Ultimate CT Foodie Gift Guide 2013

April Guilbault

This year, Thanksgiving is coming late, Hanukkah is arriving early and the Christmas holiday almost seems shortened before it has even begun. Have no fear, though, your holiday shopping will not bear the brunt of this crazy calendar...not with some of our suggestions. From unique food products, photographs, jewels and books, there is just about something for all the folks on what seems to be your never-ending list. How could so many people have been so good this year? Buy them some of these goodies and they’ll know...oh, they’ll know....

Hey, Honey!  Indulge by Mersene

“Surprise”...that’s the word for this gem of a store. Unassuming on the outside and just steps from the Westport train station, a wealth of unique, beautiful and fun items bombard you the minute your foot enters this fabulous nook of a store. Mersene Norbom, the owner, is as cordial and welcoming as the coldest glass of iced tea on the hottest of days. “Honey!” punctuates her sentences in her Mississippi style and she is quick and enthusiastic in her tours of the merchandise. A guide is needed, too, as there are so many wonderful items ripe for the pickin’. Her gift baskets, adorned with rustic burlap and fresh greenery can be filled with any manner of items and even constructed in any manner of items, such as vintage silver champagne buckets. One unique sweet that she sells are Les Cinq Amands. Remember the chocolate dragees and sugar-coated Jordan almonds of yesteryear? Take those, amp them up by a hundred and you have Les Cinq Amands. Twenty colors are available, along with a variety of “insides”...caramel seduction, coconut almondine, plump, top-quality almonds, dark chocolate. They can be packaged in wee boxes or bags and will be perfect as favors, little gifts or hostess thank you’s this season. Indulge by Mersene, 24 Railroad Place, Westport, CT. www.indulgebymersene.com

Picture It: Torn Edges Print

Try something radical...get the foodie in your life the gift of something they can’t eat but can only drool over...yet, it will stay fresh indefinitely. What the heck is it? A Torn Edges Print, of course. Michael Heintz and Nan Wasson are the photographers behind this inspiring and gloriously colorful collection of (food and more!) photographs. Artistic and striking, images of jewel-colored beets, closeups of artichokes or a simple, yet stunning bouquet-like bunch of carrots, these photos create conversation and happy thoughts of great food. Prints range from $55-$175, both unmatted and matted, framed and unframed. Something for every wall in your home. www.Tornedgesprints.com

Tres Dramatique! Pear William Eau-De-Vie 

..and what did *you* give someone this holiday season, they ask? An imprisoned pear. Or the Water of Life. Just your average gifts. We bet you’ve never seen a pear growing on a tree in a heart-shape bottle, filled with locally-made Pear William eau-de-vie (brandy to us commoners), then finally hand-dipped and numbered? This one will rank high on the “logistically unusual” list of gifts. Best thing is that it also ranks high on the delicious list, too. Westford Hill Distillers in The Last Green Valley section of CT has set about producing fine fruit brandies (raspberry, pear william, cherry, strawberry) made from locally grown fruits in a lovely red barn up on a lovely green hill. Saveur Magazine called them “the best thing to do with fruit in Connecticut.” How can you beat that review? Available at Francos Wine Merchant 130 Elm Street, New Canaan.

With a Turn of the Handle: Dash n Drizzle 

Gleaming silver casks all in a row, little spigots standing at the ready for someone to come along and just give them a turn. This season, turn it up a notch and treat the salads, roasted vegetables, fresh fruit or seltzers (how’s that for a cool idea?) in your life to lovely jolts of flavor. Unique drizzles of syrupy chocolate jalepeno (surprisingly good!), fig or raspberry balsamic vinegars, dashes of honey ginger and apricot white vinegar or Meyer lemon, tangerine and blood orange olive oils are sure to add a delightful depth of flavor to your holiday dishes. If you are in the mood to get crazy, try the organic bacon olive oil. After all, a little bacon never hurt anyone. Dash n Drizzle, 11 Unquowa Road, Fairfield. www.dashndrizzle.com

A Stewart for the Holidays: Walter Stewart's Market

No, we aren’t talking about Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life”, but another good ol’ stand-by...Walter Stewart’s Market in New Canaan (22 Elm Street). Head here to streamline your holiday errands and shopping. From stamps at their customer service desk (say goodbye to the dreaded lines at the Post Office) to decorative accents such a pillar candles and festive cocktail napkins for your holiday table to chocolate centerpieces from Bissinger’s that will spur some interesting conversations, Stewart’s has it covered. Their cheeses and accoutrements will be hard to resist...Boska fondue pots, Brooklyn Slate cheese boards, and an extensive selection of condiments will enhance any get-together you host this season. The best part is that if you are really short on time, Stewart’s professional shoppers will shop, pack and deliver your groceries (wine, too) and their catering staff can also take care of your whole feast, from the Chestnut soup to the Bourbon Caramel Pie and everything in between. Rest easy, shop at one store and enjoy the season a little bit more. Ordering can even be done online www.StewartsMarket.com

Follow The Path: Path Coffee Roasters

No need to go to the ends of the earth for great coffee, Path Coffee Roasters in Westchester County, New York has its hand on the caffeinated pulse of good coffee. Yes, decaf too. Started by Jason Richter and Johnny Steverson earlier this year, this duo is out to set the record straight about good coffee...how it should start, how it should be brewed and how it should be enjoyed. Roasting by hand in small batches to order, they focus on the seasonality, the regions and the growing conditions of the coffees that they choose. They also strive to keep in mind what will be best for their customers and best for the farmers. Check out their website for descriptions of their current batches such as San Juanillo from Costa Rica or Feather in Cap Espresso. For the holiday season, they are offering a fun gift package, combing Path Coffee with Cathy’s Biscotti, also of Westchester County. Choose from their wide range of coffees, ground or whole bean and pair it with a bagful of biscotti in flavors such as gingerbread, chocolate coconut or lemon pistachio, to name a few. Coffee and biscotti...what a lovely way to relax during the holidays. www.pathcoffees.com/holiday. Enter the code “path8861” and receive 15% off your purchase. Valid until 12/31/13

All Holidays Need Sparkle: Lera Jewels

“Rugged yet feminine effortless aesthetic” is how Ronit Tarshis describes her very sparkly and very unique jeweled creations. I dare say, she’s hit the nail on the head, too. They are rugged yet feminine and what a stunning combination that is. Using rows and rows of pave diamonds and gemstones, her bold yet simple designs hold themselves beautifully against daywear or transition seamlessly to evening wear. Now that’s a trick! They somehow appear vintage yet completely modern, intricate yet streamlined. There is also a wonderful play between the leather, cotton cords, the gleam of the oxidized silvers and the gold that wrap around the gems. Simply put: treat someone to a Lera creation and let them sparkle all year long. Lera Jewels www.lerajewels.com or call 203-856-2301 for an appointment

The Thrill of the Hunt: Consider The Cook

Enter this bustling shop on New Canaan’s pretty-as-a-picture main shopping street, and simply take your time. Don’t rush as you weave between overflowing tables and shelves, each holding lovely treasures for the your home, your kitchen or your holiday table. From modern gadgets (how about a Garlic Zoom or Garlic Machine? Awesome for storing or chopping quick as a blink) to elegant Brie-bakers, which would be a perfect hostess gift, this store is somehow small yet expansive at the same time. They just cram so much goodness into a small space! The large display of hand blocked linens from India are particularly beautiful; muted colors, visually striking patterns and a rustic feel make these aprons, napkins, tablecloths and tea towels gifts to behold. Prices range from $10-$100. Consider The Cook, 145 Elm Street, New Canaan www.considerthecook.com

Choices, Choices! Fairfield Cheese Company

Leaving this store empty-handed is just plain ol’ impossible. Goodies abound on every shelf and the staff is more than happy and enthusiastic to help you rein in your choices. But, honestly, why rein them in? For the honey lover on your list, try a jar of Miel Maritime Seashore Honey from Canada ($27.99). Its unique flavor comes from the maritime plants in the area and the color? Oh, the color! White like the creamiest, snowiest frosting with a taste (per the company’s website) like “ethereal moonlight”. Well, ok then. Who couldn’t benefit from a spoonful of moonlight every now and again? Just the beauty of the is honey is worth purchasing alone. Need something a little rougher around the edges? Try the Black IPA Potlicker Beer Jelly (ssshh!....I bought a jar for my husband’s stocking). Use it the way you would a pepper jelly...topping cream cheese and crackers or alongside meats and breads ($9.99).  Also worth mentioning as great gifts...the Victorinox Swiss Army Cheese knife ($50). Never slice cheese like a hack again. And speaking of cheese, show up to a friend’s house with a wheel of Harbison cheese from Jasper Hill Farm and you will be welcomed with open arms. With a brie-like rind and spruce-bark wrapping, this soft cow’s milk cheese is a sure hit with its woodsy, herbal flavors ($19.95 per wheel). Fairfield Cheese Company, 2090 Post Road, Fairfield www.fairfieldcheese.com

One Stop Shop: Collyer Catering 

Collyer Catering, (37 Saugatuck Ave, Westport), an off-premise catering and event planning company, is also a great little store for unique and locally sourced gifts for the holidays. From simple, easy gifts such as letterpress coasters and handwoven towels (a big seller) to custom-filled Peterboro baskets from New Hampshirethat can be shipped anywhere in the U.S., there are plenty of choices that will suit your needs and wants. Connecticut-made Savor cookies, in new flavors such as Black Ice (chocolate, candied lemon peel and Salemme hot pepper) and Emma Jean (coconut, lime and pepper), Beltane cheeses, Fiddler’s Green Organic baking mixes from Maine, or glassware from New England artisans; plenty can fill your basket and make it memorable. Corporate clients are welcome, too! See website for extended holiday hours (www.collyercatering.com) and stop in to join them on December 5th and 12th for cocktails, nibbles and shopping until 8pm.

If One Store Won’t Do... PopShop Holiday Market

Then shake a tail-feather and get over to thePopShop Holiday Marketwhich will be popping up on Sunday, December 15th from 11-4 at The Brick Walk Promenade in Fairfield (1215 Post Road). This outdoor market will be bustling and overflowing with vendors offering everything from decor and artwork to clothing and jewelry. As if the unique pop-ups weren’t enough, there will be a wide variety of food vendors, such as Lobster Craft, Mecha Noodle Bar, Sweet and Simple Bakery and Fryborg and even a heated BarCar where you can warm up with a seasonal cocktail. Santa will be roaming and available for snapshots in the photo booth, carolers will be singing and all will be merry and bright.

From Idaho, With Love: Java Coffee

Even though it hasn’t opened yet, we feel inclined to mention a soon-to-be

new resident of Westport...Java Coffee.

Originating in Ketchum, Idaho, Java has decided to meander East of the Mississippi and put down some new roots. Coupling a “rock-and-roll” edge and a warm-homey feel, this establishment is sure to attract moms, students, those in need of some relaxation, or those just searching for a great cup of Joe and a delicious accompanying muffin. With signature drinks such as their Bowl of Soul mocha, made with direct trade coffee, house-ground Mexican chocolate, steamed with foamy milk and topped with chocolate and cinnamon or their homemade pastries and south-of-the-border inspired lunch specialties, many cravings will be satisfied. Their motto “Wake up and Live!” will soon be heard around town!

44 Church Lane, Westport

To Market, To Market: CM Gourmet Market

Next to the wildly popular and newly situated Saugatuck Craft Butchery is another new kid on the block (only 4

weeks old!).

CM Gourmet Market, with the “CM” standing for Cocoa Michelle

, is an enjoyable destination for your holiday-foodie needs. A wonderful assortment of goods which you can tell have been chosen by Michelle and her husband for not only their aesthetics but, of course, their superb tastes and uniqueness line the shelves in this airy, light-filled store. Upon entering, one is met with a cheese case that is stuffed to the brim with cheeses that are “above and beyond”. Case and point, the Secret de Compostelle from Spain that finally, finally! made it through customs...only two wheels were allowed, so don’t delay and hey, be nice: get some to share with your friends this holiday season. You’ll be the hero of the party. Delicious items such as L’Epicurien from France jams and spreads (some even come with recommendations for their cheese pairings. Brilliant! No guessing and no having to meekly default to the ubiquitous fig spread!), Lillie Q’s Barbeque sauces in a rainbow of tastes and origin or specialty sodas like Curiosity Cola are there just waiting to be included in gorgeous gift baskets that you can have created. Don’t feel like showing up to a house with the regular flowers or wine this season? You can supply your own platters and they will be turned into crowd-raving cheese platters. And finally, when you just need a break from it all, enjoy some of their homemade take-away foods or stop by the cafe for breakfast, lunch or brunch...call that time a gift to yourself! 


Tagging and Cracking: David’s Tea 

Cat versus Dog. Artificial tree versus real. Coffee versus tea. For the tea drinkers out there, the sky is the limit at David’s Tea in Westport and tea trumps all. Every time. With so much good to be had in a cup of tea-antioxidants, numerous health benefits-this season is the perfect time to introduce your friends to the world of tea. David’s Tea will help you make this introduction in the cutest and most festive ways possible. You can go big with their gift boxes such as the 8 (or 24!) Days of Tea or you can go sweet and subtle, too. Try their Party Crackers...channel your inner Brit, listen for the pop and then a sample bag of tea, tea filter, paper hat (which no self-respecting cracker would be without) and tea-themed joke will fall into your guests’ hands. 6 Crackers for $16.50. Or better yet and how cute is this...tea-filled gift tags (pack of 3/$8.50). Not only are you giving a gift but you are topping it with an extra one as well! Flavors such as Alpine Punch, Coffee Cake and White Chocolate Frost will make the recipient happy before they even get to the gift under the tag. David’s Tea, 135 Main Street, Westport www.davidstea.com

Giving the Gift of Knowledge: Books on the Common

Sure, you could sign up for classes that teach you about wines, sitting there week after week, listening to some potentially snooty instructor tell you about how to sniff and slurp a vintage. You could also take the fun and slightly humorous route to knowledge, too, and read The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert By Richard Betts ($19.99 Books on the Common, Ridgefield www.booksonthecommon.com). The reader is introduced to sixteen scents (by way of those scratch-and-sniff stickers you remember as a kid) by a master sommelier who makes learning fun with a bit of silly thrown in for good measure. Perfect for your favorite adult who still is a kid at heart. Just be sure to pair with a bottle that is mentioned in the text and it will be a hit of a gift.