s South side. They now make 25 (!) different flavors in addition to root beer that is served in their wonderfully vintage-style glass bottles. Take a trip down to the factory in McKinley Park on 3430 S. Ashland, and you can make your own custom case  of soda for about $12.  You might even get to tour the bottling area, who knows? They’re open from 8-4 M-F and 9-1 Sat. They will be open from 9-3 on Christmas eve, so plan accordingly.

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 fully searchable, sortable list from 2012 is a great place to start. Or, check out a true year-long CSA with Tomato Mountain to continue getting vegetables in winter.

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.

If you need lessons along with those jars, check out the Glass Rooster.

For The Marketeer

If you know someone who is an avid U-picker, consider this vintage market and fruit basket from Kauffman’s Mercantile that straps onto your back.

For The Caffeine-Addicts

Not too long ago, coffee-lovers had only Metropolitan and Intelligentsia (not that there’s anything wrong with them), but over the past few years, small-batch, fair trade roasters have appeared on almost every other street corner in Chicago. Variety is the spice of life, and I’m happy that we now can choose from the diverse, delicious selections of Gaslight Coffee Roasters in Logan Square, Dark Matter Coffee Company (available at Star Lounge in Ukrainian Village), Bow Truss Coffee Roasters in Lakeview (available at Green Grocer) or Ipsento Coffee House & Roaster in Bucktown. For someone who savors coffee, a bag or two of beans from will always be appreciated.