For years I’ve shared a holiday gift idea list based on my favourite trusted kitchen tools, with links to Amazon or other major retailers for easy ordering. (It’s still there, and I’ve updated it for 2023.)
But since the pandemic started I’ve been doing less Amazon, more small business shopping, after this nudge from Calgary food writer and community uplifter Julie van Rosendaal:
Please please please don't default to Amazon for your holiday shopping-so many small businesses rely on this season to keep them afloat all year.. it could close them down permanently. They all do online and curbside pickup! Where do you find cool gifts? I'll go first:
— Julie Van Rosendaal (@dinnerwithjulie) November 9, 2020
So with the help of some folks who chimed in on her post, I created a new list. This one is all consumables, for people who have enough “stuff.”
I found these items and much more at various small businesses around Calgary. (If you don’t live in Calgary, you can likely find similar retailers in your community.)
It was so fun to browse! Shopping this way supports local businesses and is a lot more enjoyable than the mall.
Grocery store olive oil is fine for everyday cooking, but for drizzling, dipping, and dressing, a higher quality, extra-virgin, perhaps flavoured olive oil is a real treat.
|Find it locally at… Blue Door Oil & Vinegar, where they carry a mind-blowing selection of oils, vinegars, olives, and other specialty foods. 8561 8a Ave SW, #3126.
Also evoolution, which is similarly well-stocked. In Calgary at Market Mall, with locations in Edmonton, Canmore, and Banff.
2. Gourmet flavoured vinegar
Honey, raspberry, dark chocolate, dark balsamic, cranberry pear, white balsamic… there are endless flavours to jazz up salads and more.
Mix it with that good olive oil for a bread dip, toss it with cut fruit, drizzle over roasted potatoes, grilled fish, or poached pears.
|Find it locally at… The Cookbook Co. Cooks, where you’ll find vinegars like champagne and tarragon, high quality olive oil, local specialty foods like Brassica mustards, stunning gourmet gift baskets, and of course, over a thousand cookbook titles. 722-11 Avenue SW.
Also Blue Door Oil & Vinegar and evoolution (above) carry specialty vinegars.
3. Locally roasted coffee
Skip the Starbucks cards and treat the coffee connoisseur in your life to the pleasure of a unique high quality roast.
|Find it locally at… Fratello Coffee Roasters, where they pride themselves on coffee that is “consciously chosen, responsibly purchased, carefully roasted”. They also carry coffee brewing gear and a few loose teas. 4021-9th St. SE. Also Analog Coffee (various locations).
Plus there are at least six more Calgary-based coffee roasters described in this review.
4. Specialty tea
After I published 10 low-sugar beverages that aren’t (plain old) water, readers responded by singing the praises of their favourite calming tea.
So perhaps your loved one might enjoy an exploration of new teas? Such a treat.
|Find it locally at… TotaliTea, an independent, local, family-owned and operated loose-leaf tea business that will give you an excuse to check out the stunning new Calgary Farmers’ Market West.
(They also have a location at the South Calgary Farmers’ Market.)
5. Locally made preserves
There’s something special about locally crafted jams, honey, nut butters, salsa, dressing, condiments and more. They’re not necessarily better nutritionally, but you get to support someone in your community and share something out of the ordinary.
|Find it locally at… The Spruce Meadows International Christmas Market. Calgarians know this is the place for all things Christmas, and all vendors are Canadian. In addition to an extensive collection of specialty foods, they have a fun variety of coffee, tea, and other beverages.
(Running this year on November 17–19, November 24–26, and December 1–3.)
6. Good chocolate
Similarly, who doesn’t love quality chocolate? While studies connecting chocolate to heart health aren’t based on the most robust evidence, there is some evidence of benefit, and we can just enjoy it for pleasure, right? For gifting, a locally crafted, handcrafted creation is sure to please.
|Find it locally at… Cochu Chocolatier, powered by Calgary’s multiple award-winning Anne Sellmer, known for her distinctive flavour combinations like “cherries, pistachios, coconut flakes & sea salt” or “sriracha, sea salt, sponge toffee, and pretzel” (oh my).
Available at their flagship store at 429 8 Ave SE in East Village and at various local retailers.
As with the chocolate, why not treat your loved one to something over and above everyday cheese? A little cheese can absolutely be part of a heart-healthy eating pattern. (See here for why.)
|Find it locally at… Springbank Cheese Co., “an independent Canadian company… operated by three generations of the Hemsworth family.” Shop online for cheese, accompaniments, accessories, and gift baskets, or call them or stop by for guidance in selecting.
Various locations in Calgary and now in Woodstock, Ontario.
8. Spice sets
Eating with heart health in mind means more home-cooked food, and high quality spices can really elevate it.
Like many specialty items on this list, they’re pricier, which is what makes them a great gift for the enthusiastic cook. Not sure what to buy? Curated collections might be the answer.
|Find it locally at… Silk Road Spice Merchant, who offers “a complete selection of top-quality whole and ground spices, dried herbs, dried chiles and chile powders, and our own hand-blended spice mixtures and rubs.”
Shop online or in person at 1403A 9th Avenue S.E. or the Calgary Farmers’ Market. (There is also a store in Edmonton.)
9. Flavoured nuts
Nuts are consistently associated with better heart health outcomes. If you don’t want too much sugar or salt, look for spicy flavours and check the labels. But a bit of either is okay – you’ll probably have it at the holidays in one treat or another, so why not have it with all of the nutrition that nuts offer?
|Find it locally at… Going Nuts – Lower sugar/salt flavours include Garlic & Onion Pistachios, Herb & Garlic Almonds, Spicy Picante Pistachios, and Sweet Chili Heat Cashews.
Calgary Farmers’ Market (both locations).
10. Gift baskets
If you want to spend a bit more and give a selection of food items like those above, how about a gift basket? You can make it yourself, or let an expert select one for you.
|Find it locally at… The Italian Centre, where you’ll find a wonderful selection of European snacks, produce, cheese, desserts, bread, and more. Be still my heart.
9919 Fairmount Drive SE plus locations in Edmonton.
11. Bonus: Gift cards for ready-made-meals
Homemade is grand, but sometimes life happens, and cooking doesn’t. The good news is that many prepared foods are made just like from scratch and just fine, heart-healthwise. They can get pricey though, so gift-giving fairy to the rescue!
|Find it locally at… Our Daily Brett, 1507 29th Avenue SW, which I reviewed a few years ago. So good.|
Thanks to everyone who contributed ideas for this new improved gift list!
What else would you add? Join the conversation in our Facebook group.
As always, I have no financial relationship with any of these businesses. Shawn of Springbank Cheese is my neighbour, Anne of Cochu Chocolatier’s kids go to school with mine, but that’s what happens when you shop local! You support the people in your community. Yay!