Holiday Gift Guide with Alison: Mouthwatering Products for the Gourmand in Your Life

For the past few weeks, I have been whetting your appetites with juicy tidbits from my culinary travels.  However, over the course of the next month I will be taking you on a different journey through a catalog of holiday gift ideas for your fellow foodies.   I am going to begin this showcase with some delectable mail-order treats that can be sent to your loved ones around the country.  Throughout the year, home cooks (and those that delight in enjoying their creations) tend to utilize ingredients conveniently found on their supermarket shelves.  We should take advantage of the upcoming season of giving to introduce them to gourmet products that they may ordinarily forego. Some of the most useful items would be sauces and condiments.  A few of my favorite mustards, for example, actually come from the Peju Winery in Rutherford, CA.  Their Tequila & Jalapeno Mustard is fabulous for pretzel dipping, and the Sesame Mustard pairs perfectly with salmon or even as a replacement for traditional mayonnaise when making tuna salad.   The vineyard also sells spa products, kitchenware, wine-infused chocolate truffles and sauces, and of course their own varietals.  They even create custom gift baskets, making it a one-stop shop for your gourmet needs.  In addition, Stonehouse California Olive Oil has established itself as an award-winning provider of local oils and vinegars.  Their citrus oils, such as the Meyer Lemon, variety is one of my favorites and makes a complimentary marinade for various white fishes.

Another way to butter up your favorite home chef is by designing custom products that take their preferred flavor profiles into account.  For example, fitness fanatics will appreciate energy snacks from Element Bars, either via gift certificates or boxes of custom health bars.  First, the designer chooses the core base of the bar, such as almond butter.  Then, they add dried fruits, nuts and seeds, sweeteners like chocolate or agave, and finally vitamins such as whey protein or omega-3.  A useful "Nutritional Fact" label on the page updates in real-time with each ingredient added to the bar; this comes in handy when choosing one ingredient variety over another.  There are also customizable dips and salsas from Kitchen 125.  Customers choose their foundation, such as tomatoes, avocados, and so on; and then requests specific spices and add-ins.  Marcia, the home cook behind the service, hails from the Southwest and also sells pre-determined dips that incorporate the essences of her upbringing.   Plus, who could forget cookies from Eleni's in New York City.  This bakery is Kosher-certified and does not use nuts in any of their products.  Patrons can design their own themed treats or choose from the shop's wonderfully creative styles.  The "couture" line, for instance, playfully includes pastries decorated like high heels and gowns.  In addition, the festive, seasonal designs are perfect gifts to bring to the host of your upcoming holiday celebration.

Lastly, there are always the "of the month club" services that ship new products every few weeks, so that the recipient can expand their palate and knowledge of a particular item.  Looking past the mainstream vendors, such as Omaha Steaks, you can find higher end providers like Gourmet Monthly Clubs.  This quality service ships handcrafted microbrews, global wine varietals, elegant flowers, fragrant cigars, cultivated cheeses, and epicurean chocolates around the country.  If you are having trouble deciding on the most appropriate membership for your beneficiary, you can always register them for the Whatever Whenever Program, which combines as many clubs as you desire into that yearly delivery.

I hope that these creative holiday ideas have gotten your gift-giving juices flowing.  If you are still contemplating the "perfect present" for your beloved food fanatic, stay tuned for additional concepts over the coming weeks and get your wrapping paper ready!