When a full Chicago-themed Christmas present just isn’t enough, another world of smaller gift options remains available to this season’s holiday shoppers—the stocking stuffer. The wide universe of the stocking stuffer is populated with everything from the small knickknack to the lavish-but-pocket-sized souvenir. However, a favorite choice among the many stocking stuffer options is holiday-themed food (which, admittedly, is not a decidedly smaller universe). This year, instead of opting for the cliché breakable chocolate orange, miniature freeze-dried coffee, or peppermint bark, select a stocking stuffer from the many wonderful foods that are produced locally right here in Chicago. Here are some of the best choices for a tasty Chicago-themed stocking stuffer.
The smell of popcorn has to be one of the most intoxicating aromas of the holiday or any season, particularly when that popcorn heralds from the Chicago staple Garrett Popcorn Shop. While the Holiday Mix of white chocolate covered Caramel Crisp and Gingerbread Caramel Crisp or the many nutty variations of Caramel Crisp may beckon fans of this movie theater snack-turned-gourmet treat, the Garret Mix of Caramel Crisp and Cheese Corn will speak to true Chicagoans. A bag of Garret Mix (also known as Chicago Mix) will not go unappreciated in a Christmas stocking.
Although the sobering effect of strong black coffee has yet to be scientifically proven, Chicagoans know that a cup of dark, smooth coffee is a surefire way to recover from a night of Goose Island and 2am Clark Street Dogs. Metropolis Coffee Company provides some of the city’s best coffee shops with their small batch artisan roasted beans and sells roasted to order coffee directly to discerning caffeine addicts. While Chicagoans-about-town can visit the Metropolis Café on West Granville, holiday gift givers may prefer to bring the coffee directly to their friends’ stockings. Excellent Metropolis gift options include the typical single origin, decaf, and unroasted bean options, but a special Metropolis blend like the bold Redline Espresso or the spicy Hullabaloo Holiday Blend will certainly pack a more interesting punch. Perhaps this would be a gift to open on Christmas Eve, as families with young kids may need a pick me up to get through the early morning present opening.
Koval Distillery Liqueurs
Chicago’s first distillery since the mid-1800s, Koval Distillery opened in 2008 to produce organic whiskey, liqueurs, and specialty spirits. Each bottle embodies the distillery’s grain-to-bottle philosophy, a mindset that has made Koval one of the country’s leading small batch independent spirit manufacturers. A sleek bottle of Koval slipped into a loved one’s stocking is guaranteed to earn any gift-giver a big reaction. Fans of fine spirits will certainly enjoy Koval’s whiskeys, bourbons, and classic spirits like gin and vodka, but a bottle of Koval’s specialty liqueur or brandy is a more unique option. Liqueurs are available in such diverse flavors as orange blossom, coffee, ginger, or caraway, while brandy comes in apple, pear, and sunchoke flavors. If a bottle is too big to fit into a friend’s stocking, then a gift certificate for a tour, cocktail class, or whiskey workshop at the Koval Distillery would make an excellent stocking stuffer for any spirit snob.
Gift Card to Hoosier Mama Pie Company
Hoosier Mama Pie Company, located in downtown Chicago and Evanston, is an artisanal bakery that magically manages to capture the nostalgia and comfort of Donna Reed’s kitchen on a Wednesday night when her husband was working late and America’s favorite housewife had nothing better to do than bake a fleet of perfect pies. Every forkful of a Hoosier Mama diner-style pie is guaranteed to send a dessert fanatic into a spiritual rapture. However, even a miniature pie would not fare well stuffed inside a standard stocking, so a gift card to Chicago’s best pie bakery is a perfectly acceptable alternative. Recipients of a Hoosier Mama gift certificate can choose from classic options such as apple and banana cream pie or funkier alternatives such as Fat Elvis or s’more pie, or even go rogue and treat themselves to a breakfast of a Metropolis latte and a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit at the Evanston location.
A standard booth at the Chicago Green City Market and a staple at such local food purveyors as the Southport Grocery, Co-Op Sauce is a “great sauce for good.” What started as a fundraiser for Co-Op Image, a free arts and entrepreneurship organization for Chicago’s youth, Co-Op Sauce grew into a legitimate business with a café and retail location in Rodger’s Park. Not only does Co-Op use only farm-fresh ingredients, but it also continues to donate half of its profits to Co-Op Image and employ former program participants. Holiday gift-givers can choose among a wide array of barbecue sauces, hot sauces, salsas, pasta sauces, pickles, jams, spices, and drink mixes when selecting the perfect stocking stuffer for each person on their lists. Opt for the Greyhound Ghost for true spice fans (although maybe include a warning that this sauce is not for the faint of heart) or the Mole for adventurous diners.