I rely on a category of foolproof holiday gifts when I don’t know what to buy someone: I give the gift of gluttony.
Because nothing is as universal during the holidays as the need to stuff our faces. January is for ditching the extra 5 pounds.
Caramel sauce, freshly roasted coffee beans, truffles made in a cafe and wrapped up in a pretty box, a meat log, a cheese basket – those all make excellent food gifts.
They’re made and easily purchased in our community, they are mostly economical and you might even earn bonus points from the recipient for shopping local, a worthy endeavor any time of year.
1. Get to know your local cheesemonger
Two South Sound cheesemongers can help assemble a platter or gift box packed with Washington cheeses or any other cheese you desire: Kris Blondin of Stink Meat and Cheese in Tacoma (628 St. Helens Ave., 253-426-1347, stinktacoma.com) and Laurie Sanders-Polen of My Cheese Shoppe in Puyallup (202 S. Meridian, 253-841-2011). You can find Tacoma cheesemaker Back Country at My Cheese Shoppe. At Stink, you also can find a broad selection of meats and wines.
2. Handmade truffles
Gift givers and husbands in the dog house should head to the French Hen Bistro in Lakewood (3810 Steilacoom Blvd SW, 253-983-1313, frenchhenbistro.com). You’ll find a cafe with house-made truffles with painted-on designs and unusual flavors such as chai, port and strawberry-balsamic vinegar (half dozen for $8). Select the flavors you like and they’ll be packaged in a see-through box.
Also try Affairs in University Place (2811 Bridgeport Way W., 253-565-8604, affairs-chocolate.com), known for its monster truffles, slightly larger than a golf ball ($4.50 each). In Tacoma, everyone knows Johnson’s Candy Company (924 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, 253-272-8504) is the go-to chocolate shop for truffles – the business has operated in its current Hilltop storefront since 1949.
3. Basket full of meat
Blue Max Sausage in Puyallup is where meat lovers can find meat logs, all made at Blue Max. Try the teriyaki pepperoni – made from beef, not pork – which has the lightest snap and a touch of sweetness ($10.99 a pound). The butcher stocks a half dozen other kinds of pepperoni. Bonus: They make their own landjager. House-made beef jerky ($17.99 a pound) comes in a number of flavors. The summer sausage is a bargain at $3-$6. The shop is at 9512 Canyon Road E., Puyallup, 253-535-6110.
4. For coffee, tea snobs
Head to Bluebeard (2201 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253-272-5900, bluebeardcoffee.com) or Valhalla (3918 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253-761-5116, valhallacoffee.com) for the picky coffee drinker. Want a customized gift? Both those coffee houses roast their own beans and employ knowledgeable staffers. Have a tea lover on your list? Go directly to Mad Hat Tea, the city’s best source for unusual teas (1127 Broadway, Tacoma, 253-441-2111, madhattea.com). The lapsang souchong, a smoked tea, makes for an unusual gift.
5. Sweet for your sweet
Local beekeepers share their sweet rewards through locally harvested honey. Find Spring Valley Honey ($7) from Lakewood beekeeper John H. Meier at H & L Produce (7320 Lakewood Drive W., 253-471-1830). At the Tacoma Food Co-Op (3002 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253-627-3344), an outstanding source for locally made food, you can find Heavenly Honey ($6) from Puyallup beekeeper Gary Violette (heavenlyhoneyfarm.com).
6. Fancy jam
For straightforward jam, head to H & L Produce in Lakewood (7320 Lakewood Drive W., 253-471-1830). They carry the usual berry jams, but also loganberry ($6.99) from the Puyallup Valley Jam Factory. For something fancy, try One Spot jams. The Tacoma jam company produces flavors like blueberry basil, peach cayenne and strawberry-lemon tarragon (around $10). Jams are available at Millesime Designs (745 Broadway, Tacoma).
7. Growlers and bottles
Remember how everyone used to give wine as a gift? Here’s something more Tacoma in nature: growler jugs full of local beer. Breweries such as Wingman (509½ Puyallup Ave., Tacoma, 253-651-4832, wingmanbrewers.com), the Harmon Taproom (204 St. Helens, 253-212-2725) and Elk Head (28120 state Route 410, Buckley; 360-829-2739) sell growlers full of their beers. Taverns also sell growlers. A great selection can be found at the Red Hot, the destination tavern for craft taps (2914 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253-779-0229, redhottacoma.com). Also at the Red Hot: growler sweaters, a gift for the beer lover with a sense of humor. Lifelong Tacoman Kassie Mitchell knits them. Growlers are economical: $10-$15 for the beer, with a deposit or fee for the reuseable growler. Bottle shops are another great way to shop local. Pint Defiance (2049 Mildred St. W., Tacoma, 253-302-4240, pintdefiance.com), World Beers (5602 S Lawrence St., Tacoma, 253-475-7432, tacomaworldbeer.com) and 99 Bottles (35002 Pacific Highway S., Federal Way, 253-838-2558, 99bottles.net) all sell growlers, but those beer stores also carry hundreds of brews by the bottle. Staff experts can advise on how to assemble a smart six-pack with South Sound beers.
8. Cookies are better than a lump of coal
Find unusual cookies at ethnic bakeries. At Boulangerie, a French Korean bakery in Lakewood (9701 South Tacoma Way, 253-682-3488), you’ll find the puffy-chewy French cookies macarons. (Not the coconut cookies – those are macaroons.) The German Pastry shop in Lakewood (6108 Mount Tacoma Drive SW, 253-588-5777) has packaged hazelnut, butter and shortbread cookies, all less than $5 each. My favorite find for economical cookies is the El Zocalo Bakery in the Lincoln neighborhood in Tacoma (701 S. 38th St., 253-474-9000). There, you can pick up pig-shaped molasses cookies, called cochinitos. Most cookies are priced 25-50 cents each.
9. Heavenly caramel sauce
Holly Burton Richart likes salt and bacon. So what does she do with it? She adds it to her caramel. Her Tacoma company, Fingerprint Confections, produces a line called “Caramel Loves,” with flavors ranging from lavendar to sea salt to bacon and more. I found packages of individually wrapped caramels ($7.50) and sauces in a jar ($9) at Dwelling in Tacoma, 626 St. Helens, 253-761-1889.
10. Shake of flavor
Libertine Salts is catching buzz from local chefs – Marrow Kitchen Bar uses them. Find Libertine Salts at Tacoma Food Co-Op. The salts are custom blended by Christy Reedy and the larger jars come wrapped up pretty. Get the Trifecta Gourmet Blend ($9.95). If you can’t handle salt, try Jones’ Mock Salt, a substitute blend from University Place resident June Jones. Her salt substitute can be found at the Tacoma Food Co-Op.
11. Warm up cold winter nights with fine spirits
South Sound is now home to four craft distillers producing spirits. Kevin and Jennifer Laughlin Stewart just opened their Port Steilacoom distillery last week (1601 Lafayette St., Steilacoom, 253-212-0090). The couple distill gin and vodka from Washington blackberry honey. Parliament in Sumner distills whiskey (13708 24th St. E., 253-447-8044). Carbon Glacier in Wilkeson distills vodka, gin and whiskey (533 Church St., 360-989-9700). At Heritage Distilling in Gig Harbor (3207 57th St. Court NW, 253-509-0008, heritagedistilling.com), you’ll find gin, vodka and whiskey. The company was founded by Justin and Jennifer Stiefel. For a unique gift, slap a red bow on a bottle of their Wherskey gin, which comes with a distinctive green hue. They also are the first in the country to offer DIY spirits to customers who use the distillery’s recipes and equipment. Prices start at $99. Bottles at the distilleries are in the $30-$40 range.
12. To-die-for pickles
If you like a little snap in your pickle, you must find a jar of Lynnae’s Gourmet Pickles. Made by native Tacoman Lynnae Schneller, the recipes come from her grandma, “Toots.” Choose from sweet-and-sour pickles Mrs. Pickles and Hot Mama, the same recipe from granny Toots, just spicier. Find the pickles at Tacoma Boys stores in Puyallup and Tacoma and H & L Produce.
13. For the grillmaster
Assembling a barbecue kit is as easy as a trip to Target for utensils, but here’s something that can add a touch of local to a griller’s gift box: a bottle of C-Dub’s BBQ Rub. The Puyallup-based company got its start in 2010 and has earned awards for its rubs, which are made without anti-caking additives. C-Dubs owners are Allegra and Charles Wilson, and you can find the spices at Pip and Lola’s (430 E. 25th St., Tacoma, 253-256-5660), a Tacoma store with all locally made goods. Spice rubs start at $5. You’ll also find Lucky Pig spice blends there. The company is run by Troy and Elizabeth Fitzpatrick of Spanaway.
Sue Kidd: 253-597-8270