Fruitcakes sound harmless enough — a cake filled with chopped nuts, fruits and spices, and sometimes alcohol — but holiday legend makes them out to be worse than liver and onions, root canals, or rain on your wedding day.
Fortunately, there are plenty of fruitcake alternatives to choose from if you want to give food as a gift. For friends and colleagues, a package of sweets from a local bakery or some fragrant coffee beans are a great way to express your appreciation for a year's worth of good work, kindness and friendship. We've rounded up some local options if you're shopping for the foodies on your gift list.
Highland Park-based Carol's Cookies are sure to please. Carol Goldman started baking in her home 30 years ago, and even though she's working out of a bigger facility up the road, her treats are the same as always. These half-pound cookies are made in small batches with all-natural ingredients, too. Order online for shipping direct to a really special friend, or find them at local outlets like , , and .
Glenview-based Chocolate Potpourri has grown up locally, just like Carol's Cookies. Marcia Gardon started baking toffee in her kitchen in 1980, and now with her sons produces 22 kinds of truffles and other confections from their original receipes out of their Glenveiw facility. Gift baskets come in all shapes and sizes - some are even kosher. Order online or stop by the store.
Newport coffee beans
Roasting in Bannockburn since 1992, Newport Coffee House is a favorite among locals looking for fresh coffee beans. Patch reader Jay Greener recommends Newport because it is so fresh - beans are sold within days of roasting - and the freshness is reflected in the taste and quality of the final product. Newport owner Nevair Jindoyan uses only two expert roasters in her shop, and said coffee makes a great gift for holiday entertaining. "Coffee can be a dessert in itself; it's certainly something you expect after dinner at any gathering of people," says Newport owner Nevair Jindoyan. "And many of coffee's natural flavors complement various desserts you might have to your table. We don't add any flavors to our coffee, but some of the South American beans naturally have nutty or chocolatey flavors, and Afrcian beans have bold and spicy flavors that we associate with the holidays." Study up on how geography is reflected in coffee beans before you place your order.
Fair-trade Rwandan coffee
Greener, also senior pastor of Highland Park's Church of the Redeemer, is sort of an expert on coffee. The church is a source for fair-trade Rwandan coffee, supporting farmers and growers in the East African nation that grows the beans. Buying fair-trade coffee is not just good for your friends but good for the growers, Greener says. "For example, the sale of 135 bags of coffee will support one farmer's family for an entire year," he explains. Interested customers can call 847-579-0733 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Waker Brothers Apple Pancake
Send dessert for breakfast with this local favorite, a combination of tart apples, fluffy cake and drippy sweet cinnamon and sugar. Pick up a frozen pancake at one of the restaurants in Wilmette, Glenview and Highland Park, or call to discuss shipping a frozen apple pancakes to the destination of your choosing.
Whole Foods gift boxes
Health conscious friends can be the hardest to shop for; they don't enjoy the buckets of caramel corn, truffles and shelf-stable "cheese food" that fill the typical office break room. For those folks, check out the gift boxes that has put together. The Mighty Bowl of Goodness, for example, has lentils, quinoa, beans and spices for the beginnings of a one-pot meal to which the recipient can add fresh vegetables of their choosing. Or, if you're feeling crafty, check out Whole Foods's recipes for gifts like preserved lemons and vanilla bean sugar.