12 Blogs of Christmas: Local food gifts that will impress the foodies in your life
The 12 Blogs of Christmas, featuring stocking stuffer-sized holiday stories about pop culture and beyond will run each weekday leading up to Christmas Eve. You can find all of them on The Feed blog.
With the rise of artisanal food products, it has become a lot easier to wrap up something edible and pass it off as a present. If you’re coming up blank in the gift department this time of year and want to get your family and friends something more creative than a coin sorter, consider the following ideas. These are ideal for people who will appreciate the craft that goes into making, say, a Pineapple Cilantro ice pop, or those in your life who deserve a thoughtful treat but not, like, a shiny Apple product.
Nothing says “two weeks till Christmas” like the seasonal inappropriateness of freezing ice pops. But when the Hyppo offers flavors like Peanut Butter Pie, Prickly Pear and Datil Plum, no one will be displeased, even if the Florida winter temperatures take an uncharacteristic plunge into the lower 60s. The pop shop has storefronts and "pop peddlers" all over Florida. Locally, you can choose from dozens of pops at 1600 E 8th Ave. in Tampa and 627 Central Ave in St. Petersburg. Fill up a cooler with a handful of flavors you know your friend will like. Then just make sure they open that gift first.
Embrace the idea that a gift should be something a person would never buy for themselves, but would very much like in their possession, and give someone artisanal, small-batch bread. Gulf Coast Sourdough is a good place to start. The Tampa-based company makes everything from Sand Dollar Sourdough loaves to Roasted Red Pepper Bread to Babka. Their bread is sold at select retailers, and markets. Buy a couple loaves and pair it with a local jam. (Shockingly, there are many artisanal brands to choose from.) Gulf Coast Sourdough also promotes a Weekly Bread subscription service, $20 for four weeks of bread that your carb-loving friend can pick up at various local spots.
For a bonus gift, really go there and buy your giftee a sourdough starter. When our food critic Laura Reiley interviewed the folks behind Gulf Coast Sourdough in June, they said they’d be happy to share their starter with anyone who inquires. A starter, as your foodies friends will surely know, is the yeasty mixture that’s needed to bake a loaf of sourdough. Good ones aren’t easy to come by. Actually, as I write this, I’m questioning all of my life choices, like why doesn't my Christmas list begin and end with “sourdough starter” and “a monthlong bread subscription”? What am I even doing here?
Hardly any food has escaped the clutches of the artisanal food trend, including the once unglamorous commodity of doughnuts. There are several custom, small-batch doughnut shops around Tampa Bay, a dozen of which would make a solid gift for a holiday gathering. Mini Doughnut Factory in Tampa is one particularly Instagram-worthy spot specializing in mini doughnuts. They also offer gift cards, with a percentage-off deal happening right now. And if you ask nicely, some of these places will let you place custom orders. Spelling a loved one's name in doughnuts? What could be more festive than that?
You can't flick a bottle cap without hitting a brewery in Tampa Bay, so you have lots of ways to gift someone their favorite brew. Hit up different parts of the bay area, and grab a growler or half growler from Rapp Brewing in Largo (currently serving flavors like Blueberry Doughnut Porter and Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout), Cigar City Brewing in Tampa and 3 Daughters in St. Pete. The glass growler, which your beer lover can reuse, makes a cool gift in itself. Consider this option for visiting friends or relatives who can’t pop into one of our fine establishments whenever they want.
Single origin coffee
For that person in your life who really, really cares which country their coffee beans comes from, pick up a bag or two of craft coffee, all the rage at small, local coffee shops around Tampa Bay. You know the ones. They are usually spare in their decor, save for maybe a charming succulent in the corner and the penetrating gaze of a barista who knows you have no idea what the difference is between the Los Suenos Columbia brew and the Hunkute Ethiopian one. Look to King State Coffee, 6203 N Florida Ave. in Tampa; Kings Arms Coffee (kingsarmscoffee.com); Perq Coffee Bar, 1821 Hillview St., Sarasota; Bandit Coffee Co., 2662 Central Ave, St. Petersburg; or these other shops for all your fancy bean needs. Many sell gift cards, too. Pair the thoughtfully roasted beans with this contraption - a pour-over coffee maker similar to the ones used in many of these shops - for maximum coffee snobbery.
A Groupon to a local restaurant
This gift is great because some Groupons are "dinner for two" or four, which means you can look at your giftee and be all, "Hey, without me you wouldn't even have this lovely gift so let's make it a date?" Currently, the best deal we can find is this one for Cafe Ponte, a stalwart white tableclothed joint in Largo. For $95, you get two six-course chef's tasting menu dinners; for $170, you get four of them. Considering the regular price for one person is $95, we basically just saved all of your financial woes.