Tuesday, December 6, 2011

[HOT LIST] Made in Michigan gift baskets

Toasted Oak Grill's Michigan cheese platter. Photo by Nicole Rupersburg.

Putting together a good gift basket is like putting together a good mixed tape. There must be a rhythm, a theme. You must really think about what it is you're trying to communicate with this offering. Not only are your selections a reflection on you and your tastes, but they also reflect the relationship you have with the recipient: what do you really know about them and their tastes; what are you going to give them that says "I enjoy this and hope you will too?"

Now, there's the good ol' Harry and David gift baskets you can fall back on: order online and have it sent straight to your recipient without ever so much as touching the basket, much less actually sampling any of the products, or really even knowing what products are included. (It's about as personal as a Visa gift card. Hell, I'd rather have the gift card.) But a proper gift basket, one that you actually put a little bit of thought and effort into, that means something. (After all, the way to pretty much anyone's heart is through their stomach.) Gift baskets abound at markets and specialty stores during the holidays, but these places are going the extra mile with thoughtful gift baskets highlighting Michigan-made products that can be custom-made and shipped anywhere in the country.

(1) Toasted Oak Grill and Market (Novi)
Cheese and charcuterie: there's really no way to go wrong. With a wide selection of Michigan-made and imported artisan cheeses and full selection of charcuterie made in-house (sausage and salumi, terrines and pat├ęs), Toasted Oak's holiday platters (served with house-made accoutrements like bacon caramel and lavender honey) are a crowd-pleaser for when you need to bring a dish to share. For gift-giving, their Picnic Tote includes two Michigan wides, a tartan plaid picnic blanket, a Toasted Oak signature cheese board cut in the shape of the state of Michigan, a cutting knife and a wine key.

(2) Motor City Wine and Foran's Grand Trunk Pub (Detroit)
Technically two separate businesses but I'm clumping them together just so that I can sneak a sixth on this list without it being obvious. Upstairs at Motor City Wine, you can choose from pre-made baskets or order one custom. Choose wines from their affordable boutique wine collection (with plenty of Michigan wineries to choose from, including bubbly from L. Mawby to put you in the holiday spirit) and pair with their Michigan-made pasta and pasta sauce for a proper Michigan meal in a basket, or select from several varieties of chocolates, organic olive oil, olives, crispbreads and T-shirts. They can also include local cheeses and cured meats if you are able to keep the basket refrigerated. Order online or by phone for curb-side pick-up. Downstairs at the Grand Trunk Pub, their baskets include four assorted Michigan craft beers, a bottle of Faygo, and a couple of bags of assorted Better Made Chips for $20. Custom baskets also available; contact Suzanne at 313-961-3043.

(3) Three Little Birds Fine Foods (Northville)
As if Northville could get any more adorable, here's Three Little Birds. Their all-natural handmade granola is wheat-free, dairy-free, oil-free and cholesterol-free (as natural granola should be) and is available in an assortment of flavors. They also support other local businesses, such as with their Made in the Mitten Baskets which includes McClure's potato chips, Dave's Sweet Tooth Toffee, Matt's Mix all-purpose seasoning, their signature granola, and a Pewabic Pottery ornament. Order at 248-739-9199.

(4) Plum Market (Bloomfield, Ann Arbor, West Bloomfield)
Plum Market has arguably the most extensive and wide-ranging selection of Michigan-made products of any of the grocery stores and specialty markets in the metro area. Browsing their selection even in the comparatively selfish summer months will make you instinctively think "These would make great gifts!" (Seriously, hats off to whoever does their displays: they serve their purpose in making me want to buy everything.) They have a fantastic assortment of different gift baskets available (order online and ship anywhere); there's the old stand-bys of fruits and chocolates, but they also have themed baskets like "Gluten Free" and "Go Green." The Michigan Made basket is packed full of some of Michigan's best artisan food products, like Kelly's Karamels and Guernsey Dairy Hot Fudge.

(5) Good Hart General Store (Good Hart)
Just north of Harbor Springs in the small coastal city of Good Hart, the Good Hart General Store is making some mean baskets. Available for shipping around the globe, the Pure Michigan Gift Basket features all Michigan-made products like maple syrup and goat's milk soap, and their Homemade Preserves basket features all of their own local fruit preserves made in-house. They can also make custom baskets, like the Virgin Mary Basket ($52) with McClure's Bloody Mary Mixer and Michigan pickled asparagus. Just add vodka! (Valentine, naturally.)

Bubbling under Western Market (Ferndale), Merchant's Fine Wine (Dearborn), Zingerman's Creamery (Ann Arbor), 8 Degrees Plato Beer Company (Ferndale), Chateau Chantal (Traverse City), Papa Joe's Gourmet Market (Rochester, Birmingham), Nino Salvaggio International Marketplace (St. Clair Shores, Troy, Clinton Twp.)

Toasted Oak Grill & Market (Hotel Baronette) on Urbanspoon