Fancifull Gift Baskets' Blog

Alternative Diets: Vegan, Gluten Free, Kosher

For years California has derogatorily been referred to as The Land of Fruits and Nuts.
We will ignore the derogatory meaning and focus on how this phrase can apply literally to our bounty of agricultural products that feeds the world and yes, we embrace alternative thinkers, lifestyles, and diets.

As a native Californian this makes me proud. As a business owner in this beautifully crazy state it means we have to be educated on the varied needs of our clients. As a person who loves knowledge and exploration this makes me very happy.

Fancifull has been located in the heart of Hollywood since 1987. Being centered in and catering to the entertainment industry has lead to interesting requests. We have watched diets and designs change dramatically over the three plus decades we have been here. Evolution is a key to survival, so we dedicate ourselves to keep up with trends as well as realizing when trends morph into lifestyles. Pretty much every gift basket we design will have something that is vegan or gluten free, especially if it is designed for a group. Let’s go over the various diets briefly so we all understand them better and see how they can be deliciously incorporated into the perfect gift basket.

VEGAN

Vegan is hugely popular.  This is a plant based diet with no animal products of any kind: no honey, no milk (as in chocolate too), sometimes no white sugar, no leather (as in containers).  Keep it clean. This is not daunting at all. There is so much good food for vegans which is why it is so easy to do. We love hummus and our organic Flamous Falafel Chips as a start.  Good dark chocolate works just fine as do most nuts and fruit as long as there is no coating that might have an animal based product like honey peanuts. Speaking of peanuts, peanut butter is fun! Uncle Eddie’s Vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies are one of our favorite cookies in the shop. Once the package is opened you can’t stop until you are holding the package upside down to get the crumbs.   We always focus on organic and sustainable which usually coincides with a vegan recipient’s viewpoint too. Our fruit is mostly organic bought from local farmers. We make most of our vegan gift baskets not in baskets at all but reusable or easily recyclable boxes to cut down on waste. We also have biodegradable cellophane to wrap them in. We keep it all as natural as possible since many vegans eat that way from a desire to have a more sustainable lifestyle. We are here to help them.

 

GLUTEN FREE

From the Celiac Disease Foundation:    Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale ( a cross between wheat and rye). Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together.  Celiac Disease occurs when the ingestion of gluten causes an autoimmune reaction that damages the small intestine. The body just can’t handle it.

Some people choose gluten free not because they have celiac disease, but to cut inflammation in their joints or they feel better without it in their diets. It can be hidden in beer, crackers, baked goods and even snacks with coatings that may have a flour base.  No problem. Fancifull can deal with that. We generally keep out foods that have been processed in facilities that also produce wheat products because cross contamination can occur. Luckily there is a large variety of great food that can be sent. Cheese has no gluten, neither do most potato chips, nuts, popcorn and chocolate.  We carry Cybelle’s Gluten Free (and Vegan) cookies that are as good as any cookie with or without gluten. Fruit, tea and coffee all work well for a gluten free diet. The falafel chips we use in our vegan baskets also work in gluten free, along with hummus or salsa. Adding fresh flowers or a plant is a good alternative to just food.   

At Fancifull we don’t believe in limits to our creativity!

 

Kosher

Kosher foods have to conform with Jewish dietary laws. They carry symbols of certification that distinguishes them as such.  There are foods that are never kosher such as pork and shellfish. We do have kosher cheese and wine in our shop as well as a host of other kosher foods.  Our Shiva Condolence basket is filled with fresh fruit and kosher foods to send along with words of comfort. We keep up on the laws as much as possible and are aware of times when those who are orthodox can’t receive gifts due to the Sabbath – we don’t deliver after sundown on Friday and all day Saturday to respect their laws.  Not all of the Jewish faith keep kosher, but we get this request often because if one isn’t sure it is better to be safe than sorry. Our favorite kosher food is the Cinnamon Babka and the Black and White Cookies from Lily’s Bakery. We just love our Kosher Classics which has both of these items as well as some coffee and great Rugelach!

Our Job

Our job is to make both our clients and their recipients happy.  Fancifull is built on trust – that we will send a quality gift, get it there on time, and fill it with amazing food and gifts that the receiver will love. It takes a bit of research, which we jump into with passion.  It helps us understand this world and the people who live in it a bit better and that is a win for all concerned.

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Meeting Our Makers: Belvoir Fruit Farms in England

A blossom of Elderflower

A blossom of Elderflower

Traveling to meet our producers is one of our favorite activities, no matter where they are in the world. It has become our passion to meet first hand the people responsible for the product we sell, see how they operate and take in the surroundings.   This summer we were in England and couldn’t pass up a chance to visit with one of our most popular companies: Belvoir Fruit Farms. 

 

Elderflower Presse

Elderflower Presse

 

They make the sparkling Edlerflower Presse which has won the hearts of our clients. It is light and refreshing.  Great for those who don’t drink alcohol and also a great mixer.  We’ve been told it is perfect with a bit of prosecco for a perfect summer drink.  It is also vegan and organic so it really is a crowd pleaser.

 
 

Road to Belvoir

Road to Belvoir

 
 
 
 
We had to endure a harrowing two and a half hour drive on the reverse side of the road as we headed to the East Midlands, just below Nottingham, where their facility lies across the road from a field of sheep (we only turned into the wrong lane once which we figured out as soon as the honking started…. – Also this is supposed to be a two lane road! Do you see two lanes worth of road here?)
 
 

 
 
 
 

Elderflower going into the vat

Elderflower going into the vat

Elderflower and Lemons making magic

Elderflower with lemon in the vat

We chatted with Phyllis who worked there at the very beginning in the 1980s. Retired now she comes in to help during elderflower season.

 
 
 
 

When we get to meet the people who make our product we are able to experience not just the product and the people but the joy with which they create. This was no exception. The pride of place and product was evident in each person we spoke to, which besides the magical elderflower itself, may be one reason this drink is so special.

The sheep across from the factory.

Frank Fitzgibbons with Terry and Wally

Phyllis explaining a thing or two about Elderflower

Phyllis explaining a thing or two about Elderflower

Sheep Lazing

Sheep Lazing

 
 

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Travel Tips For A Happier Vacation

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There are few things more exciting than the thought of enjoying a week or two away from work and home. You plan, you book, you are ready to hit the road!   How do you make the most of your vacation time and come home with that rested glow? I am an avid traveler and have learned a few things along the way to help you have the vacation of your dreams.

 

Don’t Overplan

Give yourself some rest during your vacation. You may only have a week in a beautiful European City but don’t overdo.  Remember you are taking a break from the 9 to 5. Don’t treat a vacation like work.

Figure out what is really important for you to see. Which attraction would make you sad if you missed it? Is it a museum?  Eating at a fabulous restaurant? Book that. But please, have a morning or two where you don’t have to be anywhere. Allow yourself sleep-in time, a day to walk around and discover the place.  Part of the joy of vacation is to take a break from the daily grind of up and at ‘em. Unplanned days give you that chance to discover the small tea place on an unmarked street or stumble upon a museum that isn’t in the guidebooks.  You can lose your sense of discovery if every moment is planned.

Unplanned days give you a chance to enjoy the view

Unplanned days give you a chance to enjoy the view

If you need naps or rest time in your day, plan them in. Go out early but come back to your hotel after lunch and put your feet up.  Many countries have their version of a siesta. Take advantage of it.

If you are doing a multi city tour please please please don’t put too many cities on your schedule.  Enjoy each city. You can go back. When taking a driving vacation, the drive is the vacation, hitting cities that lie along the way.  A day in each one works perfectly. But trying to fit 4 European cities in a week is exhausting and doesn’t do justice to the cities or the treasures they hold

Editing is vital to a happy vacation.

Know where you are going

I have been on both sides of the vacation spectrum:  I have planned too much so every day had things crammed into it, and planned nothing and  thought we’d figure it out as we went. It is up to the kind of person you are. I like it a bit in between.  We recently spent 10 days in Ireland and I had a few things planned. I read a fair amount so I knew where things were.  I had an idea of each town we were staying in and a place or two I wanted to visit.

Picture of winemaker Chiara Boschis
Chiara Boschis

We went to Barolo once and I did no planning except booking a hotel.  We wandered around lost, and a bit irritated, because we were looking for a tourist office and it wasn’t apparent. Even though there were arrows pointing to it we found ourselves walking around in circles.  Turns out it was a computer kiosk inside the tiny Corkscrew Museum. Luckily the guy at the counter knew wine and offered to take us on a tour the next day. His English was great and he knew wine. In fact he introduced us to  a few wine makers whose wine we carry in our shop today, including the renowned Chiara Boschis and her Barolo and Dolcetto. He has remained our friend and we follow his wine adventures on Facebook. That instance worked out beautifully which is a recommendation for hoping for the best now isn’t it?  But I decided after a few “no planning” trips to at least read up on the area, be aware of where the better restaurants are and any attractions that might interest us, so that once I got there I had a better lay of the land and could make good choices for dinner and such.

Hotels

Just a few pointers:

I prefer to get a room with a view either via spending a little more when I reserve or asking at the desk.

When spending a few days in Victoria Canada I reserved a  larger view room and it was well worth it. It is a beautiful town and gazing at it  and the water from our balcony was one of the highlights. I didn’t feel the need to rush out to experience it.  It helped me relax. We would come back in the afternoon and put our feet up and have a cup of tea while taking in the vista. When we got back at night we could see the city lit up.  It made it one of the nicest stays ever. No restaurant in the city had the views we did. It was well worth it. The extra cost was not much at all, maybe $15/night.

Tell the front desk about your preferences when you check in. Don’t  assume they know what you want. They probably don’t even think about it, a room is a room.  By asking you put their attention on it.

Don’t Like Your Room?

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Asking for a room with in view in Marseille paid off

If you don’t like your room ask to change. BUT (and I mean it ) be kind and gracious.  Ask for a room with more space, light or just something that is quieter (note that rooms that face the street in a busy city may have great views but can be noisy. It is why I ask for a higher floor).  Don’t demand it. I rarely have it denied. We were in Kinsale Ireland and our room was okay but a bit small and dark. We asked. We got a big room with lots of light and a seat in the window with a cushion so I could sit and look out over the charming town. It became comical because one reason we asked  for the change was there was no table or space to work in the original room. The big one didn’t have a table either but we had other furniture we could use. They insisted on bringing in a small table which we didn’t really need. They were so kind we just gracefully accepted it. It is better to ask for a room you prefer than keep quiet and be disgruntled.  You can’t hold it against them if you didn’t give them a chance to fix it.

When a hotel  accommodates me I not only thank them profusely, I write a good review on any number of sites and often will eat or drink at their facility.  I pay it back so to speak. They want you to be happy. They want good reviews. So it is a win win. Don’t pout if they can’t get you a better room.  Make light of it and get out and enjoy the area. Sometimes hotels are booked up and they only have what they have.

Tourist Town Good or Bad?

I’ve been told to avoid certain cities because they are tourist traps.  One person even told me to cut my trip to Venice, Italy short because, “it is so touristy.”  I get it. Many tourist towns seem to be a barrage of shops selling crappy souvenirs and mediocre food –  if you don’t explore them. However, I have found that if I am getting off a long plane trip and am a bit jet lagged those towns can also have services that make it easy for me to relax. I am a tourist and don’t mind taking the easy way out sometimes.  There are often easy to find Tourist Information Booths and people to help you find your way around.

Small group tour our 1st night in Barcelona. A GREAT idea

Small group tour our 1st night in Barcelona. A GREAT idea

When staying in Venice, our first stop on our first trip to Italy, we were thankful for menus in English that first day when we were wobbly with exhaustion.  I didn’t have the energy to figure out where the small off the beaten path places were. We had two young teenagers who were also tired. I just wanted something charming and good. We found it. I asked the people at the hotel. Was is touristy? I don’t know. But I am a tourist so that is okay.  Actually we ate at a place that gave us one of our favorite traveling stories. And Venice is so beautiful and there is so much to see I was glad we didn’t follow the bad advice to cut our stay short.

Airbnb versus Hotels

This is completely a matter of where you feel the most comfortable.  I like hotels for short stays or at the beginning of a trip so if I am tired I can order room service and put my feet up.   But If I am traveling around a lot I like to have an apartment with at least a refrigerator, a coffee maker and a toaster oven.   Part of the fun for me in a city is to find the cheese shops and bakeries and bring things back to our place. Grocery stores in other countries are a tourist attraction for me.   I don’t like eating every meal out. We prefer eating breakfast in and having coffee without having to run down the street. I find it more relaxing.


Airbnb and like places do a great job.  Look closely at the photos. I usually won’t rent unless I’ve seen the bathroom. I read the reviews but  many aren’t specific enough for me. I don’t care about the hosts communication skills (that seems to be in every review).  We have used Airbnb a lot. I can only think of once where I didn’t love the place. By mixing it up on a long trip you get the living in the city feel and then can go to a hotel with nice sheets and maid service.

The apartment in Bath, England had space inside and out

The apartment in Bath, England had space inside and out

 In Europe you often get more room using Airbnb than in a hotel for less money. On our last trip to Paris we landed a great place with a corner window that had a counter under it. We sat and looked at the Centre Pompidou and the streets of the Marais as we ate our brioche in the morning. We stayed in an apartment in Bath, England and it had a washer and dryer. Being able to wash my clothes felt so good. We also had remarkable views of the surrounding hills.  After spending a few weeks on the road in hotels the space of a one bedroom apartment gave us a chance to spread out and get away from each other a little (a little space never hurt a couple)

Plane Travel

A lot has been written on air travel but there is one trick I’ve been using for long flights that I love.  We carry one-use moisture masks at our shop. They come in foil packs and are made of a non woven cloth you put on your face.

Helps you stay hydrated

Helps you stay hydrated

 When we do a long trip I put this on my face during what would be sleep time or whenever I feel like I need it. I rub in the excess lotion when I’m done and  my face feels great when I land. I put a little makeup on and I hit the town. It allows your fact to really absorb the moisture which we all need with the dry air of planes.

 I also sometimes use Jane Eyesteas Put them in a little warm/hot water and put them on your eyes for about 15 minutes. You feel great, better than eye drops, and it helps the skin around your eyes.  

 I am lucky, Fancifull has allowed me travel while meeting producers and learning about food, wine and cultures from all over the world. It fuels my passion for great products and travel. Go explore wherever your fancy leads – near or far- and here’s hoping you enjoy every moment.

One Last Quick Tip

For a night light in a hotel room take a small flameless candle, votive size.  It is small and lightweight and gives off enough light to make it to the bathroom without tripping over something.

 

Any tips for travel?  Leave them in the comments below

Enjoy the view wherever you are

Enjoy the view wherever you are

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Take a deep breath, enjoy the sunset and relax

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Champagne

Champagne: A Wine for All Seasons and Reasons
Terry August
Fancifull Fine Food and Baskets

Beaux Freres Vineyard

Sparkling wines are usually reserved for special occasions, but why wait? At Fancifull we suggest cracking it open when you are looking for something that can easily transition between different food flavors and textures. And while yes, bubbles add a festive touch; they also act as a perfect palate cleanser between bites. The natural acidity of these wines helps brighten food flavors instead of overwhelming them.
Champagne is made from three main grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. If it is made with all chardonnay it is called a Blanc de Blanc – these will be your crisper champagnes often with green apple notes. If pinot noir is predominate you get a toastier body and flavor. Of course sparkling wine comes in many grapes, many you’ve never heard of, from all over the world Most popular (other than champagne) are Prosecco from Northern Italy and Cava from Spain. These are inexpensive alternatives to pricier French Champagnes. The sparklers from the Loire Valley are often made with Chenin Blanc and of course there are a host of sparkling wines from the U.S. Australia has a sparkling shiraz (syrah), which is dark and inky looking but is fun for a change. And Rosé pairs wonderfully with many foods (think chicken and pork and many cheeses) and is so pretty in the glass.
When thinking about pairing wines, we go with two rules: “like with like” and “opposites attract.”
Light, fresh dishes call for a light wine, and sparkling wine fits the bill. Think of classic pairings such as oysters, caviar or cheese.
But bubbly is also wonderful with salty, fatty or fried foods because the brightness of the wine balances out the richness of the dish. The bubbles in champagne will often cut through the fat in cheese and charcuterie. The wine leaves you with a refreshed mouth and prepares your taste buds for another rich spoonful.
Sparkling wines and Champagnes are food-pairing champions and provide both complimentary (like with like) and contrasting (opposites attract) notes. It is a perfect wine at Thanksgiving as it goes with all those rich foods and can be drunk throughout the meal. Open a bottle by a roaring fire for a quintessential romantic evening or pop some in a spring garden for a buoyant memory. It is safe to say, champagne is a wine for all seasons and makes any moment a celebration.

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30 Fancifull Years A Learning Experience

It has been quite a journey, this Fancifull road we’ve been on for 30 years. From young whippersnappers with a gleam in their eye and an idea in mind, we set out to elevate gift baskets. Now here we are, older, one might say even old, but we like to think we are experienced.

We’ve seen trends come and go – we know what is a passing fad and what is authentic. This doesn’t mean we’re set in our ways with a, “been there done that,” attitude. No, we believe in staying current: going to trade shows to meet and see all the new innovations, traveling to meet makers in all parts of the world, and talking to our clients so we are sure we are offering them new product to keep it interesting. Fancifull is always evolving, as are we.

Slow Food Cheese Festival, Italy

Slow Food Cheese Festival, Italy

Along the way we have kept our eyes open and observed certain truths that have stood the test of time.

Research is Important
It takes effort to sift through all the marketing slogans, hype and cute packaging to find what is authentic and frankly, delicious. It isn’t about symbols, instagram followers or cool packaging. It is about people who care where their ingredients come from, who give back, and who make something that tastes great. Samples come to our shop almost daily. We taste test with all our staff and friends. Some are packaged beautifully but the taste just isn’t there. With some producers, once we investigate their claims, they come up short.

Taste is Personal
Everyone has their taste and it isn’t for us to enforce our taste on them. Taste goes so far beyond just good or bad. There are sense memories wrapped in smells and flavors that you have and others don’t.
We will always offer to widen someone’s view: taste them on our latest discoveries. All we try to do at our tastings is to get you to pay attention to the food, question what you think you like and what you don’t. But it never ever pays to be pretentious. I’ve been told by many they don’t like white wine. So we ask, “what whites have your tried?” Often it is overly-oaked California Chardonnay. We pour them something else and they are surprised, “wow, this is good.” Even if they don’t love the wine we poured, they tried it. Mission Accomplished.

Good Food is Universal
Starting with good ingredients – those grown in a sustainable and organic manner and made with care – is a great starting point. Our motto has long been, If we won’t eat it we won’t sell it. We all live on this planet and it is our role to take care of it. The taste and craftsmanship have to be there as well. You don’t want to waste your money sending a gift basket full of tasteless product.

Gathering around a Table with Food and Wine can be Magic
Well, we knew that all along, which is one reason we love sending baskets full of great food and wine – it’s the start of a party.

Tasting at our shop

Tasting at our shop

Everyone Loves to be Appreciated
Part of what we love about our job is we get to send out caring messages to people every day. Messages of Thanks, Happy Birthday, I’m Sorry, Congratulations, Condolences – all these lines going out from our shop letting others know someone is thinking of them. We see their faces when the gift arrives. It isn’t about the gift being big or small. It truly is the thought, the recognition. Don’t we all want to know someone cares? It doesn’t even have to be a gift basket. You can just send a card. It is the communication.

Working with your husband/wife is both a blessing and a curse
We have been married 38 years so it must be more of a blessing and we will leave it at that.

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A Beau Visite to Beaux Frères Winery

Beaux Freres VineyardBeaux Frères

Beaux Frères Pinot Noir from the Northern Willamette Valley in Oregon has long been one of our favorite wines at our dinner table. We decided we had to track down the distributor so we could bring it into our shop and share it with our clients.

Beaux Freres means Brother in Law in French and that is exactly how this started.
One Brother in Law, Michael G. Etzel, bought an 88 acre pig farm in Oregon and got his brother in law, Robert Parker Jr, renowned wine critic and publisher of the Wine Advocate, to join him in his venture of planting pinot noir and making wine.

It is done right: sustainable agriculture, low yields, natural yeast, grapes are sorted by hand to toss out undesirables, caps are hand punched twice a day so they can be familiar with the cuvee, the wines are not fined or filtered, they work hard to maintain the terroir of their grapes.

We visited in mid May and were able to walk among the vines, play with the soil, taste a gamut of wines and play with the dogs and the pigs that are on property. Because of the cold wet winter the vines are about 6 weeks behind in growth.

To introduce you to these wines we have the 2014 Willamette on sale right now for only $10 off a bottle at $50. 2014 was an outstanding vintage so grab some for yourself and lay it down for a few years. Perfect for Fathers Day and any gifting occasion. Bump up any of our wine baskets with this thoughtful bottle of wine.

Tasting notes from the winery
A medium ruby color. On the nose, this wine has a lush fragrance of sweet dark cherries, baking spices and sandalwood. In the mouth, it is very savory, plush, medium acidity and irresistible. is may be the best Willamette Valley cuvée that we have made to date. is wines sees about 33% new French oak.

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Spread The Love | Valentine’s Day and Beyond

Simply Elegant

There are those who roll their eyes when Valentine’s Day comes around. They think, “Another invented holiday to make me buy stuff. “ I look at it differently; to me it is a day to spread love. It doesn’t have to be about red roses and chocolates. It could be the day to tell your best friend how much you appreciate her or call your mom and say I love you. Volunteering at an organization that helps others is a great way to pour love into society.

We tend to rush through life with our attention on all we have to do.
A day like Valentine’s Day makes us stop and think about Love. Hal David wrote the lyrics, “What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love.” Isn’t that sentiment is as true today as it was in 1965 when Jackie Del Shannon sang that song for the first time? How much better would the world be with an abundance of love and joy? Luckily we can each contribute freely.

Think about spreading the love this February, spread it throughout the year. At Fancifull we will sell our share of flowers and chocolates, nothing wrong with that. But we want to pour love into this world of ours so we are having a Tasting on Friday February 10th with proceeds going to Project Angel Food, a local organization that delivers meals to those in need. All that love going out to so many people. Their funding is being cut dramatically under the current administration so they need all the help and love they can get. We will start pouring wine at 6pm, it is only $10 and for that you will get to sample all sorts of cheese, chocolates and artisanal food in our shop on Melrose – soon to be the Fancifull Tasting Bar. You can check it out on our website www.fancifull.com or call 323/466-7654.

Fancifull was created because we loved the concept of sending love and joy out on a daily basis. I wanted gifts filled with amazing food and quality items that people would use and enjoy. It had to be personal. What keeps us excited, even after 30 years, is we spend our days sending messages of joy, thanks, and comfort. We deliver flowers along with condolences, a vegan basket to wish someone a happy birthday, or a bit of chocolate decadence to cheer someone up. It is all about letting people know they are being thought of, they are important to someone.

Champgne and Wine Tasting Invitation

When one feels obligated to do something it takes the fun out of it. Valentine’s Day can quickly dissolve into, “I gotta find some flowers or I’ll be in trouble” which is just stressful and so not what it should be about. Since we at Fancifull are the gifting experts here are a few suggestions for making it lovely:
Order early so it is done and you can just enjoy the day. Chances are you will get better prices and exactly what you want if you order a week before the holiday
Think beyond red roses: the wholesale cost of red roses triples around Valentine’s Day. It is not us florists gouging you, we actually make a lower profit. You can say I love you with just about any kind of flower or gift as long as your message is sincere and some thought went into it.
Consider a Fireside Picnic with Champagne, Fresh Cheese and Candlelight (hint: Fancifull can provide it all for you)
Remember all the people who support you by sending a card or baking some cookies – it isn’t about the money spent but the love that goes into it.
Make being kind part of your everyday pattern: say hello to people you see, let that person into your lane while driving, find something to admire in those who irritate you, invest your time into helping others. If you want to support a non profit consider what is dear to you: Feeding others? The Environment? Literacy? Below are a few organizations we have vetted and they would be happy to have the help:

Project Angel Food – you can volunteer when you have time to help in the kitchen or delivering. They provide thousands of meals each week to those who cannot provide for themselves. They are currently experiencing a big cut in funding, so helping in any way you can is appreciated.
www.projectangelfood.org

Natural Resources Defense Council – They are defenders of our planet: the NRDC creates solutions for lasting environmental change, protecting natural resources in the U.S and across the globe.
www.nrdc.org

Fisher House – Helps military families with housing near their hospitalized loved ones.
www.fisherhouse.org

Root Down L.A. – A phenomenal local organization that is bringing better food and nutrition education to the neighborhoods of South L.A.
They plant gardens, teach kids and their families about good food and how to prepare it, and help ensure better health to all.
Rootdownla.org

WriteGirl – WriteGirl is a creative writing and mentoring organization that promotes creativity, critical thinking and leadership skills to empower teen girls. They can use help from writers to mentor girls as well as donations.
www.writegirl.org

Our Heart-Shaped, cloth-lined picnic basket

Whatever you do for Valentine’s Day, even if it is a day to love yourself by curling up on the couch and indulging in a little Netflix binge, do it with love in your heart and look for ways to keep that love flowing all year long. To quote one of my favorite authors Kurt Vonnegut: A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved. It will be good for you and good for all of us.

Fancifull Fine Food and Baskets
5617 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
323/466-7654

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Diet Terms Made Simple

Here are some very short and sweet definitions to help understand some of the diet terms used these days.


Our Sweet Vegan Gift Basket.

Vegan/Vegetarian

The difference is Vegetarians don’t eat meat, fish, or any animal. Vegans go a bit further and eat no animal products such as eggs, dairy or honey.


Our Gluten Free For All Gift Basket.

Gluten Free

Gluten is a mixture of proteins that occur naturally in wheat, rye, barley and crossbreeds of these grains.  The FDA defines gluten free  as having a gluten limit of less than 20 parts per million of gluten in foods carrying that label. We are careful with the products we put in our gluten free gift baskets.  Luckily there is a world of good food to use: Nuts, Cheese, Fruit, Tea and Coffee, Chocolates, Chips and so much more.


Our Happy Chanukah Gift Basket.

Kosher

Kosher is an adaptation of the Hebrew word meaning “fit” or “proper.” Kosher foods are those that conform to the regulations of kashrut.  These will carry the symbol of the rabbinical council that approved the item. Fruit is naturally kosher. The best known rules are:  no pork, no mixing of dairy and meat, and the term pareve which means it is a neutral food that can be eaten with meat or dairy.  This is a very short abridged definition.  There is much more to be found in research and among those who keep kosher (many who have been very helpful with advice).  We have an array of kosher products in our shop including wine, cheese, chocolates, cookies and more.  We also carry Kosher for Passover during that holiday. You can call and check the symbols on the foods we have if you have any questions.

Note:  These definitions above are by no means complete as each diet has complexities that we don’t have the space to go into here; and it varies by individual. For more data please research or ask the people you know who adhere to one of these diets to find out how they adapt it for themselves.

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Is Big Always Bad?

Is big always bad?

Fat Toad Farm, Vermont. Tiny

We are ardent supporters of local businesses and love when we find a small batch maker who produces delicious product we can put in our baskets and bring to you. Our shelves are filled with their product and we are always finding more. The search is always on. Yet we don’t want to neglect the larger producers who are sustainable and do it right. Because of their production capabilities, they can often bring prices down for those who have a budget and yet can have a positive impact when they use good practices on a large scale.

Beechers curds. Getting big. Doing it right.

So we are always researching the companies we buy from, checking their sourcing, especially important for our chocolate makers as there are still many bad practices going on in that industry. We are relieved when we find a giant like Cadbury now using Fair Trade Chocolate on all their products made in England. Sadly the items Hershey makes for them in the U.S (mainly those popular Easter Eggs) can’t make that claim. So, if you don’t see some of the more popular brands in our baskets, there is usually an explanation. A choice was made.

Gruyere. Big Wheel. Big production.

Being in California, we are fortunate to have a plethora of organic and sustainable producers within a day of us. California themed gift baskets will always be prominent on our site and are often the perfect welcome to someone at a hotel or to represent a business that is located in California.

It is a bit of a balancing act. We love our local cheese makers but don’t want to forget the fabulous Basque shepherds and cheesemakers whom we met recently in the Pyrenees. They, too, have families (and animals) to support. Many cheeses like Gruyere can only be made by in quantity with milk from cooperatives to get the designated origin status. I wouldn’t want to ignore this important cheese in our selections just because it doesn’t come from a small maker.

Bond Bar – Los Angeles -tiny

And shouldn’t we be celebrating the winemaker in France who converted his whole vineyard to organic as well as the guy down the street who came up with a great idea of coconut curry popcorn and managed to get it produced? Different size companies but both making positive impacts in the world.

The world is full of fragrance and flavor.
Searching and investigating is part of our job.
From taking your order, preparing your gift and deciding who to support – we take it all personally.

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Connections

As I reflect on my 29 years building baskets and Fancifull I can’t help but think: “What is it all about? Why have I done this for so long? Why?”

Connections. Connecting people via a basket and a message, connecting our clients to the producers we’ve found over the years, connecting people to the truth of good food and why it is important.

It is a huge invisible but existent freeway system of lines going out – vectors arching across the U.S. with info, food, and warm messages. Our whole job is to send a message, to make people smile, to let them know someone is thinking of them.

When I started Fancifull back in 1987, I said to my friend, as we sat in the booth in my kitchen, drinking coffee and savoring the possibilities, that I didn’t want to just send stuff. The world was full of stuff: things that people didn’t want or wanted at some point but didn’t know what to do with now. I wanted my gifts to be joy bombs going out, making people happy, taking care of a need, sending a message.
I wanted to create delight in each person’s space upon receipt.

Letter from a Recipient

So I started the journey that is Fancifull. As that journey progressed there were detours, learning curves and terrific “ah-ha” moments. We evolved.

I threw myself into learning about cheese, wine, chocolate and how food is made. It became apparent to me that how we grow our food creates a huge impact on our planet. This wasn’t news to me, but the truth became more real, became something I couldn’t ignore.

I met many small artisans along the way and came to realize that by putting their products in my baskets I could help them find an audience. We began to do more tasting in our shop so we could indulge our passion for great food and finds and share them with anyone who was interested. This business of baskets got more and more interesting.

Our studio on Melrose near Gower in Hollywood has become a bona fide wine and cheese shop with all our offerings. We kept listening to our clients and created different packaging, some more sustainable some in a manner that would make shipping easier and more cost effective. Fresh flowers became a big part of Fancifull and making the baskets with fresh flowers along with gourmet food, became a signature design. They look like a still life.

Evolution and Connections. It keeps us expanding and growing. It allows us to daily create products that make us proud. We get to contribute back by buying from sustainable producers, encouraging the start ups, offering lots of advice (sorry to all whose ears we have bent), speaking to other retailers across the nation about how to succeed, holding fundraisers in our shop and sampling lots and lots of cheese, chocolate, salami and wine (those seem to be the favorite 4 food groups).

It keeps our love of Fancifull alive and burning. There is a vitality to sending out messages for people daily; knowing the gift is going to land on a desk and someone will smile, someone will feel acknowledged. Our clients’ business and personal lives will get stronger because their connections are stronger. We make life personal. We do it on many levels. We love doing it for you.

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