Posts Tagged ‘Artisan Gift Baskets’
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.
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.
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.
Here are some very short and sweet definitions to help understand some of the diet terms used these days.
Our Sweet Vegan Gift Basket.
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 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 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.
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.
Pick 3-4 Cheeses to serve. A general rule is 4 ounces a person but it depends on the time of day and what else you are serving with it.
Vary the consistency of the cheese: a soft fresh cheese, a semi hard and a harder cheese like Parmesan.
Provide three different milk types: a goat, a sheep and a cow’s milk for variety.
Serve at room temperature.
Leave the wedges whole with a knife to cut, or cut a few slices to get it started
Decorate the platter with grapes, cucumbers, apple slices…
A nice jam to serve with it would be fun, like Laura Ann’s Blackberry Bayleaf or Raspberry Habanero!
Serve with fresh bread. You can also add some simple crackers or a nice crostini.
Open a bottle of wine!!
A Fresh Goat Cheese or Crottin, Point Reyes Toma, Aged Gouda, Ossau Iraty Sheep Cheese
California Cheese: Cowgirl Creamery Mt Tam, Central Coast Creamery Goat Gouda, Fiscalini Bandaged Cheddar, Cypress Grove Lambchopper
American: Nettle Meadow Kunik from N.Y. (a creamy blend of Goat and Jersey Cow milk), Beehive Cheese Barely Buzzed, Utah (rubbed in coffee), Beecher’s Flagsheep, WA (voted best cheese by the American Cheese Society).
We have a great selection of cheeses in our store. Need a basket with fresh cheese? Try our Cheese 101 Gift Basket or check our Gourmet Gifts page for other delicious gifts.
Need help? Come to our store or call us at 855 313 5680.
One focus of Fancifull is to celebrate American Food Artisans and Small Businesses in order to help them flourish.
We were sad to hear of the damage Hurricane Sandy wreaked on many of our vendors. Factories flooded, power outages and the inability of employees to get to work. Many have assured us that they are up and running again and getting to full speed rapidly.
Even though it may delay orders, we must keep ordering from them to ease the financial devastation and not contribute any more to it. We can rearrange our production schedules to accommodate them as well as working with them on a shipping schedule that helps them move product but doesn’t tax them too much. It is a balancing act, an important one.
The food renaissance that is happening in America is important and the prospering of Small businesses across the land is something we hold dear.
Help our cause by shopping small businesses. We can all use all the help we can get.
Because of our personalized service at Fancifull we seem to become intertwined in our client’s lives. We help create memories.
This week one of our gift baskets was part of a scavenger hunt a woman devised for her boyfriend on their anniversary.
They had attended our Valentine’s tasting where Wally was wearing a top hat. The top hat and our shop on Melrose were part of the 3rd clue.
Kristin was the one who greeted him when he arrived and quizzically said “I’m here on a scavenger hunt?” Wouldn’t you know, we had a gift basket for him and, on the card, the clue for his next destination.
Have we mentioned how much we love our job?
We are really happy that several of our favorite cheese makers won big awards at the American Cheese Society Meeting and Contest held recently in Montreal, Canada. We’ve been championing and selling their cheeses for years, so it’s really fun to see them getting the accolades they deserve for their delicious products and dedication to their craft.
Among the winners was Point Reyes Toma cheese for Best Original Cheese. We’ve been including this in our gift baskets for some time now as well as sampling and selling it at our local Farmers Markets. Their fabulous Mozzarella, which we got to taste last week when we visited their creamery, won a second place award. Unfortunately it’s currently only available at the creamery in Point Reyes, CA. We’ll let you know if that changes. (Meaning we’re going to get it if we can!). Their Original Blue cheese also won a big award recently when it was awarded the title of Best Dairy or Cheese Product of the Year at the Fancy Food Show in Washington, DC. Go Point Reyes!
Another big winner at The America Cheese Society was Beehive Cheese which is located in Utah. They won awards for their Barely Buzzed, Seahive and Promontory Cheddars, all of which have been included in our gourmet gift baskets. You can read more about their cheeses in an earlier blog we wrote on Beehive Cheese.
Flavio DeCastilhos of Tumalo Farms in Bend, Oregon also won awards. His Classico, a Gouda style Goat Cheese, is simply amazing. Just this morning I greated some of it very finely and cooked in in with some scrambled eggs with fresh basil and some chopped Jeaune Flamme tomatos from my garden. Ooh la la la la, I’m getting hungry again just thinking about it. I published the recipe in a previous blog on Tumalo Cheese.
And then there’s Beechers Handmade Cheese of Seattle which won awards for three or four of their Cheddars. We carry their Flagship cheese – rich, full flavored, creamy, and extremely popular with everyone who tastes it. I’d recommend this in any of our beer gift baskets. It also makes for a killer macaroni and cheese.
Haven’t yet tried any of these cheese yourself? Call and order some from us – you’ll be very, very, very happy!
Is there some cheese you know of that we should try? Please let us know! If there’s good food involved, we’re interested.
See you at the table!
Terroir is an important concept in wine. I believe it also translates to food. Here is a good definition of Terroir from the Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil:
“This French word means the total impact of any given site: soil, slope, orientation to the sun, and elevation, plus every nuance of climate including rainfall, wind velocity, frequency of fog, cumulative hours of sunshine, average high temperature, and so forth. There is no single word in English that means quite the same thing. Generally viticulturists believe that soil indirectly bestows flavor (and relative quality) only insofar as it is one of the voices in the chorus of terroir.”
Wines from different vineyards, coffees from different plantations, cheeses from different regions, indeed all real foods everywhere exhibit the effects of their terroir. This is one of the things which makes the foods we carry in our shop so interesting.
It doesn’t matter what you are eating, whether it is a hamburger and fries or foie gras and champagne – it is the ingredients used that make each one marvelous or mediocre. At Fancifull that is what I look for when choosing what goes into our gift baskets. Fresh natural ingredients, organic, no odd chemical fillers. Because you want to taste the food, not the chemicals. I’ve tried cookies where the butter leaps out at you because it is so fresh, and then I’ve tried ones – in beautiful tempting packaging – that taste like cardboard. For example: Americans have a style of chocolate, as do the Europeans. Both have great chocolates. I can’t argue that a fresh truffle is better than a perfect peanut butter cup if both are made with good ingredients. And why argue anyway? Eat them both and enjoy. We will always be searching, tasting, and finding the best ingredients the world has to offer so you can send the best gourmet gift baskets.
Genuine, real, not fake. I like to travel because I like to experience authenticity in the world at large. For instance, I love being in the countryside of Italy and eating what is grown locally. I want to smell the air, meet the people, find out how they have been making this food for hundreds of years and why it is so good. This is true of anywhere I go, whether it be close to home or in far away lands. Even more so, I love to bring these experiences back to share with friends and family. I cook meals similar to those I’ve had on my culinary voyages and bring back jars of ingredients to taste. I find this is a better snapshot of a country than a photo. My joy in Fancifull is that I get to delight you with the pleasures I have found. I get to stock my shelves with the foods and wines I’ve tried and share them with you and your friends. Welcome to the family.
Gourmet gift baskets and wine gift baskets containing genuine artisanal wines and foods can be purchased online at www.fancifullgiftbaskets.com, in our store at 5617 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038, or by phone at 800.350.4437.