Want something sweet? Indulge Caramels, made in Portland by Jennifer Bell, are wonderfully gooey drops of browned butter and sugar. The plain caramels are great, but the cayenne version, which carries a sneaky capsaicin punch, is even better. $7.50 for a 4-ounce bag. Manor Fine Wares, 907 NW 23rd Ave., 954-2900, indulgecaramels.com.
Sometimes you just want to eat a juicy stick of meat—but Slim Jims are so passé. The good folks at Gartner’s Meat Market smoke their own pepperoni sticks in-house using old-school German recipes. At 50 cents a pop, they only cost a little more than those Jims and taste worlds better. Gartner’s Country Meat Market, 7450 NE Killingsworth St., 252-7801, gartnersmeats.com.
(Not pictured) We already know everything tastes better coated in animal fat, but who wants to render their own lard? Give velvety, rich pig fat—if you buy it from Portland’s Salt, Fire and Time, you know it will be local, sustainable and made with the utmost care. $5 per cup. Order online at saltfireandtime.com.
Speaking of making dinner taste better, your foodie friend already knows that salt = flavor. Throw in a package of pink sea salt rocks from the Meadow—at $7.95 per pound, it’s the most cost-effective way to make food taste professional. Or splurge on a block of salt that can be used as a skillet (yes, this means cooking dinner on salt)—they start at 24 bucks. The Meadow, 3731 N Mississippi Ave., 288-4633, atthemeadow.com.
Plain ice cream is just so…naked. Give it a boost with creamy, gooey, ice-cream-enhancing Alma caramel sauce. The sauces come in French lavender, seductively spicy habanero and subtly floral rosewater. At $7 a pop, you can afford to experiment. Alma Chocolate, 140 NE 28th Ave., 517-0262, almachocolate.com and other local retailers.
Give the gift of award-winning oatmeal. Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats are only $2.53 for over a pound of fiber-filled goodness—and this fall, a Red Mill chef took the highest honors at the international porridge cooking competition. Throw in a wooden spurtle (the optimal oatmeal-stirring stick) to make the gift the most authentic. $12.99. Bob’s Red Mill, 5000 SE International Way, Milwaukie, 607-6455, bobsredmill.com and local grocery stores.
For all wannabe ’50s housewives, Staccato Gelato is offering a Pacific Northwest-themed yule log. Underneath local forest residents like owls and mushrooms is a flavor-packed confection of peppermint gelato, chocolate angel food cake and chocolate whipped cream. So what if it’s kitschy? It’s an ice cream log—topped with a banana slug. What could be better? $28. Staccato Gelato. 232 NE 28th Ave., 231-7100, and 1540 SE Bybee Blvd., 517-8957, staccatogelato.com.
Still can’t think of the perfect nibble? Donate $10 to the Oregon Food Bank in a friend’s name. Every $10 will pay for enough food for an emergency food box to feed families in need. Order online at oregonfoodbank.org or by phone at 419-4188.