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Gift ideas (from Eastern Iowa) for the food and drink lover

By Liz Zabel, The Gazette | December 10, 2015 |

Foraging for a flavorful gift for the foodie in your life? We have some ideas.


Stop by Benz Beverage Depot in Cedar Rapids for custom-made gift boxes or supplier-made gift sets. There are many options to choose from, including a “make your own bitters set,” for example, or Benz general manager Matt Hanlin’s recommendation, the Woodford Reserve master tasting kit, which includes a 750mL bottle of the Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, a glencairn glass and a tasting guide from the master distiller. Another popular option, Hanlin said, are liquors sold in uniquely shaped bottles, such as fish, racecars and more. Prices vary.


Consider a beer basket from Lion Bridge Brewing Company, which supports three local businesses in just one gift, said owner Quinton McClain. There are a variety of baskets to choose from, all of which include one growler and a gift card programmed with enough money to fill it. Some include beer soap from Thumbprint Soap, beer mustard from the Sausage Foundry, coasters and/or glassware. Depending on the contents, baskets range from $25 to $50.


Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery released a special holiday Bourbon — “Port Cask Finished Bourbon” — which features the unique color and flavors of dried cherry as well as the scent of vanilla and spices — the result of resting in port wine casks for the last 12 months. It’s 111 proof and quantity is limited, as only five barrels were released. You can find it at their tasting room in Swisher or at the Oakland Road Hy-Vee in Cedar Rapids. Pair the whiskey with a set of whiskey stones — or “glacier rocks” at Benz Beverage Depot for $16.99 — which prevent your whiskey from being watered down with ice.


Pick up some locally roasted beans — Wake Up Iowa’s organically grown, small-batch roasted seasonal light roast, “Seasonal Happiness” is a great option for $10. They also offer a three roast gift sampler on their website ( for $33. Pair the beans with a Chemex — a beautiful glass coffee maker invented in 1941 that is regaining popularity due to its elegant design and ability to brew a deliciously pure cup o’ joe. Prices range from $39 to $350, depending on style.


Swing through the NewBo City Market and stop at The Sausage Foundry counter. If you don’t mind refrigerating your gift, wrap up a few hand crafted sausages. Or, reach for some bison or elk jerky cured by Big Boy Meats, which fit beautifully in a stocking.


Indulge your friends and family with the gift of decadent chocolate from the Marion Chocolate Shop. They offer packages from one truffle for $4 to a package of 50 assorted pieces for $43. All chocolate is made and packaged by hand.


Cookbooks are a great option. Here are a few:

  • “The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science” — a newer release (Sept. 2015) that shows the science behind its recipes and teaches new techniques to make home cooked meals that much better. Currently on Amazon for $27.47 (hardcover) or $19.99 (Kindle).
  • “Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails” — an artisanal cocktail book that not only has delicious drink recipes, but also looks great on a coffee table or minibar. Currently on Amazon for $18.49 (paperback) or $13.99 (Kindle).
  • “The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime: Comfort Classics, Freezer Food, 16-Minute Meals and Other Delicious Ways to Solve Supper!” — the latest cookbook from the popular Food Network personality that has more than 125 easy-to-make recipes for busy families. Currently on Amazon for $18.39 (hardcover) or $16.99 (Kindle).

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