Travel the world through tastebuds this holiday season!
We are all craving a sensory experience as 2020 comes to a close. Something that helps us feel alive and joyful in the midst of lockdowns and virtual ... well, everything.
Consumables are perfect gifts this year. Food and drink, especially good food and drink, not only encourage us to slow down and savor a moment, but also give us a sensory experience through our tastebuds, our noses, and our eyes. It has been a house-bound year, and “virtual” travel isn’t cutting it. I’m all for a sensory experience that can remind my family or friends that the freedom to travel will return soon, and for now we can still taste some of the world's best foods without breaking lockdown.
This Christmas, our family is turning our eyes (and stomachs) to these fabulous gourmet gifts that transport us around the world through our tastebuds. An added bonus is that all of the below recommendations can be shipped to us, or directly to our gift recipients. Such a convenient way to give a unique sensory gift for the holidays.
This Christmas, our family is turning our eyes (and stomachs) to these fabulous gourmet gifts that transport us around the world through our tastebuds.
We’ll all get back on the road (and in the air) someday soon, but for now, let’s gobble up all the fine foods the globe has to offer, delivered right to our doorsteps!
What does the best chocolate in the world taste like? Make this holiday season one to remember with authentic French chocolate gifts from Chef Pascal Caffet, World Champion Chocolatier. This holiday season, zChocolat is offering DOUBLE the chocolate on all orders!!!! (So grab a gift for yourself too!)
Raspberry ganache, passion fruit caramel in milk chocolate, Provencal lavender, Italian hazelnut praline, violet-infused dark chocolate, Madagascar vanilla-bourbon ganache …. Oh my! These perfectly-uniform, melt-in-your-mouth delights are a gift from the gourmet gods. You can even go all out and have your chocolates coated in 24-Karat gold (….an idea I’ve never understood, but hey, to each his own!). I am thrilled to have discovered they even have a vegan collection!
Valencia almonds sourced from Spain, hazelnuts from Piedmont, Italy, fruits picked in the Provence countryside, vanilla from Madagascar, coffee beans from Kenya, and cocoa ethically sourced from West Africa and Venezuela … this truly is a world tour in a chocolate box.
Our adopted son’s maternal grandfather, whom we loved dearly, used to trek to British Columbia, year after year, to fish the beautiful waters. To hear him talk about his experiences, and watch his eyes light up as he remembered fondly, we couldn’t help but be tempted to go ourselves! Alas, we have yet to go, but in the meantime I discovered that it is possible to enjoy fresh, wild salmon from the Pacific Northwest, anywhere in the country, through Vital Choice. Considered the perfect food source by some, wild salmon is nutritionally superior to farmed salmon, and is free of antibiotics, pesticides, and GMO feeds. And the taste … oh my, the taste.
Vital Choice is a family-owned business in Bellingham, Washington. They have been ethically fishing the Alaskan and Northwest waters for years, bringing excellent taste and nutrition to their customers. But salmon isn’t all they do -- you can choose from tuna, whitefish, prawns, scallops, and other wild gifts from the sea. Give a monthly seafood gift box, or choose from their array of one-time holiday gifts!
Hale Groves opened their first roadside fruit stand back in 1947, and now ship their fresh citrus boxes to their fans all over the country. The gifting of citrus fruits at Christmas is a tradition started in Europe in the 19th century, when citrus shipped from places like Valencia, Spain and Ivrea, Italy were an indulgent splurge for families of modest means. Children all over the continent would squeal in excitement to find an orange in their stockings. (Simpler times, eh?)
The treat may seem a bit lost on our modern minds, but nothing can beat that taste and texture of fresh-picked fruit versus what you grab at from the grocery store bins. There’s just no comparison. So for those of us who love a true sensory experience, a gift like farm-fresh citrus in the dead of winter sounds divine!
A month in the French Alps last year ruined my tastebuds for American-style coffee. We were just an hour from the Italian border, and let me tell you, the French and Italians are serious about coffee. “Un cafe, s’il vous plait” I would request, along with the kids’ beignets at our local patisserie a few mornings a week. (A little travel tip: patisseries are a great way to experience local foods in France without breaking the bank! On average I’d spend only 10-12 Euro on a lovely family breakfast of 2 beignets per child, and a croissant and espresso each for me and my hubby.) I’d be handed an adorable little paper cup with one shot of espresso -- pure, black, creamy, foamy gold.
Whether you prefer rich espresso or a sweet, milky American-style coffee, starting with a high quality roasted bean is paramount. Illy Caffe was founded in Trieste, Italy in 1933 by Francesco Illy. To this day the company is still run by the Illy family, who creates an outstanding, velvety blend made up of nine types of pure Arabica.
All of Europe enjoys Illy, and you and your family can too! Illy has a beautiful selection of one-time gift bundles (get 25% off with code CYBER) as well as coffee subscriptions. Whether you prefer K-cup pods, fresh ground, whole bean, moka coffee, or espresso capsules, you can join Illy’s subscription services and get your fine Italian coffee delivered regularly. Not only that, you get 20% off and free shipping. Want to really wow them with your gift subscription? Choose one that includes a brand-spanking new espresso machine!
I am kind of a tea addict. Growing up in an English-American home, I am intensely faithful to my favorite British tea brand, Yorkshire Gold. But then a summer spent in Pakistan had me raving over a good, made-from-scratch chai, and a summer spent in Japan opened a whole new world of teas to me -- green, oolong, white, and more.
The kids and I are currently learning about the history of tea in Japan, while sipping green tea in the tea bowls my Okkasan (Japanese "mom") gave me years ago. Experiencing good tea here at home exports me back to the foothills of the Himalayas, the north moors of England, and the bustling train stations of Japan.
But there are so many sub-par, stale-tasting teas in the American market, you can’t always trust brands with which you’re not familiar. I am always willing to pay a bit more for a high-quality tea, and man, did I ever find a treasure in Adagio Teas.
All Adagio tea leaves are sourced straight from high-quality, ethical farms around the world. No middle men. No long shipping times which result in stale tea. No questionable sourcing. These leaves are painstakingly cultivated by farmers who are passionate about what they do. In fact, you can even “meet” each of the farmers on Adagio’s website.
Try their assortment of chai (masala, thai, chocolate, and more) for a mouth-watering experience -- my husband's grandma "Gigi" adores this selection. I am absolutely in love with their 40 Winks, my nighttime ritual tea that eases me into a good night’s sleep. Check out all their lovely holiday tea gifts -- stocking stuffers, gift boxes, accessories, and even tea candles!
As I mentioned before, I spent a summer in Japan after graduating from college. I lived with my college roommate Mako and her family in Gunma Prefecture, having the unique opportunity to live like the locals do. It was a wonderful experience I wouldn’t trade for anything!
One of my favorite encounters there was with my Okkasan. She took me to her work, where developmentally disabled adults were taught life skills and had successfully launched a very popular cookie-making company! Mako and I jumped into the work in the kitchen, helping to make these perfectly uniform cookies for an upcoming farmer’s market. One Christmas years later, my Okkasan sent me a care package full of these delectable little cookies -- oh what a treat!
So when I stumbled on Bokksu in my search for good foods from around the world, I was THRILLED! Bokksu delivers to your door the experience of tasting authentic Japanese snacks, candies, and teas sourced directly from centuries-old family makers. Every box you purchase supports these family-run businesses in Japan and helps keep their traditions alive. You can even “meet” the makers through the videos on the Bokksu website -- check it out!
Choose monthly subscriptions as low as $39.99, or opt for a do-it-yourself, one-time purchase (get 15% off when buying 12+ items!) If you choose to subscribe, each month you’ll receive 20-24 premium Japanese snacks, candies, and a tea pairing, a 16+ page guide detailing each product’s origins, flavors, and allergens, and a fun cultural theme from traditional flavors and festivals, to prefectures and holidays. Our own family is choosing the three-month option beginning in January, to accent our focus on Japan as our homeschool theme this year. What a wonderful sensory way to explore Japan without leaving home!
I never knew what good steak was until our family moved to the Midwest. I have been hunting for a retailer who would ship this delectable steak we were experiencing to our family in California, and struck gold with the Chicago Steak Company. They source only from the Midwest and specialize in USDA Prime -- the top 2% of America’s beef -- described by the United States Department of Agriculture as “the ultimate in tenderness, juiciness, and flavor.”
All Chicago Steak Company’s steaks are hand selected and hand cut - no “big beef” factory processing here. Then they are aged through either a wet aging process (to maximize tenderness) or a dry aging process (to give the steak a robust, nutty flavor profile).
If you don’t have a barbecue fiend in your family like we do, try Coach Mike Ditka’s famous Berkshire Pork Ribs, fully cooked and sauced and ready to be heated! Other high quality meat selections include free-range, antibiotic-free whole turkeys, chateaubriand tenderloin roast, prosciutto-wrapped pork loin, and more. This, here, is the difference between eating and dining!
Use code SANTA179 to maximize your purchase and get Santa’s Special Gift: 12 free gourmet steak burgers, steak seasoning, and free shipping!
Choose any of the above recommendations to gift this holiday season, and I know they will be a hit with your family near and far. We’d love to hear how you like them, so be sure to come back and tell us all about it here!