If you haven't yet tried Pennsylvania and New Jersey wines, get ready for a surprise. Many are elegant and complex, with a depth of flavor and terroir that can stand up to New and Old World vintages from more well-known locales.
_ Atlantic City Bottle Co. (ACBC) sells plenty of locally grown and made wines. A few to try include Bellview Winery (Landisville, N.J.) pinot grigio, Chambourcin and Cristallino Vidal Blanc Ice Wine, and Amalthea Cellars (Atco, N.J.) cabernet sauvignon Clone II and cabernet franc. ACBC also sells growlers from South Jersey breweries, including Tuckahoe Brewing and Cape May Brewing.
648 N. Albany Ave., Atlantic City, 609-348-6400, a cbottlecompany.com
_ Authentic organic spirits, flavored with rhubarb, ginger and sage. These are just a few of the reasons to visit Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, in Old City, the only store in Philly with its own line of liqueurs - and clothing and accessories.
116 N. 3rd St., 215-922-2600, artintheage.com
_ Pennsylvania state liquor stores sell the craft-batch wonders from Philadelphia Distilling, a line that includes Shine moonshine, Penn 1681 Vodka, Bluecoat Gin, Vieux Carre absinthe and The Bay seasoned vodka. Local guys, good booze, good gift.
_ Chaddsford Winery has been doing it right since 1982, bottling award-winning wines that pioneered the local vin movement here in Pennsylvania and, really, around the country. Their gift baskets are always a bright idea.
_ Marie Connell's MyHouse pies are to die for. Baked in Wynnewood and sold at Whole Foods and farmers markets in Malvern, Downingtown, Oakmont and Lansdowne, these scrumptious desserts are so homemade-looking you will think Grandma's in the kitchen. Small-batch cookies, too.
_ Better Together Bake Shop, in Lansdowne, features what may be the best brownies in the universe, from husband-and-wife team Todd and Kestra Kelly. Sold coast-to-coast at more than 200 locations, including Di Bruno Brothers, Fair Food Farmstand and Whole Foods, these fudgy delights inspire brownie bliss. Try the salted caramel version.
_ Love the backstory of small-batch roaster Rival Bros Coffee, born and bred from proud natives and lifelong friends chef Jonathan Adams (Pub & Kitchen) and Damien Pileggi, a bicoastal coffee pro. Pick up a pound of beans with names like Revolver or Whistle & Cuss for a satisfying java experience.
rivalbros.com, or head to the truck at 33rd & Arch streets, weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
_ Iron Chef Jose Garces is quite the marketer these days, with a slew of housemade condiments and baked goods available at Garces Trading Co., JG Domestic or online. They'll create a gift basket, or fill your own with the likes of Truffle Lavender Honey, macaroons, pumpkin gingerbread and fresh baked Yule Logs.
_ Perfect for the hottie in your life, Saint Lucifer Spice #11 is a dry blend of habanero pepper, vinegar, garlic and salt. An umami-rich, superior alternative to crushed red pepper, it works wonders on almost anything, but especially eggs, pasta, pizza, barbecue rubs and cocktails - think Bloody Lucifers.
Saint Lucifer is an all-natural spice company born in the small Philadelphia rowhouse kitchen of friends Tom Hewell and Ted Ebert. They began experimenting in 2004, blending and grinding to create the ultimate spice that would liven up any food.
saintluciferspice.com, or in specialty retail stores such as Reading Terminal Market, The Foodery, Art in the Age and Green Aisle Grocery
_ Frecon Farms, a mecca of locally grown goodness since 1944, has an awesome farm store in Boyertown chock-full of sauces, chutney, jams, jellies, cheeses, crackers, spreads, fruit butters, cider applesauce, fresh-pressed sweet cider and more - ideal for one-stop gift-basket shopping.
501 S. Reading Ave., Boyertown, 888-367-6200, freconfarms.com
_ Philly's own John & Kira's makes wonderful, chocolate-covered figs and whimsical treats in the shape of ladybugs, bees and mushrooms.
_ Eclat Chocolate in downtown West Chester is an amazing candy boutique from master chocolatier Chris Curtin, who uses single-source cocoa beans to create offbeat truffles infused with local beer, Alleppo chili and dusted in flecks of real gold. His addictive caramels are spiked with rose petals, ginger and calvados.
24 S. High St., West Chester, 610-692-5206, eclatchocolate.com
_ Eric and Ryan Berley's Shane Confectionery does things the old-fashioned way. The duo, who recently curated "Oh, Sugar!", an exhibit on candy at the Independence Seaport Museum, dish up retro confections, like barley sugar-toy candies made in antique molds and butter creams made from Mr. Shane's original recipe.
110 Market St., 215-922-1048, shanecandies.com
More cool stuff
_ John Brandt-Lee doesn't just run two successful restaurants - Avalon Restaurant, in West Chester, and Avalon Bistro, in Downingtown. Along with wood craftsman Chris Conlon, he runs the Philadelphia Block and Board Co., which produces high-quality boards and tables from aged wood for the restaurant industry and home use.
The cherry and walnut board is the most popular item, with its routed groove to save flavorful meat juices from spilling onto the kitchen counter. Perfect for carving a large holiday roast or turkey.
_ Farmhaus Cutting Boards are created from salvaged wood by local artist Ben McBrien. You can even get one in the shape of the Keystone State.
Available at Art in the Age, 116 N. 3rd St., farmhausmodern.com
Books for cooks
There are a slew of Philly-based books out there (available on Amazon.com). Three worth mentioning:
_ The Soupmaker's Kitchen, by chef Aliza Green, takes her usual passionate approach, this time to comfort food from all cultures, and soup as appetizer to one-pot meal. Illustrated by gifted local food photographer Steve Legato.
_ For the cook who likes dinner with a side of romance there's Eating Italy, by Jeff Michaud, a memoir/cookbook detailing the James Beard Award-winning chef's travels across northern Italy, where he met and married his wife. Known for his exceptional work across partner Marc Vetri's acclaimed restaurants, this is Michaud's first book, but surely not the last.
_ Get the latest from prolific City Tavern chef Walter Staib, host of the popular PBS show "A Taste of History." His latest is A Sweet Taste of History, a look at the Colonial sweet table.
A culinary experience is a great idea for the person who really does have everything. It's also a fun thing to do with someone.
_ Media personality/chef Hope Cohen delivers a fully prepared, three-course seasonal dinner for six, with paired bottle of wine and personalized cookbook for $850 (within 20 miles of Center City).
_ Reserve a class at COOK, Audrey Claire's chef-driven, 16-seat kitchen-classroom that features tastings, culinary demonstrations and classes in a beautiful, intimate setting near Rittenhouse Square. A splurge, but worth it.
_ Gift a spot at Tria's Fermentation school, where wine, cheese and beer experts teach everything from basics to beyond.
_ Whether you need a "Culinary Bootcamp," want to sharpen your knife skills or master "Hands-On Desserts," the family-run Albertson's Cooking School, in Wynnewood, has been delivering the goods since 1973.
Beth D'Addono has been writing about the Philadelphia and national restaurant scene for more than 17 years in local and national publications. Read more at unchainedtravel.com.