During the holiday season, our culinary horizons broaden a little bit—from entertaining to gift-giving, the kitchen is front and center for these winter-time festivals of feasting. Here are some choice picks plucked from the shelves of some of our favorite retailers in Minneapolis–St. Paul.
Exotic Wood Utensils | The Foundry Home Goods | $4–$10
While Foundry Home Goods boasts some lovely big-ticket items (see their Crane Cast Iron Pot, for example), the store is also awash in lovely little culinary stocking stuffers. Check out the shop’s wide array of stirring spoons, chopsticks, tasting spoons, spice spoons, and paddle spreaders (among others), in a variety of lovely woods ranging from olive to teak to citrus trees.
The texture on this gourmet nut brittle is impeccable—it’s light, crispy and substantial with a real butter richness, minus any stodginess, greasiness, or unpleasantly hard crunchiness. This is brittle taken to the limit.
These California-made chocolate bars are created from raw cacao over the course of a three-week process and are packaged so artfully as to generate pretty much guaranteed ooh’s and ahhh’s when they emerge from a stocking or gift box.
There’s a ton of history inside each gorgeously decorated tin of chocolate from this longstanding New York chocolatier—for starters, an empty box of Louis Sherry chocolates held F. Scott Fitzgerald’s pencils while he wrote “The Great Gatsby.” Their beauty isn’t merely skin deep—first-rate ingredients and battle-tested recipes help make these some of tastiest filled chocolates around.
Years ago, we bought a set of these streamlined, light-as-a-feather Spanish-made glasses, assuming that their delicate construction would make them temporary visitors to our home. Not at all—these ethereal looking glasses are durable and well-suited to day-to-day use. The novel-looking (think tall petri dish!) 6.5-ounce size is great for a hearty splash of amaro or txakoli; the 13-ounce. and 19-ounce sizes are workhorses that are perfect for everything from cocktails to whole bottles of beer.
Dial up (or down) the kitchen-related sass as necessary with these striking, occasionally profane dish towels that take this cooking mainstay into an edgy new world of expressiveness. We’re partial to “Shut Up Liver, You’re Fine” and “Cat Hair: Both a Condiment and a Fashion Accessory,” but there’s plenty of attitude to go around.
Cayenne Switchel | Hobby Farmer | 750ml bottle for $12
Switchel (vinegar blended with water and sweeteners such as maple syrup) is one of the country’s oldest drinks, and after a snooze period of 100 years (or more) it’s making a real comeback. It’s a non-alcoholic drink that stands alone in terms of layered flavor, and it also blends beautifully as a cocktail mixer. Hobby Farmer’s Cayenne Switchel is a great starting point for friends or family members who are cutting back (or cutting out) alcoholic beverages, or mixologists who are always looking for the next great mixer—it has a gentle, complex heat but its tart, fruity, acidic character and mellow sweetness are dominant.
Cry Baby Craig’s Hot Sauce | Online Store | $15 for three bottles or $80 for a gallon
One of Minnesota’s best-regarded hot sauces also happens to have one of the best backstories. You can read it all at growlermag.com, but the abridged version is that Cry Baby Craig’s founder Craig Kaiser fought for more than a year to get his no-cook pickling method approved, insisting (plausibly) that it keeps flavors bright and vivid. You can find his sauce at shops around town, or buy direct from the maker at a steal of a price, particularly if you get the “How Can Anybody Possibly Go Through This Much Hot Sauce?” one-gallon size.
SPONSORED: BĒT VODKA
Share the Pioneering Spirit of BĒT VODKA this holiday season
Grown in the fields of Northwestern Minnesota, sugar beets are harvested on family farms, delivered to a local cooperative, then distilled to their purest essence. The taste captivates seasoned vodka lovers and newcomers alike: smooth on the front, peppered spice on the back, with a hint of vanilla essence. Bottled in small batches and individually hand-wrapped and tied, the bottle a gift unto itself. It’s made for you. It’s made for sharing — for everyone on your list.
Simply Giftable. Simply Neat. BĒT (pronounced “BEET”).
Halva | House of Halva | $15 for a half-pound
For anyone who has been to the Middle East and fallen in love with its halva, House of Halva at Keg and Case is an unmitigated delight: a Minnesota-based halva maker who is making this crunchy, full-flavored tahini-based candy right. The stand’s many varieties include coffee, pistachio, and chocolate sea salt, and there are numerous dairy-free varieties too.
Flour Sack Towels | Golden Fig Fine Foods | $15
Bold, bright Minnesota themes make these soft cotton dish towels a double threat: easy on your hands and easy on the eyes. As a stocking stuffer or hostess gift for a kitchen-centric friend, they’re an easy win.
Puppy Love Treat Pan | Nordic Ware Factory Store | $16
As an American, you of course enjoy the right to spend outrageous amounts of money on custom-made treats for your canine companions—or, if you want to take things to the next level, you can dial up some recipes online, grab the appropriate bakeware, and make your own! This might just be the gift for the dog owner who has what they thought was everything. It’s niche, but practical at the same time.
Prism Big Sheet Cookie Pan 21”x15″ | Nordic Ware Factory Store | $19
Extra-big size and an embossed grid pattern for airflow and easy release make this one of the premiere cookie sheets on the market. (Just do an oven size check to make sure it’s not oversized; there are smaller Prism cookie pans out there for smaller ovens, too.)
SPONSORED: “Closing Time: Saloons, Taverns, Dives, and Watering Holes of the Twin Cities” | Bill Lindeke and Andy Sturdevant (MNHS Press) | $27.95
“Savory Sweet” | Golden Fig Fine Foods | $25
“Savory Sweet: Simple Preserves from a Northern Kitchen” is one of the most intriguing (and generally useful) cookbooks to hit the local scene in years—authors Beth Dooley and Mette Nielsen share a brace of recipes for freezer preserves that are bright, bold, and balanced, everything from carrot lemon marmalade with ginger and cardamom to crispy pickled red onions to caramel apple butter.
Pottery from the Northern Clay Center | $25 and up
Giving pottery from the Northern Clay Center is a big triple whammy—you’re gifting something useful (a teapot, a mug, a serving platter, etc.), you’re gifting legitimately charming art, and you’re supporting one of the state’s most enduring (and endearing) cultural institutions. As an added bonus, browsing the extensive showroom is an added gift to yourself.
Haku Smoked Shoyu | Surdyk’s | $26
Cold smoking, mushiro koji-style brewing, and extensive aging are just three of the steps in the elaborate process that creates Haku Smoked Shoyu, a finishing soy sauce that will elevate many dishes from the world of Asian cooking (and many more from other cuisines, as well.) This is the kind of gift that any avid home cook will savor.
Grand Popover Baking Pan | Nordic Ware Factory Store | $33
Popovers are more than a baked good—they’re a lifestyle. Once you’ve started your day with a dish this light, buttery, and elegant, popovers have a tendency to work their way back onto the breakfast table again and again. A proper pan really helps you to get the rise you need, and this Nordic Ware version does the trick nicely.
Forager’s Purse | Forest to Fork | $39
The elegantly constructed wicker forager’s purse on sale at Keg and Case’s Forest to Fork stand will be aspirational for many, but hopefully inspirational as well. This light, breathable container is a physical invitation to explore the outdoors.
SPONSORED: Hot Cocoa | Mike and Jen’s Hot Cocoa
Mike and Jen’s Hot Cocoa was started by a single dad and his two kids, Mike and Jen, in Duluth Minnesota in 2012. Our goal was to make our own hot cocoa mix to give to family and friends at Christmas, that didn’t include all the chemicals. What makes our mix unique is a high-quality whole milk powder, so the only thing you need to add is hot water! This makes our mix convenient for work, school, and on-the-go. It is now sold in more than 300 stores, including the finest gift and grocery stores.
9″ Pie Dish by Emile Henry | Kitchen Window | $40
Scalloped edges and distinctive matte colors make these hand finished clay pie dishes among the loveliest around. The dish can handle high temperatures (up to 500º F) and is chip-resistant, too.
Rougie Moulard Duck Leg Confit packed in Duck Fat | Surdyk’s | $58 for 53 oz.
This may be the ultimate “what the hell is this?!” gift for a gourmand—it’s an entire duck leg, preserved by salting and a slow cook process, packed away in a large tin of its own fat. It’s an ideal starting point for making a cassoulet, and the duck fat can be used (among other things) to make the world’s best French fries. You can also pick up Surdyk’s house-made duck confit, at the surprisingly reasonable cost of $25 a pound. Call ahead, it sells out regularly.
ProCast Cast Aluminum 5-qt. Braising Pan | Nordic Ware Factory Store | $83
Nordic Ware’s cast aluminum products are non-stick, non-rusting, and surprisingly light without sacrificing even heat conduction. This braiser is one of our favorite pieces, and a regular in our kitchen lineup—it goes right from the stovetop to the oven.
Designed in Great Britain and sandcast in a French foundry, this elegant matte black pan works on all ranges (including induction) and sports easy-to-grip handles. Like all of its ilk, it’s well-suited to jump from stovetop to oven, making it a great choice for braised meats and curry dishes of all sorts.
For those who love cooking in the wild (even if that’s just their own backyard), it’s worth exploring the power and scope of a FIREDISC portable propane cooker. Perfect for festival dishes such as paella or jambalaya, the FIREDISC boasts a massive capacity, a seasoned surface that’s relatively easy to clean, and three heat zones for approaching a variety of dishes.