Christmas shopping can make you a little crazy. Picking just the gift that will be a hit; worrying about size, fit, and color; and finding time to do the shopping can lead to some holiday anxiety.
I’m here to say that you can’t go wrong with food or drink.
Order something special from near or far for a welcome gift. For example, we’ve been the lucky recipients annually of some delicious pears from Harry & David and always look forward to them. Give the pleasure of a good dinner out, a shopping spree at a specialty food store, or a troll through a good wine shop for a memorable experience to be savored at leisure.
Here are a few ideas that may help with your gift list. Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of time.
Close to home, order some fruits, sweets, or treats from Stew Leonard’s Gifts. You know the quality at Stew’s is always top notch. They’ve even got some baskets that include wines with the goodies.
Speaking of wine, a wine club that runs all year is the gift that keeps on giving. Both Fountainhead Wines in Norwalk and Ancona’s in Wilton offer monthly wine clubs. At Fountainhead you’ll get three carefully chosen bottles every month that will broaden your wine horizons. Ancona’s also offers a monthly selection of three bottles ($50) — all red, all white, or a mix — with tasting notes and food pairing suggestions. Either club is $50 per month.
For immediate gratification, order a cheese basket from Fairfield Cheese for pick up or to be shipped. Curated baskets with themes like Cheesemonger Choice or Northeast Favorites range from $75 to $125. The cheeses are exceptional.
Before there was Amazon Prime, before there was two-day (or faster) shipping, before there was the internet, there was mail order food for Christmas.
It seems like there has always been fruit from Harry & David, nuts from Blue Diamond, and fruitcakes from Claxton. These days you can get almost any delicious thing shipped as a one time Christmas gift or a stream of goodies that arrives over the course of a year.
Harry & David is still my gold standard for fruit. Give some of those pears I look forward to or sign up for the classic Fruit of the Month Club.
For fermented fruits join the cider club from Shacksbury craft ciders in Vermont. They make delicious ciders from re-discovered native apples. Club members get either three or six bottles quarterly of their rarest and most unique ciders for $55 or $100 plus shipping.
A few years ago I got interested in smoked meats and found some good sources for authentic products. Newsom’s Old Mill Store in Princeton, KY makes country cured hams by hand from Col. Newsom’s 102 year old recipe. His granddaughter Nancy is considered by some a national treasure for her deft touch with old-school slow-cured pork. I’m a big fan of their hickory-smoked country sausage too.
Nodine’s Smokehouse in Goshen offers a full range of delicious Connecticut smoked pork products. Their Woodland hams are unbeatable for the Christmas table, whole, half, or sliced, but hand-crafted bacon, tasty any time, is their “Pride and Joy.”
The hip LA cafe Sqirl specializes in jam-making with creative flavors like Seascape Strawberry & Rose Geranium, Rutiz Blackberry & Lemon Verbena, and Black Mission Fig & Red Wine. Join their jam club to get two jams every other month for as long as you like (6 mos $90).
Baked goods are always popular. Our son used to put Wolferman’s English Muffins on his Christmas list every year. They come in tasty flavors like apple-cinnamon, cheddar, and cranberry citrus, as well as the original 1910 recipe. They’re not the kind of things people are likely to bake at home.
Want to give a great food experience? Sign up for a bread baking class at Wave Hill Breads in Norwalk. Learn how to bake sourdough bread or advanced bread shaping techniques from master baker Tim Topi. Give a Valentine’s class to your honey and learn how to make croissants together.
For anyone on your list who needs some cooking gear, visit the Cook’s Nook in Wilton. It’s like walking through one of the slick food-gear catalogs, but you can heft the goods first hand. The invaluable benefit of expert advice comes at no additional charge. You’ll leave with what you wanted and a few things you didn’t know you had to have.
Any restaurant would be happy to be included in your holiday gift giving. Get a gift card now and you’ll be warmly welcomed back in the quiet winter months. Keep in mind Washington Prime and Match in SoNo. Oak and Almond and Via Sforza for Italian. For special occasions think of Schoolhouse At Cannondale in Wilton, Norwalk’s Basso Cafe and The Spread for chef-driven cuisine from around the world.
Gifts of food and drink are fun to shop for and will bring smiles on Christmas morning. You may even get a taste.
Frank Whitman can be reached at NotBreadAloneFW@gmail.com.