Hands up if you love good food! And, two hands up if you love sweet treats and snacks! If you’ve got two hands up in the air, then this post may be about self-gifting ideas. If you aren’t a sweets lover yourself, but know others who are, then this is a post of top notch gift ideas.
We love good food here at Little Birdie Me, and we especially love us the occasional bit of cake, bowl of popcorn, scoop of ice cream, mouthful of candy and/or bite of chocolate. In fact, the word “occasional” is probably inaccurate there – it might be more like “daily?” Just sayin’. Over the years, our tummies and sweet teeth have led us over hill and over dale, sussing out delicious bakeries, pastry shops and experimenting in the kitchen. We’ve also been both a giver and receiver of delicious treats by post. So, we thought we’d highlight five of our favorite go-tos when it comes to gifting something delicious.
We extend our apologies in advance to our international readers, all of these vendors are US-based. On the plus side though, we have personally tasted (and loved!) the goodies made by all these makers/growers so if you are US-based, we heartily recommend checking them out!
BAUER’S CANDIES’ MODJESKAS – Bauer’s Candies is a family business based in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. The current owner and president of the company, Anna Bauer, is the great-granddaughter of the man who, in 1889, began producing what were then called “caramel biscuits” and are now called “Modjeskas.” The Modjeska is an absolutely scrumptious confection – a marshmallow center surrounded by gorgeously chewy caramel. We think of them as little pillows of deliciousness. They are available in both traditional caramel and in chocolate caramel – and we’re not gonna lie, the traditional ones in the Classic Modjeskas Gift Box are our hands-down favorite. At first a Modjeska looks like a hulking big mouthful of straight-up caramel - which isn’t necessarily a bad thing - but in this instance, you’ll be gustatorily transported by a pillowy, airy blend of marshmallowy sweetness and perfectly buttery-salty, splendidly chewy caramel. Highly recommend.
Where did the name, Modjeska come from you ask? Apparently, it is an homage to Madame Helena Modjeska, a Polish actress who performed in, among other things, the 1883 U.S. debut of Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House.” One of these performances, staged in Louisville, Kentucky, was attended by Anton Busath, himself a candy maker and owner of Busath Candies. He was so taken with Modjeska’s performance, he asked her if he could name his caramel invention after her. When Busath Candies closed its doors in 1947, Bauer’s in turn began calling their caramel biscuit “Modjeskas” as an homage to Busath and his creation.
When placing an order with Bauer’s, do be mindful that it can take a few days for your order to ship out – especially around the holidays, their busy season. Taking a moment to factor in this extra bit of time is worth it though – your candies will be super fresh! We rang up the company last Christmas just to check on when they thought our order might ship and, not only did we chat with someone who was awfully friendly, it sounded from the way he described order handling, that he was standing on the factory floor. How often does that happen these days that you’re actually talking to someone who is involved in the making and packing themselves, rather than someone at a call center? So, not only do their candies taste absolutely delicious, it’s nice to feel one is supporting a great team of folks who are personally putting their care and attention into making and packing each order. Side note: if you (or your recipient) are not so keen on marshmallows, Bauer’s straight-up chewy caramels are also delicious and are available in several varieties, including sea salt and bourbon.
CROWN JEWEL POPCORN – Anyone else a popcorn fiend? In addition to the traditional role of accompanying movie-watching, we’ve also been known to have a big bowl of popcorn in lieu of dinner. Initially, we were pretty indiscriminate in our popcorn choices and, don’t get us wrong, we’re still totally down for movie theater popcorn. However, we were tickled pink to discover that there are many kinds of popcorn out there and that there can be a fairly noticeable difference in flavor – some are naturally a little sweeter, others more corny tasting. Texture is another thing that distinguishes some corn from others – how crunchy and how large the popped kernels are.
Initially, when exploring the various popcorns out there, we experimented with a Crown Jewel sampler, gradually tasting our way through a selection of corns. Now, when we need to restock the popcorn larder, we tend to reorder the same two varieties – our favorites – the Petite Princess Amber and the Baby Blue Sapphire. Both of these pop up a bit smaller than popcorn you would buy in the supermarket. They also seem to be crunchier and have greater flavor. Too, the Baby Blue Sapphire tends to yield a fair number of halfpops (less charitably known as old maids!) which we quite like. It’s all down to personal preference though, and trying lots of different varieties was fun so, if you are gifting (be it to someone else, or to yourself), we recommend a variety pack as a fun starting point!
A final note: as delicious as Crown Jewel’s popcorn is, the way your popcorn is shipped is not exactly geared towards wowing the recipient with the unpacking process – it’s simply focused on getting the popcorn to them intact. Just something to keep in mind if, for example, you are gifting to a client, or any other situation where gift wrapping and/or presentation might be important. Lastly, as with Bauer’s Candies, shipping does not always happen the day after you place your order so do allow a bit of time for your order to ship.
JENI’S SPLENDID ICE CREAMS – We’ve been fans of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams for some years now – fans of both her pints of ice cream (available in amazingly delicious flavors), and of her ice cream “cookbooks” which we have used with great success to make our own ice cream. That said, Jeni’s wouldn’t have made the list this year, but for the fact that we were a lucky recipient of a selection of Jeni’s buttermilk frozen yogurts last holiday season. Before that, we simply had no idea that it was logistically feasible to ship frozen treats - and, frankly, we mightn’t have believed it was possible to do well if we hadn’t witnessed it with our own eyes (and tastebuds!).
Our pints arrived in a Styrofoam box with a layer of dry ice on top (safely enclosed in a cardboard handler). This meant they might have arrived even colder than they subsequently were once stowed in our freezer. Initially we were a bit flummoxed by what to do with the Styrofoam container (could it be recycled?), until we read the enclosed literature – easy peasy, you can schedule a free pick-up with USPS and they collect your now empty box and Styrofoam container and return it to Jeni’s for re-use. For us, this was definitely a “wow” job packaging-wise – a cheery, bright orange box, plus humorous and friendly directions enclosed on how best to unpack and enjoy your pints. Two thumbs up in that department! And, that’s not even the most important part - as for the ice creams themselves – we give two thumbs up, plus all the rest of our fingers and all of our toes! Everybody’s favorite flavors will vary but some of ours are: Key Lime Buttermilk yogurt, Mango Buttermilk yogurt, Bangkok Peanut (a heavenly mix of peanut, coconut, honey and cayenne pepper for a touch of heat!), Roxbury Road (housemade marshmallows, praline sauce and toasted almonds in chocolate ice cream!), Green Mint Chip, and Riesling Poached Pear sorbet. But, that’s only the tip of the iceberg – check out the current list of flavors and we hazard a guess that more than several will tempt your tastebuds! (Note: some flavors are seasonal so you may have to keep an eye out for availability.)
A quick final word: because deliveries need to be received promptly, we recommend either coordinating directly with your recipient to be sure they’ll be home on delivery day, or giving a gift card so they can schedule delivery themselves.
EHCHOCOLATIER CHOCOLATES – This one’s a local favorite! Elaine Hsieh and Catharine Sweeney make chocolates right up the road, in Somerville, MA. But, we’re not highlighting their work because they’re local, we’re highlighting it because they’re doing some of the most delicious work with chocolate we’ve tasted in these United States. We admit, we’re a bit fussy when it comes to flavorings or things mixed into chocolate – often too much is added so the chocolate flavor is swallowed up under, say, an overwhelming raspberry flavor. Sometimes too, chocolatiers make their chocolates so large that not only do you feel rather clumsy when consuming them, but you can’t try many because one or two might serve to max out your chocolate craving. Not so with EHChocolatier chocolates. Not only are they perfectly balanced flavor-wise so that neither the chocolate nor the combining flavor dominates (to the detriment of the other), but their bonbons are sized so you feel positively glamorous eating them – and you can have more than one or two without feeling like you are going overboard. And, we’re not the only ones who feel this way - their “synergy” of flavor was noted by Michael Laiskonis (former pastry chef at Le Bernardin in New York) when EH’s caramels were included in a caramel taste-off organized by The New York Times.
EH’s bonbons and caramels are supremely scrumptious, but do yourself a favor and don’t miss out on their other treats as well. Some of our all-time favorites from this dynamic duo include their peppermint bark (available during the holiday season), their cinnamon red hot crunch bars (a Valentine’s Day special), and our year-round go-to, their Coconutty Bars (if you or someone you love is a coconut lover too, this one is a must-try!)! Gifting-wise, we usually send their sampler, The Big Tasty, which offers a nice overview of some of their most popular items but you know yourself your recipient (ahem!) best and may wish to browse the range of chocolates on offer before selecting your goodies.
GEORGETOWN CUPCAKE – Ok, we know a lot of folks might groan at this one because of the ubiquitous nature of what is called the “cupcake craze.” However, in our defense, our love affair with cupcakes dates to childhood and is not trend-related at all. We’ll be cupcake lovers to the end! We were just glad that the trend came along, making it easier to satisfy our non-stop craving for small cakes with greater regularity.
As with chocolate chip cookies or apple pie, chances are everybody has a slightly different picture of their ideal. Is the cake more important to you? The frosting? Are they equally important? What is appropriate ratio of cake to frosting? So many possibilities for variation that can push a cupcake from good to great! For us, Georgetown Cupcake’s Birthday cupcakes and their Peanut Butter Fudge cupcake get five gold stars, or in the case of cupcakes, perhaps it should be five cold glasses of milk? We did a little jig when they opened up a shop on Newbury Street here in Boston – a regular stop when passing through the area. And, perhaps a lesser known tidbit – cupcakes freeze really well so we like to keep a box of Georgetown cupcakes in the freezer so that, especially in winter time, we can have a cakey indulgence at the spur of the moment! So why are we telling you about our love affair with cupcakes? Well, as it transpires, Georgetown Cupcake ships their goods. As with ice cream, we were a little skeptical that this could really be a feasible thing, but we found a video on YouTube capturing the unboxing of a cupcake delivery from Georgetown Cupcake. We were really impressed and, if you know a cupcake fan who lives far from a cupcakery (is that a word? well, now it is if it wasn’t before!), then this might just be the delicious gift for them!
Well, that’s the round up, folks! Some of our all-time favorite treats to receive in the mail. What are your favorites? Since most of our life decisions are made with consideration to the needs and wants of our tummies, we’re always keen to hear about new and delicious food makers!
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