With less than a week left till Christmas, it doesn’t matter if you are purchasing gifts for the naughty or the nice, your boss or your best friend, your next-door neighbor or your long-distance relative, it’s impossible to go wrong with an edible delight. There is no need to travel to the North Pole for these tasty treasures because even though most can be shipped, they are all also available right here in Sarasota.
Savor the flavor
Vom Fass, 365-2137
Liven up the hostess gift with a basket full of unique oils and vinegars ranging from tangerine extra virgin olive oil to grape with ginger and lemon balsamic vinegar. Main Street Vom Fass storeowners Robert and Debbie Kay are there to help with the selection of a pre-made basket, such as the Savor the Flavor basket. Think cranberry and apple vinegars, and orange, plum and pumpkin seed oils. Vom Fass also encourages customers to taste before they buy, and the store is happy to build you a custom gift basket. While there, be sure to check out the unique variety of wines and spirits, from a 41-year-old Armagnac (French brandy) to authentic absinthe. Gift basket prices range from $35 to $120 and up.
Pies take the cake
Der Dutchman, 955-8007
Although any of Der Dutchman’s fresh-made pies are worthy of a bow, this time of year the restaurant offers a seasonal strawberry pie sure to satisfy any sweet tooth. Or go with the restaurant’s signature custard pie, which uses a recipe by Nettie Chupp, a Der Dutchman baker of more than 20 years (she still makes the pie a few days a week). Pies are not the only tasty treat you’ll find at the Amish restaurant and bakery. During the holiday season, there’s a cookie platter filled with festive cookies, as well as fudge and candy, all made fresh. Cookie platters are available in four sizes, 1 to 5 pounds, and the prices range from $14.99 to $43.99. Cookies and pies are available daily and you can call and order ahead.
Morton’s Gourmet Market, 955-9856
For the grill master, our pick is a basket filled with everything a meat-lover needs to enjoy a gourmet steak dinner at home. The Beef Eater basket includes top-choice steaks, wine, Portobello mushrooms, asparagus, potatoes and the ingredients to make a Caesar salad. If you like the idea of this basket but aren't buying it for a red meat-eater, substitute the steak for fresh salmon or tuna. Order online or call to schedule a local delivery. Baskets can also be picked up in the store. Twenty-four-hour notice is required. Pricing ranges from $95 to $210. And if gifting something to the grazer, the hors d’oeuvres basket offers wine, pâté, cheese, crackers, olives and other gourmet goodies, and makes a great hostess gift. Morton’s also offers custom baskets.
Walt’s Fish Market and Restaurant, 921-4605
Stone crab season is short, lasting only from October to May, and so far this season has been especially plentiful. If you’re looking for a way to impress your friends and family in the much colder northern latitudes, ship them a box of fresh, locally caught stone crab claws. Walt’s Fish Market ships the claws in an insulated cooler overnight anywhere in the U.S., with accompanying mustard sauce. Available in medium, large, jumbo or colossal size, Walt’s charges market value, which fluctuates within a range of $19 to $45 per pound, plus shipping charges. And if you’d rather gift them locally, swing by the market and Walt’s will put them on ice for you. To ship the claws, call the market 24 hours in advance.
Gabriella Chocolates & Confections, 227-2253
Impress a friend with a gluten sensitivity by giving the gift of a gluten-free chocolate mint truffle cookie from Gabriella Chocolates & Confections. Chicago-born, classically trained pastry chef Nancy Byrne and her husband, Mike, own the business, where delights are made fresh daily. During the holidays, they also offer chocolate peppermint toffee, as well as their collection of liquor-based “spirited” truffles, which make the perfect ending to a holiday meal when paired with a cup of coffee or a glass of Champagne. Shop online or stop by and sample the sweet goodies.
Steeped in love
Local Coffee + Tea, 726-1660
Let comforting flavors reminiscent of some of Sarasota’s favorite locations fill the tea cups of loved ones with the Celebrating Sarasota Collection of Teas from Local Coffee + Tea. Owner Michael Duranko created the variety of loose tea blends to represent each local treasure, such as the Selby Select Rooibos, which includes vanilla — the only orchid that produces edible fruit. Buy each tea in the collection separately or receive a $6 discount when you purchase the collection gift, which includes four bags in the collection and a box of 100 tea sacks. The cost is $36. Order your teas online or pick them up at the Sarasota Farmers Market.
Sarasota Central Farmers Market
Make your honey gift purchase go to a good cause: Aloe Organics recently started selling three varieties of local, raw honey at the Central Sarasota Farmers Market on Saturdays. The bees are kept alongside the organic produce at Aloe Organics, which was created as a legacy of Allison Hall Nelson, who died from breast cancer at the age of 31. Through the Center for Building Hope, Aloe donates a portion of its seasonal, organic produce to families with children with cancer. Varieties of honey include saw palmetto, orange blossom and wildflower. Each 12-ounce jar sells for $10 and comes labeled with a hand-stamped tag.
Captain Curt’s Crab & Oyster Bar, 349-3885
In 2007, Captain Curt’s won the Great Chowder Cook-Off in Rhode Island with its 20-year-old chowder recipe. As a result of the victory and in response to its local popularity, the owners made the chowder available to everyone, year-round. It’s available in canned kits that can be picked up at the gift shop on Siesta, or take advantage of the free shipping when you go online to order 1- and 5-gallon kits ($47.96 to $95.92) during the holiday season.
Mixon’s Fruit Farm, 748-5829
What better way to brighten someone’s dreary winter day during the holiday season then to send them little box of sunshine filled with Sunshine State fruit? Mixon’s Fruit Farm’s 76-year-old citrus grove offers a box filled with oranges and pink grapefruit in season from October through May. The holiday citrus sampler ($72.95) also contains a half-pound of Mixon’s homemade cranberry orange fudge, made in small batches on-site to preserve its freshness, and a 10-ounce jar of orange marmalade.
All year leading up to Christmas, Sarasota resident Phoebe Bishop collects recipes for her homemade gift of packages of cookies and candy. Bishop calls her gfts an “economic and heartfelt ” way of gift giving.
For five years, Bishop and her husband, Steve, have logged hours preparing the cookies and candy to send to friends and relatives all over the world.
Phoebe’s Chocolate Cherry Almond Biscotti
adapted from Ellie Krieger’s recipe featured in Fine Cooking
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
2 large eggs
¼ olive oil
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup dried tart cherries, finely chopped
½ cup raw almonds, finely chopped
2 ounces of 60% to 70% dark chocolate, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, whisk flours, baking powder and salt.
In a separate large bowl, beat sugar, eggs, oil, zest, and vanilla until well combined.
Add flour mixture to large bowl a little bit at a time, forming a dough.
Fold in cherries, almonds and chocolate.
Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead.
Shape into a log about 10 inches long, 3 inches wide.
Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack and let cool 15 minutes.
With a serrated knife, cut the log across a diagonal into ½ inch-thick slices.
Arrange cut cookies on baking sheet, cut side down, and bake 5 to 10 minutes longer.
Transfer to wire rack to cool. If you want to take a step further, dip one side of biscotti in milk, dark or white chocolate.