Local is better. Especially when it comes to food.
This holiday season skip the mall and get your gifts from one of Jacksonville’s locally-owned, locally-operated food businesses. Besides impressing your friends and family with the tastiest treats in town, you’ll contribute to the local economy and help support the unique places that make our city such a great place to live.
Inspired by the GoLo (Go Local) initiative launched by Riverside Avondale Preservation, Downtown Vision Inc, Springfield Restoration and Revitalization, and the San Marco Merchants Association, here are my top GoLo food picks for 2010:
1. Beer swag from Intuition Ale Works
So yeah… maybe I’m biased. But a gallon growler from Jacksonville’s newest craft brewery is a gift that anyone would love to receive. Present the glass growler with a gift certificate for a fill and an Intuition-branded T-shirt, hoodie, or sticker… or even better, give that special someone a year-long membership to the Intuition Ale Works Mug Club. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
2. Membership to the Veggie Bin
Another gift that keeps giving… a bin of fresh, local, sustainably-grown vegetables delivered to your door every week during the growing season. So far this year the Veggie Bin has delivered an awesome variety of produce and has kept me culinarily stimulated week after week. Expect lots of greens like kale and mustard greens in the autumn and winter, with optional add-ons like bushels of citrus or local honey.
3. Sustainable Springfield Cooking in Season classes
Wondering what to do with all of that local, seasonal produce? Sustainable Springfield has planned cooking classes for 2011 with some of the area’s best chefs. At the start of each season the Executive Chefs from ‘town, 29 South, Restaurant Orsay, and the First Coast Technical College’s Culinary Arts Program will teach participants about upcoming local produce and how to cook with it. Buy all four classes before the end of 2010 and get a big discount.
4. Bold Bean Coffee
We all know that Bold Bean Coffee’s small-batch, artisanal approach to roasting beans makes their coffee is the best in town. But Bold Bean Coffee also makes a stellar coffee rub and sells some branded swag like coffee cups and baseball caps. Go for the Community Connections Rise-n-Shine or St. John’s Riverkeeper Roast and your caffeine addiction will benefit a good cause.
5. Sweet Grass Dairy cheeses and Five Points Honey
This is the party season, so give a gift of local cheeses and honey to the host of your next holiday soiree. Grassroots Natural Market in Five Points sells Sweet Grass Dairy’s heavenly concoctions. My favorites are the Asher Bleu and the Green Hill camembert, but really you can’t go wrong with any of their cheeses.
Pop over to Five Points Coffee and Spice to pick up a jar of Five Points Honey. It’s crafted from an apiary right here in the neighborhood.
6. Datil peppers
Food artisans from Saint Augustine feature the locally-grown datil pepper in spice blends, jams, jellies, and even mustards. Search the endless rows of spices at The Spice and Tea Exchange for blends that incorporate the native pepper, like the Pirate’s Bite spice grinder or Spiced Cocoa Mix. (You can consult with Colleen, the friendly shopkeeper, if you’re pressed for time.)
Minorcan Datil Pepper Products sells a range of products made from the local pepper. Go for their chutneys, barbecue sauces, garlic-datil mayonnaise, or award-winning piquant Minorcan Datil Pepper Mustard. Dried whole datils make a great gift for food-lovers who enjoy experimenting in their own kitchens.
7. Seacow Confections
Besides his delicious artisan, hand-crafted sorbets, PJ from Seacow Confections sells candies and brittles and other holiday-appropriate treats from his bicycle-drawn cart. He’s usually parked outside of Intuition Ale Works on Friday and Saturday nights, but visit the Seacow Confections website to place a special order for goodies like chocolatey spiced nuts, candied citrus peel, or pepita brittle.
8. Jacksonville apron from the Cummer
You don’t see many Jacksonville-themed holiday items out there… making this apron from the Cummer's gift shop that much more special.
9. Homemade treats
Crafty in the kitchen? It’s citrus season in Northeast Florida, so take advantage of the abundance of satsumas and red navel oranges and can your own citrus marmalades and jams. Novices should head to the Jacksonville Canning Center for a primer.
If you’re REALLY crafty in the kitchen, whip up a batch of homemade sausages like these Thanksgiving-themed ones from my friend Jodi at Eat Jax. Hers contain turkey, pork belly, nuts, cranberries, and holiday spices, but be creative and come up with your own. Even better: order a pig share from DelKat Family Farm and use the fresh, all-natural local meat in your sausages. firstname.lastname@example.org
10. Baked goods from your favorite local bakery
Jacksonville is swarming with excellent bakeries, and most offer special baked goods around the holiday season. Bakery Moderne on Stockton in Riverside makes stellar cakes and pies, Let Them Eat Cake in Avondale whips up a mean almond croissant, and the new New Broadway Square in Five Points bakes up something different every day.
11. Swag and gift certificates from your favorite food spot
Most bars, restaurants, food vendors, and farmers markets have cool swag that make great holiday gifts. Gift certificates to your favorite locally-owned and operated restaurant are always welcome, and T-shirts are both stylish and a great way to help advertise your favorite spots.