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Eat It and Like It

Shop local for gifts to make food lovers smile

12/11/2015 – Original Article

My wife tells me I am impossible to shop for at Christmas time. Every year she creates a tale (usually in the form of a text message) asking about my wish list under the pretense that it is for her sister. I don’t have the heart to break it to her, but I caught on a few years ago when the items I suggested to “her sister” started showing up under our tree and I always got a much appreciated gift card to Best Buy from Tara in Decatur. It may have taken me almost 50 years, but I am no longer falling for the end-around-double-reverse secret Santa banana-in-the-tailpipe.

The reality is, it can be difficult to shop for someone you’ve been with for almost 20 years. That doesn’t even mean a spouse. I know a ton of people who struggle finding the right gifts for a parent or grandparent or co-worker or a BFF. Certainly at our age, something like clothing can be tricky. As are perfumes and soaps and all kinds of things like that. I don’t think you want to buy your girlfriend wrinkle cream, do you? No, let’s leave that to Santa.

I’ve been doing some virtual shopping for a few weeks now, making a list and checking it twice. I’ve been looking for unique items to offer that (here comes the F word) foodie in your life. By definition, food lovers can be a bit finicky, so it does make it difficult to shop for them sometimes. However, there are a ton of great items in this area that you can buy either individually or compile to make a local basket that should really please anyone. It would be impossible to list them all. But I will give it a try.

Gift packages from Hunter Cattle Company: The grass-fed beef at Hunter Cattle has been well documented around these parts. You can enjoy it at any number of restaurants in the area. Not only are they providing products to the Governor’s Mansion in Atlanta, but also the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team as well as the Miami Marlins baseball club. This season, they are offering some customized holiday packages. There’s one for brunch with bacon, sausage, eggs, milk and more. There’s also a much larger package with steaks, ground beef, ham and on and on. It’s a great idea if someone you know has been giving some thought to trying it. Just don’t put it under the tree a week before Christmas. You might run into a problem there. Learn more at www.huntercattle.com.

Savannah Coffee Roasters and PERC Coffee: It is entirely possible to make a non-fat, no whip, no nae nae macchiato cortado cubano espumado at home. If you know what you are doing, of course. Coffee snob in your life? We all know one or two. The beauty of having great coffee roasters here in Savannah is that you can drive down there and talk to them about exactly what you want. Don’t know exactly what you want? Well, I’m sure they’d be glad to explain the differences between all of those bags for sale. There are a ton of differences and they will all make a difference in your morning brew. Of course, you should know that just because you buy the most expensive bean doesn’t always mean getting the best cup. The brewing process is a huge part of making a great cup of coffee. Any coffee geek would be glad to tell you why. Just don’t be afraid to ask. Learn more at www.savannahcoffee.com and www.perccoffee.com.

Chef Darin’s Kitchen Table (cooking school): In the four or five years I’ve been writing about food, without a doubt the question I am asked most is about cooking classes. Hands down. For the longest time, the only real answer I had for them was the cooking classes at The Mansion on Forsyth Park (which are wonderful, by the way), but the themes are pre-set and what you do is pre-determined by Chef Peter Russo. Chef Peter’s predecessor, Darin Sehnert, has opened his own cooking school near the corner of Abercorn and Victory Drive in Savannah and offers all kinds of classes in all shapes and sizes. How to make an English roast beef dinner, holiday cookies and many more. Sure, you can learn how to make a specific dish or meal, but you can also take classes for things like knife skills. You can get a group together and custom fit your class or you can buy someone you know a gift card to use at any class of your choosing. Chef Darin is an exceptional and thorough teacher. His classes are a lot of fun. Look him up atwww.chefdarin.com.

Georgia Olive Farms Olive Oil: I cannot tell a lie — I had heard about this product for quite some time, but never had the opportunity to try it until the Wright Square Open House event on Dec. 4. Not all olive oils are created equally. Just ask Chef Mario Batali. Some of the higher-end stuff out there can run you over $50 a bottle. Yes, for olive oil. This product is out of Lakeland, Ga., over yonder near Valdosta. It has a wonderful flavor that I thought would go perfectly on a table with some grated cheese, balsamic, pepper and crusty bread. OK, now I’m hungry. You can find them at Wright Square Café in downtown Savannah, and they offer it through retail as well. Learn more atwww.georgiaolivefarms.com.

Cookbooks: Obviously, there is no shortage of cookbooks on the market any time of the year. Paula Deen has a new one out this season called “Paula Cuts The Fat.” James Beard Award winner and owner of The Florence Hugh Acheson released a new book this year, “The Broad Fork,” which I personally have enjoyed so far. While those two will always draw headlines, there’s another on the market this season you should give a look. It’s called “Rise and Shine — A Southern Son’s Treasury of Food, Family and Friends,” by Johnathan Scott Barrett. There are about 100 recipes in there, but equally as entertaining are the stories he shares about growing up in the South. Get the book atwww.johnathonscottbarrett.com.

In addition to all of that, Leopold’s Ice Cream is now shipping its ice cream across America. Chocolat by Adam Turoni in downtown Savannah never disappoints. Savannah Bloody Mary Mix is a new item on the market this year and locally owned. As are fresh-made pastas by Frali Gourmet on Liberty Street in downtown Savannah. When all else fails, most restaurants offer gift cards to share, including our friends at Driftaway Café in Sandfly.

Shopping for the holidays doesn’t have to be so difficult. Not every gift will go down in history like Rudolph, but at least in the short term, you will be able to eat it and like it.

See you on TV,

Jesse

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