Give Local Tastes this Holiday Season

Posted: December 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Marketplace | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

It is, as we all know, the time of year when gift-giving is on most people’s minds. Last year I did a bit of soap-box preaching about shopping locally, and that’s still my mantra.

What we need to realize is that here on the North Shore, “local” doesn’t just mean your backyard, but the surrounding towns as well. The whole North Shore is our neighborhood, so let’s forget sports rivalries and townie stereotypes and support each other.

If you were going to drive to Boston or the Burlington or North Shore malls to buy gifts, why not use that mileage to hit Rockport, Gloucester, Newburyport, Salem, or Marblehead? All have terrific downtown areas with great shops and markets. And there are many ways to support the local food community this holiday season.

The most obvious is to give friends and family gift certificates to favorite restaurants, and several places this year are offering incentives for you to do so. One of Salem’s newest eateries, Adriatic Restaurant and Bar, is offering a free $20 gift certificate with the purchase of a $100 gift certificate. Cape Ann Brewing Company has a two-way offer: from now until Christmas, every gift certificate you buy will be worth 20% more than you pay for it. On top of that, every gift certificate purchased for more than $40 and used from now until they move in to their new location will have additional $5 value.

If you’re not sure what to give someone, keep in mind that most towns sell Chamber of Commerce gift certificates that are honored at many restaurants and shops. You support town businesses, and the recipient chooses where to spend it.

If gift certificates aren’t your ideal, how about locally made food and beverages? Get out to your local bakery for tasty treats, or try cookies from Lark Fine Foods and Plum Island Cookie or Whoopies from Chococoa found at many local markets. The North Shore has an embarrassment of riches where chocolate is concerned. Stowaway Sweets, Harbor Sweets, Prides Crossing Confections, Turtle Alley, and Ye Olde Pepper Companie all offer gorgeous sweets at both their own locations and through area markets. And how about craft beer created right here on the North Shore? Pick up some Ipswich Ale, Cape Ann, Cody, and Clown Shoes for the brew fan on your list.

Someone you know an oenophile? How about a gift card to your favorite wine shop? Or pique their interest with a bottle of honey wine from Isaak’s of Salem, which just hit the shelves this month. Or perhaps a gift that keeps giving: a membership to Wine ConneXtion’s Wine Society, which includes one bottle of wine a month for a year with an information card, as well as special discounts and event invites.

Many restaurants schedule wine dinners in January and February, keep an eye out for upcoming events at your favorite and treat your sweetie to a memorable meal as a gift. If there’s a burgeoning cook in your midst, Matt O’Neill has a great class coming up at the Blue Ox on January 18, and Salem’s Mamma Licia has two sessions of Authentic Italian Cooking coming up.

Beans and mugs from Jaho or Atomic Café, those awesome hoodies from The Lobster Shanty, house-made jam from the Wenham Tea House, breakfast from Sugar Mag’s delivered to someone’s door…the list is endless. What are some of the great local food-related gifts you like to give? Feel free to chime in with comments.

Shop local, eat well, and, above all, have a terrific holiday season!

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Look Local for Great Holiday Gift Ideas

Posted: December 10th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Marketplace | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

During a recent Senatorial debate, one of the questions asked each candidate was what they had changed about their own home lives in the face of the difficult economy. Attorney General Martha Coakley answered “We eat out less often and cook at home more,” and restaurateurs across the area will confirm that she’s not the only one. Back in April, the Zagat 2009/10 Boston Restaurant Survey showed that 25% reported eating out less often, and since then, we’ve seen even higher numbers nationwide.

This has left many of our local favorites, be they clam shacks, markets, or trattorias, struggling to stay afloat, so this season we urge you to think about giving the gift of good food. It’s a win-win proposition; the people you care about get a chance dine out or savor treats they wouldn’t normally buy themselves, and you help boost the local economy.

350_project_150x133If you haven’t seen the 3/50 project, it’s worth a look. The movement is all about saving our small, local, independent businesses, and it’s how we here at the Dish feel about neighborhood fish markets, wine shops, delis, and bistros. If you would miss a shop or restaurant if it disappeared, why not do your holiday shopping there? Here are some great gift ideas to please the palates of everyone on your list:

Give gift certificates to your favorite eateries—not just “occasion” restaurants, but your favorite pub or bistro, too. It’s easy to tailor the gift for the recipient: that little Italian place for your parents, Thai for your sister, vegetarian for your co-worker.

Many diners and corner cafés don’t have gift cards, so make your gift a date and take someone out to breakfast! (This works better than trying to wrap bacon.)

Give gift cards to the places you wish someone would give you a card for, like a wine and specialty cheese shop, coffee house, or bakery. Instead of giving out Starbucks gift cards, why not Jaho, Java Sun, or Atomic Café?

If a gift card seems too impersonal, pick up your favorite food items. And don’t get all angsty about having to make a complicated gift basket. Many markets do make baskets or have pre-made ones available, but your gift recipient is going to love you for the gorgeous sticky buns from A&J King, lobsters from Paul Crowell, or fabulous cheese selections from Grand Trunk Imports whether or not they are prettily wrapped.

Gift giving doesn’t get much simpler than candy, but put down that supermarket chocolate and pick up a box from Turtle Alley, Stowaway Sweets, Ye Old Pepper Company, The Cocoa Belt or Harbor Sweets. Locally made will mean fresher sweets for your sweetie.

Get creative! If your recipient is a fan of adult beverages, a tour of Cape Ann Brewing Company or Ryan and Wood Distilleries would be great fun. If they like to cook, a class with local chefs like Mary Reilly of Newburyport’s Savory Kitchen or Salem’s Mamma Licia would be perfect.

For a list of local resources from farms to wineries and culinary tourism ideas, check out MDAR’s Mass Grown Web site; it’s full of great information.

At North Shore Dish, we’re all about discovering the terrific eats in our own backyard and hope we’ve inspired you to do the same. May your holiday season be full of fun, family, friends, and of course fabulous food.

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