For those on your “nice list,” here are 10 food gifts from Atlanta and around the South to share at the holidays — or year-round.
1. Chef’s goods
Personal chef and caterer Courtney Renn and her team specialize in “farm to table” cuisine and creating customized menus for two to 2,000 guests, ranging from stars like Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake to former President Jimmy Carter. Drawing from local, seasonal and organic ingredients, Renn’s Southern fare reflects modern interpretations of soul-food classics with an international flair. Now the Atlanta-trained chef offers her new 1875 line of preserved goods, based on her family’s recipes. While a jar of the sweet potato butter ($8) is a holiday must, the collection includes yummy zucchini relish, pickled peaches and chow chow ($12 per jar). Available at www.chefcourtney1875.com and at Atlanta Made, 1187 Howell Mill Road, on Atlanta’s Westside.
2. Have a slice
Pie versus cake. Both baked goods have a rich and sweet history in the South. To build a case for pie and help a good cause, order a homemade pie from Atlanta-based Darden’s Delights. Founders David and Betsy Glass named the company for their family in Waycross — and for their daughter, Darden, who was born with Down syndrome in 2005. “Dangerously Delicious Fudge Pie” is a year-round best-seller followed by “Off the Chart Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie.” But there are other flavors, like lemon chess and butterscotch. Available in two sizes: 9-inch ($20-$22) and 6-inch ($10-$11). A portion of the pie sales go to local organizations that help people with developmental disabilities. Available at www.dardendelights.com. Or order a pie (404-973-8760) to pick up at the Atlanta store, 241 W. Wieuca Road N.E., Suite 100.
3. Breakfast re-invented
What’s for breakfast? Ask Erica Barrett. The founder of Decatur-based Southern Culture Artisan Foods created an innovative breakfast brand: Shortstacks Pancake and Waffle Mix. Made with 100 percent organic ingredients, the mixes come in 10 unique flavors (six for the gluten-free crowd), like Meyer Lemon Blueberry, Banana Pudding and Gingerbread. The mixes come in a 10-ounce ice cream-style container ($7.99). Or order a smartly boxed gift set ($50), like the popular “Breakfast in Bed” collection (a previous Oprah favorite). Available at www.southernculturefoods.com or at Whole Foods in the Atlanta area. Coming soon: Flavored grits.
4. Add sauce
Traveling the world for 25 years as a military and Delta Air Lines pilot, Georgia Tech grad Brad Cousar was introduced to a variety of international flavors. When he landed back in Atlanta, Cousar decided to create a line of all-natural, sugar-free, gluten-free and soy-free sauces. Fly by South’s sauces — with their unique white color — can be used to marinate, dip or saute meats and veggies. The White BBQ Sauce is a fan favorite, but the White Dipping and Spice Ghost sauces ($7-$10 per 12-ounce bottle) are the most versatile. Available at www.flybysouth.com and at Atlanta-area Sprouts, selected Kroger stores (in natural food aisles) and Atlanta Made, 1187 Howell Mill Road.
5. Oprah pick
Founded in 1988, Blackberry Patch in Thomasville makes small-batch fruit syrups, toppings, preserves — and new — fruit salsas ($6.99-$8.95). Pour the best-selling Blueberry or Maple Praline syrup over ice cream or mix it into plain Greek yogurt for breakfast. Or order the holiday gift box ($34.95), just selected as one of Oprah’s Favorite Things for 2014. It includes five (8-ounce) bottles of syrups: Blackberry, Raspberry, Blueberry, Apple Butter and Pumpkin Spice. Available at www.blackberrypatch.com and also at area Whole Foods, and Sprouts.
6. Cheese, please
Bobby Lee Carey took a cheese dip from New Orleans and tinkered with it to create Bobby Lee’s Best Ever Cheddar Cheese Dip. Carey first made the tasty dip for himself and friends. Later, he sold it to local markets in Cashiers and Highlands, N.C., where he lives. The dip includes 3-year-old Vermont White Cheddar Cheese, diced red peppers, green onions, spices, plus toasted and chopped walnuts. Available for $14 at Lucy’s Market, 102 W. Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta.
7. Spice things up
Ross Harding and Howard Morrison grow and process ginger (also turmeric) on a 1,000-acre plantation in Savannah for Verdant Kitchen, the company they founded in 2012. For holiday cocktails, the best-selling Ginger Syrup ($15.99) in the curvy glass bottle is a must. It is made with pure cane sugar, fresh lemons and organic ginger. Other hits include Georgia Ginger Ale, plus ginger snaps, teas and gingerbread men. Available at www.verdantkitchen.com. Also in the Atlanta area at Star Provisions, 1198 Howell Mill Road N.W. in the Westside Urban Market.
8. Pork clouds
After an experiment making pork rinds with olive oil for a dinner party proved a tasty success, Brett Goodson turned his light and crunchy snack into a business. Last year, the Auburn grad started Atlanta-based Bacon’s Heir (www.baconsheir.com). Pork Clouds (pork skins fried in olive oil) come in three flavors: Rosemary & Sea Salt (No. 1), Habanero, and Malabar Black Pepper ($2-$5, depending on size). Available on amazon.com or in the Atlanta area at Lucy’s Market, 102 W. Paces Ferry Road, and Ale Yeah in Decatur, 906 W. College Ave. P.S. In December, look for Bacon’s Heir’s new Cinnamon Pork Clouds — and a castile soap, naturally called Pork Soap. The soap, which smells like sandalwood, not pork, is made from filtered, pure leftover olive oil.
9. Go nuts
In 2008, Georgia’s Ben Kelly developed a spiced pecan for use in salads and appetizers for Cindy Lutini’s Catering company in the Lake Oconee area. Last year, Kelly started selling his Ben Ben’s Spiced Pecans, often described as sweet and salty with a touch of citrus. A 1-pound bag is $21 at Lucy’s Market, 102 W. Paces Ferry Road, in Atlanta’s Buckhead area (www.facebook.com/lucysmarket). In December, look for two new flavors: Rum Spiced Pecans and Sea Salt Spiced Pecans.
For craft beer fans, Alpharetta-based Jekyll Brewing is an OTP find. Founder Michael Lundmark, a hobbyist home brewer, partnered with brew master Josh Rachel to get the handcrafted beers to market last year. Hop Dang Diggity, a Southern IPA, is the brewery’s flagship product and top seller. A second favorite is Cooter Brown, an American brown ale. After a spin or walk, stop by the brewery at the north end of the Big Creek Greenway in Alpharetta. Or find its beers at area Publix, Whole Foods, Total Wine and most package stores ($8.99-$10.99 for a six-pack). For information on tours and tastings, visit www.jekyllbrewing.com.