By Matthew Schniper | CSMNG Staff Writer
The holidays are wrapping up, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still gifts to be found (don’t forget your New Year’s host!). Yeah, you can buy a lot of stuff online or from major-label food producers via grocery and department stores. But, as always, we’re going to direct you instead to look locally for more unique and special items that show much more personality and love. Plus, these items will generally be more boutique and craft-oriented, meaning better ingredients and authenticity where it matters.
Some of the following recommendations are pretty straightforward, like, “buy and eat me!” While others hold a more experiential element, like, “DIY or learn-to-make.” The following are just a small selection from around town, of course, so if you don’t see exactly the right gift for your respective loved one, perhaps these picks will at least get you thinking about similar possibilities. So, gift-on and enjoy the rest of the holidays!
Let’s start with chocolate
A) It’s the greatest substance on Earth and B) You can’t go wrong in the gifting of it.
Skip the cloying commercial crap made with an exhaustive ingredient list and stick with the real deal, where a proper cacao content means your giftee won’t get lost in bland land. Radiantly Raw Chocolate regularly sells themed truffle six-packs like a Coffee Lovers option. But look for special seasonal flavors like a cherry hazelnut filled with dark chocolate ganache. Supplement those with an infused local raw honey gift pack, featuring ghost chili, lavender, and orange jasmine flavors. Cacao Chemistry has your need for a hollow, molded mini Santa covered, but for the fancy pants in your life, you can buy one of the primo Santas, which is solid dark chocolate throughout and plated in edible 24-karat gold leaf. Shiny! The shop also sells pre-made gift baskets full of choco goodness, plus macarons and anywhere from four- to 23-piece truffle sets. Pikes Peak Chocolate and Ice Cream similarly vends a fine truffle array, but should be considered for its chocolate bark and fudge selections too, like a salted caramel flavor.
Experiences, not things
I’m sure you’ve heard that statistic about Millennials in specific, by now, about how their generation prefers experiences over tangible products. It’s smart thinking. And in the context of gift-giving, it sorta invokes the proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” So instead of gifting a consumable good that’s quickly concluded, what about sending your giftee to a cooking class to learn a skill they can long employ? Among local learning centers, The French Kitchen sports a team of specialized instructors who keep a monthly calendar of diverse offerings stuffed like the filling of a delicate pastry. In classes limited to six-to-12 students, learn to make your own chocolate or holiday bûche de Noël (Yule Logs, during December only, $69), or study up on concocting the perfect croissant at home with that newly-added class. Of note, their pastry counter also provides superb cakes, breads and pastries for gifting. Gather Food Studio also produces an abundance of alluring tutorials in the $45 to $75 range for two-to-three hour classes limited to eight people, that include a community meal. International cuisines are paid special attention to break you out of old at-home habits, but who can resist the pun of a sweets class called Total Eclipse of the Tart? Another gift option that’ll stretch your dollars (50, to be exact) throughout an entire year is Gather’s new Spice of the Month Club, which will send your giftee in-house for an hour every third Monday evening (starting in January) to learn about more obscure seasonings in American pantries, like Ras al hanout or Ibzar. Students will chat history, blend the spice on site, then co-make a sample recipe to taste, and leave with a bag of the spice with which to explore at home.
Here’s a bunch more unrelated ideas for food-and-drink fans.
Other experiences outside of formal cooking classes, for a few quick ideas: high tea at Glen Eyrie or Miramont Castle; a traditional Chinese tea ceremony at Yellow Mountain Tea House; or completely across the spectrum, gift some seats on the Local Motive Party Bus, whose December schedule hosts pub crawls like A Christmas Story brunch crawl, an ugly sweater night, Christmas lights tour, and Santa Dive Bar tour. With the word “experiential” still fresh in mind, Buckley’s Homestead Supply sells several items that will keep your giftee busy in the kitchen at home. Look for fermentation sets perfect for making anything from sauerkraut to kimchi and pickles, canning supplies, cheese-making kits and kombucha-brewing gear. Also on the drinkable side of at-home fermentation, places like Fermentations and Old West Homebrew Supply have you covered on wine-, mead- and beer-making equipment and ingredients. Sparrow Hawk sells a superior selection of kitchen gadgets, cookware, bakeware, utensils, dinner and drinkware, and on and on. Consider cool items like skull-shaped ice molds, or sphere or orb molds for fancy cocktails at home; ironic, vintage-style napkins; newly added Colorado flag emblem goods like coffee mugs and cutting boards; and, you can’t eat ‘em but you can wear ‘em: taco socks. Bags of coffee from local roasters are an obvious gift idea, but look for special one-offs to add impact to your gift. One example: Solar Roast Coffee sells limited-release roasts in neat hand-numbered packages, like a 20-week barrel-aged bourbon coffee. Savory Spice Shop or Penzeys Spices makes for an easy stop for, you guessed it: spices. If there’s a popcorn fiend in your family, Cole’s Gourmet Popcorn & Treats sells an enormous array of sweet and savory popcorns and mixes, ranging from curry coconut and Frito chile pie to blueberry, cinnamon and Oreo flavors. Their 275-cup Party Bags are the size of a small child — you will be legend if you carry one into a party. Look toward our cottage foods industry for many worthwhile gifts. Just one product that caught my attention recently is a lavish, coffee-infused Bulletproof Coconut Butter from CocoPrana, just one of their six current flavors. CocoPrana’s sold at Radiantly Raw and at the Sourdough Boulangerie, which deserves a mention alongside Nightingale Bread, as spots to buy fabulous loaves for gifting. For meat gifting ranging from steaks to jerky and sausage, keep it local with goods from places like Corner Post Meats, Black Forest Bison and Ranch Foods Direct. And, lastly, being the age-old fall-back, just give someone a gift certificate to their favorite local restaurant, bar, coffee shop, brewery, distillery, cidery, meadery, winery, juice or smoothie or kava bar, ice cream shop, etc. It’s a creatively lame move, but nobody hates a free meal or drink. Happy holidays, shoppers!