AURORA – We hate to tell you this but it’s already late November. Do you know where your presents are?
We’re guessing you’ve been too busy (or simply procrastinating) about shopping for the important people on your holiday list.
First of all, don’t panic. The answer to your challenge is to forget about finding presents that show your good taste and get gifts that taste good.
Every giftee has one thing in common: They eat and drink. All you need to know is a little bit about their culinary cravings, whether it’s an inability to resist chocolate, a preference for rum, or a lifestyle committed to sustainability.
Next, forget about raising your American Express card limit to acquire treats unsustainably jetted thousands of kilometers from France and Italy. Great flavors are available right in your neighborhood thanks to the growing corps of food and drink artisans working in the Aurora metro area.
You can wrap up individual items or compose a gift basket that includes a gift card to a local independent eatery and a copy of Ruth Tobias’ “Food Lovers’ Guide to Denver and Boulder” or a cool Colorado recipe volume such as “Vesta Dipping Grill Cookbook: Beyond The Sauce.”
To help you make the season jolly, we present the following list of some of our very favorite food and drink items made in the metro area and the state of Colorado.
34 Degrees Rosemary Crispbread crackers
Details: How good can a cracker be? 34 Degrees produces a rosemary-infused crispbread cracker that’s thin, crisp and so intensely flavored it uplifts anything it’s served with such as soft-ripened cheeses, dark meat chicken, hummus and salami. The Denver-based food company also bakes other savory (sesame and black pepper) and sweet crackers including caramel and chocolate.
Where to find it: Available at Whole Foods, King Soopers, Costco, Wal-Mart and specialty stores
Windsor Dairy Bellevue Blue Cheese
Details: Every beautiful batch of this artisan cheese tastes a little bit different because this is a true farmstead product only available in December and January. Each gallon of grass-fed, raw, organic milk reflects what the Swiss cattle have been munching. The result is a pungent cheese that’s salty and spreadably creamy and ideal on salads, steaks and as part of a cheese and fruit plate. The dairy’s other delights include Glendevey (Gruyere-like), Buckhorn (Cheddar/ Jack), and Colona (Emmental-like).
Where to find it: At the dairy’s Farm Store, 6427 WCR 68½, Windsor; and year-round at the Denver Urban Homesteading market (Fridays and Saturdays); denverurbanhomesteading.com
Five Points Fermentation Curry Kraut
Details: We never thought sauerkraut could be addictive till we tasted this crunchy treat. The small Denver company combines locally sourced cabbage with black mustard seed, turmeric, cumin, fennel and coriander, and then ferments it. The crimson-hued, probiotic-rich pickled cabbage is tart and tangy but also profoundly spiced. It’s made to go with any meat dish. We like it atop Denver-made Continental white veal and pork bratwurst. A more traditional Soul Kraut is also available.
Where to find it: Marczyk Fine Foods and The Truffle in Denver
Information: 303-881-0977; denverferments.com
MM Local High Desert Hot Peppers
Details: Made with Colorado chilies organically grown at Grant Family Farms, these outstanding pickled peppers were born to top fajitas, bratwursts and salads. The company’s other products include Peaches and Honey, Garlic Dill Cucumber Pickles, Paonia Pear Sauce, and Heirloom Front Range Tomatoes with Basil.
Where to find it: Tony’s Markets, Whole Foods Markets, King Soopers and City Market, and Marczyk Fine Foods
Pain au chocolat from La Baguette de Normandy
Details: After 25 years of baking in Normandy, Michael Dupont brought his pastry skills to Parker and the town has never been the same. This is the place to secure your favorite gourmet pear almondine tart, flaky buttery pain au chocolat, a “personalized” loaf of bread, and exquisite cookies galore.
Where to find it: La Baguette de Normandy, 16524 Keystone Blvd., Parker
Information: labaguettedenormandy.com; 303-805-9130
Downslope Distilling Wine Barrel-aged Rum
Details: This is an exquisite rum whose alcoholic edges have been softened and smoothed by time spent in wine barrels at this Centennial-based distiller. Don’t waste it on sweet mixed drinks — just pour it simply over ice cubes. Downslope’s other artisan sips include Double Diamond Whiskey and Cane Vodka.
Where to find it: Local liquor stores
Information: 303-693-4300; downslopedistilling.com
Balistreri 2011 Colorado Sangiovese wine
Details: You can taste exactly how much winemaker John Balistreri loves his sangiovese in every sip of this complex, fruit-forward red. Your grape-centric friends will exclaim: “I didn’t know they made wine this good in Denver.” The winery’s other varietals include a 2009 Colorado Viognier, a 2010 Colorado Cabernet Sauvignon, and a 2008 Colorado Late Harvest Merlot.
Where to find it: Balistreri Vineyards Tasting Room, 1946 E. 66th Ave., Denver
Dram ”Hair of the Dog” Hangover Tonic
Details: The local artisan food movement even includes a Denver company founded by a bartender who makes bitter tinctures including one designed to help those suffering from too much of a good thing. You just add a few drops to hot tea, soda water, or — the company suggests “a recovery cocktail.” Ingredients include ginger, cassia bark, meadowsweet, blessed thistle, wormwood, and gentian.
Where to find it: Order at atthemeadow.com
Colorado Mountain Organic Apple Pie Jam
Details: The problem with this award-winning masterpiece of tartness, sweetness, and apple perfume is refraining from eating the whole jar with a spoon. Colorado Mountain Organic Apple Pie Jam is neither apple jelly nor apple pie filling but something perfectly in between with chunks of apple laced with clove and cinnamon. It’s perfect on vanilla bean gelato or on toast … if it makes it that far. Other jarred pleasures include Organic Apricot Pepper Jam, Organic Spiced Plum Jam and Spero Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Jelly.
Where to find it: Some local Natural Grocers at Vitamin Cottage stores; online at americasbestorganics.com.
Seth Ellis Chocolatier Coffee Truffles
Details: We like the fact that this Colorado chocolatier creates all-organic sweets without artificial ingredients that are peanut-, tree-nut- and gluten-free. We love the fact that these genuinely gorgeous treats are the most amazing chocolates we’ve ever tasted. To make our favorite coffee truffle, the shop brews Guatemalan coffee gently in heavy cream and uses it to make a ganache with dark, rich chocolate which is also used to coat the rectangles crowned with a single coffee bean. THIS is the best part of waking up.
Where to find it: Whole Foods Markets
• John Lehndorff is the editor of Colorado Table which appears in the Aurora Sentinel, Buckley Guardian and Life Science newspapers and web sites:aurorasentinel.com/colorado-table. Send pressing culinary queries to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Want more? “Like” the Nibbles Facebook page and listen to Radio Nibbles 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM, and kgnu.org).