Monday, November 28, 2011

Food Gift Cyber Shopping: Direct From the Little Guys

I may not have been among the 226 million Americans who went shopping this past holiday weekend, but today is a different story.  Today, Cyber Monday, is a great way to get online deals and a reminder that one of the most comfortable, least stressful ways to Christmas shop is on your computer, from the comfort of your own home.

Food gifts from cookies to cheese are perennial holiday favorites, particularly when shopping for office gifts.  Sites like Williams-Sonoma and Dean andDeluca are gold standards, always there you with the requisite Tower of Treats or box of petit fours to give to secretaries.  This year Tasting Table’s shopping section is making a big push for a slice of the business and year-old Gilt Taste is in the game too with edibles ranging from gourmet macarons to gluten-free vegan brownies. 

Regardless of the offers of free shipping and special discount codes, I’m always in favor of supporting the small producer, buying direct, and giving a unique food gift to friends or colleagues in the process.  Thanks to the egalitarian World Wide Web, even the most humble candy maker in Spokane, Washington making the world’s best soft peanut brittle can take an order online and ship wherever you want it to go.  Be sure and reward yourself for clever, carefree shopping by putting a little something extra in the virtual shopping basket, destination you. 

Chocolate Honey Cakes from Bee Desserts:  I have known the proprietor of Bee Desserts for years, when her Brazilian café was serving caipirinhas and burgers and desserts were more of a personal addiction than business venture.  But Claudia struck gold in my opinion a few years back when she started to manufacture these pint-sized cakes.  With the look of a Ding Dong or brightly colored hockey puck, the cakes unwrap to reveal a hard chocolate casing surrounding a moist interior cake sweetened with honey.  With five to a box, there is more than enough to pass around an office.  Best part is these freeze well, potentially prolonging the sugar rush well past Christmas Day.  Favorites: Classic Chocolate Honey Cake and Almond Honey Cake.

Cheese and More from Beehive Cheese CompanyI first fell for the cheese from this Utah producer after one bite of Barely Buzzed, a cheddar-like cheese with the rind rubbed with coffee and lavender.  After visiting their tasting room recently, I discovered this little company does more than just cheese.  To go with the cheese Beehive does a small production of rusks, a triangular cracker made with whole grains that pairs exceptionally well with a range of cheese from the local salt and honey rubbed Seehive to Smoked Apple Walnut.  Beehive is also a huge promoter of other local artisans making everything from salami to chocolate, much of which they sell in their cute, yellow tasting room. The Party Box on the Beehive website is a good way to give a taste of everything from the region- rusks, Creminelli salami, Pepperlane Jalapeno Pepper Preserves, chocolate from Chocolot, and of course, cheese.  Favorites: Rosemary rusks, Barely Buzzed Cheese, Seehive Cheese.

Soft Peanut Brittle and Butter Toffee from BruttlesIt is remarkable I ever discovered this gem of a classic candy store in Spokane, Washington considering people who have lived there for years don’t always know about it.  The signature candy of this old fashioned shop is their soft peanut brittle.  The store shelves are lined with jars of saltwater taffy and foil wrapped chocolates.  But one cannot leave this store, online or in person, without trying the individually wrapped Bruttles.  An offspring of the popular soft peanut brittle, the best way to describe this unique candy is that it is like a homemade Butterfinger.  I have never tasted anything quite like it.  The sampler box is a nice way to try their full range of classic candies.  One thing is for sure, if you give the gift of Bruttles, you probably don’t have to worry about anyone else giving the same gift, at least this year.  Favorites: Bruttles, soft peanut brittle, butter toffee

Amy Powell is a food and travel writer based in New York City. She is a graduate of Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration and the French Culinary Institute. Follow her on Twitter @amymariepowell

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