Welcome to Follow Me Foodie’s Holiday Gift Guide!
Top 10 Edible Gift Ideas & “Must Haves” for the Global Foodie & Gourmet!
Oh gosh. This was a hard list to make. I had almost fifty products and I had to narrow it down. Ideally you will have heard of none of these, or maybe half at the most… I hope. I can’t ask you to please “Follow Me Foodie” if I have to follow you Foodie right?! But if you have had the pleasure of trying some of my top 10 edible global products then I hope you can relate to my love for them.
These chef favourites, specialty ingredients and world class products are fit for any foodie or gourmet who wants to try something new and very unique. I give you nothing but the best I could find. Ugh… I hate saying “the best” anything because it’s all relative to what I know, so I guess I’ll say these are some of the “Follow Me Foodie Favourites”. And if you know of even better, don’t hesitate to call me out. I have to know.
This list was actually quite challenging to come up with. It’s hard for me to recommend any ready-made product to a “foodie” or “gourmet” because chances are you know how to make it yourself. I’ll assume the majority of you are capable of making your own jam, baking your own cookies, and infusing your own salts, but sometimes someone else just does a better job. And my job is to find that “someone” who does do a better job. If I’m going to recommend something to you I want it to save you time and be worth your dime.
As much as I love and support local ingredients (made in BC or Canada), I also celebrate global ones. Travelling is an important part of my life and it’s the only way I can explore and learn about the flavours of another country. I am grateful to have met so many artisans and dedicated people and trying their unique products is a fulfilling reward. Some have been large companies, but they are still very capable of making premium products. The passion these global artisans have for what they do is as strong as our local artisans, so I’m sharing the love!
1. Asphodel Honey by Liccu Manias from Sardegna (Italy) – Flip your honey jars over and watch the bubbles rise. A high quality honey will have little water content and the bubbles will rise slowly. This award winning honey is from the hills of Sardinia, Italy which is considered to be “free of pollution”. The bees feast on Asphodel flowers producing a rich, fragrant and premium honey. Luigi Manias is called the “Number One honey authority in Italy” and is a leader in sustainability.
Price: A glass jar of 200 gr – 7.5 oz for $11
Where to buy: Amazon
2. Pok Pok Som Drinking Vinegars (Portland, USA) – This one is more recognizable on my list and easily available. It was created in 2005, but its popularity is seen in the recent years as shrub syrups continue to trend in the cocktail scene. You can dilute these Asian inspired drinking vinegars with soda water or use it to make cocktails. It can even be made into a salad dressing or used as a cooking vinegar, but it will require some experimenting. It’s handcrafted in Portland by James Beard Award winning chef Andy Rickermade. It is made with all natural flavorings, organic cane sugar and quality natural vinegars. I’ve tried almost all the flavours (apple, raspberry, tamarind etc.) which are incredible, but my personal favourite is the pineapple. Most of them are tart, but not sour or overly sweet. They are very well rounded and balanced with fruit and vegetable flavours.
3. Eugenio Brezzi Summer Black Italian Truffle Paste (Italy) – Here is a great alternative to using artificial and synthetic truffle oils. If you want a relatively affordable way to achieve truffle flavour that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, and next month’s rent, then try this truffle paste. It is made from Summer Black Italian truffles which are more available in the summer and that’s why it is considered to be priced rather reasonably. The only ingredients are Italian black truffles, peanut oil, and salt. It may seem pricey, but a little goes a long way and you melt it into sauces and soups.
4. Mustapha’s Organic Argan Oil (Morocco) – Popularly known as “Moroccan Oil” in North America, the rare argan oil is the equivalent of olive oil to Italians. Mustapha offers a top of the line Argan oil. It is a plant oil produced from kernels or nuts of the argan trees only grown in Southwestern Morocco. It has incredible health benefits and a light and nutty aroma and smooth roasted nut flavour that hits you from the start. It has a buttery mouth feel and a sharp finish and a little goes a long way. It is essential to the Berber cuisine and good for cooking (smoking point is 420 °F/216 ºC) or seasoning . It can be used for almost everything including meat, seafood, soups and dressings. A bonus is that it is also great as a beauty product for the skin and hair.
5. Taste #5 Umami Paste (Italy) – My friend Lisa introduced me to this and I love it. “Umami”. I always talk about it in this blog and in dishes I try. It’s that 5th flavour that is simply identified as “savoury” or “deliciousness” in Japanese (origin of the word). It is not just salty, sweet, sour, or bitter, but distinctly savoury. This paste is made from ingredients that are considered to carry umami: tomato, garlic, anchovy paste, black olives, balsamic vinegar, porcini mushrooms, parmesan cheese, olive oil and just a touch of sugar and salt. It’s very potent and a little goes a long way, just like the truffle paste I mentioned above. I could almost taste all of the listed ingredients and it was salty, sweet, a bit sour and of course very savoury and delicious!
6. Red Boat Fish Sauce (Phu Quoc island, Vietnam) – What salt is to the Western world is what fish sauce, squid sauce, and dried shrimps are to the Eastern world. I call this the “hipster fish sauce”… and that did not come out right at all. Anyway it is an all natural, first-press, “extra virgin” Vietnamese fish sauce. There are only two ingredients in this sauce: anchovies and salt and it’s free from preservatives and MSG. When I first heard about it I thought it was ridiculous to spend so much on something I could find for $3, but after trying it, I get it. It’s unlike any fish sauce I’ve tried before and it’s extremely potent, pure and freaking fantastic. It is the highest quality fish sauce I’ve tried to date.
7. Dried White Figs with almonds from Cilento by Santomiele (Italy) – Antonio Longo sundries these special variety rare white figs on his rooftop in Cilento in Campania, Italy. These figs have a dense white pulp that is extra sweet and more tender and fine seeded than the coarse Turkish, Greek or Calabrian figs. They’re filled with almonds, citrus peel, and raisins and soaked in rum and fig molasses. Finally they are gift wrapped in fig leaves. These are precious babies in a blanket!
8. Yakami Orchard Yuzu Juice (Japan) – Citrus. You use it in cooking all the time. Lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit, but how about all of those flavours and tangerine all in one bottle? It is likely you’ve come across yuzu even outside of Japanese cuisine and it is an incredible ingredient and flavour. It’s less sharp them lemon or lime juice and more fragrant. This is 100% yuzu juice and it is not like the other yuzu you can find at the supermarkets. This 4th generation family grows arguably the best yuzu in the world and they make their products in small batches. It has a very pure, natural and clean flavour with no salt and it captures all the aromatics in the yuzu fruit. This can be used for cocktails, vinaigrettes, sauces, stir fries, desserts and ceviche. Use it in place of lemon/lime juice. Yakami Orchard also offers a premium white shoyu (soy sauce).
9. El Sison Spanish Squid Ink (Spain) – Squid ink in general is really hard to source where I am and the squid is often sold frozen without their ink sacs. In North America it is common to discard the ink sac, but it is a staple ingredient in Spanish and Italian cooking, especially in Venice. It is a wonderful ingredient and the flavour is salty like the sea and while it is distinct, it is not aggressive or offensive. A little goes a long way (just like every product I’ve mentioned here – makes sense if you look at the price too) and you can dilute it and use it for soups, sauces and popular dishes like Arròs Negre (black squid ink paella) and Risotto al Nero Di Seppia (squid ink risotto).
10. Heilala Vanilla Paste (New Zealand) – I know! What?! Vanilla from New Zealand?! Who buys vanilla from New Zealand? Well some of the master bakers and award winning pastry chefs are all over this in New Zealand, Australia and parts of Asia; and even Executive Pastry Chef Gina DePalma from Babbo Restaurant and Enoteca in New York City is using it. It just entered the US market last year (and not even all of its products are available in the US yet), so I’m watching it closely. People call it an extraordinary vanilla that is unlike other vanilla beans in flavour and it is making me so damn curious. It is all natural and organic and the family of producers are committed to sustainability.
11. Fat Toad Farm Salted Bourbon Goat’s Milk Caramel Sauce (Vermont, USA) – Okay so I’m cheating again putting 11 gift ideas down instead of my said 10, but I couldn’t leave this out. I haven’t tried this and I’m desperate to. Salted caramel is nothing new, bourbon and caramel is nothing new, and salted Bourbon caramel is nothing new… but all of the above and goat’s milk? That’s new to me! It is handcrafted with fresh milk from the Fat Toad Farm’s own herd of Alpine dairy goats. The caramel sauce is like the traditional Mexican confection known as cajeta and it is infused with Kentucky Straight Bourbon and organic sea salt. This is gluten free.