Gifts for the foodie

Box of pain: “The Hot Box” from BRFV is filled with an assortment of fiery hot sauces, including a ghost chili hot sauce, which any true heat lover knows is the real deal. Photo by Jennifer Callahan Photography

Has your little foodie been particularly nice this year? Do you have family members who squeal over gifts of locally made jams and pickles? Asheville's gotten on the gift train in a very real way this year, making it easier for you to have a very local holiday.

Deck the halls with bowls of jelly

Blue Ridge Food Ventures rings in the season with a jam-packed (pun intended) holiday market on Wednesday, Dec. 7. Hours for the market are limited, so plan accordingly. Shop from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. and again at 4 until 7 p.m. at 1461 Sand Hill Road on the A-B Tech Enka campus. 

The market will feature edible items, all handmade in the kitchens of Blue Ridge Food Ventures or from companies that got started there. Buy individual products a la carte, or check out BRFV's pre-packaged gift boxes (more about that below).

Among the gift-sized edibles, you'll find Jack’s Nut Butter, a raw and sprouted product made with coconut oil, ghee nuts and local honey. Bamboo Ladies will also feature crisp bamboo pickles and Imladris Farms will be there with locally grown-berry jams and apple butter. UliMana will offer raw, organic chocolates, Lusty Monk will have its so-spicy-they're-therapeutic mustards and Dolci di Maria will showcase Italian gluten-free desserts. Also on the menu: GalloLea pizza kits, Smokin’ J’s hot sauces (made with locally grown chillies) and Pig Polish barbecue sauce.

The prepackaged holiday gift boxes are a brilliant representation of Asheville's food scene. They're ready to wrap and already filled with an assortment of handcrafted gourmet items from local food entrepreneurs, priced from $34.99 to $49.99. For a super-deluxe food package, we suggest calling your loved one's favorite independent restaurant and requesting a gift certificate to add to the box later.

The basic gift box, “Fine Flavors from Blue Ridge Food Ventures,” is stuffed with local goods like Lusty Monk mustards and Imladris Farm jams. We particularly like the "Hot Box,” which features locally made fiery hot sauces, salsas, a garlicky seasoning blend and chocolate truffles with a hint of cayenne pepper.

The “Sweet ’n’ Spicy Box” includes Cajun seasonings, Fire From the Mountain salsa, plus chocolate truffles and blueberry jam to balance out the heat. For those who like it mellow, there’s the aptly named “Not Hot Box,” with fruit jam, a tropical nut butter, and a whole wheat pizza kit. Gluten-free products are also available.

Can't make it to the holiday market? Orders for gift boxes can be shipped to anywhere in the U.S. and can also be placed online at http://www.blueridgefoodventures.org or by calling 348-0130.

Think outside the gift box

Searching for a meaningful gift for a food lover that loves to putter in the kitchen? Try the gift of a CSA subscription, and the giftee will thank you all year. That's because they'll get to open their gift more than once — every week during the entire growing season, to be exact. What’s a CSA? A Community Supported Agriculture customer gets a “subscription” to a farm, purchasing a year's harvest of the farm's goods. Each week, your loved one will receive a share of what's in-season. They’ll get a surprise of farm-fresh produce, and sometimes meat, dairy or flowers.

CSAs are great for both the farmer, who knows he or she will have customers' support throughout the season, and the members, who get a direct connection to their farm. CSA members see the effect of the season and the weather on the farm they pick, get to try a wide variety of vegetables and receive a regular supply of the freshest food.

What’s more, you’ll get to support area farmers and our local economy. With the exception of Winter Sun Farms, subscriptions start next spring. Find a full list of CSAs in our immediate region courtesy of Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project at http://avl.mx/proq.

Speaking of Winter Sun Farms, do you have a busy home-cook on your hands? This CSA’s mebers receive local fruits and vegetables with no washing, chopping, slicing, dicing, roasting or pureeing necessary. That’s because BRFV staff take the fresh produce in the summer and gently prep, package and freeze it for later “harvest” for winter dishes.

Gift recipients can enjoy blueberries, raspberries and blackberries in their oatmeal, in a smoothie or baked into a pie. Vegetables such as beans, squash and peppers are perfect for soups and stews. All that's necessary is the addition of a few ingredients and, in short order, dinner is ready.

Pickups start Wednesday, Dec. 7, at the Blue Ridge Food Ventures Holiday Market and take place monthly through March. The total cost for a share in Winter Sun Farms is $125 for four monthly pickups at Blue Ridge Food Ventures on the A-B Tech Enka campus, or $135 for pickups in downtown Asheville at the Fresh Quarter in the Grove Arcade, Black Mountain at the Merry Wine Market or Flat Rock at Hand-in-Hand Gallery.

For information on Winter Sun Farms, including how to sign up, a list of the program’s local farm partners and recipes using the produce, visit http://www.wintersunfarmsnc.com.

Market-fresh gift ideas

The Montford Farmers Market (in the parking lot of the Asheville Chamber of Commerce) is the site of this year’s Ninth Annual Holiday Bazaar, Dec. 3, 10, and 17 from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Expect local dancers, a capella singers and plenty of gifts and holiday decorations to choose from. You’ll find breads, savory and sweet treats, honey, jellies, jams, molasses, cheese, meats and Christmas trees and wreaths. You’ll also find potted, forced bulbs, ready to bloom indoors in winter, soaps and beauty products, pottery, clothing and other items handmade by regional artisans.

Other tailgate markets are getting into the holiday spirit. For a list of what’s open, visit ASAP’s new site, http://fromhere.org.

*Blue Ridge Food Ventures is an initiative of AdvantageWest, a nonprofit, public-private economic development partnership serving the 23 westernmost counties of North Carolina. Other job-creation programs include advanced manufacturing, entrepreneurial development, the green economy and the WNC Film Commission. For more information, visit http://www.advantagewest.com.

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