Whether you need a gift for a friend, a homesick Chicagoan, or just yourself, there is no shortage of edible options available around town. Here are some of our favorite options for the holiday season.
New Chicago Cookbooks
Each new year brings a new crop of Chicago-centric cookbooks, and 2013 was no different. We're big fans of Hot Doug's: The Book, which not only chronicles the shop's rise from local hot dog stand to the national encased meat icon, but also features our account of eating everything on the menu. We're also excited about The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie, and not just because we've eaten every slice of pie there, too. Oh, and though Ina Pinkney's restaurant closed this year, you can find all of her recipes in Taste Memories: Recipes for Life and Breakfast.
Shops with Locally Made Products
Provenance Food & Wine is still a great one stop shop for locally made products. The Dill Pickle Food Co-op in Logan Square has a number of perishable local products, including tofu from Phoenix Bean and salsas and hummus from Vallarta Foods.
The Chicago Classics
As we mentioned last year (and the year before), what kind of gift guide would it be without Vienna Beef and Lou Malnati's? While you can go with just hot dogs, Vienna Beef is now offering a Natural Casing Chicago Style Hot Dog Kit 10 Pack, which is what we'd suggest for the novice. As for Lou Malnati's, the two pizza deal is a good place to start.
During our stroll through Eataly Chicago, we noticed a number of gift basket options, which you can purchase in person. If that doesn't suit you, J. P. Graziano's has a few of Italian food gift baskets available for purchase online.
If you're looking for spirits, it's hard to go wrong with anything from North Shore Distillery, Few Spirits, Koval, or Hum. But if you're looking for something a little more esoteric, check out the Malört or Autumnal Gin from Letherbee. Also, this year saw an explosion in small boutique distilleries, including Rhine Hall and CH Distillery.
As for beer, there are almost too many options out there, but here are a few of our favorites. Goose Island may be national now, but that's allowed the company to focus its locally on some really interesting projects. Other great breweries include Revolution Brewing, Half Acre, and Metropolitan Brewing.
We recently did a taste test of 16 brands of canned giardiniera (something we do not suggest anyone attempt to equal). You can purchase the first place brand, Bunyons Hot Giardiniera, at Chicago-area Whole Foods. Second place went to Victoria Brand, which is available for purchase at J. P. Graziano's retail location in the West Loop or on its website. Finally, in third was Potbelly's Hot Peppers, which is available at your closest outlet of the sandwich chain.