Holiday Gift Guide: Food & Drinks We Love

Still Austin Whiskey bottle
Still Austin Whiskey/The Musician bottle Photo by Kristin Barclay

Tis the season to eat all of your favorite foods, or the season to give delicious food and drinks to friends and family. No, we’re not talking about that fruitcake that’s been passed around like a paper weight for the last 20 years. We’re talking about cheese from a small business in Wisconsin, world famous fruitcake from a bakery in Texas, and more.

Cheese Brothers: Wisconsin Cheese

You’ve probably heard this year’s hottest trend in entertaining: charcuterie boards. Friend’s social media feeds are full of photos of charcuterie boards with meats, cheeses, olives, fruit and more. Some, have even created hot cocoa board or holiday boards. I know we love to graze on crackers, cheese and more while opening gifts or decorating the Christmas tree.

Cheese brothers cheese box
Photo credit: Cheese Brothers

Earlier this year we discovered Cheese Brothers a small cheese business in Barron, Wisconsin. After trying their cheeses we were hooked and this has become a go to gift for our cheese loving friends. While their cheese is delicious, and I love their varieties like their honey sriracha gouda and 3 Amigos (Chipotle, Habanero, and Jalapeño peppers), I also love that they are a small business. Before COVID they traveled to festivals and farmers markets selling their cheese, but then the virus hit and they pivoted to an online business.

You can feel their personal touch and passion for their customers with every order. When you buy cheese from them you’re supporting their small business, and the local farmers where they source their milk. And they have big hearts, they often give back by donating cheese or proceeds to nonprofits.

Collin Street Bakery: World Famous Fruitcake

According to my Dad, my Grandmother made the best fruitcake anyone has ever made. Unfortunately when she died the recipe and secrets disappeared. So, three years ago when Dad visited us for Christmas I ordered a deluxe fruitcake from Collin Street Bakery. Then I braced myself for the stories of how “nobody makes fruitcake like your Grandmother”. Instead, I watched as he ate a slice, followed by another and then ‘claimed’ the fruitcake as his own. When I was able to give try a piece, I was amazed at how different it was from those bricks of fruitcake served at holiday parties.

Seriously this fruitcake will redeem any negative opinion you may have about fruitcake. Bonus: the bakery is family owned and operated in Texas! Collins Street uses crunchy Texas pecans, organic Costa Rican pineapple, and all-natural honey, which makes their fruitcakes sweet and delicious.

Maui Gold Pineapples

pineapples in Maui
Maui Gold pineapple field in Maui, HI Photo by Kristin Barclay

Bring the taste of Hawaii to your table with pineapple from Maui Gold. Before our visit to Hawaii, I wasn’t a big fan of pineapple. While in Maui we toured the Maui Gold pineapple farm and were provided with fresh samples, and that’s when I realized not all pineapples are the same. The pineapples in the store are often tough, chewy and lack flavor. But Maui Gold is the exact opposite, packed with flavor. Since we can’t hop a plane to Hawaii anytime soon, Maui Gold pineapple brings the taste of the islands to you.

Pineapples are available in 1, 2 or 7 packs, but trust me the 7 packs is the way to go. You can always keep some for yourself and use the others for gift baskets.

Still Austin Straight Bourbon Whiskey

It’s no secret I’m a fan of craft bourbons, especially those made in Texas. The new straight bourbon whiskey from Still Austin, AKA The Musician, has a custom label and bottle. Texas ‘born and raised’ the whiskey contains grains that are 100% grown by Texas farmers (70% Non-GMO white corn, 25% Elbon rye and 5% wildfire malted barley).

Still Austin sent us a bottle to try and I was impressed with my first sip. I love this bourbon for several reasons: it’s flavor is unique and I found it easily drinkable. The bottle stands out on my bar and it’s unique label makes it interesting.

Master Blender Nancy Fraley says, “the nose offers delightful aromas of ripe tropical fruits such as pineapple, banana, papaya, mango, toasted coconut shavings, and S’mores with melted milk chocolate and caramelized marshmallow. These notes follow through to the palate, where the rye makes its appearance in the form of cinnamon toast with brown butter, and blanched almonds. The alcohol is soft and creamy like vanilla egg custard and the mouth feel is round, with long waves of tropical fruit, toffee, and rye spice on the finish.”

The bourbon is handmade from grain-to-glass at the distillery and is currently available only in Texas in Total Wine & More and Costco.

Maui Coffee Roasters

Maui Coffee Roasters
Maui Coffee Roasters Photo by Kristin Barclay

I run of coffee and none of that unleaded brew they call decaf. I need caffeine and look forward to my first cup of coffee every morning. While in Maui a few years ago we stopped into Maui Coffee Roasters for a cup of coffee before a day of exploring the island. Immediately after our first sip, we knew we needed to buy some beans to bring home with us. Everyone that tried some of the chocolate macadamia nut blend we brewed became obsessed.

Maui Coffee Roasters offers a wide variety of 100% Kona, Ka’u & Maui Coffee. Our favorites include the chocolate macadamia nut and the Maui red rooster.

And, if you’re looking for tamales for Christmas Eve or tamales to ship to loves ones out of state, check out Jo Ann Holt’s article on where to find delicious tamales in DFW.