As those of you who follow my obsessive instagramming know, I just moved to a new apartment (with a fabulous antique stove, btw). It's been an awesome experience, but it's also left my fiance and I a bit exhausted and, frankly, poor. But it's Christmas! It's time for ridiculous spending - and the guilt that always accompanies any caring couple's continually escalating gift buying pseudo-competition.
The solution, proposed by my man: Only one gift each, and it must be bought in Lincoln Square.
While my gift guide for the year won't stick quite to the letter of that law, it'll stick to the spirit. If you can't do all of your holiday shopping locally, you can at least do most of it that way - and you absolutely should. Not just for the standard locavore reasons (you know i'm a nut about those) but because you can look the people who made your gifts in the eye, send them a personal email or meet them at an event - and there's no feeling quite like that.
1) Support a Local Food Author.
Holidays are the time for glossy cookbooks, and that's awesome - who doesn't love getting a beautiful tome filled with potential cooking adventures? But don't go to New York or Paris, since we've got plenty from around here! My favorites include:
Heather Lalley, The Chicago Homegrown Cookbook. A love affair with local foods and the chefs that use them, this book can't be beat, either as a cookbook or as a short restaurant guide.
Ina Pinkney, Taste Memories. If you don't own this book, you aren't a real Chicagoan. This book could be an advice manual for life - and if you have never applied heat to food, you should still buy it.
Paul Virant, The Preservation Kitchen. Buy it for the beer jam, stay for the strawberry-pinot noir jam. If this doesn't inspire you to put up your own food, nothing will.
Paul Fehribach, The Big Jones Cookbook. Ok, it's not out yet - it's available for pre-order, and I personally guarantee it will be amazing. No one in the city cooks with as much attention to food history and heritage as Paul, and getting his southern food wisdom distilled into a couple of hundred pages will be worth almost any price.
2) There's nothing better than local booze
I'm a huge nerd for local spirits. Duh. Who isn't? But they aren't all created equal - here are the three you should buy this year.
Koval Distillery Single Barrel Oat Whiskey. I just bought a bottle of this at their distillery, and it's almost all gone. You don't see very many oat-based spirits (a darn shame) which is why this one makes such a perfect gift for the picky whiskey lover.
CH Distillery Peppercorn Vodka. I hate vodka. I hate it. I think it's a waste of space, calories and hangovers, and I wish we could ban it about 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time, when i'm feeling charitable, i'm probably drinking this stuff, my favorite bloody mary mixer.
Letherbee Spirits Autumnal Gin. I'm obsessed with Letherbee's limited-edition seasonal spirits. Somehow, they manage to provide new spins on the genre each time they put out a bottle, and I have every single one of them on my bar.
3) Local Foodie Accessories
You want something that isn't edible or readable? Who are you? Ok, ok. I get it. Here are some picks for the stylish gift giver who has no bookshelves and doesn't eat.
Koval Distillery Whiskey Candle by Chicago Candle Company. I know i just called out Koval above, but seriously. Best candle I've ever had, and it cost half what the usual designer candle will run you. Make your whole house smell sweet, masculine and delicious - and don't worry, you won't smell like a drunk. Available at the distillery. If you can't make your way there, order from Chicago Candle Company anyway.
Plates made from Garfield Park Conservatory. As many of you know, the Garfield Park Conservatory was devastated by a hailstorm. Almost all of the glass pains have been replaced and most of the conservatory is open, but it was incredibly expensive to repair. These plates, available at the Conservatory gift shop, are crafted from shards of the destroyed panes. They're beautiful, a Chicago collector's item, and they support the ongoing renovation.
A la Card 2015. I look forward to this every year - when the new A La Card deck comes out. In case you aren't familiar, this deck contains 52 cards, each of which is a $10 off certificate to a local restaurant. The deck pays for itself in three dinners, and encourages the recipient to try new spots. It's a win-win!
An Ownership share in Chicago Market! Ok, i'm biased, since i'm on the Steering Committee, but help us bring this local food dream to life. Gift Ownerships will be available in the next few days, so keep an eye on the site.