When the weather turns dreary and big companies offer to ship gifts for free, it can be tempting to do all your shopping from your computer, but these locally owned kitchen and food stores would be more than happy to help you spend your shopping dollars a little closer to home.
Savory Spice Shop, which has two Austin locations, specializes in dried herbs, freshly ground spices, hard-to-find salts and spice blends that are practically guaranteed to improve the food coming out of your kitchen, and for the holidays they have bundled dozens of gift-worthy spice sets for everyone from the barbecue lover to the person who is cutting down his or her salt intake.
Earlier this year, Karen Aboussie’s downtown Savory Spice Shop moved out to a first-floor space at Barton Creek Square mall near the movie theater (512-327-7041), and Alicia Phipps’s Arboretum store (512-795-0770) is next to the original Con’ Olio Oils & Vinegars (10000 Research Blvd. 512-342-2344), another unique Austin food business.
Con’ Olio, which has additional locations downtown and in Bee Cave (215 Lavaca St., 512-495-1559, 12918 Shops Parkway, 512-263-4373), sells gift sets of its high-end oils and vinegars that start at $24.99, but you can also sign up for the Olive Oil/Vinegar of the Month Club to gift a bottle of each for three, six or 12 months.
In West Lake Hills, Vom Fass (3663 Bee Cave Road, 512-637-9545) sells custom gift sets and baskets of a wide range of olive oils, seed and nut oils, vinegars and aged spirits, including cognac, brandy and grappa, that start at $10.99.
At Barbeque Mercantile (5003 Burnet Road, 512-371-3748), you’ll find a huge selection of award-winning rubs and sauces, including Steve Raichlen’s line, as well as cool toys, like the heat-resistant Bear Paws, which help pick up and shred hot pieces of meat.
Another longtime favorite, Faraday’s Kitchen Store, which this year moved from Lakeway to the the Shops at the Galleria in Bee Cave (12918 Shops Parkway, 512-266-5666), carries one of the Austin area’s largest selections of kitchen gadgets and gear, such as ProTeak cutting boards made in Wimberley and the Compagno Spice Grinding System, an invention from Austinite Dan Roberts. The store also offers gift certificates for its in-store cooking classes.
Longtime retail staple Breed & Co., which has stores near the University of Texas campus and in West Lake Hills (718 W. 29th St., 512-474-6679; 3663 Bee Cave Road, 512-328-3960), offers an array of gifts, including a large selection of cookbooks from local authors, as well as kitchen tools and unique linens, plates, bowls, cups, utensils and serviceware.
Serve Gourmet Gadgets and Goods, which opened downtown ahead of the holidays last year (241 W. Third St., 512-480-0171), offers everything from high-end mixers, food processors and pots and pans to locally made jams, jellies, honey and sauces, such as the Diablo Hot Sauce from Torchy’s Tacos.
If you are headed online to buy food gifts, here are three gifts that caught my eye this year. (You might be able to find some of these in area retail outlets, but just in case you can’t, I’ll direct you to the individual websites.)
RumYum Cakes is an Austin-based bakery that ships three flavors of rum cakes — original, pecan and coconut — all over the country. The cakes start at $16.95, not including shipping. You can order one (or two or three; they freeze for up to 12 months) and read the sweet story behind the company at rumyumcakes.com.
Aunt Chick’s Vintage Cookie Cutters are 3-D cookie cutters that first were released in 1948 but then were out of commission for almost 35 years before a woman found a warehouse full of them in Tulsa in 2004. She revived the company under the name Gramma’s Cutters and is now selling sets of the vintage cutters ($20 for four, grammascutters.com) that will surely strike a nostalgic chord for many cooks.
If you’ve ever made a makeshift travel mug or soup container out of a Mason jar, Cuppow has a few cool products to improve the functionality of these ubiquitous vessels. The company launched with a sipping lid that you can screw on to the jar with the metal ring, but this year, it added Bnto, a small plastic cup (both products cost $7.99, cuppow.com) that fits inside the jar, creating an extra storage compartment to keep foods, such as milk and cereal or dressing and salad, separated until you’re ready to eat them.
Also of note, Cuppow is now selling the Austin-based CoffeeSock ($9.99 for two, coffeesock.com or cuppow.com), which sells reusable coffee filters. We’ve been (happily) using CoffeeSocks instead of paper filters for almost two years now, and they’d make a great gift for the environmentally conscious coffee drinker in your life.
Have you ever made pancakes into a happy face or Mickey Mouse? Kitchen gadget company Tovolo realized that so many of us like to get creative when we’re making pancakes that they created the Pancake Pen, a squeezable container ($9.99, tovolo.com) that lets you get even more detailed with your batter creations.
Last month, New Orleans chef John Besh launched an interesting new monthly delivery service called Besh Box. Every month, subscribers get a box of Besh-curated kitchen products, including gadgets, tools, ingredients and recipes, and you can sign up for as few as one month’s worth of deliveries, starting at $55.
A Texas baker has a fun new product called Ice By Numbers, which allows home bakers who aren’t so skilled in sugar to create designs on cakes that don’t look like a preschooler made them. (I say this from experience.) A santa and a snowman are the only designs available right now, but hopefully April Didrikson’s business will do well enough this holiday season the she can add more designs.