There are years where you're ironing napkins and polishing the good silver. And there are years when you're hopping in the car, maybe with a casserole sliding around in the trunk. Sometimes it's nice to be a guest and to leave the turkey and stuffing in someone else's capable hands. And to reward the hands in question, here's a lineup of local food gifts to give your host or hostess on Thursday.
Hot and spicy
Joan and Paul Bailey launched the Savory Spice Shop in St. Petersburg in 2011, bringing more than 400 different spices and herbs to local cooks. They've debuted a "Spice Up Your Holidays" gift guide with some ideas that are a paean to Florida. They've come up with a new St. Pete Snapper Seasoning, a boon to seafood from gulf grouper to shellfish. A balanced blend of tangy lime and just enough chile heat, it adds a kick of flavor to marinades for shrimp, chicken or even veggies on the grill. It retails for $6.10, or it can be packaged up festively with another new blend, Gator Bites, for around $15. The latter ($6.85) has a kick from cayenne and three different types of pepper, and Paul says it works for alligator, wild hog, frog legs or rattlesnake, or even more pedestrian chicken wings. And if you want to go lavish, consider a basket with those two as well as the oh-so-Florida Siesta Key Spanish Sazon or Gold Coast Tropical Poultry Rub (this year's turkey could get jiggy).
• 400 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg; (727) 290-9893.
Calmness in a bottle
Thanksgiving is stressful for the host, right? So give them the gift of something soothing. Matcha is a green tea made from a finely ground powder purported to give drinkers a calm energy (brewed this way, it produces more theanine and caffeine than leaf tea). Min's Matcha is a new product in the market, available at Rollin' Oats, Mickey's Organic Café and Locale Market, all in St. Petersburg. After a series of unsuccessful traditional medicine solutions, Min's Matcha founder Hazmin Flynt took a turn down the path of alternative and natural healing in hopes of finding relief from pain. Min's healing began when she replaced chemicals with homeopathic medicine and Chinese herbs. She started with bagged tea, then on to loose leaf and finally, matcha. She uses only organic Japanese matcha tea, organic Florida cane sugar, organic lemon juice and organic/natural flavorings.
• In flavors like Blueberry Bliss, bottles are 10 ounces and retail for $3.99. Made at YourProKitchen in Pinellas Park, they are best served ice cold right out of the refrigerator and shaken well so that you get all of the antioxidants.
Addam Vessa and his brother Cody got into the chocolate business working for their parents, who owned a bench-top confectionary equipment company in Largo. The brothers had a small demonstration kitchen where they would bring potential equipment buyers in to show them how to make chocolate. And thus, Pinellas Chocolate was born. They incorporated two years ago and specialize in dark chocolate bars. They do a 62 percent dark chocolate with orange sourced from Florida Worldwide Citrus in Bradenton. They do another in the Florida Influences line flavored with salted lime and a third that is spicy datil pepper.
• The bars, which retail for $6.49 to $7.99 for a 2.2-ounce bar, are available at St. Pete Indie Market and Tampa Indie Flea, Locale Market and Rollin' Oats in St. Petersburg, at Buddy Brew in Tampa and at their own tiny retail store at 10550 72nd St. N, Suite 504, Largo; (727) 914-9866.
Signature oil, vinegar
Locale Market general manager Mordechai Baron knows olive oils. He knows vinegars. He knows hundreds of products that come in bottles, jars and fancy packages. After settling in at the market earlier this year, he decided it was time for Locale to have its own signature extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. He tasted dozens, settling on a first cold press oil from Kalamata, Greece, and a vinegar from the southern part of Italy. Bottled in St. Petersburg, it debuted in September. A 500- milliliter bottle of oil retails for $9.99 and a 250-milliliter bottle of vinegar costs $6.49. They can be packaged together as a sweet holiday gift, and if you want to blow the socks off your host, consider pairing them in a gift basket with cheese, charcuterie and a loaf of the house-made bread.
• The market's small gift shop also offers a number of appealing wooden cheeseboards — grab one of these, the EVOO and vinegar, and an array of stinky cheeses for around $80. 179 Second Ave. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 523-6300.
A vodka with history
In May Kozuba & Sons Craft Distillery opened on Fifth Avenue S in St. Petersburg's Warehouse Arts District. It's the first attempt at American distilling by the Polish family, an ambitious new venture in a region that has become serious about distilling. This month they introduced Tampa Bay to starka, a barrel-aged vodka named for a stork. A tradition going back to the 15th century, Polish families would distill and barrel a vodka, burying it on the day of a child's birth. Unearthed on the day of that child's wedding, the resultant spirit was caramel-colored and mellowed by all those years of subterranean relaxation.
• Kozuba & Sons' Starkus vodka retails for $36. Spending six months in oak barrels, this rye vodka beguiles with tastes of vanilla, honey and oak spice. Kozuba products are available at Total Wine, ABC, Publix, Lueken's and the tasting room, 1960 Fifth Ave. S, St. Petersburg; (727) 201-9078.
Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.