Did you know that if you shift an additional 10 percent of your year-around shopping and dining from national chains to local businesses, you’ll help to create $311 million in local economic activity?
It’s true. And it’s all because independent retailers re-spend two to three times more of each sales dollar locally than their chain competitors. That’s based on data from Local First Milwaukee, a network of locally owned businesses that aspires to creating support and awareness surrounding local, sustainable economies.
Fortunately, Milwaukee is home to countless great artisan food producers and retailers. So, you don’t have to travel far to find great gifts. In fact, here are 10 uber-local ideas that will make even the most discerning food lover rave about your impeccable taste.
They’ll relish the gift of mustard
Give that mustard lover in your life a collection of condiments from Milwaukee Mustard Company. Flavors include: Whiskonsin Whiskey Mustard made with Great Lakes Kinnickinnic Whiskey, Spicy Stout Beer Mustard made with Milwaukee Brewing Company’s Polish Moon Milk Stout, Tomah Tang Cranberry Mustard made with Wisconsin cranberries, and Bronzeville Buzz Honey Mustard which incorporates honey from Walnut Way. Find Milwaukee Mustard Company at the Milwaukee County Winter Market most Saturdays. At just $5 a jar, you can buy the entire set.
Ship them something cool
Even something frozen (and delicious) like locally made Purple Door Ice Cream has the power to warm hearts. Ice cream lovers will rejoice at the site of a box of six varieties of this sumptuous treat delivered right to their doorstep. Package includes butter pecan, mint chip, chocolate Guatemala roast, salted caramel, raspberry green tea, and whiskey. $36.99 plus shipping.
Give them something delicious to chew on
Serve up a taste of the burgeoning food scene in Milwaukee with a subscription to Edible Milwaukee. This quarterly magazine is packed with gorgeous photos, cultural insights and thoughtful content that’s definitely worth drooling over. One year is just $30.
Get ‘em clean and sober
It’s not difficult with Milwaukee Beersoap, made by Jim Olen, Milwaukee brewmaster and soap maker. It’s not exactly a food gift, but it smells just as delicious. Choose from six delicious scents containing awesomely natural ingredients like oatmeal, hops, fragrance oils or essential oils. Pick ‘em up for $6 each at the Waxwing, 4415 N. Oakland Ave. If you want to be clever (and add an edible component), pair them up with a six-pack of matching Milwaukee brews.
Gear up with Boelter SuperStore
Need a quick hostess gift? Or how about a high end tool for that picky foodie friend? One of the first places you should check is the Boelter SuperStore. Their professional grade products are designed for chefs, but they’re just as useful in home kitchens. In fact, because they’re built for professional use, most items last longer too. Great holiday gift ideas include a set of cheese knives, specialty glassware to go with that purchase from Great Lakes Distillery, serving platters or beautiful sets of appetizer plates. From gorgeous cloth napkins to high end appliances, Boelter, 4200 N. Port Washington Rd., has just about everything. Store hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Give their grilling a jolt of caffeine
Grilling aficionados will relish Stone Creek’s Roastin’ Joe coffee-infused BBQ rub, a custom blend of ancho powder, smoked pimento, brown sugar, chili flakes and Green Bike Espresso blended with a few other secret ingredients. Whether you’re roasting, searing or grilling, this blend adds the perfect flavor to vegetables, seafood, pork, lamb and eggplant. It’s also great on burgers or steak. Available for $7.25 at the Stone Creek Factory Café, 422 N. 5th St.
Taste the world with Afro-Fusion seasoning blends
Adventurous cooks will love incorporating International flavors into their cooking with spice blends from Afro-Fusion Cusisine. Flavors include Jamaican jerk, spicy BBQ, African curry, Yassa (spicy mustard and lemon zest) and Ethiopian Berbere, a multifaceted blend which contains hints of paprika, fenugreek and cardamom. Each spice blend is $7-8, so you can put together a great selection for under $30. Recipes listed on the Afro-Fusion web site ensure that each seasoning can be put to good use.
Get cheesy with Larry’s Market
It sounds cliché, but everyone loves the gift of cheese. But, don’t settle for that pre-made cheese box when you can have something customized to your exacting specifications at Larry’s Market, 8737 N. Deerwood Dr. in Brown Deer. They have one of the largest assortments of Wisconsin cheeses around, including specialty cheeses from Sartori, Uplands, Bleu Mont Dairy and more. Give a variety, or choose a few good chunks of aged Cheddar. Either way, it’s a gift that no card-carrying foodie will turn down. Gift packs start at $25, plus shipping.
Take a meatier approach with charcuterie at Bavette
Bavette La Boucherie. 330 E. Menomonee St., has a great selection of delicious charcuterie from purveyors in Wisconsin and Indiana, as well as a few imported varieties. They also have the appropriate accoutrements, including delicious (often locally made) pickles, jams and mustards. Pair that with one of the wine selections curated by My Wine School proprietor Jessica Bell and you’ve got a gift that can be enjoyed well beyond the holidays.
Send a box of pure Milwaukee love
And it just wouldn’t be right if I didn’t put in a plug for a little company I launched earlier this month, From Milwaukee with Love, which I think offers some of the finest food gifts around – all of which are made right here in Milwaukee. One of my favorite assortments is the "Good Morning, Milwaukee" box, which contains Anodyne’s super small batch specialty roast, La Perla Negra, with a hand-thrown mug from local artist Kate Riley, and a bag of Stone Creek Coffee’s Tree-Hugger granola, which I wouldn’t’ mind waking up to every morning of the week. Just $60, shipped anywhere in the continental U.S.
Local First Buy Local Gift Fair
And while you’re supporting local, don’t forget to stop by the gift fair at Lakefront Brewery on Sunday, Dec. 8 from noon to 4 p.m. The event features over 40 local vendors, including a number of options mentioned above. As an added bonus, enjoy free brewery tours at 12:30, 1:30, or 2:30 p.m.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.