12.06.2015

Holiday Gift Guide: Give the Gift of Good Food and Family Connections

Food.  That word is in my vocabulary a lot. In fact, I think about food a lot. I plan what I'm cooking for dinner. I plan where I want to make a dinner reservation. I plan what I want to come in my weekly produce order. I plan with my daughter on what she wants in her lunch box.  I think it's safe to say that everyone likes good food, and everyone needs it in their lives.

Foodie Gift Ideas. Give the Gift of Good Food and Family  Connections.


Truthfully, edible bites are a holiday gift that fits everyone. My wise uncle used to give cash for Christmas because he said that it is  always the "right color, fits everyone, and no one returns it." I see culinary items in the same light. I'll take it one step further and say that we all need to spend more time with each other around a dinner table, whether it is at home or in a restaurant. This is something that the Europeans do so much better than Americans. Here, it is all about fast and quick with drive-thru windows and eating quickly at your work desk. Many may say that today's society "works all time time and has the freedom to work anywhere." If that is truly the case then you should take some time to eat lunch in a restaurant that focuses on locally sourced, sustainable ingredients once in a while with your co-workers and order a cup of coffee after lunch, too. Discuss business and connect with each other.  You may get more accomplished than you think.  Food can create so many connections and memories.

Here are a few gift ideas to help families connect with each other around food or gifts for the foodies on your list.

Holiday Food Gift Baskets


Chapel Hill-founded Southern Season is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Great place for foodie gifts online at Southerseason.com


North  Carolina has lots of great products made locally from chocolates to cookies to coffee. There's not a better place to shop for the largest selection than Southern Season in the Southeast. The original store is located in Chapel Hill, N.C. and you could spend hours going through this store. The store is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year, and a top gift is the anniversary sampler. Everything in it is delicious, but I have two absolute favorites: The Moonshine Cordials and Chapel Hill Toffee.

Everyone loves Food. Southern Oak Gift Company has reasonable prices for the foodie wrapped up in adorable packages.


For my local friends, the Southern Oak Gift Company is a new business.It offers a great gift basket for $30 with the Chapel Hill Toffee, Videri Chocolate, and Salem Baking Cheese Straws., This company also produces the famous Moravian cookies that I learned about on my #OutaboutNC trip to Winston-Salem. You could even include your own wine or craft beer in it. I have a few suggestions for wine based on my #OutaboutNC Yadkin Valley Wine Trip. Jones von Drehle,  Shelton Vineyard, and McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks are available in Southern Season in the  Chapel Hill store, and some grocery and wine shops.

NC Made has the perfect gift for foodies. N.C. is known for its BBQ so this gift is perfect for the BBQ explorer.


N.C. is known for it's BBQ. NCMade.net has the North Carolina Barbecue box with hush puppy mix and famous BBQ sauces from the eastern part of the state and the piedmont. They are two distinct styles. You can also travel N.C. in search of forming your own opinion about our BBQ with a map to the best in the state.

The Gift of a Nice Dinner for your Family


wood grilled “crostinis” or "little toasts" in Italian are a new Il Palio specialty.  Guests can order house made ciabatta bread that has been slightly charred and smoked over the wood coals, imbuing the bread with a rich smokey flavor. The crostinis are then topped with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and 10-12 different options, from traditional salt cod mantecato (whipped Venetian salt cod) to luxurious chicken liver mouse, house-made ricotta and local honey or warm Dungeness crab salad. The crostini section also encourages table sharing as well as a great opportunity for appetizers for our guests at the bar.
Wood  grilled “crostinis” or "little toasts" in Italian are a new Il Palio specialty.  Guests can order house made ciabatta bread that has been slightly charred and smoked over the wood coals, imbuing the bread with a rich smokey flavor. The crostinis are then topped with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and 10-12 different options, from traditional salt cod mantecato (whipped Venetian salt cod) to luxurious chicken liver mouse, house-made ricotta and local honey or warm Dungeness crab salad. The crostini section also encourages table sharing as well as a great opportunity for appetizers for guests at the bar. 


I believe food dining should be an experience. I'm not talking about going to your local Chilis or Outback Steakhouse. No. No. Absolutely not! I realize dining out like what I am recommending can be expensive,  but the experience of being together in a nice restaurant where a culinary-trained chef leads the kitchen is an experience you will never forget. This is why I am suggesting giving the gift of dining out in a locally-owned restaurant for your family this holiday.

I have a whole list of restaurants that I would recommend in my hometown. A good place to start would be OpenTable in your area.  You may want to dine before the holiday or anytime in 2016.  If you wanted to get a head start, I'm going to recommend Il Palio in the Siena Hotel in Chapel Hill, N.C. I'll be sharing my family experience at the hotel soon on the blog, but this is an example of the type of culinary experience I'm recommending for you to do at least once a year to start.  Il Palio is one of the top-ranked Italian restaurants in North Carolina, and because it is a hotel restaurant, it is used to serving children as well. For a family of four, your bill will be over $100 but it is an experience that is absolutely worth the splurge.




 Executive Chef Teddy Diggs has even cooked dinner for President Obama. I think it's fun to say, "Hey, my chef cooked for the President and now he's cooking for me."  And he really did it on the night we dined, and it wasn't because I was press, but because he's that's hands on in his kitchen. It's a busy time for him and he was down a chef that night.

Chef Diggs got the ultimate compliment from Liza. And we learned he actually did flip her burger. She told him, "My burger was cooked perfectly." He has  had lots of practice. He has two children around the same age of my kids, and he told us that he has burger night for them at the restaurant at least once a week.



Il Palio now brings something special to North Carolina for the holiday season. The Feast of the Seven Fishes is a seven-course seafood tasting menu that is custom to holiday tradition in Italy. The cost is $82 per person. The Feast of the Seven Fishes is often served in Italian households on La Vigilia (Christmas Eve), a night that traditionally calls for a partial fast during which no meat should be served. Over time, the evening’s “fast” transformed into course after course of luxurious seafood dishes, often as many as seven, 10 or 13. While few are entirely sure of the significance of the number of courses, the meal carries great traditional symbolism, and most importantly, provides a celebrated opportunity for families and friends to gather. 

Give the Gift of Farm-To-Table Produce

I adore my weekly local produce box from Papa Spud's. I feel as if I'm eating healthier and saving money, too. I am also able to support one of North Carolina's top industries: farming. My weekly box is about $24 a week so a great gift idea would be one month of produce delivery for your family or friends.  It's the gift of eating fresh.

Give the Gift of Helping Others Put Food on the Table

I'm saving this gift idea for last because I feel it is most important. Many families need our help, and the Food Bank of Eastern and Central North Carolina is doing its best to make sure families don't go hungry.

  • A gift of $35 will feed a child for two months
  • A gift of $85 will provide groceries to an elderly couple for over two months
  • A gift of $120 will provide enough food to sustain a family through the winter months
  • A gift of $210 will provide more than 1,000 piping hot holiday meals to local families


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