Tuesday, November 19, 2013

2013 Dallas Foodie Gift Ideas

For the Dallas foodie on your gift list, I present my favorite locally-made food products in 2013. Any one of these gifts could stand on it's own (if you're looking for a cheap gift), or you could create a Dallas foodie gift basket by combining several of these items. It feels good to give people unique gifts they might actually enjoy, and you can feel extra good knowing you're supporting local small businesses.

Dude, Sweet Chocolate – Cocoa & Zeffirs

After evaluating all the hot chocolates in Dallas, I say the best hot chocolate in Dallas is served at Dude, Sweet. Thankfully, it is also available in a powder mix you can make at home. This is by far the best hot cocoa powder mix I've ever found. It is actually closer to what some people would call "drinking chocolate", which has a consistency of melted chocolate rather than milk plus chocolate.

Last year I bought this container of "Cocoa & Zeffirs" and learned it contains Dude, Sweet's own blend of Valrhona cocoa powder and solid chocolate chunks, plus a bag of housemade fresh marshmallows (for which the Russian word is "zeffirs"). The cocoa powder flavors the milk while the solid chocolate chunks melt in, giving it that thicker, melted chocolate consistency. Then the marshmallows melt on top to create a creamy froth. It's so good!

They also have a new version this year, named "Drinking Chocolate", which was explained to me as the same cocoa mix without the bag of marshmallows. Dude, Sweet's chocolates and sauces are great gifts too, but chocolates disappear quickly while a can of cocoa mix could last all winter— assuming your gift recipient can resist the temptation to drink it every day! The marshmallows, however, will only stay fresh for a few weeks. If your foodie gift recipient has been drinking Hershey's cocoa, save them with this gift.

Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters – Coffee Beans

Photo by Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters. Edited by Dallas Foodie.

If your Dallas foodie friend is a coffee lover, they will probably appreciate coffee beans from Dallas' biggest local coffee roaster, Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters. I'm not a coffee drinker myself, but my coffee sources seem to appreciate these beans. You can taste Oak Cliff Coffee on several local restaurant menus. If your foodie friend is also a JFK conspiracy fan, consider their limited edition tin set named "The Conspiracy Theory"— you can't coffee more "Dallas" than that! These beans are available at Central Market, Whole Foods, and many independent coffee shops. (O.C.C.R. does not have their own storefront.) See the full list of store locations on their website.

Bread Winners – Henry's Hot Sauce

The first time I ever liked a Bloody Mary, it was made with Bread Winners' Henry's Hot Sauce. I'm not a big fan of hot sauce or Bloody Marys, so I didn't pay this product too much attention until a later visit when this sauce came doused on my chicken and waffles. I was initially a bit upset about this, but it had such a good flavor I'm glad the hot sauce was included.

Simply put, this is a hot sauce that has a lot of flavor; it isn't simply heat in a bottle. It doesn't have a strong vinegar or a tomato flavor; it's just balanced so it compliments a wide variety of foods without overpowering them. I've enjoyed it on chicken, waffles, eggs, and Bloody Marys. I have a low heat tolerance and a foodie friend with a high heat tolerance tried it with me, and we agreed this has a mild heat that didn't leave us reaching for a glass of water. It is only available in this one heat level and is sold at their restaurants for $5.99.

Texas Honeybee Guild – Zip Code Honey

Photo by @sportyafros. Edited by Dallas Foodie.

I've been served this honey on several cheese boards in Dallas restaurants, and it always strikes me as so much better tasting than the bottled generic stuff from the grocery store. Bees are an important part of our ecosystem because a third of the food we eat is pollinated by honeybees, so it's great to support the people who take care of our bee population. Eating local honey may also help build up pollen tolerance and reduce allergies if your gift recipient was not born in this area. If your foodie recipient loves artisan cheese, or puts honey on biscuits or in tea, they should love this gift. You'll find it in many local independent grocers, of which a complete list is on their website.

D – "The Cookbook" 

If your foodie friend likes to cook at home, a cookbook of 90 recipes from Dallas' best chefs is an obvious gift winner. Plus, a portion of the proceeds benefit Cafe Momentum. Click here to order the cookbook online.

If you need to take food to a party, the gift ideas below also double as crowd-pleasing party food.

Kate Weiser Chocolates

This is not just a box of chocolates, these are miniature works of art with flavor gems hidden inside! Kate Wesier's chocolate bonbons are as tasty as they are stunningly beautiful. Her flavors are so unique and vibrant it's hard to believe you're not eating a slice of key lime pie, for example. Kate is also pioneering two techniques I've never seen before: the chocolate fuzz texture (seen on the green chocolate, top left) and crystalized fresh herbs that appear to break out of the chocolate shell (see the green mint, bottom left).

I recently sampled almost all of the chocolatiers in DFW at the Dallas Chocolate Conference in October, and Kate's chocolates were both the all-around best-looking and most delicious. Her first storefront will be opening around the end of November in Trinity Groves, so until then, I believe only bulk orders and catering are available. I have, however, spotted her 4-packs of bonbons for sale on the counter at Ascension Coffee.

Scardello Cheese

Scardello supplies the cheeses for The Standard Pour's cheese board.

Cheese-loving foodies who don't already know Scardello exists will be elated to find out about it, and ones who do know of it almost certainly won't scoff at a cheese gift from here. Pair Scardello with the above-mentioend Zip Code Honey and Kate Weiser Chocolates, and you've got an amazing Dallas foodie gift pack.

Scardello supplies cheeses to many restaurant cheese boards in Dallas, and one reason why is because their cheesemongers are knowledgable enough to help you put together a great combo. I highly recommend their Dulce de Bourgogne, seen in the photo on the two right corners of the board. It's a super creamy cow's milk cheese that even my non-foodie friends love.

Emporium Pies

Every time I post a photo of any Emporium Pies, people hit the Like button en masse and can't seem to comment enough good things about how amazing their pies taste. All of their pies are so delicious that picking a best flavor simply depends on what you're in the mood for. My favorites are the chocolate silk with pretzel crust, plain buttermilk, caramel butterscotch pudding with brown sugar meringue (pictured above), and apple cinnamon streusel. Each bite makes me think this pie is what people mean when they say "tastes like grandma used to make", even though my grandma didn't really make pies.

You can pre-order whole pies or buy one slice at the counter. Single slices to-go come in a cute, wooden berry basket tied up with string—no gift wrap needed. Note this is a foodie gift that doesn't travel well and should be consumed in 1-2 days, but I'm sure no one will need coerced to eat this pie.

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