Today’s column is a list called “Give Cape Ann,” 12 local favorites that make wonderful holiday or hostess gifts. Tape this list on the refrigerator or leave it in your glove compartment; have it ready to review when you’ve got a half hour to get to the next party.
Green Devils from Alexandra’s Bread, 265 Main St., Gloucester. Luxuriantly filled with green olives and red pepper, this uniquely spicy loaf is at first startling and then amazingly delicious. One taste in the car on the way to the party might be trouble, as green devils are almost impossible to set down once pulled open. By one for yourself, too.
Nisu from Brother’s Brew, 27 Main St., Rockport. The gift of tradition, nisu, the cardamon-scented bread beloved by our local Finnish community, is both retro and local. Wrap it in a placemat from the Sarah Elizabeth Shop at Rockport’s Whistlestop Mall for the ultimate Cape Ann present.
Cobrancosa Robust Intensity Olive Oil and Dark Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar from Cape Ann Olive Oil, 57 Main St., Gloucester. There are rows of beautiful olive oils and vinegars to try in this user-friendly shop, but these two are my particular favorites. The olive oil is “olive-y,” which I like on a salad. The Dark Chocolate Balsamic is a wonderful surprise, simply a heavier stroke of the chocolate notes already present in a good balsamic vinegar.
Trupiano’s Sausage. Which was more important to Mike Ciaramitaro, the purchase of Trupiano’s grocery store over 20 years ago, or the recipe for the beloved sausage that came with it? The store is gone, but Mike is still answering the clamor for sausage, a staple on so many Gloucester holiday tables. The Cave, 44 Main St., and What’s Cookin’, 185 Washington St., both in Glouceter, sell this local charcuterie. Don’t forget to like Trupiano’s Sausage on Facebook!
Luxardo Maraschino Cherries from Lula’s Pantry, 5 Dock Square, Rockport For the cocktail connoisseur or the ice cream sundae purist, these are the real Maraschino cherries from the Italian family that invented this sweet punctuation in the early 19th century. Of course, Lula’s Pantry is chock-full of gifts destined for a well-stocked bar, pantry, table, and cookbook shelf.
Tuck’s Candy Canes. No candy canes are prettier than Tuck’s. Handmade in the window at 7 Dock Square, Rockport, these striped peppermint staffs are a beautiful creamy white with a matte finish, beautiful to look at and delicious to eat.
Turtle Alley Turtles. Our friends in France have access to Europe’s finest chocolates, but beg us for Turtle Alley’s. Need I say more? Turtle Alley, 42 Rogers St., Gloucester, ingredients and craft are perfect. A box of turtles from our local chocolate maker is truly a gift that earnestly declares, “Thanks,” or “Merci.” Also, its handcrafted non-pareils have brought new life to a candy that for years made me just ask of the stale flat round, “why?”
Roero Arneis DOCG Recit, 2011 and Langhe Rosso, Cino, 2010 from Savour Wine Shop, 76 Prospect St. Here are two Italian wines, a white and a red that you should feel confident, if not inspired and proud, to hand to your hosts at the door. The white is lusciously round with fruit, but well balanced and dry enough to match with an antipasto. The red has guts and shape, ready to accompany cheeses or meats, but soft enough to enjoy by itself. Savour’s signature is smart, well-balanced wines for a $20 budget; these two are great examples.
Lark St. Nicholas Cookies. Lark Fine Foods, our local commercial baking company, has succeeded in selling cookies that — no exaggeration — are the best cookies you didn’t bake yourself. Each year Lark, 8 Scotts Way in Essex, comes out with a Christmas cookie; this year it is a twee but ever so mod, green-striped box of a spicy buttery cookie with a crisp crumb, based on the Belgian Speculoos. Speculoos became world-reknowned when Delta Airlines passed out packages of the cookies, known there as Biscoff, as snacks, and travelers began hoarding them. Lark’s St. Nicholas cookies look, break, and taste like homemade, maybe even homemade in Belgium; Santa won’t know the difference with his milk. You can find them in many places, but Lula’s Pantry, Willowrest at 1 Holly St., Gloucester, and The Cave are certain.
Linquica, Chourico, San Miquel and Sao Jorge cheese from the Azores at The Cave. Hard to find, authentic Portuguese meats and cheeses make an interesting gift for the foodie who has everything or the Azorean friend who can’t get enough. We’re lucky that The Cave, along with its deep selection of cheeses and pates, includes these Portuguese staples. Tuck a loaf of Portuguese Sweet Bread from Virgilio’s into a basket for an unusual, authentically Cape Ann present; Virgilio’s, 29 Main St., Gloucester.
Sasquatch Smoked Fish. Locally produced, but sometimes fussy to find, these smoked mussels, salmon and whitefish are not always on the shelf when you want them to be, probably because admirers snatch them up quickly and often. Willowrest and The Cave both sell Sasquatch products. Everything about these smoked delicacies say “gourmet,” the perfect gift for your stuffy chef friends, but also for the family who relishes a breakfast of bagels and smoked fish.
Lanescove Fish Shack Cookies. To honor the renovation of the Lanescove Fish Shack, Mary Lou Nye of Lanesville has produced an authentic Lanesville gingerbread cookie shaped like a shack. Delicious, adorable, and authentically Lanesville, the cookies — order just one or dozens — make a wonderful gift from this far-northern Gloucester parish. To order, contact Nye at 978-282-4745.
There are many more possibilites: a basket of blueberry oat scones from The Plum Cove Grind, 1064 Washington St in Gloucester, a gift certificate for the famous Willowrest Blue-cheese-burger. I hear the malted milk balls at the Nichols Candy House, 1 Crafts Road, Gloucester, are pretty special, as is the seafood pate at Intershell, 54 Commercial St., Gloucester. Email me or leave suggestions in the comment box if you have more; there are never enough good gift ideas.
Gloucester resident Heather Atwood writes the Food for Thought weekly. Questions and comments may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her blog at HeatherAtwood.com.