The Foolproof Foodie Gift Guide

Ten things every foodie would love to find under the tree this year, featuring all-local goodies.

Foodie magnet available on Etsy


I’m a holiday gift procrastinator. I hem and haw trying to find the perfect gift and next thing I know it's Christmas Eve! However, this year, I’m committed to doing way better! I don’t know about you, but it seems like this year our fair city has birthed an abundance of amazingly wonderful local food growers, makers and purveyors. I couldn’t be happier.

I’m sure you’ve seen this statistic: For every $1 spent locally, 68 cents remain and are reinvested in the local economy vs. 43 cents when spent in big box stores. It’s a virtuous cycle!

So here is my quick list of the local food gifts I am giving this season (in no particular order):

Wigle Whiskey’s First Batch of Aged Whiskey
Did you know that at once upon a time, Pennsylvania was the whiskey capital of the United States? With all this talk of fiscal cliffs and taxation conundrums, we now know that the ill-judged tax levies on this Keystone wellspring led to the notorious Whiskey Rebellion and caused distilleries to flee southward. Before all this, Pennsylvania Whiskey was king and we had 4,000 distillers in the region. Today, we have three. And the best one is right smack in the Strip District: Wigle Whiskey. Many of us have been enjoying their white whiskey – the unaged version of the spirit. But on December 15, Wigle will be making their first batch of aged whiskey available – right in time for the holidays! Grab a bottle and give a toast to taking our heritage back from Kentucky! (And while you’re at it, enjoy this short film on Wigle Whiskey).

Ms and Zs from Pittsburgh Winery
Forgive me father, for I have zinned! This non-Merlot and Zinfandel drinker has finally found a Merlot and Zinfandel that I can love. Right here! Right here! I couldn’t believe it. Pittsburgh Winery, among its lineup of stellar wines has the best Ms and Zs that I have ever tasted. Formerly know as Engine House Wines, Pittsburgh Winery relaunched last month and opened up its amazing space in the Strip District. I love everything about it — from the kick-ass label design to the beautifully designed space and, of course, the stellar wines. Yes, it’s Pittsburgh Wine, you must see it and taste it to believe it.

Organic Chocolate Superfudge Bars and Spreads
What is a list without chocolate? I don’t think I know anyone who would hate to receive chocolate. I know I will never tire of it. Especially when it’s the unadulterated goodness of this pure handmade organic chocolate Superfudge Bar and Chocolate Spread from Love Street Living Foods. I don’t even know where to start. The Superfudge Bar is so rich and satisfying, I literally have to take breaks between bites. And the chocolate spread is an addiction. I can never keep enough on hand. And because it's made from raw chocolate – all the good antioxidants and enzymes are preserved, making this The Most Righteously Delicious Chocolate Ever Made.

Jams from The Berry Patch
One of my favorite vendors at the Pittsburgh Public Market is The Berry Patch. They make amazing jams and jellies of all sorts, all-natural with no additives. But my favorite are the sugar-free ones. I have never had sugar-free jams that tasted so good! I am not talking about artificially sweetened jams. I am talking about jams made only with the naturally coaxed and cajoled sugar from the fruit they were made with. The Berry Patch jams and jellies are so good, I call them the berry whisperers.

Local Maple Syrup
Have you heard about the maple-pocalypse? Apparently, maple syrup is one of the impending casualties of global warming. I talked to some farmers this year and the uncharacteristically warm early spring shortened their tapping season. So maybe this enormous stockpile that I have is justified. Right? Right? Say yes. Maple syrup shortages aside, I would like you to take that ersatz syrup off your grocery list. Instead, head down to your local market and buy some local syrup. Pennsylvania is one of the top 15 producers of maple syrup in North America and I use it copiously as my sweetener of choice on everything from pancakes to baked goods. So buy some now and in the spring, head on over to Beaver County and Meyersdale for some good old-fashioned maple festivals.

Mediterra Bread
This is one of the many reasons why I can never go on one of those “no-carb” diets. Starting with the sourdough and ending with the chocolate cherry bread, I am smitten with everything Mediterra. I can’t get to that first slice fast enough. Sing it with me, “She’s got a serrated edge that she moves back and forth…”

City Dining Cards
This is the gift that keeps on giving, and an excuse to eat at one local restaurant each week. City Dining Cards give $10 discounts at 52 local restaurants – no chains! And some of the best are included in this loaded deck: Root 174, Abay Ethiopian Cuisine, Alma Pan Latin Kitchen, Espresso a Mano and many more!

A Garden Primer
For your friends and family that are thinking of making the big leap of turning their lawn into a functionally gorgeous edible garden, this is the perfect gift. Local nonprofit and urban garden champions Grow Pittsburgh give a series of garden primers at the beginning of the year that give you the 411 on what you need to eat out of your backyard.

A CSA share
I dread the period between February and June when I have no crates of freshly harvested local produce to pick up. Eating local becomes a challenge as the winter months progress and all I can do is count the days until I see the words “first share delivered this week!” A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a great gift for beginner cooks and experienced ones alike. I love how I am “forced” to eat vegetables that I wouldn’t typically buy myself, because I discover new flavors and get out of my comfort zone. Farm to Table Pittsburgh and Local Harvest are great sources to discover the farms that offer shares for the season.

A Charitable Gift in Their Name
Do you remember The Human Fund that was dreamed up by George Costanza? 😉 No, I’m not talking about that kind of charitable giving. I’m talking about giving support to the following local nonprofits that advocate for sustainability and access:

The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA)
Grow Pittsburgh
Just Harvest

Enjoy the holiday season (and maybe just one tasty pastry), everyone!

Categories: Brazen Kitchen