An informal group of St. Louis food bloggers has decided to offer suggestions for holiday gifts for folks who like to eat, cook and/or drink. Never hesitant with opinions, we were glad to participate. So for folks on your list, near and far, here are some ideas.
We never visit Hermann, MO, without a cooler in our car so we can go the extra few miles to Swiss, literally a wide spot in the road that’s the home of Swiss Meats. Their award-winning sausages come in many, many varieties and their bacon is wonderful. They’re now sold by mail, too. The website will help if you’re not up for a road trip.
Swiss Meat & Sausage Co.
2506 S. Hwy 19, Hermann, MO
Our other favorite sausage spot is in St. Louis and definitely calls for a visit. G&W Sausage is just off Kingshighway in south St. Louis. It’s a butcher shop as well as a sausage maker, but it’s their bratwurst, especially the Hungarian brats, and smoked liverwurst that keeps calling us back. They also carry some imported German groceries and ethnic breads. Perfect for the person (why did we almost write "guy"?) who brags about barbecuing all winter long.
4828 Parker Ave.
A good knife is a great tool for someone who’s learning to cook. If you’re one of those folks who are uncomfortable with the idea of a knife as a gift, there are lots of other cooking-related items on the shelves, and a gift certificate–well, who knows what your recipient would like? Bertarelli Cutlery moved to the Hill a few years ago, close to the grocery stores there, so you can kill several birds with one stone. We’d suggest a weekday visit, when things are less crowded. And bring your knives if they need sharpening, too.
1927 Marconi Ave.
For out-of-towners, one of St. Louis’ best desserts is shippable. Schlafly, aka The Tap Room and The Bottleworks, sells its divine sticky toffee pudding online. We’ve used this gift for exiled locals with great success. The pudding and sauce are packaged separately, with instructions for warming them.
Another deeply St. Louis-y thing is Imo’s Pizza. They, too, are selling via their website. We haven’t used it, since our Imo’s-loving family members come to town often enough to satisfy their cravings, but we haven’t found anything like it elsewhere, and we know it’d be the perfect gift for someone’s New Year’s Eve or Super Bowl celebration.
One of the newest businesses to serve those of us who like to eat is Celebrity Chef Kitchens. It’s one of those combination-of-things spots that offers several possibilities, including gift certificates. There’s a freezer case full of goodies made by the gifted chef Marc Felix, wine he’s chosen, specialty foods like artisanal pasta from Italy and organic butter, kitchenware from Mario Batali’s new line (which is quite handsome), cast iron from Emeril (and stainless, too, but that’s easier to find around town), and a few books. They’re also doing the "we’ll prep, you cook"- multiple-entrees-for-the-freezer thing.
Celebrity Chef Kitchens
9200 Olive Blvd.
In this day of coffee consciousness, we don’t see why more folks don’t have their own coffee grinder. In fact, we own two: One of those little blender-like deals which we use for grinding spices, and another – a burr grinder -- for coffee. The blender kinds just don’t deliver a consistent grind, so look for the sort where you put the beans in the top and the ground coffee is delivered into a container - that’s a burr grinder. We have no particular brand preference.
We’re partial to lamb, and for folks like us, you can’t do much better than meat from Prairie Grass Farms, who sell their great product at farmers’ markets around town; they’re usually at both the markets we listed here .A leg or rack of lamb would be mighty welcome, and might even net the giver a dinner invite. While you’re there, pick up some fresh eggs, too.
This is the entertaining season, and if you’ve got a pal with a signature dish, consider one of those paint-it-yourself-pottery spots and making (or commissioning) a platter that says something like "Jane’s Fabulous Food" or "George The Risotto King".
There are lots of times when paper napkins are just the thing. But other times, you want something nicer. My napkins for Thanksgiving are actually terrycloth finger towels with a sheaf of wheat on each one, just the thing for a meal with drumsticks and kids of various ages. The terrycloth makes it a very effective napkin, unlike a lot of the cloth ones out there now, which are primarily polyester, deeply useless for really wiping grease off fingers but highly talented at sliding off laps. (They also feel very odd to the touch - and really cheap.) A truly luxurious gift would be a set of heavy linen or even cotton napkins. Colors are nice, but can be tricky to match; white can be washed in really hot water and bleached to get rid of stains. To up the indulgence factor, have them monogrammed in white-on-white. And to really up it, order a dozen. Even if they never feed a dozen at a time, that’s enough to replace those that disappear in washing machines like socks, or to offer fresh napkins before dessert.
And if you’re thinking wine, how about a fine Missouri Norton and some good chocolate? Red wine and dark chocolate are not only health foods now, the combination always provokes conversation . We prefer plain dark chocolate for this, rather than flavored ones like mint or nuts or fruits, but that’s just us. As to the wine, go visit your friendly wine merchant; we have some enthusiastic, knowledgeable people around town who love to help rookies.
More possibilities? Other lists are offered by: