Gift buying can be rough. Being able to materialize the wants and needs of your loved ones is a skill—one that takes time, attention and care. I think that’s why the holiday season can be so strenuous for most of us. One way around the anxiety is to get as many ideas and recommendations as you possibly can. The Food & Booze staff like to consider ourselves relative experts when it comes to most things eatable and drinkable in Denver, and, as a result, we decided to share with you a couple of recommendations to hopefully assuage some of the Holiday stress. Read on to see what our writers and myself think might make a good gift for the food lover in your life. If anything, it’ll guarantee you’ll, at least, avoid the mall.
For the beer-drinker, you don’t have to break the bank to get a gift that provides years of something to look forward to. Get a beer that ages well, such as a mixed-fermentation (beer that utilizes yeasts other than normal ale or lager yeast such as Lactobacillus or Brettanomyces, often called sours), or a high-alcohol brew (8 percent and up) such as an imperial stout or barleywine. Barrel-aged beers are also good as the character will change over time.
Buy two of the same beer, so they can enjoy it fresh this Christmas, and then try again after a year of aging side-by-side with the new set of bottles you just purchased next Christmas. One of the best Colorado candidates is New Belgium’s La Folie. It was one of the first commercially-available barrel-aged sours, and the range of flavors varies not only year-to-year but often batch-to-batch. I know some beer connoisseurs that have almost a decade of vintages so they can sample the changing flavors of oak tannin, dark dried fruit, tart cherry, and numerous others each year.
As the Colorado craft cocktail scene becomes increasingly imbued with talent and creativity, it only makes sense that local bitters and shrubs have made their way behind Denver’s bars. With this in mind, a Strongwater Small Batch Spirits & Botanicals sample box is the perfect gift for anyone who enjoys concocting his or her own inventive cocktails—or someone who is even remotely interested in alternative health remedies.
Strongwater products continue to impress me with their versatility. As I’ve written about before, the Golden Ichor, an earthy infusion that drinks like Angostura bitters, is a personal favorite that works incredibly well in whiskey-based drinks. I’m also a huge fan of the shrubs (colonial-style mixers composed of apple cider vinegar infused with fruits, herbs, or honey), which each tout their own health benefits and can be used as daily tonics or even as salad dressings.
I am one of those sad souls. One of those listless humans that cannot function without a proper dose of morning caffeine. But fortunately for myself and those that suffer from this minor affliction, good, if not great, coffee is almost always a stone’s throw away in this city. Some of my favorites include a handful of truly expert roasters, namely Corvus Coffee and Boxcar Roasters. I frequent both of their cafes—or coffee churches as I’d like to think of them—regularly. Truthfully, as we speak, I am sitting in Corvus. But when I can’t make it to the shops in person, I make sure to have a well-stocked supply of whole beans in house. Corvus Coffee has made my dependency, even more, convenient by offering a coffee membership program, where it’ll deliver coffee to your house weekly, bi-weekly or monthly for $16 per 12-ounce bag. Although not listed on the website, Corvus recently changed its membership program so that the selected roasts will always feature the newest release before it hits its store. So if you know a morning zombie-like myself, and/or someone that really, truly loves a great cup of coffee, a membership like this could be a highly appreciated gift.
Do you know someone who loves to cook? Then they probably have the same problem I do. I spend a lot of time and money restocking my regular line-up of spices and herbs. Seriously, I should probably just start importing my own cumin to save money.
Since I’m a normal, busy, broke millennial, this means that I usually skip buying the more exotic and unique choices that tempt me anytime I walk into a Savory Spice Shop. Which brings me to the gift that is at the top of my list this holiday season: Spice Club.
Pick a plan ($49-$109) and the lucky recipient receives a monthly delivery of a 1-ounce bag of a handcrafted seasoning, up to a 1/2 ounce bag of a herb or spice and a unique recipe that will inspire kitchen creativity. No more feeling overwhelmed when walking into a spice shop filled with jar after jar of temptation. Spice Club makes culinary exploration a simple, fun experience that your favorite foodie will enjoy throughout 2016.
Visiting my family in Georgia last year, I happened upon our coffee table a galley of the cookbook Heritage, by Charleston-based chef Sean Brock that my parents had been given as a gift. I leafed through their copy, making a note to get my own at some point. While I have always been of the mind that you can never go wrong giving the gift of the written word, it is only in the past couple years that I’d have thought to place cookbooks under this umbrella. What a fool I was: with good food writing the gift is twofold, and Heritage is no exception. Not only do you get invited to try fresh, mouthwatering recipes from cooks who are often at the top of their game, but you have the opportunity to understand, from the horse’s mouth, why the have invested so much in their particular culinary practice and why it matters to them.
Usually, when it comes to gifts, I am a fan of the impractical. For the holidays, give me frivolity, give me useless decorations, or give me something I can eat or drink. Though as I have gotten older and more frugal, I’ve started leaning toward the more practical. A subscription to a yoga studio or a toaster—things I actually need and would definitely use.
But, this year, I found the perfect combination of both; a gift that is at once, both fun and practical. It is The Mason Shaker Barware Set ($50). Included in your kit is a mason shaker/strainer for your drinks, a stainless steel jigger (which is your measurement for a shot or half a shot), a hardwood muddler, and the book “Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails.” It’s everything the adult in your life needs; it looks nice in the kitchen, will definitely come in handy, and gives everyone permission to get a little naughty around the holidays.