Taste-full Holiday Gifting
By Kelly Salonica Staikopoulos
Food and drink bring out the Fa La La in all of us, and these specialties are sure to fill your stockings with deliciousness and put the sparkle in the holiday celebrations. Following are gifts of good taste for your favorite hostess, chocolate lover, discerning foodie, and home bartender, and one giving company even pays it forward—now that’s Fa La La to my heart!
CHOCOLATE LOVERS INDULGE
From Swiss to Internationally-sourced chocolates, these confections are the ultimate indulgence!
Master Konditor-Confiseur (pastry chef-confectioner) André Bollier and his wife Elsbeth emigrated from Basel, Switzerland in 1955 to open a Swiss confiserie producing the finest-quality traditional confections. Since its founding, three generations of Swiss confiseurs have made André’s one of America’s premier chocolatiers. René Bollier, André’s grandson, classically trained in Switzerland to carry on the family traditions while creating his own distinctive chocolate proficiencies.
Once you taste this exquisite chocolate you’ll recognize that craftsmanship and passion translate into gifts to be savored and shared. While it’s difficult to choose from the array of delectable
confections offered at André’s, three are especially notable. Chocolate Orange Peels: fresh orange peels are candied to seal in the citrus flavor, then dipped in André’s signature Swiss dark chocolate, $27. Fleur de Sel Caramels: French sea salt is infused with pure cane sugar to make these buttery caramels that are covered in André’s milk or dark chocolate. A sprinkling of Fleur de Sel adds the final touch, from $7. Chocolate Covered Almonds: California nonpareil almonds are roasted to a golden brown, then lightly caramelized and coated in André’s milk chocolate (dusted in powdered sugar) or dark chocolate (dusted in cocoa powder). Available in milk or dark chocolate (bags or boxes), or mixed boxes of milk and dark, from $4. This is just a sampling of what André’s has to offer the chocolate lover (or giver) in you, so be sure to peruse André’s online offerings to see the many gift options to choose from. Note that it’s hard to stop after just one of any of André’s gems!
Located in Soho and Brooklyn, as well as in Japan and Dubai, MarieBelle is known for its fine truffles, ganache, and chocolate bars. The finest worldwide selection of Criollo cacao beans—displaying a distinct reddish color and complex taste (which can include flavors of caramel, nuts, vanilla, and tobacco)—are used to make MarieBelle chocolates. Local ingredients like fresh berries and fruits, as well as exotic ingredients from around the world like European butter, English lavender, Tahitian vanilla, Florida lemons, Japanese matcha tea, and Puerto Rican rum are sourced to infuse into the many confections created.
This season you can also enjoy the celebratory styling of their holiday collections, including a Chocolate Christmas Tree Ornament filled with Cacao Market almonds covered in milk chocolate ($10), Jefferson’s Favorite Hot Chocolate ($17), and a Cacao Market Round Holiday Truffle Set ($20).
GIVING BACK ONE CRUNCHY RAYZYN AT A TIME
Giving and receiving is what the holidays are all about, and what better way to come full circle than to breathe delicious new life into what at first appeared to be a terrible loss. This grapevine crunch is one your taste buds will love that’ll love you back by lifting up those who need it!
The Wine RayZyn Company, located in Napa, California, is a family operation with three generations of organic farming experience. They make wine, care about the environment, and are committed to doing more with less. Wine RayZyn, founded in 2014, is on a mission to deliver healthy, sustainable foods and snacks to people who are swapping traditional meals with hearty snacking.
CabernayZyn), Chardonnay (ChardonayZyn), and Merlot (MerlayZyn) wine grapes—a crunchy superfood snack packed with antioxidants, polyphenols, fiber, and bioavailable nutrients. They’re a sustainable food with each RayZyn type embodying the taste of their varietal. Though great on their own for noshing, their crunchy sweetness enhances salads, baked goods, ice cream, and more. “We have created the perfect healthy, sweet snack. It’s truly guilt-free indulgence,” says Andrew Cates, co-founder of the Wine RayZyn Company, also known as “The RayZyn Guy.”
Giving back: Food Recovery Network and the Wine RayZyn Company partnered to repurpose unharvested wine grapes from vineyards affected by the wildfires in Napa and Sonoma County and have turned them into Rescue RayZyns. Most of these wine grapes are no longer suitable for making wine but they’re perfect for making Wine RayZyns, which are hand-harvested in Napa and the surrounding areas by the Wine RayZyn Company. “The Wine RayZyn Company is proud to present this unique corporate program in order to give back to the Community to help victims of disaster like the California fires. As a Napa Fire Victim myself,” noted Andrew, “I can speak to the heartache and emotional disaster of seeing your home burnt to the ground, and the overwhelming bravery and dedication of those who fight the fires and protect their neighbors. We want to do our small part to help ease the pain of others and help them to recover.” Chris Cates, Andrew’s father and co-founder of the company commented “We asked, ‘What can we do in this situation?’ We could lick our wounds, or we could get active and try to do something good.” The Rescue RayZyns are CabernayZyns coated in dark chocolate that give you a burst of energy after an activity while satisfying your treat craving (in a good way). With each 2-pack purchase on RayZyn.com, $1 goes to help California fire victims. This initiative is a practical way to eliminate food waste and feed victims of natural disasters. Nourish yourself deliciously while nourishing the needs of others. ‘Tis the season! From $15.
SCOTLAND’S FINEST SHORTBREAD
Nostalgia meets cookie perfection in this exquisite treat that takes you back to a time when holidays were meant to savor, not rush through.
Evoke joyful times past and embrace an authentic taste of Scotland with handcrafted gourmet
Scottish shortbread from Heritage Shortbread, a treasured family institution now based in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. Never written, the secret McGrain recipe was passed down through oral tradition from mother to daughter for years. Handcrafted with love and care by Willow McGrain with the same techniques and pure, natural ingredients her family has used for generations, this timeless historic shortbread gives a sense of hearth and home to any occasion. Willow was blessed with the talent to replicate her mother’s recipe, but found that while the proper ingredients were essential for success, there was one important element that had to come from the heart. It was a belief that this delicate shortbread could evoke a time before with suggestions of her beloved Scotland, of home and hearth, and of the McGrain heritage. At first, she gave her shortbread as presents for holiday gifts, weddings, and other celebrations. As demand grew, the choice to share her family’s heritage with the world was made.
This shortbread comes in traditional shortbread, hand-dipped chocolate shortbread, and lemon-infused shortbread. The belief that this shortbread can evoke joyful times past, is slipped into every box. This is the loveliest way to bring the taste of historic Scotland and family tradition into your own family gathering. My favorite (if I had to choose) would be the Lemon Infused Shortbread, 2014 Sofi Award Finalist for Outstanding Cookie. This shortbread contains pure aromatic lemon oil and is all natural with no additives, preservatives, or trans-fats, as are the other shortbread varieties. The result is a shortbread that is melt-in-your-mouth buttery, finishing with the essence of pure lemon, from $12.
CONDIMENT YOUR MENU
Add some Mediterranean to your holiday gift bags and baskets. This classic taste from Zesty Z is as delicious and versatile as it gets. From spreading on pita (and lightly toasting) to adding to foods and recipes, it does it all, impressing each and every time!
A Brooklyn brand, Zesty Z is dedicated to the awesome flavor and versatility of za’atar. Zesty Z was founded in 2016 by mother-and-son duo, Lorraine (Zesty Mom) and Alexander Harik who drew their inspiration for this amazing condiment from Lebanon, the cultural epicenter of their family kitchen. Za’atar is a popular Mediterranean herb seasoning made from wild thyme that millions cook with and use to season. Za’atar is the next big flavor wave inspiring chefs, restaurants, and food writers. Zesty Z, the first product inspired by za’atar, is a combination of extra-virgin olive oil, za’atar (wild thyme), sesame seeds, and a variety of native herbs and spices. It is plant based, gluten free, low sodium, and sugar free. The product is also Keto, Paleo, and Whole30 friendly, providing a healthy burst of Mediterranean flavor in any meal. Serve on toasted pita, burgers, fish, in salads (recipes online)—the possibilities are limited only by your own imagination. Zesty Z comes in Original and Spicy flavors and is available in over 400 Whole Foods stores nationwide and online, from $15.
MAPLE SYRUP BEYOND PANCAKES
These two distinct syrups will have your taste buds reeling from infused deliciousness to thick and rich classics. Flavor up your cocktails, ham, breads, desserts, and, yes, even pancakes!
Runamok Maple, located in northern Vermont along the western slopes of Mount Mansfield, covers
1,100 acres in Cambridge and 250 acres in Fairfield with 81,000 trees tapped by hand, as sugarmakers have done for centuries, to access one of the finest pure organic maple syrups. Flavors that excite the palate, Runamok has created a collection of infused (like Cardamom and Jasmine Tea), smoked (like Pecan Wood), and barrel-aged (like Bourbon) maple syrups. Each and every variety is mouthwatering and inspirational. From the traditional cinnamon or vanilla to the unexpectedly mind-blowing original Makrut Lime-Leaf, you’d be hard pressed to choose just one, which is why the wise folks at Runamok offer variety packs. Gift boxes and mix-and-match tasting collections, as well as individual bottles, are available, from $17.
Crown Maple sets the standard for maple in quality, purity, and taste through singular, certified-organic maple products. Crown Maple is estate-produced and sustainably made on 800 acres of pristine land at the Crown Maple Estate in Dutchess County, New York from forests encompassing the Taconic Hardwood Forest, a unique environment extending from the New York Eastern Mid-Hudson Valley to Central Western Vermont. Since the brand’s launch in 2010, the distinctive taste and versatility of this maple syrup has won over discriminating pros and connoisseurs alike. More than a sweetener, the thick texture and rich flavors have made this a key ingredient in cocktails, savory dishes, and delectable desserts. Crown Maple pairs the best from nature with artisan craftsmanship and state-of-the-art production technology. Varieties available include Amber, Dark, Very Dark, Applewood Smoked, Madagascar Vanilla Infused, and Cinnamon Infused, as well as boxed combinations and breakfast-themed sets Royal Treatment Boxes, from $20 ($4 for mini size)
Caffeinate in style while protecting the environment, get your mixers going naturally without adding calories or sugar, and brew your own beer (or hard cider or sparkling rosé) your way!
Caffè di Artisan was born out of rebellion, a rebellion against machine-made coffee. Caffè di Artisan has re-imagined coffee by using the world’s finest fresh beans that are gradient roasted and freshly ground. The grounds then undergo a slow extraction over a few days in an artisanal micro-filtery. The final product is finally packaged into liquid single-serve 100 percent recyclable pods/capsules. The coffee then goes directly from pod to cup (no machine) for a rich, smooth, and invigorating beverage (recipes online). The work done behind the scenes makes it effortless for you to enjoy and artisanal cup of joe at home or to pack a pod and go. The vast selection encompasses the world with coffee beans from South America, Asia, Ethiopia, South India—varieties that create the perfect lattés, cappuccinos, Americanos, frappés, and espressos. Certified Kosher, Fair Trade, and Organic, from $7 for 10 pods; sampler $15 for 10 pods.
Be Mixed is an all-natural, zero-calorie, sugar-free, no-compromise cocktail mixer. You shouldn’t have to add extra sugar or calories to your cocktails or sacrifice the delicious flavors of your favorite drinks. Bartending is made easy by combining a single-serving bottle of Be Mixed, a shot of your favorite spirit, and some ice. That’s it! Whatever your spirit of choice, there’s a mixer for you. Be Mixed Cucumber Mint is light and refreshing and the perfect replacement in a vodka soda or gin and tonic. Just add a shot of bourbon and some mint leaves to Be Mixed Ginger Lime and you’ve got a mint julep. Or, go traditional with Be Mixed Margarita, a shot of tequila, and a squeeze of lime. Prefer a mocktail? All three flavors can be enjoyed with a splash of club soda. These high-quality, tasty, and better-for-you cocktail mixers use premium ingredients, so cheers and happy holidays! Flavors: Cucumber Mint, Ginger Lime, Margarita, Variety Pack, from $33.
For beer and cider lovers who dream of home brewing, this brew’s for you! Brooklyn Brew Shop was born out of the Brooklyn Flea in the summer of 2009 to get space-strapped New Yorkers brewing. With the idea that making beer (real beer from real ingredients) can be simple, tasty, and most important, fun, Brooklyn Brew Shop created stylish, easy-to-use Beer Making Kits designed especially for stove-top brewing, as well as ingredient mixes for seasonally inspired beers. Their goal is to get everyone brewing by simplifying the beer making process without dumbing it down.
Brooklyn Brew Shop has kits and gift sets that will help you successfully brew your own IPAs, porter, ale, and craft beers, as well as hard cider and sparkling rosé, in the comfort of your cozy home. The beer-making mixes include classic varieties, as well as attention-deserving flavors like Mexican Hot Chocolate Stout, Bikini Beer, Jalapeño Saison, Rum Barrel Porter, Bacon Dubbel, Grapefruit Honey Ale, Double Meringue Pie IPA, and sooo many more! Get ready to brew and impress! Kits from $40.
This taste-tested selection is sure to bring Festive Feasting and Holiday Toasting to everyone on your naughty-and-nice lists!