Holiday Gift Ideas for Foodies

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The warm glow of downtown shop windows, dressed for the holidays, and the fresh fallen snow helps fuel the spirit of the season. These little windows lure me in searching for the perfect gift for loved ones.

Hubby claims I am one of the hardest people to gift too. He refuses to believe me when I tell him the card means the most—the chosen words scribed inside, is the greatest gift. He knows this gesture counts just as much as the gift. (This doesn’t mean, complete it seconds before you stuff the card in an envelope and hand it me—especially when I can see you.)

Admittedly while it’s the thought that counts, he does get the gift giving part wrong more often than not. For example, one of the first gifts he ever bought me was a mini-mag-lite flashlight. My face must have given me away, cause when I opened it he quickly blurted out: “It’s pewter?” I don’t wear much jewelry, but a gal gets her hopes up when a carefully wrapped package is in a long thin black box. I was backpacking at the time, so his thought process was in line, and in truth, it was, and is what I needed. It’s these little gestures that keep me smiling year after year.

I know friends who work at it really hard, scouring the shelves, in search of the one thing that will bring a jolly sparkle to their partner’s eyes. I’m that half: I love this time of the year, and relish locating the perfect gift. Neither are into big overly priced items although in an effort to get it right hubby has on occasion thrown a lot of money at the gift-giving thing. I can always tell when he has had help from a well-meaning colleague or our teenage daughter.

Stick to the card, I tell him. But, for when he insists….

Here are my holiday picks for any culinary adventurous friends:

  1. Gift Certificate to any of my favorite restaurants. There should be no doubt that it will get used for long lunches and lazy dinners. If you need helpful suggestions – read my column.
  2. Vintage Cake Slice from P’Lovers Store – 123 Princess Street, Kingston
    Each uniquely designed with different sayings engraved into the pewter. I bought one for a friend it reads: Slice of Love.
  3. From the Farm Cooking School gift certificate – Prince Edward County
    Learn culinary techniques from Chef and Food Writer, Cynthia Peters in an old 1830’s farmhouse in Prince Edward County. To purchase a gift certificate and for more information visit www.fromthefarm.ca.
  4. Kingston Olive Oil Company– 62 Brock Street, Kingston
    I currently have five empty bottles (they recycle used bottles) on my countertop, of these delicious extra virgin olive oils. The store features hundreds of choice along with balsamic vinegars, salts, and spices. My go to is the Picual infused olive oil and Lavender balsamic vinegar.
  5. Salted Caper Berries, Pan Chancho – 123 Princess Street, Kingston
    One thing every foodie needs in their kitchen, but their are other great tasty finds to purchase like creamy brie cheese, breads and more.
  6. Trays of squares, tarts, and cookies – Cards Bakery – 304 Bagot Street, Kingston
    The gift of fresh baking (that someone else baked), icing on the cake! It takes loads of time off the already busy holiday schedule. Face it most foodies having been baking since Thanksgiving. This gift will always be welcomed, and devoured.
  7. Cookbook – Novel Idea – 156 Princess Street, Kingston
    Foodies never have too many cookbooks, even when they rarely use recipes. They get us cracking, stirring and brewing from street food, buying local, and simple beautifully written books with loads of scrumptious pictures. If you get stuck, pick up the Chez Piggy or Curry Original cookbooks.
  8. Cooke’s Fine Foods – 2395 Princess Street, Kingston
    Simply walking inside lights me up with its fresh smell of coffee. I love visiting for gifts any time of the year. Pretty much anything from their coffee to saffron, smoked paprika spices, gift baskets, and dark chocolate are a win.
  9. Limestone Creamery Organic Egg Nog – Tara Foods, Pan Chancho or visit the Limestone Organic Creamery, 3113 Sydenham Rd, Elginburg
    Limited to the season, grab as much as you can of this creamy treat. Fix your foodie a drink of eggnog dusted with nutmeg, cinnamon, and they’ll be yours forever.
  10. Wine Glasses – every foodie loves needlessly large wine glasses or funky twisted ones that never fall over for long conversations over the table. By year-end, one is always in need of a new set—loads of belly laughs, high fives, and tearful resolutions are in a glass of wine. Choose a local Prince Edward County Wine to pair with it, or grab a set of white and red glasses. (Yes, there are different kinds.)

If you purchase anything from four through to ten, give me a call, and I’d gladly use my mini-mag-lit flashlight to find my way to your house this holiday season.

If you have a restaurant recommendation or foodie biz suggestion email me at ladydinesalot@gmail.com or follow me on Facebook and Twitter or my blog LadydinesAlot.com.

Niche to Mainstream? Fourth Annual Local Food Conference

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EMC Heritage: Local food is a powerful source in our agri-food system, yet not all local food shoppers are buying the same. Kingston hosted the Fourth Annual Local Food Conference— where local food business owners, producers, distributors and those passionate about local food explored the topic of creating space in a crowded market or staying niche.

The two-day conference on November 24 and 25 presented by Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), in partnership with Kingston Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO), launched with a tour of local business. Attendees visited MacKinnon Brothers Brewery Company, Patchwork Gardens and Farm Boy, where a representative discussed ways of getting local products into the store.

What is local? Some describe anything within a 50 or 100-kilometre radius as local; others include anything grown in Ontario or made in Canada as local. What was clear was that foodies want what they want, and business owners you can’t afford to ignore them. Buying local is not a trend that is going to disappear.

“Local food gives people a sense of place,” said keynote speaker Steve Beauchesne, CEO of Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company, which began with beer making by Steve and his Dad. In a market place dominated by large companies, Beau’s grew from a staff of five, plus Mom (who would help with the books after her day job) to one hundred and twenty-five employees and four million litres of beer a year.

Are they mainstream? Sure are. Are they local? Absolutely.

“Whether it’s broccoli or beer, you are providing buyers with an experience,” said Beauchesne in his speech to over 200 attendees.

Be unique. Grow your business as big as you want. Food hubs and sharing ideas and distribution process are great ways to leverage your growth—as the master of your own destiny you can still remain niche, and yet become mainstream.

Whether your passion is hops growing, cheese, craft beer making, network resources were onsite and ready to assist. Greenbelt Foundation provided an overview of the latest developments in local food hubs, TD Bank discussed helpful solutions in choosing the right point of sale technology, and Foodland Ontario provided market intelligence to get to know your customers better.

The 2013 Usage and Attitude Survey profiles the Ontario main grocery shopper as an adult between the age of 24-54 years, 60% female and 40% male.

“87 percent are eating meals at home, and 42 percent are buying local,” said Kelly Ward, Supervisor of Brand Services for Foodland Ontario.

Customers want fresh, nutritional food; that’s a huge benefit to Ontario farmers, the economy and the environment. While seasonal challenges exist, consumers place the greatest importance on buying local, easy to accomplish with meat, eggs, dairy and baked goods, more difficult with fruits and vegetables.

Food habits have changed over time. There are different demographic trends on how shoppers buy, consume food and prepare food.

Generation X (30-45 years old) wants to feed their kids healthy food, but price still remains important. They want good products at a good price. They are interested in recipes and meal planning, often waiting for the flyers to come out for discounts.

Generation Y (20-30 years old), commonly referred to as the Millennial searches out intense flavors, generally choosing more socially responsible food choices. They want to know where their food comes from, and they want it clearly labeled. When they need to know how to make something they seek recipes from online searches rather than cookbooks..

Generation Z (19 and under), the “salad” generation, is even more food savvy than the tastemakers before them.

Those over 50 years of age are also socially responsible but often less so then their counterparts—buying and eating differently from each other, too. They are commonly referred to as the “sandwich” generation.

The key is to understand your customers, create a business plan and strategy that helps you gain market position. The Local Food Conference featured many industry leaders and community organizations helping local small businesses take their ideas from the kitchen to the wider market place.

Trissia Mellor, Ontario Agri-Food Venture Centre from Colborne, Ontario shared the project planning and development for their region’s 15,000 square-foot niche food processing facility that, when opened, will accommodate small batch processing, packaging and storage of foods.

Buy local, eat local—together we can make a difference. For more information and resources visit www.ontario.ca/omafra.