Gourmet for Dummies
June 9, 2010 7:22 PM   Subscribe

FoodieFilter: I want to create a small, gourmet food basket. Help me balance it properly and get the most bang for my buck!

I would like to create a small gourmet gift basket for a fun-loving, easygoing couple that enjoys good food. They are not food snobs; I just want the gift to be classy and delicious! What should I include in the basket? Camembert? Smoked mussels? Pesto? Nuts? Maple syrup?


Budget is about $30 CDN (so portions will be small)
They are omnivores
Must be non-perishable
No alcohol
This is a thank-you gift

I would especially appreciate help with meat ideas, as this couple really enjoys meat, and I dont eat much of it. Thank you!
posted by yawper to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Excellent maple syrup will take up quite a lot of your budget. However, if you paired it with some of Alton's pancake mix and a recipe, that would be fun. You could add fancy fruit syrup, a spatula for flapjack flipping, etc. I realize these aren't meat ideas, but it's hard to think of good nonperishable meat products, and I got excited by the idea of real maple syrup. Sometimes, because of the cost, people don't spend the money to get it for themselves, so I think it would be a nice gift.
posted by TrarNoir at 7:54 PM on June 9, 2010

The Gourmet Food Store is one place to look for ideas, though the portions won't fit your budget. They have different kinds of smoked salmon and cured meats to browse. Smoked duck might be another meat idea.

Another direction you could go would be to include seasonings for them to experiment with. Different kinds of salts (Here's a smoked salt sampler) or whole vanilla beans or something might work. Nice olives would be another option. Do you have a local place where you can just browse and pick up things that catch your interest?

One thing you could think about as you organize is to plan your basket as a picnic meal with some bread or crackers (relatively cheap), one or two specialty cheeses, a smoked meat, olives for a side-item, maybe a unique dried fruit or sweet nuts (candied chestnuts?) or fancy chocolate bar for dessert and a bottle or two of microbrew soda (like birch or ginger beer?) or infused water or a sparkling juice to drink. Little bits of all those things can go a long way toward a great meal, but the challenge will be finding them in small enough portions to fit your budget. Good luck!
posted by BlooPen at 8:06 PM on June 9, 2010

I really, really feel like the trick with food baskets is to pull off a sense of abundance, regardless of the size of the budget. An inexpensive but overflowing food basket looks fabulous; a skinny but expensive food basket looks cheap.

Tissue paper is your friend.

I would raid markets to stuff this basket; the items may not be that unfamilar, but the brands and flavours are more likely to be new to the recipients. BlooPen's ideas are nice. I would add a package of crackers as well, to help bulk out the basket, and I like the idea of including a bottle (or two) of microbrew soda a lot.

Choclate is always a winner, too! You can get two gorgeous truffles in a little box from somewhere lovely for not a lot of cash.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:16 PM on June 9, 2010

How accomplished are you in the kitchen? That would certainly free up your budget somewhat. You could e.g. bake some lovely bread (I can get you a dead easy sodabread recipe tomorrow) for incredibly cheap, that sort of thing. Yeah, i know it's perishable--so make crackers or something, or some sort of preserves or whatnot.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:30 PM on June 9, 2010

Since you're in Toronto, I would recommend taking a long stroll through the aisles of Highland Farms -- they have a ton of excellent imported and interesting food items which don't have the high mark-ups that you'll find in specialty "gourmet" stores. They have a much better selection of everything than I've seen at any other store in the city.
posted by kaudio at 8:31 PM on June 9, 2010

I've made and received food baskets as gifts. My favorites have had quality pasta and a gourmet pasta sauce in them because: Dinner! I also like savory snacks: great crackers, a spread or two and some olives. That takes care of Sunday afternoon after a brunch. Some coffee or tea that they might not have seen will be appreciated. And cookies!

You could also do a theme basket, like BBQ, and include some gadgets, but I find those a bit more difficult to pull off.

Use a basket (or other useful container) that's a bit on the small side, so that you can have the items "pop" out. Craft stores sometimes sell glue dots that you can use to hold the items in place.
posted by zinfandel at 8:44 PM on June 9, 2010

Oh silly me, you're here in Toronto?

Check out the North Market at the St Lawrence on Saturday afternoon. Lots of farms and such selling their produce, yes, but also local jams and jellies and honeys and so on.

I may be able to swing you a few high-end ingredients at our cost (12yr balsamic, truffled honey, etc); I can find out tomorrow.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:00 PM on June 9, 2010

Are they also Canadian? 'Cause especially if they're not, we're dying for good maple syrup down here in the States, yo.

I think that local jams and honeys are a great idea regardless. With nice crackers.

Camembert is lovely, but so highly perishable...and there's a whole world of delicious cheeses -- if you can go to a cheesemonger and let them help you find something that YOU like, that's a nice touch. One suggestion is a really good aged gouda. It's quite a revelation, and it'll keep for months wrapped up.

If you can make at least one thing, that would be an extra-special neat touch, but if you don't have a thing that you make, don't worry about it a whit.
posted by desuetude at 11:11 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

For cheeses, the St Lawrence is great (I usually go to the one on the east side, near the back... can't remember the name, dark wood), but better is a place over on Roncesvalles. Thin Blue Line? Something like that. Around Roncey & Garden, bit south, east side of the street.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:24 AM on June 10, 2010

I made a lovely gift for a friend who loves cooking by going to the house of spice in kensington market, and buying her a pile of exotic spices and sauces - smoked paprika, saffron, chipotle powder, mexican chilli powder - then I went to Tap Phong on spadina and got some really nice and cheap spice jars. I packed it up, called it the Box-o-Deliciousness, it was a big hit.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:29 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

So many great ideas here! Thank you! I am actually a decent baker and I do make an amazing biscotti...it just never occurred to me to mix prepackaged items with homemade. But that suggestion is a great one, since biscotti keeps well and will add a personal touch (not to mention fill out my basket!).

dnab, thanks for the detailed suggestions and your most generous offer. I love the St. Lawrence market and visited it regularly when I worked downtown – but now I live in the burbs and don’t make it there very often. I might be able to head down there this weekend. And though I will go with the biscotti this time, I would love your sodabread recipe!
posted by yawper at 7:18 AM on June 10, 2010

It's not my recipe, it's chef's :P

It was published in The Star for St Patrick's Day, not sure if it's available online.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:01 AM on June 10, 2010

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