Perfect last-minute gifts should include Kentucky Proud products

swthompson@herald-leader.comDecember 18, 2013 

There's a reason they're called last-minute Christmas gifts. You've put it off and now you're scurrying to find something special for a neighbor or co-worker and you're stressed.

We've got you covered. Simply choose a food item that's made in Kentucky and you're done. You can be satisfied that it's a gift your recipient likely won't return, and buying local helps our communities.

There are lots of places to buy locally produced Kentucky Proud items, such as gift shops and supermarkets. Two places that make it a one-stop shopping trip are Good Foods Market & Café, 455 Southland Drive, (Goodfoods.coop) and Liquor Barn stores (Liquorbarn.com). These places carry an extensive line of local food products.

"Kentucky producers are our neighbors, our customers, and our friends. They are cheese- makers, grape-growers, winemakers, brewers, distillers, and Kentuckians. We like all those things," said Roger Leasor, director of community affairs at the Liquor Barn

To begin your search for locally produced food gifts, go to Kentuckyproud.com, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's listing of farmers and producers and the items they sell. Under "categories," go to general grocery, for a listing of items by product. Once you find an item you like, you can go directly to the producer's website and there you can find retail locations.

There are hundreds of locally made items that will please everyone on your gift list, here are just a few to tempt you.

■ A new item you might want to buy for yourself and a friend, is Olivia's Beer Cheese. It's made in Lexington by Olivia Swan and her family. Swan grew up eating beer cheese. "Thanks to my dad, I was eating it by age 3. Growing up, my brother and I were beer cheese fanatics. Like most everyone else in Lexington, we grew up on Hall's beer cheese — it was our snack of choice.

"When my brother (Michael Hurter) and I moved away for college ... we both ran into the same problem — no beer cheese. On our trips back to Lexington, we often packed a cooler of beer cheese to take back to college.

"I moved to Chicago in 2004 ... again, same problem — no beer cheese. And the same solution — pack a cooler, drive it back to Chicago," Swan said.

In 2006, Olivia Swan and her dad started to experiment with making beer cheese. Over the next few years, they began giving it out as Christmas gifts to family and friends, she said.

In 2010, Swan and her father Mike Hurter, entered the beer cheese contest in Winchester's Beer Cheese Festival amateur competition, and won. They decided to turn it into a marketable product, and the line now includes flavors with equine-inspired names. The bourbon and beer cheese is called "I'll Have Another," after a Kentucky Derby winner, and the beer and whiskey flavored spread is named "Unbrydled," There's a special edition, "Wines on Vine Blend."

■ Specialty sauces make nice gifts for both cooks and non-cooks. Nancy Ward, owner of Ward's Kentucky Specialties, recently relaunched her brand with new packaging. She keeps adding to her line of small-batch sauces that began with Original Bluegrass Steak and Everything sauce. Her newest is Wallace Station bourbon mustard, which she co-brands with local chef Ouita Michel. Go to Wardskentuckyspecialties.com.

■ Douglas Johannes of Mt. Sterling is a personal chef, owns a mobile food truck The Snack Shack, and has a line of Caribbean gourmet food products called Chef Doug's Gourmet Foods. He's a native of the U.S. Virgin Islands and is a graduate of Johnson and Wales University in Charleston, S.C. His food line includes Caribbean hot sauce, mustard honey and sweet & spicy BBQ sauces, and gourmet fish fry mix. Go to Chefdougsgourmetfoods.com.

■ Fresh goat cheese from a Kentucky producer will please the gourmet chef on your list. Susan Miller, owner of Bleugrass Chevre Farmstead Goat Cheese in Fayette County, has a new item. "Since it's the end of lactation and the milk structure always changes, our feta has magically turned into 'mozza-retta.' It's delicious, but has the flavor of feta with the texture of mozzarella, so we have basically created a new cheese." It's available at Good Foods Market, Graze Market and Cafe, 150 on Combs Ferry Road, and Miller will be at the Lexington Farmers Market at Cheapside Park Saturday.

The farmers market, open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays during winter, is where you'll also find items from Elmwood Stock Farm in Scott County such as heirloom organic cornmeal, dried beans (ying-yang, black turtle, peregion, and red kidney), popcorn, dried tomatoes, dried chile peppers, salsa, ketchup, and marinara. Go to Lexingtonfarmersmarket.com.

■ Bourbon candy is as much a part of the Kentucky tradition as the bourbon itself. Candy makers such as Ruth Hunt(Ruthhuntcandy.com) and Rebecca Ruth (Rebeccaruth.com) have been in business since the early 1900s.

New on the scene is DB Bourbon Candy.Robyn Stuart of Frankfort started her business in 2002, shortly after her mother, Johnnye Cunningham, died.

"She did bourbon balls at Christmas to give away to everybody. After she passed, everybody said, 'I'm going to miss your mom's candy,'" Stuart said. She decided to continue her mother's tradition "as a way to remember her." Go to Dbbourboncandy.com.

■ If you would like to have someone else to put it all together for you, gift baskets are available at Windy Corner Market, 4595 Bryan Station Road, Lexington (Windycornermarket.com).

All gift baskets are made with Kentucky Proud products. Included are a fiesta basket that has Screamin' Mimi'sSweet Hot and Sweet Hotter Salsawith blue and red corn chips; breakfast baskets with Country Rock maple syrup and Weisenberger Mill pancake mix; Crigger Farm honey, Elmwood Inn Tea and Weisenberger's biscuit mix; and Reed Valley Orchard strawberry or blueberry jam with Weisensberger's biscuit or scone mix.

■ Don't fret if there's someone on your list with food allergies. Midway School Bakery, 510 Versailles Road in Midway, offers gluten-free goodies, including gingerbread, in gift boxes. Go to Midwayschoolbakery.com.

■ If you like tradition, Martine's Pastries, 1039 Industry Road, Lexington, makes buche de noel (Yule Log cake) and decorated gingerbread cookies. Go to Martinespastries.com.

Sharon Thompson: (859) 231-3321. Twitter: @FlavorsofKY. Blog: Flavorsofkentucky.bloginky.com.

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