This year, I have a theme for gift-giving. It helps me focus and makes the hectic holiday season a little less stressful. I’ve decided to “go local.” If you’re going to go crazy spending money on people who probably don’t really need anything, it’s nice to keep that money in our local economy. Fortunately, for me and my food-loving friends and family, there is an abundance of homegrown resources for Kansas City consumers.
The easiest people to shop for are those who enjoy a good, bottled libation. I have a few favorite small, local shops that, in addition to being independently owned, offer excellent spirits produced right here in the Kansas City area. My new favorite small shop is Underdog Wine Company in the Crestwood Shops. Ryan Sciara, owner and operator, has a sophisticated and discriminating palate, and he has a love of things produced in small batches. And if you have more than just one special bottle in mind, try one of his gifts that keep on giving. Sciara has designed several of-the-month clubs to introduce delicious flavors to the curious and thirsty. Think remarkable wines, champagne, whiskeys, and bean-to-bar boutique chocolates.underdogwinekc.com, 816-286-4139
If you’re looking for something with a little more of a kick, check out some of our local distillers. Steve Strong of Strong Dog Distilling in Parkville spends a lot of time working underground. Really underground, like 65 feet underground—distilling vodka (and gin and rye whiskey) in a cave. And fortunately for us, Steve’s passion transforms humble grains into fabulous spirits. His vodka is the stuff that makes a martini of legend, and his gin (not yet available to the public) has a similar destiny. The rye whiskey—still (no pun intended) an infant—shows signs of precociousness, but it’s too early to tell. sdstrongdistilling.com
While I could never fail to mention Fervere bakery on the Westside, or Farm to Market with their delicious holiday breads, this year I have to add Ibis Bakery. For bread lovers in your life, or maybe for making robustly flavored toasts topped with your favorite sweet or savory toppings at a holiday party, these loaves have that extremely dark, glossy blistered crust that tells you, even before the first bite, that you’re in for a flavor explosion. They have a few standards like the multigrain and the sprout quinoa, but the baker is always experimenting with new grains. The breads are available in either full or half loaves, and if you want to try a whole slew of them, visit their store at 12817 W. 87th Street Parkway. You can also reserve loaves on their website (ibisbakery.com), not a bad idea considering how quickly they sell out.
For shoppers looking for a more traditional approach to culinary gift-giving, it’s hard to beat Pryde’s Kitchen and Home in Westport to find that special tool, pot, pewter platter, china, glassware or anything else food-related on your shopping list. They have a hot, new gadget that I just saw a few weeks ago in Italy—a Gefu Spiral Vegetable Slicer. For the person who has everything or for someone that wants to sneak a few more vegetables into their diet, try spiral-slicing vegetables like carrots, zucchini or beets into fettuccine noodles and dressing them with your favorite pasta sauce. And the staff at Pryde’s is always extremely friendly and helpful. prydesoldwestport.com, 816-531-5588
Until recently, I had no idea that we have a textile celebrity in our midst. Sharyn Blond Linens, a quiet boutique located in the Fairway Shops, is remarkable. The concept was originated by linen designer Constance Leiter (Google her) here in Kansas City. The shop and Leiter’s designs are now in the capable hands of Sharyn Blond, a designer and entrepreneur in her own right. Practically everything in the store is handmade, and many of its items find their way into exclusive stores across the country. In addition to its fascinating history, the shop offers elegant china, Italian pewter, unusual pottery, silver and crystal. Blond’s designs are hand-embroidered (by women in Madeira, Portugal) cocktail napkins, towels, place mats, tablecloths and bed linens. They are available in 600 colors of thread and 40 shades of linen. sharynblondlinens.com
A perennial favorite of mine is the Culinary Center of Kansas City in old Overland Park. For completely random foodie shopping, visit their retail shop Kitchenology, and among other things, check out their new Pro Series Cookware. Crafted to the exact specifications of the demanding chefs at the Culinary Center, their beautifully designed commercial-grade cookware is as much a joy to cook with as it is to look at. The surgical steel surfaces are highly polished to make them beautiful, less likely to stick, and easier to clean. The aluminum core diffuses the heat evenly and gives the cook a “luxury sports car” feel when cooking in them. Having forgotten and incinerated some butternut squash in one of them, I know from experience that they are indeed easier to clean. If you’re not looking for something that will fit in a box or a bag, or more of an “experience,” try one of their cooking classes. (You have hundreds of choices, and they make great gifts.) kcculinary.com
Another interesting “experience” to share with a friend would be one of the new supper-club events conceived, cooked and curated by the talented young chef Garrett Kasper (formerly of Kansas Town). Having tasted his food on several memorable occasions, it should be exciting to experience his one-of-a-kind evenings. For these multicourse dinners, he has plans for meals focused on local producers, products and foraging. For more information, contact chef Kasper at email@example.com.