November 21, 2011
This week's cover story, which comes out tomorrow night, compiles dozens of devoutly local gift ideas for readers.
I plucked the food-, drink- and even gardening-centric ones for my foodie folks. They appear below.
Think wine and pizza. Abalone and White Dog whiskey. English bacon and pickled beets. Baja chili toffee and fruitcakes crafted by monks.
Because yes, like most everything, local gifts are better when you can eat, drink or otherwise absorb them.
Check out the full gift list in print at one of almost 1,000 distribution points across the county or online Tuesday night.
Abalone Monterey Abalone Co. Wharf II, Monterey 646-0350, www.montereyabalone.com $24-$26/pound The slow-growing crustaceans are farmed at the end of Monterey’s commercial wharf and make a unique and delicious gift for neighbors, friends and—with easy shipping options—far away family. Co-owners Art Seavey and Trevor Fay believe in keeping the conditions in which the abalone grow as close to natural as possible. Meaning real, fresh seafood farmed using sustainable practices.
A Taste of Monterey Wine Club Membership 700 Cannery Row, Monterey, 646-5446 127 Main St., Salinas, 751-1980 www.tastemonterey.com $29/month Wine Club; $99/signature series Think whale watching, only with less throwing up (and more wine). That’s what a visit to A Taste of Monterey’s 5,000-square-foot space can feel like thanks to nearly floor-to-ceiling windows and oceanside Cannery Row location. A $29/month membership includes two tastings there and two bottles from Monterey County growers shipped to a doorstep of choice. (They average at least $35 in value per pair and are curated by season—light and crisp in the summer, for instance, bolder come winter—and to give tasters new labels to try.) December’s shipment is Christopher Paul Chardonnay ($23) and Radog Syrah ($29). Makes a great gift for oenophiles further afield too (maybe you can take the tastings), as does the “signature series,” three two-packs over the course of the year for $99.
Baja Chili Toffee and Sea Salt Caramels Lula’s Chocolates 2 Harris Court, Suite B6, Monterey 655-8527, www.lulas.com $5.95-$54.95 While the 45-piece box of slow-crafted, hand-dipped, exotically seasoned sea salt caramels is a totally justifiable $54.95 expenditure for gourmet chocolate freak, the family-run operation at Lula’s offers an impressive number of thoughtfully packaged gifts for under $25 too. To start, there are smaller sea salt vessels, like the nine-pack for $12.95. There is also a four-piece favor box includes a dark chocolate truffle, a buttercreme, a milk-nut cluster and a trademark caramel for $8.95; the pretty peppermint bark bundle retails for $6.50; and packs of Gigi’s caramels or zippy Baja chili toffees start at $5.95.
Bees P&R Riggs 240-8840 $80 Bees? Like, actual bees? When you call Paul Riggs of Salinas-based P&R Riggs and ask for bees, that’s exactly what you get—about 20,000 of the little hummers he cultivates “out in the country” set in five frames to start your own apiary. (You’ll need to hit up a bee supply company for the rest of the tools and equipment you need.) Riggs, 76, a Salinas Valley beekeeper like his father before him, says if you set up backyard hives in April, you should be harvesting honey by the end of the fall, with this caveat: “Some years, you’ll get 100 pounds of honey and some years they might not even survive. It all depends how you take care of them.” Note that beekeeping legality varies by city: In Marina, you’re allowed up to three backyard hives. Elsewhere? Well, you might need to keep your bees in secret.
Benedictine Baked Goods Hermitage Book, Gift & Gallery Store 62475 Highway 1 in Big Sur 866-886-0544, www.hermitagebigsur.com $39/Full size fruit or date-nut cake; $10/1 pound bag Holy Granola Delectable fruit and date-nut cakes dipped decadently in brandy is about as quintessential a holiday gift there is—but you haven’t tried these cakes. Made from scratch at the Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur by Benedictine monks, there are some powerful forces of flavor at work here. And if fruitcakes aren’t your style, the hermitage’s Holy Granola is another great monk-created recipe to consider.
Community Supported Fishing Local Catch Monterey Bay 345-5153, www.localcatchmontereybay.com $20-$40/week; 4-, 8- or 12-week delivery options. Taking a page from local community supported ag, Alan and Oren of Local Catch Monterey Bay are ready to start dishing the seafood bounty caught locally to those who sign up first for their weekly deliveries. Monterey favorites like squid, cod, salmon and sand dabs can now be snagged before they’re shipped to faraway processing plants. And if that isn’t enough to make a case for CSF, they also adhere to sustainable seafood guidelines. Meaning you can give the gift of goodness from the briny deep and feel good about low environmental impact.
Compost and Mulch Last Chance Mercantile 14201 Del Monte Blvd., Marina. 384-5313, www.mrwmd.org $4/bag for compost and small wood chips It may not be the most glamorous gift, but the do-it-yourself bags of compost and wood chips are some of the best deals around for your green-thumbed loved ones—and there’s something full-circle about amending local soil with stuff recycled from our own district’s landscapes. Compost and worm bins are available at a discount for locals, too.
English-style Back Bacon Baker’s Bacon PO Box 4063, Monterey 915-0218, www.bakersbacon.com $9.99-$11.99/pound (about 10 slices) When one of the better chefs in town happens to use bacon in his recipes in more creatively delicious ways than most everyone else, and then happens to start his own line of bacon, you better believe it’s damn good. Montrio Chef Tony Baker hand-rubs his English-style “back bacon,” double applewood smoked and applewood smoked pork with a blend of sugars, kosher salt and a secret taste equation of spices. Then it’s smoked in a half-century-old smokehouse for 20 hours. If only the joy of eating it lasted as long.
Bonny Doon Soaps The Cooper Store Cooper-Molera Adobe, 525 Polk St., Monterey 649-7111, www.mchsmuseum.com/adobecoopermolera $3.95 and up Run by the nonprofit Old Monterey Preservation Society, the Cooper Store is located adjacent to the historic Cooper-Molera Adobe and carries the soaps and salves made the old-fashioned way by Bonny Doon Farms near Santa Cruz. Bonny Doon has been growing real English lavender and making heavenly scented body products since the ’70s. Support a quaint local farm, a nonprofit supporting local history and a friend’s hygiene all in one classy purchase.
Carmel Valley Grapevine Express Monterey-Salinas Transit 150 Del Monte Ave., Monterey 1-888-678-2871, www.mst.org $8/day pass Give the wine lover on your list safe and relaxing passage through the heart of Carmel Valley’s wine country with stops to some of Monterey County’s best tasting rooms including Bernardus, Parsonage and Boekenoogen. The Grapevine Express picks up in downtown Monterey and continues on through Carmel Valley Village with stops at 10 wineries, all on a simple and efficient schedule. Ceramic Tea Bowl by Kiyoshi Lo
Cha-Ya Tea and Things 118 Webster St., Monterey 646-5486, www.chaya4tea.com $38-$45 Cha-Ya owner Mitsuko Gammon stocks a small but striking collection of traditional Japanese teaware, including items by Monterey artist Kiyoshi Io. Support this six-year-old local business and a lifelong artist in one transaction while keeping warm this winter.
Community Supported Agriculture Serendipity Farms 455 Canyon Del Rey Blvd. #303, Monterey 726-9432, www.serendipityorganics.com $25/week; $99/month Serendipity’s CSA doesn’t start hitting homes with dinosaur, curly and Russian kale, broccoli, heirloom carrots, beets, strawberries, endless salad greens, torpedo onions, squash of all sorts, fennel, recipes and the good vibes of supporting the farms that feed sustainable communities until spring, but that only makes the waiting more meaningful. Folks like High Ground Organic and Mariquita Farms also do the CSA thing, just beyond county borders, which might make for closer proximity to North County gift givers. For even more community supported agriculture options, check out www.ecovian.com/s/monterey-ca/csa.>
Wine-and-Dash Package Allegro’s Pizzeria 3770 The Barnyard, Carmel 626-5454 $40 Few gifts say “You are OK—I like you” as well as pizza. Or wine. Here a gift certificate means both, at high quality, in the proverbial comfort of your recipient’s own casa. Any gourmet 16” take-and-bake pizza on the menu—including Sean’s Thai Pie— (normally $27.59 hot) and a bottle of local small-batch, often estate wine from Gino Abraham’s new wine bar (like Talbott, Bernardus and Paraiso, normally $21-$33) scorch out the door for a clean $40.
Pickled Beets Happy Girl Kitchen Co. 173 Central Ave., Pacific Grove 373-GIRL, www.happygirlkitchen.com $8 Gift certificates are a great play here, since so many options proliferate, between the cafe fare, house kombuchas, spicy carrots, dry-farmed tomatoes and preservation workshops (marmalades! sauerkrauts! “advanced” pickles!). Happy G also bundles goods into great handmade gift collections like the Marmalade Mixer ($52) and The Happy Girl Picnic ($39), which have already started selling out. But you can’t beat the pickled beets for their zingy, earthy, colorful kick in the tastebud.
Off the Vine Cosmetics Scheid Vineyards Wine Lounge 751 Cannery Row, Monterey. 297-3377, www.offthevinecosmetics.com $8/soap; more for cleansers, serums, moisterizers, etc. Salinas mom Stephanie Tyndall created her beauty product line to be free of toxic stuff like synthetic chemicals, parabens and sodium laureth sulfate. It’s all harvested in the U.S. and developed without animal testing—but best of all, it taps the power of wild-crafted fruit to rejuvenate and nurture your skin.
“I Love Pho King” T-Shirt Pho King 1153 Fremont Ave., Seaside 899-1424, phokingseaside.com $16 men, $14 women I mean, come on. These cheeky tees, made in Sand City and sold at Seaside’s seminal Vietnamese restaurant, will inspire adoration and juvenile giggles in lovers of noodles and double entendres alike.
Home-Delivered Raw Food Patti Jayne’s Raw Cuisine 444-5565, www.pjsrawcuisine.com FOOD IN THE NUDE 277-6911, www.foodinthenude.wordpress.com. $80 and up for two-meal portion delivery. The Peninsula is lucky to have not one, but two raw-food mavens offering to drop prepared raw-food creations in your home refrigerator. Ingredients never taken beyond 105 degrees Fahrenheit retain all their wholesome enzymes and nutrients, but the rich flavors whipped together by Patti Corrigan Stevens and Anna Masteller won’t make you think beyond yum.
Fog’s End Distillery White Dog Whiskey Bottles ‘n’ Bins 898 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey 375-5488, www.fogsenddistillery.com $35 This clear, strong spirit from Craig Pakish’s Fog’s End Distillery in Gonzales is the perfect antidote to the awkward holiday family gathering. Pakish uses an old-school sour-mash whiskey method—we’re talkin’ copper pot stills, y’all— to make White Dog. Pick up a bottle at the best lil’ liquor store on Lighthouse.