Better than a sweater

Curate a craveable gift basket of only-from-Boulder foods

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Susan France

In my other guise as a Lyft driver, I ferry visitors every day around Boulder between hotels and eateries. They come from all over and often have an anticipatory glow about them, although some of that may involve legal cannabis.

I always talk to guests about the many local culinary attractions, but many have already been eating in Boulder County for years. They already sip Bhakti Chai, Dale’s Pale Ale and Sleepytime tea and spread Justin’s Almond Butter on Rudi’s Gluten-Free bread. They munch Boulder Chips and have ordered pad Thai at Noodles & Company. Outside of the bubble, Boulder food has a patina of goodness and integrity about it, and tourists are eager to sample it all when they get here.

Some local residents take this wealth of gastronomic goodness for granted along with the majestic Flatirons backdrop. Maybe it requires visitors to open our eyes to what’s on the plate in front of us?

So, just for the joy of it, why not eat, dine and gift locally this year? Skip the long-distance mail order and support Boulder County businesses that hire your neighbors and pay taxes locally. It also makes sense environmentally.

There are hundreds of local eateries, stores and goodies I could mention but here are a few of my favorites to whet your appetite for the holidays. Start by serving a seasonal brunch composed only of local foods.

Holiday breakfast with the family

Whip up free-range eggs and Haystack goat cheese and scramble with Denver-made Epicurean white truffle finishing butter, amazing stuff that upgrades the flavor and aroma of almost everything it touches. On the side, serve salsa from Westminster’s MM Local, which is expanding and changing its name to Farmhand Organics. The hand-bottled fruits and veggies remain the same along with a traceability sticker showing the farm that grew the produce.

Once a year, Boulder Sausage Co. makes its craveable holiday cranberry orange sausage. Less adventurous diners would love Longmont-based Mulay’s Sausage breakfast links or Denver-made Tender Belly maple bacon.

For toast, try the rich brioche loaf from Breadworks Bakery or the excellent white sourdough bread from the new Othermama’s Bakery, 237 Collyer St. in Longmont. (That 1950s-inspired bakery is also baking real fruitcake and cinnamon roll wreaths for the holidays.)

On the bread I recommend the house peach-jalepeño preserves from Boulder’s Cured, bacon jam from the Organic Sandwich Co. and gluten-free, dairy-free baklava spread from Longmont’s Baklava Unlimited. (Actually, you don’t really need the bread.)

For breakfast beverages, consider Longmont Dairy Farm cinnamon eggnog in a glass bottle. It will remind you why at some point you thought eggnog tasted good. Instead of drip coffee, pour La Folie Grand Reserve: Geisha from Fort Collins’ New Belgium, one of the best-tasting beers in the state. This nitrogen-bottled dark sour ale made with Panamanian coffee is smooth, floral and perfect for sipping. For a probiotic palate cleanser that isn’t overly sweetened, pour Jamestown-brewed Cliffhouse’s orange raspberry kombucha.

For the best cup of hot chocolate ever, start with Boulder’s Cholaca, a vegan, gluten- and dairy-free, 100 percent liquid cacao with no preservatives or emulsifiers. It is liquid chocolate bliss.

In the stockings: Sweets, sips and the gift of goodness

Boulder-made Chocolove’s holiday bars are a gourmet upgrade on the classic Chunky milk chocolate slabs. Chocolove’s Belgian dark chocolate is embedded with pecans, currants, cherries, walnuts, hazelnuts, candied orange peel and ginger.

I always look forward to unwrapping the Robin Chocolates holiday truffles collection. The Longmont chocolatier’s annual, adult-oriented treats are neat chocolate boxes filled with everything from candy cane and eggnog to cranberry vodka lime. The absolute winner is the chocolate pecan pie version spiked with Longmont’s Black Canyon Distillery Whiskey, but not overly boozy. It really tastes like pie.

For the mixologist on the list, get them Boulder-brewed Cocktailpunk Oak Aromatic Cocktail Bitters made in collaboration with Bryan Dayton of OAK at fourteenth and Boulder’s forthcoming Corrida. Add a bottle of 4-year-old Boulder Bourbon from Vapor Distillery.

For the dedicated organic gardener, give some organic Chihuahua blue corn seeds locally grown by singer-songwriter Gregory Alan Isakov. Tins of the seeds that can be planted next spring are available at Moxie Bread Co. and at lineageseeds.com. You can wrap them with a copy of his recent album, Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony.

Donate to Boulder Food Rescue in the name of family and friends. The non-profit collects perishable food and provides just-in-time delivery by bike to housing developments, retirement homes, preschools and food pantries. Mitigate hunger in Boulder County and keep edible food out of the landfill. boulderfoodrescue.org

Local food news

Colorado will begin its latest stint in the national culinary spotlight when a Colorado-focused Season 15 of Top Chef premieres Dec. 7 on Bravo. It was filmed here in May and June with judges including Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi. Competing chefs are Carrie Baird (Bar Dough, Denver) and Brother Luck (Four by Brother Luck, Colorado Springs). … Le French Café, a new breakfast and lunch café, is open in the Village Shopping Center near Woodgrain Bagels and Rincon Argentino. Agnes and Quentin Garrigou serve crepes, baguette sandwiches, and house-baked macarons, croissants and tarts. … A Boulder breakfast destination, The Parkway Café, opens for a one-night-only family dinner breakfast 4-8 p.m. Dec. 13. First come, first served biscuits and gravy.

Words to chew on

“The recent ‘revelations’ of rampant harassment in the restaurant industry weren’t exactly a shocker to the women working in it. … Can we finally redefine, in our collective minds’ eye, what the race, gender or sexual identity of a top chef might be, and take the steps to make that happen?” — Chef Tom Colicchio.

John Lehndorff founded The Home for Unwanted Fruitcakes in Boulder. He talks about food at 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on Radio Nibbles on KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM, kgnu.org).