Artisan Food Gifts for New Year’s in Chicago

by Lee Barrie and Cindy Kurman
Reprint from DineWise column in StreetWise Magazine

Celebrating the New Year with friends and family? Like so many of us, you’re probably making the rounds or hosting your own gathering. If comfort and pleasure are your stock in trade, it’s time to bestow some tasty, locally created food items upon your family and friends. Here are some of our favorite local artisans who have made a name for themselves with unique, deliciously fresh goodies.

Ugly Truffles and Damn Good Cookies

Mary Winslow is one of Chicago’s custom cake artists. Her Take the Cake is one of Chicago’s finest wedding cake studios. For gift givers, she has created a line of cookies and candies that have won a nationwide following. Ugly Truffles are handcrafted candies and Damn Good Cookies are a line of assorted cookies. Don’t take the tongue-in-cheek name too seriously; these are truly delicious. Order them online; they’re shipped fresh.

Terry’s Toffee
1117 W Grand Avenue, Chicago
(312) 733-2700;

Terry Opalek’s artisan toffee has become a fixture at the Academy Awards banquet for good reason: the rich flavors are creatively conceived and the quality is top-notch. In addition to gift boxes of toffee, you can also indulge your loved ones with biscotti, granola and other treats. Check them out by visiting the store or order online.

Gene’s Sausage Shop
4750 N Lincoln Ave., Chicago
(773) 728-7243;

Gene’s is one of Chicago’s newest food boutiques. It’s a deluxe Polish deli and bakery in Lincoln Square, the likes of which you’ve probably never seen before. The beautiful space is filled with homemade foods including meats, bakery, salads, blintzes, pierogies and shelf after shelf of unique packaged foods from Europe. They will make up custom food gift baskets, so head on over and treat your senses while you design the perfect food gift.

The Spice House
1512 North Wells St., Chicago

Food lovers in the know are quite aware of the difference that quality, fresh spices make in their home cooking. So, a wonderful gift for your home chef friends and relatives is a collection of freshly packed spices from this iconic spice emporium. The store features spice collections from all over the world; you can buy individual spices or pre-packed collections that will cover a wide range of cuisines. The staff is knowledgeable and passionate about what they do. You’re certain to learn something interesting while you’re there.

Chicago French Market
131 N. Clinton (between Randolph & Washington), Chicago
Hours: 7:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m., Mon.-Fri.; 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat.; closed Sun.

This fabulous year-round indoor market is located at MetraMarket, just north of the Ogilvie Transportation Center. The Market boasts 15,000 sq. ft. of European-inspired shops which carry fresh locally grown, artisan-made produce, meats, fish and seafood, breads, cheese, chocolates, and patisserie and gift items. Enjoy this taste of France in Chicago, bring family and friends and, while you’re there, pick up some beautiful and delicious gifts for the holidays. Great food gifts include pastry delights at Vanille; artisan chocolates from Canady Le Chocolatier; artisan cheese, breads and wine at Pastoral, and hand-crafted flavored pastas at Papperdelle’s.

Bella Bacinos
75 E. Wacker Drive, Chicago; 36 S. La Grange Rd., La Grange, IL
(312) 263-2350 or (708) 352-8882;

If you’ve been in Chicago for any amount of time, you’re probably familiar with Bacino’s and Bella Bacinos. These Italian trattorias serve up some of Chicago’s finest pizza and they’re all made with 100 percent real cheese, which makes them America’s first heart healthy pizza. Now you can order stuffed half-baked pizzas and have them shipped overnight to your pizza-loving friends and relatives, ready for finishing in the oven.

A small (10″ serving two to three) stuffed half-baked pizza is $45.99 including shipping and a medium (12″ serving three to four) is $55.99. Choose from Cheese, Spinach Supreme, Broccoli Bacinos, Very Vegetarian, Bacinos Special, Pesto Bacinos and Hawaiian. Overnight shipping is via Periship, a division of FedEx; pizza will arrive between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. the next day. Add a bottle of red or white, pizza-friendly wine with a pizza order as a special package for a grand total of $85.

Koepsels Farm Market
Baileys Harbor, WI
(920) 854-2433;

Koepsels is a Door County, Wisconsin, institution and gives you an opportunity to send made on premises Midwestern packaged food gifts anywhere. So go to their website ( and design your own food gift collection online. You’ll find a rich selection of jams and jellies, no sugar jams, butters, pie fillings, canned goods, pickled goods, dried goods, cheese and salad dressings, all nicely packaged.

Jam and jellies include both traditional and creative varieties: red chopped cherry, whole cherry, red cherry/red raspberry, cherry amaretto, red hot raspberry, blueberry/cherry, hot pepper jelly, strawberry, peach, rhubarb, red currant, boysenberry, apricot, blackberry, apple, apple cinnamon, cranberry. If you prefer a no-sugar added jam, try blackberry, strawberry, peach, red cherry, blueberry, strawberry rhubarb, just to name some. There are many more food items, so browse the aisles online.

Cindy Kurman Barrie and Lee Barrie are the principals of Kurman Communications, Inc., a Chicago-based marketing and public relations agency. Please visit their blog at and check out all DineWise articles at
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