Food - Georgia-grown gifts

Local foods, drinks, and oddities for the holiday season

Savvy chefs and farmers markets once championed the push for local foods, but the farm-to-table movement has had a trickle-down effect. Pickling and preservation are in. Refined sugars and anything artificial is out. Make everything from scratch, or if not, at least buy it from a local producer. Now that the average diner can participate from home, locally sourced cooking isn't just for chefs and restaurants anymore. If you want to jump on the bandwagon and give the gift of local this holiday season, here's a roundup of gifts for the foodie in your life.

1. PRIZED PICKLES: Though a jar of pickles as a stocking stuffer may seem like a sour idea, local chef Nick Melvin's fancy Doux South pickles make tasty presents. Melvin's pickles go beyond simple cucumber spears and dill; most are certified organic, too. Try Southern-inspired varieties like Mean Green Tomatoes or the tangy, spicy Chow Chow made with pickled cabbage and sweet red peppers. And of course, pickles are the gift that keeps on giving. Melvin recommends holding onto jars of brine to pickle more veggies or use in your own homemade sauces and vinaigrettes. $9 per jar. www.douxsouth.com.

2. DO-IT-YOURSELF: Looking for a more "hands-on" pickle-y option? Celeb chef Hugh Acheson's nifty swatchbook Pick a Pickle: 50 Recipes for Pickles, Relishes, and Fermented Snacks will make a pickling pro out of anyone. The book covers everything from classic bread and butter to Southern standouts like pickled peaches and even DIY kimchi. The book's handy recipe cards are filled with beautiful photography and easy-to-follow instructions. $14.95. www.hughacheson.com.

3. PANTRY PLEASER: When cooking at home, locavores usually get a pass on pantry items like oils and spices. The increasing availability of Georgia olive oil, however, offers yet another way to reduce your cooking's carbon footprint. For example, both Georgia Olive Farms — located in Lakeland, Ga. — and Terra Dolce Farms in Lyons, Ga., produce locally grown olives and olive oils. If the whole artisan-oil thing interests you, head to Decatur's Splash of Olive (201 W. Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur, 404-600-2414, www.splasholive.com), Strippaggio (855 Emory Point Drive N.E., Suite C-135, 404-963-5921, www.strippaggioevoo.com) at Emory Point, or Oli+Ve (3263 Roswell Road N.E. and other metro Atlanta locations, 404-841-1012, www.oliandve.com) — pronounced "ollie and vee" — in Buckhead.

4. SCIENCE PROJECT: Forget papier-mâché volcanoes and Styrofoam-ball solar systems, __DIY mushroom growing kits from Atlanta's 5th Kingdom farm turn science into something you can literally sink your teeth into. In 2011, University of Georgia grad and organic farmer Steven Bell founded the year-round, indoor shroom operation, and now you can start one in your own home. The DIY kits feed off scrap paper or spent coffee grounds and mature into tasty lion's mane, oyster, or shiitake mushrooms. Pick up a kit at the Peachtree Road or Grant Park farmers markets, follow the instructions, and watch nature's little janitors go to work. $16. www.5thkingdom.com.
5. SNACK ATTACK: Atlanta-based pork rind startup Bacon's Heir has re-imagined the fried pork skin game, turning the guilt-inducing snack into a trendy accoutrement dubbed Pork Clouds. They're a healthier version of the gas station snack, prepared with "a unique Olive Oil kettle cooking process to make them extra fluffy and tasty," according to the website. Flavors include Malabar Black Pepper, Rosemary & Sea Salt, and Habanero. There's also a crushed-up version called Pork Dust, meant as a flavorful replacement for breadcrumbs. Oh, and if the giftee is into sustainable business practices, Bacon's Heir also converts the oil left over from frying into bars of soap. $12 for six 0.7-ounce bags or three 2-ounce bags. www.baconsheir.com.

6. EAT IN: Know someone who claims to be a foodie but can't cook? Local outfits Garnish and Gather (www.garnishandgather.com) and Peach Dish (www.peachdish.com) both offer kits for chef-designed meals, precisely portioned to let even the culinarily challenged cook a great meal at home. Choices on a recent Peach Dish menu included a veggie dish of sweet potatoes, carrots, mustard greens, and couscous with spiced yogurt and guinea hen with sorghum mashed sweet potatoes, and bok choy. Over at Garnish & Gather the same week, customers chose between the likes of lamb sausage with spice-roasted squash and kale pesto and roasted lemon broccoli with hazelnuts and ricotta salata over pasta. For a slightly less expensive straight-to-your-doorstep experience, try Peach Dish. For pick-your-own grocery and pick-up options, Garnish & Gather is your better bet.

7. BEHIND THE BREWS: Georgia breweries can't yet sell their beers directly to consumers, but consumers are always welcome to come to the breweries. Atlanta Beer Tours offers a "behind the scenes look at breweries, brewpubs, and beer-focused restaurants in and around the metro area." The company organizes pub-crawls that usually focus on a certain part of town and include transportation, beer tastings, food, and a souvenir. You can buy tickets to scheduled tours already on the calendar or purchase a gift certificate for future use. $59-$68. www.atlantabeertours.com. __

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