From A to Z 

A local food personality offers her alphabetized list of gifts this holiday season.

click to enlarge Hummingbird Garden’s Salt

Scott Elmquist/File

Hummingbird Garden’s Salt

The season of giving, receiving and re-gifting is upon us.

No one wants to be judged on gift-giving abilities but even with the whole it’s-the-thought thing, we all still strive to put our best present forward.

So I’ve compiled an A-Z local food and drink giving guide.

Armed with this handy reference, there’s zero reason every food fiend, friend, family and foe doesn’t receive the best-wrapped intention you have this holiday.

A). Autumn Olive Farms pork chop. A pork chop as a gift? Yes, it’s the best meat to bridge the gap between your vegetarian aunt and your meat-loving dad. Your aunt will love the farm’s mission and ethics. Your dad will love the chop. And you’ll always be invited to holiday dinner.

B). Bacon from Belmont Butchery is a budget luxury and a heady pound goes a long way. Responsible for Christmas breakfast? Serve it alongside Chewy’s Bagels. These slow-proofed and kettle-boiled bagels are a cinch for grab and go. Boom, you’re everyone’s best brunch buddy.

click to enlarge Blanchard’s Coffee - SCOTT ELMQUIST/FILE
  • Scott Elmquist/FIle
  • Blanchard’s Coffee

C). Coffee and cake. Local roaster Blanchard’s Coffee creates a Holiday Blend, a bull’s-eye of chocolate and spice. Fat Rabbit Cakes, a bespoke cakery, makes Bunny Crack Cake, carrot cake with cardamon and ginger. The two are made for each other — and your mother-in-law. Christmas covered.

D). Doughnuts are a definite during the holidays. Apple cider doughnuts served out of a school bus named Flubert are a do-over and over. It’s a no-reservation-needed breakfast stop or afternoon outing with a passel of children anticipating the big bearded guy.

click to enlarge Tang & Biscuit - ASH DANIEL
  • Ash Daniel
  • Tang & Biscuit

E). Everyone keeps talking experiences as gifts this year. Richmonders are well-situated to make that talk reality. Tang & Biscuit has Tater Tots, shuffleboard and pingpong while River City Roll caters to the bowler while serving upscale eats by the previous sous chef of Shagbark. Both offer gift cards.

F). Fermentation is the rage in Richmond dining now. For at-home pleasures, follow these “lacto-cultivators,” Wild Earth Fermentation and find its fennel-juniper kraut. It’s just fermentable enough to be an instant favorite or make a first-time fan.

G). A hooch hound on your list? Gammy’s limes, genius freeze-dried organic slices of the citrus fruit, are a no-brainer. Pair them with a few splashes of Mother Shrub Ginger, a drinking vinegar and add a botanics-forward gin like the just-released one from Virago Spirits. Presto, drinko.

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST/FILE
  • Scott Elmquist/File

H). We’ve no shortage of hot sauce in the River City and it couldn’t be more apropos for the hostess or host. Hit them with some in-your-face Clark and Hopkins Virginia heat, inspired by an old 1850s Virginia barbecue recipe. Or bewitch them with sweet honey and peaches from AR’s Hot Southern Peach.

I). Olive oil cake. Candied yams. Pumpkin roll. It’s all ice cream and points to the hard-to-buy-for people on your list. Spotty Dog Ice Cream has the handmade goodness by the pint ranging from classics like Madagascar Vanilla to adventurous like Cornbread stuffing and Celery a mix-up of cornbread crumble, buttered walnuts, and a cranberry granita.

J). Chez Justines. Chez Justines. Chez Justines. If you say it enough to yourself, you’ll remember to swing by the South of the James Farmers Market to pick up some sugar plum toast (so pretty, sweet and pink), three-day fermented flaky croissants or a spicy-sweet ginger cookie. All for yourself. You need a gift too.

K). Karmalita’s hefty marshmallows can transform hot cocoa. These massive hunks of sugar are a wallet-friendly way to turn up the office party. Surely, a co-worker loves Harry Potter and will fan out over butterbeer flavor. Or stay festive with the Feliz Navidad Marshmallows and their hint of cayenne and cinnamon.

click to enlarge A Secret Forest owner Vanessa Beller. - SCOTT ELMQUIST/FILE
  • Scott Elmquist/FIle
  • A Secret Forest owner Vanessa Beller.

L). Designer lollipops. Think Prada and Alexander McQueen. A Secret Forest is making edible art from sugar and putting it on a stick. It isn’t just hard candy, you can get tipsy gummy bears too. What a sweet stocking stuffer.

M). Forget Blue Apron and Hello Fresh. Get Mom local meal prep. Ready-made or partially prepared meals are the easier and often healthier family meal options. HumanFood, one local meal preparation company, has text-to-order. A paleo, vegetarian or gluten-free dinner is really only fingertips away.

click to enlarge Nightingale Ice Cream Sandwich - SCOTT ELMQUIST/FILE
  • Scott Elmquist/File
  • Nightingale Ice Cream Sandwich

N). Nightingale Ice Cream Sandwich is the leave-behind Santa wants this year: the Chocolate Espresso flavor to be exact. He likes the thick chocolate brownie cookie and the coffee ice cream together — tbh, he could use the caffeine too. Nope, not for you — for Santa.

O). Everyone will be chatting about the cooler-full of seafood at the elephant gift exchange. A couple dozen oysters are how a party gets started. Rappahannock will pack them for you while you get a drink at their holiday pop-up bar #tisthesession.

P). Pimiento cheese: Every Richmonder has an opinion. The polarizing spread is perfect for your know-it-all sister. Birdie’s Pimiento Cheese (the jalapeno flavor IMO) is excellent for the most discerning of tastes —which, of course, is her.

Q). She probably said she wants nothing for Christmas. Well, she’s lying. Ring up Quirk Hotel and get a romantic wine and dine staycation for the wife. It’s a need, not a want.

R). No sick carolers! Red Root & Co. can keep the germs at bay with natural remedies. Damiana Rose Bitters are a floral tummy soother when added to soda water. And an oxymel a day will keep the doctor away. Typically an “acid and honey” Red Root Heirloom Garlic Oxymel is apple cider vinegar, garlic and lemon for extra immune system boosts.

S). Salt makes everything sweeter. Two locals are adding a little flavor to their sea salts. Peg’s Salt is an everyday seasoning with more than 20 herbs, excellent on savory foods like pasta or fish. Hummingbird Garden’s Rose Chili Salt is a surefire way to amp up your holiday chocolate chip cookies.

T). The Tannat grape is going to be big (no pun intended) in 2020. So if you have a wine snob to check off your list, look to Upper Shirley Vineyards. It’s the only local producer, with an assist from Charlottesville’s Michael Shaps, of this vivid yet elegant red wine.

click to enlarge UnMoo founder Josh Kadrich uses traditional cheesemaking methods to create cheeses like the cashew-based Notz. - SCOTT ELMQUIST/FILE
  • Scott Elmquist/File
  • UnMoo founder Josh Kadrich uses traditional cheesemaking methods to create cheeses like the cashew-based Notz.

U). Unmoo Cheese is universal. Mystifyingly, it melts, shreds and slices like a conventional cheese. But it’s vegan, born out of cashews. Your eco-aware friend will be blown away by its traditional methods and environmental awareness. Your wine and cheese buds will be blown away by the taste.

V). Speaking of vegan, two more gift ideas come to mind. A completely soy-free tempeh, (say that three times fast) Chaotic Good Tempeh has begun small-batch production in Richmond. Choose from flavors like pepperoni with paprika or guajillo, ancho and black pepper. Too many choices? Then the answer is vodka. Local potato vodka company Cirrus has a new label right in time to give.

W). There’s a little mad scientist behind Storied Goods Whiskey Sugar Cubes. The cube has hints of tart cherry juice and orange zest. Add one cube to a couple of fingers of Reservoir Distillery whiskey. Voila! A winter dram in seconds, and a father-in-law fave.

X). Sorry, reader. You’re on your own here — especially if the above 23 and the below two just don’t do it for you.

Y). Instead of doing it all yourself this year, maybe cater a little bit of your holiday spread. Yellow Umbrella Provisions has a holiday list from the cheeseball to the live lobsters to standing rib roast.

Z). The 25th comes fast and all this preparation is terribly tiring. Don’t do any more cooking and stop cleaning, at the very least for the weekend. Zorch Pizza is at the Veil on Dec. 28. Relax, have a beer and a slice. You’ve earned it.

Robey Martin writes a monthly restaurant hot list and co-hosts Eat It! Virginia on WTVR CBS 6. Keep up with her food cast on Instagram @callmerobey and @eatitvirginia. Episodes are released twice a month and can be found at eatitvirginia.com.


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