Big flavors make great stocking stuffers
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Big Sky, Big Flavor

Big flavors make great stocking stuffers

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By now, the big-deal gifts are known, at least filed away in the mind or jotted on a Christmas list. If you’re the organized type, they may even be purchased and wrapped.

But what about those smaller gifts that are part of the season too — a stocking stuffer for a relative, a gourmet treat for a loved one, a thank-you gift for someone who hosted a party or deserves recognition? Food is always a good idea, especially when it can be saved and savored after the holidays, a reminder of the season that ended and the new one starting out.

Local grocery stores carry lots of Montana-made products that are great stocking stuffers or gifts; take a tour to find teas, coffees, barbecue sauces, wines and more, made right here in the Treasure State. So pair a six-pack of mixed local craft beers with a $10 Montana Brewery Passport for a beer-lover in your life, or consider these five other delicious diversions for special people:

Montana honey

Knapweed, clover, wildflowers — Montana beekeepers and bees produce delicious honey from around the state, and many different kinds can be found on grocery store shelves and at specialty stores, craft fairs and winter markets. Usually for around $10-$20 you can find one or a selection of different honeys, perfect for using to lightly sweeten hot tea, spread on a piece of hearty bread or drizzle over oatmeal.

Gourmet chocolate

Selections from Missoula’s own Posh Chocolat’s line make an elegant gift for all chocolate lovers who savor quality over quantity. The company is best known for its delicious caramels, some with unique combinations (bacon/sea salt; Flathead cherry-balsamic), its almond toffee, and its truffles, but it’s worth checking out its website to see what else is available. Peppermint bark fits the season, for example. And Posh offers its own hot chocolate mix; at about $16 a can, it’s a luxurious departure from the run-of-the-mill pouches that are common in most kitchens. Another favorite is the Montana fly box: It’s a metal box filled with 12 huckleberry chocolates; once the chocolate is gone, the box can be used to keep flies for fishing Montana rivers.

Cost is about $8 for a gift pack of six caramels; the fly box is about $25. Posh Chocolat can be ordered online, purchased at the Posh Chocolat counter in the lobby of the Florence Building in Missoula, or at various retailers (see a list on the company’s website, poshchocolat.com).

Dressings for a dish

Locals know about the Mustard Seed restaurant’s great food and long tradition in Missoula but may not be aware that some of their classic sauces and flavors are available for home use too. These bottles fit nicely into a Christmas stocking, or put one or two in a gift bag for a simple, local, lovely present for someone who doesn’t need more things. You can find Mustard Seed sauces — Asian Oil and Vinegar, Osaka Sauce, Teriyaki Grill Sauce, Ginger Dressing, Fireworks Sauce and more — at Noodle Express and Mustard Seed restaurants, and at local groceries too. Find a list of retailers on the company’s website at mustardseedsauce.com.

The Mustard Seed’s website also offers tips for using the sauces, including adding to deviled eggs, spicing up hamburger patties and giving stuffed peppers a boost.

Post-party pairings

Montana distilleries are well known and loved for their vodkas, gins and whiskeys, but they make after-dinner liquors too. A bottle of one of these would give a friend or a party host a lovely way to unwind after the kitchen is tidy and the evening is winding down.

For ideas, check out your favorite distillery or visit a well-stocked local liquor store. At Missoula’s Grizzly Liquor (110 W. Spruce St.), for example, you’ll find a whole section of Montana spirits, including many that are perfect for after-dinner sipping — coffee, chokecherry, huckleberry sweet cream liquors, among others. How about a limoncello from Spotted Bear Spirits in Whitefish? A walnut liqueur from Glacier Distilling Company in Coram? Or an Orphan Girl bourbon cream liqueur from Headframe Spirits in Butte?

Also a nice gift: Montana-made mixers, such as the Montgomery Distillery’s Sunday Morning Bloody Mary Mix or its grenadine, or Missoula Shivelight’s huckleberry, ginger-honey, Bitterroot apple and cinnamon or Flathead cherry “shrubs,” the concentrated syrups that round out craft cocktails.

Cost will range from about $12 to $50; most liquors are $20-$30.

Quirky quips

This isn’t edible, but nevertheless serves up some delicious tidbits about our fascinating state: Author/illustrator Josh Quick’s newly published “Montana Quick Facts: 100 Surprising and Strange Facts about Montana” makes a great gift for readers of any age. At about $20, readers can learn where the world’s shortest river is located in Montana, how the smokestack in Anaconda stacks up against the Washington Monument, and how many Montana snake species are venomous. There are some food facts to learn too, including a rundown of the typical lunch for a Butte miner; how soybean fiberboard license plates fared in the 1940s; and the name of the Chinook High School’s mascot.

Mea Andrews was a Missoulian reporter and editor for 27 years before retiring. She now writes about restaurants and food – and other things too -- in and around Missoula.

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