Don’t put “Christmas shopping” on your to-do list. Don’t join frenzied masses snatching at Black Friday sales, or stress over what to buy your father-in-law. Instead, pull that burlap shopping bag from the recesses of your closet and head to the farmers market for a leisurely Saturday stroll, with no apologies to your holiday calendar.
Even the region’s smallest markets boast creative gifts for the locavores on your list. On a recent tour of First Coast outdoor markets, we easily snapped up 10 foodie gifts for those on your “good list.”
Congaree and Penn is the only rice farm in Florida, but growing rice here is not as crazy as it sounds. Rice farms thrived in the 1600s and 1700s, due to the loamy wetlands of the region. “All of our rice products are milled fresh every week,” owner Scott Meyer says.
“For a foodie gift, I’d go with our middlins, with the recipe from Chef Scotty Schwartz of 29 South,” Meyer says. If you’ve never heard of middlins, think of a Southern risotto. If you’ve never heard of 29 South, get yourself a Christmas gift card to this road-trip worthy Fernandina restaurant.
Congaree and Penn is the rice of choice on the menu of many local restaurants, and at market they offer a recipe created by a local chef with each product. Moxie’s Chef, Tom Gray, offers a tutorial on brown rice. Meyer’s own grandma shares her brownie recipe when you purchase his Fine Rice Flour and other rice goods at the Riverside Arts Market. “They’ll feel like they’re a chef for the day,” Meyer says.
Give some Spice
“I’ve been makin’ this rub for years and years,” Dave Doroshow says, as he offers a sample over the Old City Farmers Market table. “A few years ago my neighbor was like, ‘This is good. Sell it!’”
Dave and wife, Jeanne, took their neighbor’s advice and headed to the farmers’ market with Dave’s Rub-a-Dub-Dub. Foodie friends will love the MSG-free combo pack “spice special”: original, mild and datil spices, ready to rub on meats, sprinkle on veggies and generally spice up meals for the rest of the year.
Ancient Tao mythology says black garlic grants immortality. Fred Bergen doesn’t promise immortality, but he does insist that his fermented super-garlic offers twice the antioxidants of traditional garlic, without tell-tale garlic breath.
Bergen sets up his booth, Artisan Black Garlic, with black garlic wares at the Old City Farmers Market every Saturday. His foodie gift recommendation? Awaken the palate’s 5th taste, sweet and savory umami, with Black Garlic Vinegar. Infused with black garlic, this finishing vinegar is perfect for dressings, meats and to add flavor to simple sides like sautéed mushrooms or a simple tomato caprese salad. Who doesn’t want a touch of life eternal with every meal?
If you don’t arrive early to Beaches Green Market, Allison D’Aurizio’s stand, My Grandmother’s Pie, may be cleaned out. When we visited her table, it was mounded with freshly baked, locally sourced treats and jars of sweet spreads. “I do baskets, often in a colander, when customers plan ahead,” she says. My advice? Plan ahead. Allison’s gluten free brownie bark is as decadent as the Fleur de Sel Caramel—spreadable salted caramel—that makes anything taste heavenly.
“I always have my pies and galettes, but homemade marshmallows and homemade curds are popular gifts,” D’Aurizio says. The citrus for her curds is hand-picked and varieties range from Cranberry Orange to Bitter Orange and Meyer Lemon. “I always have something vegan and something gluten free,” she says.
Give a Splash
Terk’s Acres is the booth to hit if you’re looking for fresh dairy. Terk’s Alpine dairy goats produce rich milk that’s a complete protein. It contains every essential amino acid. Those seeking fresh, local and healthful dairy flock to the Old City Farmers Market weekly.
Owner and dairywoman Sharon TerKeurst suggests the spreadable cheese for a fun foodie gift. “It’s great on a burrito. It’s great to stuff chicken with. I had one girl who won a cooking contest with salmon she stuffed with my cheese and baked!”
Charlotte Tzabari and her husband Shai have been importing olives, making pickles and fermented different foods since 2010. “People are discovering the probiotic benefits of fermented foods more and more—it’s a trending food thing but also a health thing,” she says. Olive My Pickle is everywhere, including the Riverside Arts Market, and locals love their goods.
“You’ll enjoy them long before they go bad,” Charlotte says, citing their 12-18 month shelf-life. This makes them a perfect foodie gift—as long as you don’t eat them all before giving them away!
Give Health (and the night off)
Chef Rosaria Anderson is a personal chef, a caterer and passionate advocate of local and whole foods. Gifting a picnic basket from her Beaches Green Market stand is giving a “night off from the stove” with the most nutrient-dense, delicious dinner imaginable.
“Everything starts vegan,” Rosaria says. This makes it easy for her to steer clear of allergens for clients. Contacting her ahead of time can yield a customized gift basket, complete with containers and accessories to round it out. Don’t miss her rich, creamy soup of the week, raw protein hemp bites and flavorful salads. “My Sea Monster Salad has more phytonutrients than you’d eat in three days,” she says. A gift from This Chick Can Cook is a gift of health.
Lu-Ellen Esposito sets up her display of pasta sauces, dressings and garlic-laden Mediterranean spreads every Saturday at the Old City Farmers Market, as well as The Wednesday Market at the St Augustine Beach pier. She sells goods that one of her friends from Central Florida creates. The colorful jars remind me of my grandmother’s kitchen after a weekend spent preserving the season’s harvest, and would look great in a basket with a dish towel and a wooden spoon.
“At Christmas time, people love to come and make baskets,” she says. After tasting each one, I have a hard time deciding between the original garlic and the sun-dried tomato spread. Lu-Ellen assures me either will be an excellent choice. “It’s a healthy alternative to mayonnaise or butter. You can marinate with it, sauté vegetables with olive oil, or spread it on a sandwich,” she says. The pitch is a familiar recitation for her. Gluten free, cholesterol fighting, good for the heart but still delicious—sounds like a basket of joy to me!