Gift-giving during the holidays is proof that humans have an unparalleled ability to turn things that should be fun into complicated nightmares. And while it would be easy to get cynical about things and accuse modern society of replacing genuine expressions of love and appreciation with an unbridled orgy of crass commercialization, the truth of the matter is that giving gifts stresses us out so much because we tend to want the people around us to be happy. And so we analyze the things they like and try to figure out the perfect thing to bring them a bit of joy during the cold season. Our intentions are good even when our execution is not.
But if the person you’re shopping for is a food lover, there’s no reason to let those good intentions of yours become paving stones on your own personal path to a hell where Paul McCartney’s brain-obliterating “Wonderful Christmas Time” is considered a classic song of holiday cheer. We are here to help with a guide to some of our favorite local products. Does your foodie like to cook? Maybe they only enjoy the chowing down part. Either way, there’s something here for folks who are appreciative of the finer, tastier things in life. And as a bonus, the local stores that sell these items are generally smaller, less crowded, and a lot friendlier than the malls and shopping centers of the world. You might still hear Sir Paul, though.
*Chocolates from Cocoa Rouge: Christmas is one of those times when folks won’t look at you funny for eating four pieces of pie in one sitting, even if you pile them up one on top of the other like a delicious pastry Jenga tower and shovel the lot into your needy gob with a garden trowel. The important thing is to not sully this opportunity to gorge with impunity with inferior foodstuffs. One way to avoid that is by picking up a box or 10 of assorted artisan chocolates from Cocoa Rouge out of Saline County. Each of these bite-sized delicacies is painstakingly handcrafted and made with the highest quality chocolate and other ingredients. Add to this some of the most attractive packaging around, and you’ve got a gift of distinction.
*Organic Spice Sets from Maison Terre: Whether the foodie in your life is just starting out or a veteran in the kitchen, these attractive spice kits are sure to please. Each themed spice set comes with a variety of delicious, organic spices, hand-picked by North Little Rock’s Maison Terre for their quality and vibrant flavors. The Grilling Spice Set will allow tailgaters and picnic cooks to develop the delicious rubs, spices and marinades they’ve always dreamed of, while spice-heads will find their pepper-loving hearts well-warmed by the piquant picks that make up the Heat Spice set. And since there’s nothing wrong with giving gifts a little early, the Holiday Spice kit is a sure-fire way to get the cook in your life excited about whipping up a feast. If you’re lucky, they may even invite you.
*Simple syrups, shrubs and bitters from Pink House Alchemy: There are so many great flavors of syrups, shurbs and bitters from Pink House Alchemy, and all of them are perfect for the cocktailian in your life. Invent new spins on classic cocktails, create delicious sparkling soda treats—or just let your imagination run wild with ways to use these flavorful concoctions. And for an exciting look at the personality behind the product, check out this profile of Pink House owner Emily Lawson, who we named as one of our 2015 Visionary Arkansans.
*Treatsie: Arkansas-based company Treatsie has turned monthly deliveries of tasty, hand-crafted sweets into an art form. And the best thing about choosing Treatsie for your Christmas gift needs is that they provide a couple of options that allow shoppers flexibility. Want to buy that snack-lover in your life an entire year of Treatsie deliveries? Gift subscriptions are available. Prefer to just make a one-time purchase? There are multiple single-box gifts available as well. And with Treatsie, the deliveries always come with fresh, delicious selections from some of the most innovative folks in the world of sweets.
*Local spices and sauces: Have family coming in from out yonder? Why not send them home with a taste of Arkansas that they can turn to any time they start wondering why anyone would want to live anywhere else. Good Food by Ferneau chef Donnie Ferneau has been producing his Signature Blend seasoning mix for awhile now, and this tasty blend of herbs and spices is good on pretty much anything from fish and chicken to vegetables. If your foodie is a griller, check out both the dry seasoning blend and bottled barbecue sauce from Hot Springs’ famous McClard’s Barbecue. And for the burger lovers out there, nothing beats the Hamburger Seasoning developed by Cotham’s Country Store—and given that these are the folks who also developed a big pile of a burger called “The Hubcap,” I reckon they know from burgers.
*Local hooch: Sometimes the holidays need a little lubrication to get everyone in the mood to drop the cares of the world into a nice haze of peace on earth and good will toward men. Lucky for us here in Arkansas, we’ve got a wide variety of potent potables available, so no matter what tastes you’re catering to during the season, there’s no reason for what you’re pouring to have anything other than Arkansas on the label. Craft beer from the likes of Ozark Beer Company, Moody Brews, Diamond Bear and Core Brewing are all worthy of a spot in your fridge, even if you have to take one for the team and eat that entire sweet potato casserole in order to make room. Drink your holiday dessert with Rock Town Distillery’s Apple Pie lightning, or treat the whiskey lover in your life to Arkansas’ own award-winning craft whiskey. And of course our wineries have been making vino for over a century, so raise a glass to them, too.
There are, of course, a ton of Arkansas products out there perfect for the foodie in your life—why don’t you all give your personal favorites a shout-out down there in the comments?