By Amy L. Hatch
The holidays are a terrific excuse to indulge in some of our favorite—and usually verboten—foods.
Cookies, hot toddies, latkes, delicious appetizers that are the opposite of fat-free…these are just some of the victuals that make the winter holidays extra special. That’s why we love the idea of food gifts.
Who are food gifts good for? Just about everyone! The UPS guy, your boss, the babysitter, your newspaper carrier, the mailman, your child’s teacher, the swim coach…we could go on and on. Champaign-Urbana has a definite foodie scene, making it a great place to find yummy treats for all the people in your life to whom you want to show a little appreciation this holiday. Here are our Top Five!
1. Sun Singer Wine & Spirits. This wine bar and restaurant is much more than a place to get a drink and a meal. Sun Singer offers a huge and well-curated selection of wine, of course, and liquors. However, they also carry some really nice gift baskets that include treats from around the world. If you know someone who loves great cheese and meats, stop by their deli counter. And if you have a conisseur of spirits in your life, but you don’t know a Reisling from a gosling, ask one of the knowledgable staffers to help you choose the right bottle of booze.
2. The New Sweet Indulgence. So you love baked goods and you want to give someone a sugary treat, but you just don’t have the time to whip up a batch of chocolate crinkles or lemon cookies. This is the time for Sweet Indulgence, a bakery that just happens to be right next to Sun Singer (hello, birds and stones!). This sweet shop has fabulous sugar cookies, and they package them up beautifully for holiday giving. Stop by on your way to work, grab a box and hand them directly to your boss, do not pass Go. If you’re having a holiday party and want to wow your guests with dessert, this is the place to go, as well.
3. Art Mart. ArtMart is a gem in the heart of Urbana, situated inside Lincoln Square Mall. When I was preparing to move to Chambana, so many people told me that ArtMart should be one of my first stops, and they were right. This quirky shop carries all kinds of global foods and cookies, not to mention that they also have a great deli stocked with yummy cheeses. You can create a great gift basket of your own here, adding cook’s tools and other kitchen accessories to your gift of food. In case you didn’t know, ArtMart has a delightful toy shop, as well, so you can shop for the grown-ups and the kids at the same time.
4. Common Ground Food Coop. If you know someone who’s passionate about organic, healthy and local foods, you might want to make a trip to the all-new, remodeled and expanded Common Ground Food Coop in Urbana’s Lincoln Square Mall. The “new” version has been described as a “mini Whole Foods,” and it now offers so many more hard-to-find organic and healthful brands. Put together a basket of great eats, or think about a gift certificate.
5. Rick’s Bakery Cafe. This small, unobtrusive bakery in Urbana turns out top-notch goodies with an old-fashioned flair. The display case is home to cupcakes, sweet breads, regular breads, cakes and a whole lotta butter cookies. If you love Italian cookies, this is the place for you. And the prices are as amazing as the treats. Stop by and pick up a pound (or two) of butter cookies, put them in a pretty tin and, viola! A beautiful gift.
Bonus: Cream & Flutter (formerly known as Cakes on Walnut) in downtown Champaign is offering two pounds of its sugar cookie dough, ready to bake, one jar of vanilla bean frosting and four vials of custom-dyed sugar sprinkles for $30. Yes, that’s a little pricey. But if you factor in the cost of ingredients and your time, it’s not a terrible deal. If you really, really want that homemade taste but you just can’t spare an hour, or if you’re a klutz in the kitchen but really want to impress, this is an idea to consider. Much more tasty than the rolls of cookie dough you can buy in the supermarket cooler. If you want to order, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is your favorite local spot for great food gifts?