Gift Guide: Homegrown Food and Beverage Favorites!
Skip the old-school impersonal and go boldly local this season
By Wayne Alan Brenner and Jessi Cape, Fri., Dec. 4, 2020
Whether your holiday shopping list is for loved ones or business colleagues, now more than ever is the year to shop local and keep your dollars close to home. We've got options for meat lovers, home cooks, sweet-toothed pals, and more.
Thai Fresh: The Cookbook
What Austin's Jam Sanitchat does with Thai cuisine, it's enough to make our mouth water just thinking about it. What she does with her Thai Fresh business – eliminating tipping and adding cost-of-operation into her prices, to ensure living wages for all employees – well, it warms our people-forward hearts. But it's that first thing, we'll admit, that's got us recommending her cookbook debut. The gorgeous tome's packed with easy-to-follow recipes from Thai Fresh, including many of Sanitchat's family classics, and has a section on Thai vegan ice cream (as featured at Gati, the chef's latest node of noms), and the whole thing's illustrated with full-color, food-as-rockstar photography from James Beard award-winner Jody Horton. If we found this bright hardbound volume beneath our tree, we'd kiss Santa right on his mask.
Nolan Ryan's Goodstock Butchery
Refugio native Nolan Ryan spent 27 years pitching for Major League Baseball, but he bought his first cow at just 10 years old. That $1.50 pre-pro-sports investment is what's eventually led to the ranching man's most recent endeavor: a thriving boutique butcher shop in Round Rock, where you'll find a vast selection of Goodstock Angus (USDA Choice) steaks and grinds and Goodstock Black Label (USDA Prime) cuts for whatever your beefiest holiday needs might be. Bonus: They subscribe to the Temple Grandin Responsible Cattle Care program. "We are real excited for customers and fans to have the opportunity to order high-quality, flavorful beef shipped directly to their door and experience their own grilling adventures at home with family and friends," said Mr. Ryan. Here's a respected name, top quality, and fast service – and it's just up the road a piece.
County Line BBQ's Air Ribs
In 1975, the County Line was formed "by some Texans who loved Austin, loved its heritage and historical buildings, and loved BBQ." In 1990, County Line began shipping its by-then legendary barbecue (everything slow smoked and fully cooked) to all parts of the United States. In 2020, there's a goddamn pandemic on, and can you imagine what a welcome treat such a gift would be right now? Especially to any poor, benighted relatives who live beyond Texas or New Mexico, where who knows what manner of inferior 'cue might be sullying their own county lines? Suggestion: Have mercy on those aunts, those uncles, those brisket-bereft cousins of yours and send them some of this down-home deliciousness, STAT.
Casero Charcuterie Boards
There's an art to it, after all. To cooking in general, yes, but to curating and arranging charcuterie boards in particular, we insist. Because we've tried to replicate what the meat-and-cheese-and-delicacy savants at Casero do, but it just never quite ... succeeds. No one at our parties ever said "Wow" when seeing our paltry approximations of culinary style, not even in the Before Times, but "Wow" is the response Jackie Letelier and Emily Stengel elicit with each Casero charcuterie board they conjure. Maybe that's because, in addition to curating some of the goodies from artisans from across the country, Letelier makes all of the company's patés, mustards, and pickles by hand? *sigh* In any case – in any Casero – we'll be having these boards delivered to only our nearest and dearest this year (and maybe one for us, too).
Abbey Road's Jerky
Yes, the woman's name really is Abbey Road, and she's a longtime pitmaster for the Old Coupland Inn and Dance Hall, and originally we were going to shout about her Brothel Sauce Company barbecue sauce. We were, but we've got even more sauces covered below, as you can see. Also, we hadn't reckoned on the Brothel Sauce Co.'s jerky until we tried it. This jerky is the most like you want jerky to be: Not with the flavor sweetened up, not with the texture dumbed down, but simply good thick strips of spiced and dried meat that you can chew and savor, like you're some cowpuncher in a James Wade novel who deserves something this tasty after a hard day's work. But, hell, you could gift some of it to a code monkey or a trauma nurse (or a journalist) and they'd sure 'nuff be happy too.
Jesse Griffiths is all about that wild local life, and with one pound of Nilgai antelope breakfast sausage with pork, sage, spices, and Steen cane, or a bag of flour – Yecoro Rojo Wheat or all purpose from Barton Springs Mill – or a popcorn kit with organic kernels and a special house seasoning. Or, even better, why not make your gift a double whammy and purchase some delights from the shop and also contribute to the Kickstarter for Griffiths' much-anticipated sophomore project, The Hog Book slated for 2021.
Violet Crown Spirits
The newly released Texas Wildflower Trio pack features 200 mL-size bottles of this Bastrop spot's handcrafted locally sourced liqueurs (including our recently featured absinthe) that offer a taste of Texas terroir: Jasmine Liqueur, Elderflower Liqueur, and Midnight Marigold Bitter Cordial in one triple-threat collection. The package also includes suggested cocktail recipes from renowned Austin bartenders from Daijoubu Pop-up, The Roosevelt Room, Midnight Cowboy, and The Tigress Pub.
No, we don't care that Cinthya Romriell of Cinful Sweets is representing Austin in the new Food Network show Candy Land, OK? We're way beyond such shallow, celebrity-stanning activi – OK, no, you're right: We do care! Congrats, Cin! But what got Romriell there is also what's earned the Houston native a place in this roundup of gifts: quality. Expertise. Innovation. Flavor. Chocolate, especially – in the service of baking up some of the most scrumptious pastries you'll ever introduce your mouth to. "Our specialties are macarons, entremets, eclairs, bonbons, and more." Note: An entremet is a multilayered, mousse-based cake with complementary flavors and textural contrasts. And a gift that comes from Cinful Sweets is one that's sure to please.
Oh, the resonance! Because this brand of locally sourced fruit preserves is often part of what Casero (see previous page) supercharges their charcuterie boards with. But when you're cooking up the kind of sumptuous, award-winning spreads that South Austinite Stephanie McClenny is – orange rosemary jelly, strawberry balsamic black pepper preserves, orange chile de arbol marmalade, meyer lemon curd, and many more – everyone is going to want to get some for themselves. We especially recommend the Mini Jam Box: Three 2-oz. jars of seasonal preserves – and some of Confitura's fancy house-made salts and sugars – in a small kraft box with a sliding lid, tied with a red cord ribbon.
They launched themselves into the annals of craft beer history with their fan-favorite German pils, Pearl Snap, but this award-winning brewery's apparel line is quickly becoming as popular as that famous SoCo love mural with hats, T-shirts, merch, and now, naturally, face masks. Our favorite has to be the new print that pairs their imperial stout-based logo with what has become 2020's most resonating recommendation: Please Scream Inside Your Heart.
Southold Farm + Cellar
Out in Fredericksburg this winery, owned by husband and wife duo Regan and Carey Meador, just released a second rendition of their Mutual Admiration packs featuring a 4-bottle sampler pack of their low-intervention Texan wines in 375 mL bottles.
This Chinese restaurant has perfected the bottling techniques for both their house-brewed barrel-aged green chili Szechuan hot sauce and their special house soy sauce made with vegetable trimmings (gluten-free), and now they're available to add to any food lover's basket of goods. And while you're at it, go ahead and pick up an order of crab fried rice to fuel your gift-wrapping to-do list.
For the dog-lovers in your life, an annual membership to this North Austin neighborhood spot is a gift that keeps giving all year long. (For a smaller offering, opt for a gift card that can be used for food, drink, merchandise, day passes, and toward that big annual membership.) Make a reservation and let that four-legged baby run out the zoomies before enjoying a Good Dog cookie while you nosh on that spicy black bean burger.
Blow Candle Co.
Ok, so you definitely shouldn't eat this gift, but with natural scents based on delicious ingredients, you might want to. We couldn't help but include this Leander biz because not only are head candlemaker Monique's creations lovely, they pay it forward. Made eco-friendly with natural coconut wax, phthalate-free fragrances, and cotton braided wicks, Blow's candles (and wax melts and room sprays) smell like you've been baking for hours, like the Banana Nut Muffin, but there's plenty of other options like eucalyptus and mint. Even better, every purchase supports a nonprofit that empowers women, like this quarter's partner, The R.O.S.E. Project.