November 28, 2012

Soup to Nuts: Gifts for special foodies

Here are seven that have earned the official Meredith Seal of Approval.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

It's time for my annual list of gift suggestions for people who love food.

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A Pie of the Month Club gift allows the recipient to choose a dozen pies through the year at Two Fat Cats bakery in Portland.

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The Honey Exchange in Portland offers a delicious variety of honeys and honey-related gifts, from bee-themed jewelry to mead from around the world.

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Well, actually, I'm a little early this year. But I made a phone call last week, before Thanksgiving, and they played "Jingle Bells" while I was on hold. I stopped by the grocery store that same night and heard the sparkly refrain of "Winter Wonderland" playing among all the displays of Christmas candy and holiday fare.

So it appears the proverbial reindeer has left the barn.

Think of these items as hostess gifts you can take to all the holiday parties you'll be attending this year, or as not-so-last-minute stocking stuffers. Some of these ideas are things I've written about earlier in the year, while others are brand new items I have given as gifts myself.

The common denominator: I promise you I have tried them all and liked them.


$27.99 at Whole Foods. Also sold at Browne Trading Co., LeRoux Kitchen and other places around Portland. Check Eden's website for a list of stores and restaurants that carry it. 



$24.99/lb. at Whole Foods or

$17.61/lb. at the Cabot Farmers' Annex on Commercial Street 

Ice cider is a not-too-sweet dessert wine that's been developed over the past decade or so in Quebec. Eden Ice Cider is made by Albert and Eleanor Leger, orchardists from the town of West Charleston in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, where it gets good and cold in the winter.

Believe it or not, there are about 8 pounds of apples in each bottle.

To make the cider, apples are harvested at peak ripeness and kept in cold storage until winter really sets in. The fruit is then pressed, and the juice left outside to freeze for six to eight weeks. The concentrate that melts off is then fermented into an ice cider that is perfect for Thanksgiving, but will also be a great addition to any holiday table. Serve it in small port or sherry glasses, paired with some of Cabot's award-winning Clothbound Cheddar.

This popular English-style cheddar is made from a single farm's milk – the Kempton Family Farm in Peacham, Vt. – and aged by the Cellars at Jasper Hill. It is sharp, rich and buttery, with notes of caramel, and goes perfectly with the ice cider. The complexity of the cheese balances well with the intense, crisp flavor of the apples.

This pairing is a gift I would be thrilled to receive myself, and it's my go-to food gift for the holidays this year. 


$8.99/10.5-ounce bottle 

A few years ago during the holidays, I wrote about an unconventional hangover cure for New Year's morning – two tablespoons of Loughlin's Irish Steak Sauce & Marinade. It was introduced to me by the ultimate expert in hangovers, an Irish cop. The recipe came from (of course) his grandmother.

Now Joe Loughlin, Portland's retired assistant police chief, is at it again, this time with a business partner who helped him develop a new spicy blueberry version of the steak sauce. Loughlin came up with the original recipe, then Dave Fillinger of Pemberton's Gourmet in Gray worked with it, did some tweaking, and developed the final version.

I've tried it on steak, marinating the meat overnight. The blueberry flavor is subtle – you'll notice blueberries are down a ways on the ingredients list – but the overnight marinade really gives it a decent kick. I found that I also liked having some sauce on the side for dipping. I also tried it on chicken and liked it, and Loughlin says he thinks it's good on salmon.

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Additional Photos

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For cheese lovers, consider a gift of Cabot’s award-winning Clothbound Cheddar. It is sharp, rich and buttery, with notes of caramel.

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Ice cider is a not-too-sweet dessert wine that’s been developed over the past decade or so in Quebec. Eden Ice Cider is made in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

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Spicy Blueberry Steak Sauce & Marinade is made by Pemberton's Gourmet in Gray.

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Coffee by Design’s Harvest Reserve line is pricey, selling for $40 a pound, but you’ll know you’re giving the best.


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