Here is my “Give Cape Ann, 2016” list of great local gifts for cooking friends, dining friends, even any kind of friend.
Some dynamic little new small businesses have opened on Cape Ann in the past couple of years. These kinds of businesses bring immeasurable vitality to a community.
Pastaio via Corta offers fresh and dried handmade pasta, house-made cheeses, and the Italian staples that rival anything in Milan, forget Eataly. Not only that, owner Danielle Glantz, previously chef at Chez Panisse, then executive chef at The Market and Short & Main, gives out salient recipes as she weighs your pasta. Another plus, the pasta shop is becoming Gloucester’s best place to bump into a friend; the screen door just keeps banging with customers coming through.
Lyznariums on East Main St. is the East Gloucester place to hang out on Sunday mornings. Mayflower Confections is serving all-natural, crumbly scones. There is coffee. And there are succulents. All kinds of them. The vibe is fingerless gloves and flannels.
The Pigeon Cove Ferments people are changing the way Cape Ann eats winter vegetables. Their variety of sauerkrauts are really more like spicy winter salads, fresh and vibrant accompaniments to pork, turkey, even a fish taco. Made with all local cabbages and vegetables, even Atlantic Saltworks salt, these sauerkrauts are the creation of Rockport natives and husband-wife team Kristen and Dylan L’Abbe- Lindquist. Their two-year old son loves sauerkraut, too. Look for their sauerkrauts at The Common Crow, Willowrest, and now Tendercrop Farm.
We should support all the businesses on this list, and lists from previous years, for the energy and interest they are bringing to shopping on Cape Ann, but also because these businesses provide quality gifts that inspire the unique joy of handing someone just the right present.
1. Pastaio Via Corta has dozens of gift options for people who love good food, including individually designed gift baskets. But, for the food-nerd friend you love best, just purchase a can of the impossible-to-find, Bianco DiNapoli organically grown, freshly picked California tomatoes. The stunning 6 pound can is $15; the 28 ounce can is $6. The painting on the label is so charming it looks like it has already been wrapped. It is the perfect house gift. Add the Glantz-vetted Greek olive oil, a bag of her casarecci pasta made with Alprilla Farms whole wheat flour and Cedar Rock Gardens herbs, and you have a gift for the Mario Batali in your life. 11 Center St., Gloucester, MA.
(photo from Nectar & Green website)
2. Nectar & Green The gift of small batch, pressed organic almond milk will flutter the eyelashes on the fussiest vegan in your life. Nectar & Green comes in the flavors Sea Salt + Honey, Vanilla Bean, Lavender, Cacao, Pure, Turmeric, and new for the season, Spice, all created with organic, mostly local ingredients. Nectar & Green shares a kitchen with Mayflower Confections (an alum of last year’s column), so you can match up the Spice Almond Milk with Mayflower’s spiced pecans for the most stylish food gift possible. Nectar & Green almond milk comes in retro glass bottles. Their deliveries (yes, they do that) come in chic black soft coolers. For the Gwyneth Paltrow in your life, give a subscription of Nectar & Green, to be delivered to your home or to be picked at their Rockport space in the Whistlestop Mall. (Just behind DD!) A quart of almond milk is $14. For delivery information and options go to their website.
(photo from the Good Linens website)
3, Good Linens Owner Joanne Chirico is serious about the “good” part. As her website states, these simple, aesthetically glorious linen towels are also good for the environment. Compared to cotton terry bath towels, linen towels take a fraction of the time to dry. Not only is that less dryer time, but family might be more inclined to reuse the quick-drying towels if they are not still mushy from yesterday’s shower. Chirico sells her linen towels in all kinds of sizes for all kinds of purposes: from bath to kitchen. The same quick-drying, using-the-dryer-less virtues apply to all. Kitchen towels range from $20 – $26. Bath linens are $10 – $72. 130 Main St., Gloucester, MA.
But Good Linens has much more than beautiful towels to please the person who loves the kitchen, or someone who sees domesticity as an art form. From German brushes for every purpose imaginable, to this red digital kitchen scale –
to this teapot. (I have a version of this teapot, and swear something about that pour makes better coffee.) –
Good Linens is a design lesson as much as it is a place to shop. Know an architect who likes to cook?
4. Cheeses from the Martha’s Vineyard creamery Grey Barns have swept into dairy cases as the American favorite. The Grey Barns cheese Prufrock won first place for an American Farmstead cheese at the American Cheese Society’s 2016 awards.
The Grey Barns has a cheesemaking goal: “use very nice milk and let it show itself, don’t get in its way.” The twenty-five Grey Barns cows pasture on the farm’s organic-certified grasses and W. Tisbury breezes. Nice start to a cheese right there.
Eidolon, a generous one pound bloomy-rinded cylinder of creamy Grey Barns cheese, will elicit triple its weight in gratitude should that be your Christmas party offering. Wrapped in white butcher paper with black script, it’s a beautiful cheese even before you open it. Find a chunky red ribbon, and leave it under the tree for your very favorite mouse. The Common Crow carries Grey Barns cheeses. Eidolon is $24.95.
5. While you are at the Common Crow, pick up a package of these super-functional, more great design – bamboo spoons. Or forks. These little utensils are useful on someone’s kitchen counter for small tasks, on a charcuterie plate in the mustard jar, even in one’s purse for lunch at the desk. They are indispensable picnic tools. You can even purchase a to-go version that comes in its own little pack. A set of five forks or spoons is $8.99.
6. There are all kinds of insider tags about “pet nat” wines: Grub Street calls it “Champagne’s hip little sister,” and the wine for the common man – “the common man in the know.” Pet Nat, short for Petillant Naturelle, refers only to the wine making method, an old European one that ferments the wine without adding the yeast and sugars of classic sparkling wine production. Pet Nat wines are captured and bottled (usually with a bottle cap, not a cork) in their natural fermenting process. That “natural” part leaves a wide breadth of quality, but it’s the kind of thing that gets oenophiles quivering – the guess factor of a living thing. I have tasted a few, like them all, from the cruder to the refined. There is definitely a “rough-hewn” quality to many of them. There is more fruit in between the festive bubbles. Some Pet Nats almost tilt towards cider. Because the results are varied, these wines are not usually considered “fine” drinking; they are fun drinking. Most Pet Nats are not that expensive; they are in the $18-$30 range, which makes them the perfect interesting gift wine. Any grape variety can be produced in the Pet Nat style; it’s an old method in Europe, but is catching on in California. Savour in Gloucester carries a Pet Nat from the Loire Valley, Montlouis sur Loire, Francois Chidaine for $19.99. This is hip giving. 76 Prospect St., Gloucester, MA.
7 & 8. The Pop-up shop Present has been a gift to local gift-giving for a bunch of years now. A cooperative of different Cape Ann crafts people and makers of things, Present pops up in different locations every year. This year they are sharing space with The Eastern Point Lit House. There are dozens of great, hand-created, local gifts available in Present, so you should just go there. I have two favorites, one has a food-related theme, the other is just so delightfully Cape Ann that I can’t resist.
Local artist and printmaker Mary Rhinelander has a cheerful collection of prints at Present that would be the perfect gift for the cook who needs nothing more but inspiration – framed images of lolling figs, a tumbling pomegranate, or jaunty radishes – some of nature’s most joyful creations, framed, not needing to be washed. Prices are in the $50 range. The Lit House, 261 Main St., Gloucester, MA.
Also at Present, in the “why has no one done this before?!” category, are the famous Babson Rocks of Dogtown reproduced in a filled, felted collection. These seemingly dull gray blobs, with blocky embroidered words like “save” and “love your mother” and “get a job” – just like the rocks themselves! – will produce the ultimate LOL moment for any friend of Dogtown. There is nothing food related about this gift, but it’s just too Cape Ann wonderful to omit. $12 each.
9. Lynzariums has, of course, an artful tumble of funky succulents, but for the food person in your life, they also have a stunning collection of locally produced cutting boards. Imagine a cutting board for a surfer, these boards are made with the gusto and style of THAT kind of board. Lynzariums boards are made by two local makers. One board is made with a variety of woods and rubber from a lobster trap for the handle. The other board has an interesting shape and super fine finish. Beautifully handcrafted, these boards are Gifts with a capital “G.” All boards range in price from $85-$95. 186 East Main St., Gloucester, MA
10. The last gift on this year’s list is a book: “The Fish Market, Inside the Big-Money Battle for the Ocean and Your Dinner Plate,” St. Martin’s Press, 2016, by Lee Van Der Voo. Van Der Voo is not a local author (She lives in Portland, OR) but this is Gloucester’s subject.
A freelance journalist who has written for The New York Times, Reuters, USA Today, CNN, and Slate, Van Der Voo in this book explains the fisheries story that no one understands, the story that MOST impacts the fishing industry today, the story of Catch Shares. The Catch Share system is allowing big business, mixed blearily with environmentalism, to make the ocean just another place for Walmart to produce revenue. Catch Shares is the future of industrialized fishing and the end of the small family fishing boat. This is every fishing town’s story right now; it is Gloucester’s story. To understand what those small fishing boats in our harbor are up against, everyone should read this book. This is an important gift. $26.99
Happy All Of It, Cape Ann!