When I was a kid in the 1980s, my holiday shopping consisted of being dropped off at an abandoned flagship store in the local mall. Inside, a few local businesses had erected a plywood and garland “children’s holiday market” where local youth were effectively segregated from their allowances and babysitting money.
But I was never able to find the right gift among the prepackaged choices, most of which contained garish ties and bottles of perfume to strip the nostrils. I would walk away, exasperated, and end up buying everyone on my list something from Hickory Farms (where I could also devour free samples while I was shopping). Summer sausage for my mom, wax-coated cheese for my dad and a handful of strawberry-filled hard candies for my sister. Unexpectedly, my giveaways were a hit, and since then I have maintained the tradition of sharing edible gifts whenever possible.
This year my intention is to share the tastes of Maine with my family and friends around the world. In 2021, it’s an easier task than ever, especially with the growing popularity of easy-to-navigate mail order aggregators like Goldbelly as well as inexpensive e-commerce technology that allows small independent producers to ship their goodies. almost anywhere.
Here are my ten local favorites for the special and non-local recipients on your list.
Maine Fresh Lobster Pie Kit with Ramekins by The Kennebunk Inn (2 pies plus 2 Le Creuset ramekins, $ 149), Goldbelly.com
Academe restaurant co-owners Brian and Shanna O’Hea won the marketing lottery in February 2013, when editor-in-chief Gayle King (yes, that Gayle) selected their lobster pie topped with puff pastry as a favorite in her ” World According to Gayle “column. Not to be outdone, Oprah Winfrey herself followed suit in October, featuring the couple’s lobster pizza drizzled with truffle oil as one of her selling picks by. end-of-year correspondence in the magazine “O”.
I can take or leave (mostly leave) truffle oil, but I’m with Gayle on this one: O’Heas’ lobster pies are a deconstructed delight, with each square of puff pastry designed to be cooked and perched on each generous serving. Think of them as individually sized jars of creamy lobster stew served with a buttery cracker. And while they’re definitely on the pricey side of my gift list, these pies in the pot come with decidedly premium Le Creuset stoneware ramekins that will remind your recipient (and your generosity) every time they bake a creme brulee.
Ragged Coast Chocolates Pear and Champagne Truffles in Westbrook (pack of 4 for $ 15), raggedcoastchocolates.com
Since Kate and Steve Shaffer’s small chocolate business moved from Isle au Haut to Westbrook six years ago, their business has grown from a quaint cafe to a quiet powerhouse. Formerly known as Black Dinah Chocolatiers, the company has expanded its cocoa-coated footprint so much that a friend of mine from England recently emailed me asking for a box of their chocolates on my next visit.
With international travel still uncertain, I plan to send her a packet of four limited edition Kate Shaffer winter truffles: spheres of milk chocolate ganache infused with local pears coated in sour, single-origin dark chocolate. soft and lively. Made to look like the fruits that perfume them, these truffles are almost too pretty to eat – the emphasis is on the “almost”.
Belly Dancer Oysters from Mook Sea Farm in Damariscotta ($ 49 for 30 or $ 79 for 50), Goldbelly.com
Spend an hour in Maine in the summer, and you’ll spot at least one tourist walking around with a cardboard stand stamped with the emblem of a bright red crustacean. These days, transporting live lobsters across state borders has become a snap. Have you ever tried it with oysters? Bill Mook a.
His Mook’s Sea Farm is one of the state’s largest oyster producers, whose conservation-conscious aquaculture company has introduced the country to âMookie Bluesâ and âMoondancersâ through partners wholesalers.
It was only a matter of time before they started to market their shellfish en masse. If you’re shopping for gifts for someone who loves an oyster with a sweet, tapered finish, Mook’s Belly Dancers are a great choice. And at over four dozen Goldbelly-exclusive oysters for $ 80 and free delivery anywhere in New England, this holiday gift is a real bargain. You might even have enough money to buy a fancy scaling knifeâ¦ or a second can of oysters for yourself.
Evan’s Rockin ‘Hot Sauce from Portland ($ 8 / bottle), evansrockins.com
Do you know what is delicious about oysters? Something spicy. Even better if it’s locally sourced, like Evan’s Rockin ‘Hot Sauce from founder / saucemeister Evan Smith’s Pleasure Hill Provisions. When not playing saxophone with Taylor Swift or recording music with producer Jack Antonoff (Bleachers, Lorde, Lana Del Ray), Smith is in his commercial kitchen inside the Fork Food Lab in Portland. .
There he makes his company’s only product starting with the usual hot sauce suspects: vinegar, Fresno and habaÃ±ero peppers, garlic and ginger. But here’s an unexpected key change – instead of tomatoes or sugar, Smith adds bananas for sweetness. It’s not as strange as you might think. The salty-sweet Filipino ketchup does the same, relying on bananas rather than tomatoes for the majority of its sugar content. The substitution leaves no trace of banana aromas or flavors, but it sweetens the spice beautifully, which was Smith’s goal: “I’m not trying to reserve a spot on ‘Hot Ones’ or win. prizes for the most choppy tears, “he told me. âI looked at the best brands of hot sauce and realized something was missing. Ripe bananas are natural and keep the sauce from getting overwhelming.
Vegan Spicy ‘Nog Whoopie Pies pies made by Baristas + Bites in Portland ($ 12.69 pack) Goldbelly.com
At a party several years ago, I encountered a vegan guest navigating the hidden dangers lurking on our host’s table. What did she miss the most, I wondered? Spiral-cut ham? Slices of sharp Stilton? “Oh, that’s easy: eggnog,” she told me, taking a deep breath as I dipped a ladle into a punch bowl of nutmeg sprinkled with nutmeg.
My hunch is that she would have loved the spicy whoopies at Barista + Bites. Shaped less like flying saucers and more hearts, these cream-filled cupcakes rely on coconut and soy milks for richness and an extra dose of cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg for their nostalgic tingle. A dozen of these whoopies won’t last after New Years Eve.
Maine’s Own Treats Blueberry Jam from Trenton ($ 4 for a 10 oz jar) shop.mainesowntreats.com
I’ll settle for buying a few jars of blueberry jam from the gift shop at The Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park. After a languid July afternoon snacking and admiring the mountainous scenery of Mount Desert Island, I needed a souvenir. Then a few weeks ago I realized that the familiar looking canned goods I kept seeing advertised online from Maine’s Own Treats were actually the same “official wild blueberry jam from the park gift shops. National Acadia, including the Jordan Pond House, âaccording to the Trenton Company’s website. Each jar contains over two dry pints of locally harvested dwarf fruit. Popovers, Tea and Bubble Views sold separately.
Maine Wild Blueberry Pie from Two Fat Cats Bakery in Portland ($ 59) goldbelly.com
Speaking of wild blueberries, here’s a classic that travels well: a 9-inch sugar-dusted pie from Two Fat Cats Bakery. Along with the tangy and crisp berries in a buttery shortening crust, Owner Stacy Begin’s recipe incorporates notes of warm spices and lemon juice to balance out the sweetness of the pie. If the pie is not a gift on its own, I like to associate it with a Deer Isle’s 44 North Coffee 3-Month Roast Subscription ($ 99 for two 12 oz bags each month) 44northcoffee.com.
Crunchy Peppermint Passion Chocolate Yule Log in Portland ($ 22 small / $ 48 large) chocolatspassion.com
My favorite French holiday tradition is the BÃ»che de NoÃ«l (BÃ»che de NoÃ«l), a rolled and cream-filled chocolate sponge cake decorated to resemble a tree branch. One of the downsides of classic Christmas is that it doesn’t store well. Eat the whole cake the first night or wake up to a runny topping and a stale sponge. A more stable option is the compact chocolate-based version of Chocolats Passion. I am particularly fond of the small 72% dark chocolate log topped with a crunchy and creamy peppermint ganache and embellished with cheerful speckles of pure gestural abstraction.
Giant Chocolate Hunting Boot at Wilbur’s of Maine Chocolate Confections in Freeport ($ 39 for a 1 Â½ lb chocolate) goldbelly.com
If you find expertly rigged chocolates too impressionistic, Wilbur’s of Maine will help you with a more impactful visual symbol of life in Maine. A miniature sculpture (if you can call any 18-ounce confectionery ‘miniature’), this novelty in dark and white chocolate is shaped and hand painted to resemble the famous LL Bean boot. Who, you might be wondering, would want a huge block of solid chocolate in the shape of a shoe? If guests at a recent dinner party I attended are any indication, the answer is everyone with a sweet tooth and an Instagram account.
Andrew Ross has written on fine dining in New York and the UK. He and his work have been featured on Martha Stewart Living Radio and in the New York Times. He recently received five Critics’ Awards from the Maine Press Association. Contact him at: [emailÂ protected]
Green Plate Special: What to do with all the brown paper bags that you accumulated at the height of the pandemic?