"Buy Local" shouldn't just be a tagline, especially when it comes to buying gifts for the food and drink enthusiasts on your list. We're so lucky to have a slew of talented local artisans making hand-crafted, unique and delicious products that any food lover will appreciate on Valentine's Day. Here are 10 ideas to get you started. You'll never have to hit the big box stores again.
For the Sweet Tooth
With flavors like chile and pumpkin seed, or chai and cashew, we've always loved the fancy hand-crafted brittles from Morning Glory Confections. Now owner Max Lesser has gone a step further by adding chocolate brittles to the mix. There's bourbon and pecan, smoked salt and peanut, and herbs de Provence and almond, all made with Valrohna chocolate. We asked Lesser if chocolate brittle was a thing. "It is now," he quipped. Find the brittles at several Southern California shops, or simply order online here.
For the Gift Basket
Create something special with colorful oven mits, unique linens and glassware for the table, or even a plant-your-own apple tree kit, all found at the new marketplace at Auntie Em's Kitchen. Owner Teri Wahl handpicks items from all over California, but you'll find some locally made items (Laura Ann's Jams), plus retro ribbon candy, snacks, and an oddly large amount of things with chickens and roosters on them. The Eagle Rock shop is open daily. Grab lunch while you're at it.
For the Discerning Cook
If your friend knows the difference between arbol and ancho chiles, or has a penchant for flavored salts and sugars, browse the jars of exotic spices, herbs and teas at Silver Lake's Spice Station for gifting inspiration. We're fans of the themed nine-tin gift sets (salt and peppers; holidays; Julia's Kitchen), or custom-design your own. Online ordering is available.
For the Wine Geek
Venokado is not only the great selection of wines, but also the fun, eclectic incredibly stylish gifts throughout the stores. Balsamic candles, beautifully cheese knife sets, sake sets that look more like sculpture than drinking vessels--there's a lot to choose from. One of the most popular items is the Clutch Gift, a perfect-sized box that includes a bottle of wine plus interesting little extras, like that iPod-shaped flask, that make it more personalized and special. Visit the West Hollywood or Santa Monica Place locations, or order online.
For the Bacon Lover
Bacon is in everything from perfume to candy canes these days, but we will never tire of bacon in its purest form, like the thick, smoked slices from L.A.-based Cast Iron Gourmet. Made in small batches, the all-natural pork belly is seasoned and cured with owner Rashida Purifoy's signature rubs and spices, with flavors like traditional maple, cracked black pepper, or spicy Cajun. The bacon is thick-cut, slightly chewy, boldly flavored, and great for the breakfast (or any) plate. Something else not to pass up: The bacon-and-beer flavored corn nuts, the perfect football snack.
For the Coffee Geek
The current wave of third-wave coffee roasters around Los Angeles is enough to give any coffee lover a super-charged buzz. Create a gift basket with locally roasted, small-batch beans from the new Handsome Coffee Roasters, and get beans, fancy brewing apparatuses and high-design drinkware from Intelligentsia's Silver Lake, Pasadena or Venice locations, or at LA Mill's new Silver Lake marketplace.
For the Stylish Cook
Walking around the most recent Artisanal LA gift show, we stumbled across the charming and colorful aprons from Domestic Doll. Made of the softest cotton, any hostess would be proud to wear them. There's a line for kids, too.
For the Budding Mixologist
No home bar should be without the best artisanal spirits, and we're fortunate to have some those from Greenbar Collective produced right here in L.A. The line of Tru Organic spirits includes a unique gin, based off of a 19th Century recipe. It's tawny in color with bold herbal notes from the 14 botanicals used, and is fun to experiment with in cocktails. There's also flavored vodkas, a wonderful organic tequila, rums, and a whiskey on the way. Some of the top bartenders in the country collaborated on their line of Bar Keep Bitters. Here's a list of Southern California retail locations.
For the Beer Drinker
When six of Bud Light just won't do, head to Echo Park's Sunset Beer Company for one of the largest selections of bottled Belgian ales, California beers, and locally made seasonal brews. For something really fresh, get your growlers filled at Eagle Rock Brewery, Placentia's The Bruery, or L.A.'s new Golden Road Brewery.
For the Wannabe Chef
Help them learn kitchen basics at one of the tasty classes around town. Give the gift of perserving and pickling classes at Sqirl, cheesemaking at The Institute of Domestic Technology, or butchering basics at Lindy & Grundy. It's the gift that keeps on giving--one day you may receive payback in the way of pineapple, quince and rosewater jelly, bread and butter pickles, or a wheel of brie.
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