Posts Tagged ‘Gourmet Gift Baskets’
We have always loved the idea of organics. Who wouldn’t? Organic products are better for the environment and the people on the planet. Unfortunately, we found that better for the environment didn’t always translate into better taste. Wines we tried lacked balance; baked goods were heavy and bland.
Then, on a trip to Italy, we were visiting a Parmesan cheese factory near Bologna and learned that even though it wasn’t mentioned on their packaging, all their cheese was from local cows fed on organic hay and grains, without the use of antibiotics. They didn’t think to advertise it. It was the way they had always done it. This discovery led us to ask more questions as to how the products we carried were made. I was in for a surprise!
I began reading labels on our product shelves and found that some of our favorite cookies-such as Aunt Gussie’s Pecan Cookies (buttery and not too sweet)-contained mainly organic products. Then, purely by chance, we discovered that a wine that we love – a rich, balanced, complex Merlot from Robert Sinskey – is made from organic grapes (see our note below about organic wines). As I write this, my husband and I have just returned from France where we visited one of our favorite wine makers, Sylvain Fadat, and learned that he, too, farms completely organically.
Checking further on our shelves, I found that few of the products we carry have any additives. I guess looking for things that taste good naturally has led us to natural products. You’ll find a good example of this when you try some of the “cheese products” other companies use. They use very little real cheese and you can taste the synthetics. We have always insisted on real cheese for our gift baskets and we always will.
We also have organic tomato spread, olive oil, honey, coffee, all natural bruschetta, preservative free whole grain chips, additive free chocolates, organic bath products, organic cotton baby clothes and other products that fall into the natural/organic category.
We have come to realize that if we just keep with our purpose of searching for the best products the world has to offer, we will naturally be lead to all natural products. The flavors speak for themselves, and that’s great!
Terry and I spent this last weekend at Raleigh Studios as part of the LA Wine Fest. Guess what we weren’t serving? Wine!
With over 50 wineries participating, we decided we would provide much needed relief by offering artisanal cheeses and the world’s best salami. We were right; we were swamped.
The Tumelo Classico Gouda style goat cheese sold out the first day. Next to go was the Point Reyes Toma. Then the Soledad Goat Cheese with Honey and Lavender. We were also sampling and selling Beechers Cheddar, Vella Cheese and Beehive (Seahive Cheddar). In the end we had almost nothing left.
The story was the same with the salami. The Fra’ Mani salami is incredible. If you’ve never tasted it, call us and order some. It’s made by Paul Bertolli, famous as the chef at Olivetto and Chez Panisse, and it is the best salami I have ever tasted. Other favorites were the Olli Calabrese and a Wild Boar salami from Creminelli.
We are very proud that all of these products are hand crafted in the United States. We feel that a food renaissance is happening here and we’re happy to be a part of it.
All this talk about food is making me hungry. so I’m going to go have some cheese and salami right now. Of course, any of these things can be included in our gourmet gift baskets and wine gift baskets. But you really should take advantage and order some for yourself. If you’re in Los Angeles, stop in. You never know what we might be sampling.
It takes a certain amount of courage to have integrity in this world. You have to stand by your principles as the crowd tells you to step down. You know what is right, but darn, you are so tired – can’t you just take the easy way out this time? But you can’t.
Cowgirl Creamery in California
When I talk to the people behind the handcrafted food we carry I am always a bit in awe. These people aren’t in it just for the money. Yes, they want to survive, and survive well. But to go through the work they do you have to have passion. Passion for your product, for the methods that work, for putting in the long hours and attention it requires to make it come out perfect every time.
I talk to cheesemakers who won’t make their cheese if they don’t feel their milk is good enough that year. They sell the milk instead. The better vignerons prune back their vines to get a low yield thus more flavor to the grapes. Yes they could let the grapes just grow wild and make a lot more wine. But that would mean making mediocre wine. So they can’t – it isn’t in their blood. In a world where the operating procedure is more and more for less and less no matter what the cost in quality, this is a refreshing change.
in Montpeyroux, France
There is nuance in food that comes from the land and the skill of the producer, but it takes someone who understands that to bring it out. You raise the animals well so you get the most flavor while preserving the earth, you grow organically, you keep testing until you get it exactly right – this is where passion comes in. Besides passion they also have pride. Get them talking about their handicraft and you’ll hear Rashida from Cast Iron Gourmet talk about perfecting the recipe for her Bacon Chutney, or Sylvain Fadat explain in his heavily French accented English how he dynamited this old lake bed because he knew it would have the soil for the grapes he wanted to grow. La Bonita California will expound on the local farmers they get their fruit from and why. And you taste that passion and pride in each slurp, sip and bite.
They watch you taste their product and beam like a mom with her child. And when you get it, when you get how good it is and acknowledge their job well done, you see the sense of satisfaction in their face, the smile, the light in their eyes. And that is why I love to carry artisan food. I could say these people need our support, that’s true. But it is so much bigger than that. We need their food. It’s wholesome, delicious, nourishing and one of the great joys of life. So we need to support them so they can support us with this vast array of wonderful food that has the stamp of the artist. Otherwise we’ll be left with nothing but the cheap bland genetically modified nutrient-lacking mega-corporation foods that are flooding our supermarkets today. This is a worthwhile venture, and a tasty one. Support your local artisans and they will support you. For life.
Thinking Of You Gift Basket
I have received some pretty odd requests for baskets in the last 24 years. We have had to buy live doves for several custom gift baskets, goldfish, even a blow up doll (they said it was a joke…), but I think the one I received this week was the weirdest. We were putting together a custom Get Well Gift Basket for a celebrity client. I sent an email with some details of the contents and I got this back:
“Please nothing stale, nothing old, the freshest cookies you have, that’s a priority.”
What? I thought to myself. Did she seriously think she had to tell me that?
Then, another email:
“reiterating – please nothing stale. Often she’s received a basket and the food hasn’t been fresh. The newest batch of everything :)”
Oh my gosh, what is going on with this industry? It is a pretty sad state of affairs if customers feel they have to make a point to ask for fresh food – twice! – in their gift baskets , as if stale food is the standard. Yikes. That goes against everything we stand for at Fancifull. Here is my reply. I tried not to come on too strong, but my passion for the freshest and bestest may have gotten the best of me.
Some of our Artisan Cheeses
“Please be assured that we never have stale products in our shop. Most gift basket companies use products all from one distributor and they are frankly, mediocre to begin with.
The majority have baskets made up months in advance, often made in Mexico and shipped up here. The bottom line is the most important thing for those companies, so they go for the cheapest products they can find and put them in a pretty package. They sell the whole basket or “basket components” to basket web sites throughout the country.
We once did 9000 baskets for a high end grocery store in Southern California, and their penny pinching, cost-over-quality attitude woke me up to the reality of what most mass produced gift baskets are. Our viewpoint is radically different.
We get fresh deliveries of artisan product weekly. We are busy, so go through products quickly, especially what I have listed in your gift. The majority of our baskets are made up fresh to order so things aren’t sitting around on the shelf.
Occasionally we make up some baskets to have them available for people walking in or those clients who need something immediately. Those baskets are our most popular and are never around more than a few days.
We started this company 24 years ago to be an alternative to the stale tasting, lacking in inspiration baskets that proliferate the shelves of big box stores, catalogs and websites.
Fancifull in itself means out of the ordinary, not run of the mill and we strive to live up to our name.
Sorry for the lecture, it is just that we are passionate about our product here and take great pride in finding the best artisan food and gifts out there so our reputation is on the line with every gift that goes out. We want both the customer and the recipient to be delighted.
We will make sure that happens with your gift basket.
The Fancifull Pavilion as it appeared in
the movie No Strings Attached
Farmers Markets, in my opinion, are playing a vital part in bringing real food back to the table in the US. I’m sure there are millions of Americans who think of Kraft American slices when they hear the word cheese! I love seeing the expression on a persons face when they experience one of our California artisanal cheeses for the first time. The shock. The joy!
We’ve been including more and more artisanal foods in our gift baskets so that we can share our joy in really good foods with as many people as possible. Most people don’t know that we’ve also been participating in several local Farmers Markets. We love that people are getting excited about the cheeses, salamis, crostini and other great natural products we have discovered since starting our little company in 1987.
If you’re in the Los Angeles area you can now sample (and buy) some of our fine foods not only in our shop, but also at these Farmers Markets:
Century City – Thursdays, 10 – 2
Bank of America Plaza – Fridays, 10 – 2
Melrose Place (at La Cienega) – Sundays, 9 – 2
So stop by and experience for yourself the joy of Toma cheese, Fra Mani salami, Vella cheese, Rustic Bakery crostini and other fine products that we carry in our store – it’s going to be love at first bite! Want some for yourself but can’t visit our store? Just call us and we’ll prepare a box full of delight just for you!
Of course you can also send these out in one of our gourmet gift baskets or wine gift baskets.
Please call with any special requests.
Artisanal LA is a weekend long community event celebrating the city’s finest local, sustainable and handmade edibles. Taste, shop, sample and learn while supporting the local economy and local artisanal vendors at this seasonal show. Be sure to stop by and visit our booth!
We will be sampling some of our fabulous wares including California cheeses and salamis as well as our own product: Fred’s Magical Marinade and Barbecue Sauce. Invented by Wally’s dad over 50 years ago, you’ve never tasted anything like it!
Last October we participated in the first ever Artisanal LA event, selling out of every salami and cheese we had while discovering new foods to put into our store and gift baskets. Things like Compartes peanut butter, which has been on our shelves and in our gourmet gift baskets ever since.
Treat yourself to a fun day of delicious food! Visit ArtisanalLA.com for more information and tickets. Tickets are only $10 ($15 at the door). Hope to see you there.
Wally & Terry holding the Muppets bag
Being in Hollywood, we send a lot of gift baskets to celebrities in movies and TV shows. Over the last couple of months we have been called upon to provide gourmet gift baskets and wine gift baskets for the cast of the new Muppet Movie being made by Disney. First of all, it’s just exciting that there is going to be a new Muppet Movie. Secondly, it’s so cool that we got to participate in some way.
But recently we received a surprise gift from The Muppets thanking us for all the work we did for them. So here are Terry and I (Wally) holding our Muppets Messenger Bag in our shop on Melrose. It will be a great new travel home for my laptop.
Other recent movie and TV projects we’ve been involved in include our appearance in No Strings Attached and providing gift baskets for Exit Strategy (made for TV starring Ethan Hawke) and The Game of Life, among others. We are currently working on a large project for TV Guide.
St. Patrick’s Day may be the impetus for focusing on the two artisan Irish Cheeses we are featuring here, but we are happy for any reason to showcase stellar cheesemaking.
Ireland is renowned for its lush green fields and clean air. This makes it the perfect environment to produce the top quality milk needed to make great cheese. The cheeses pictured here, Darú and Cahill’s Porter, come from well-tended farms that combine creativity and innovation with respect for traditional craft and simplicity.
Darú is a beautifully balanced handcrafted farmstead cheese with a natural rind and long finish. It is a semi hard cheese made with pasteurized cow’s milk from the herd of the Maher family in the heart of Tipperary where the pastures are fresh and green as the Emerald Isle. Vegetarian rennet is used in the production of this cheese and therefore it is suitable for vegetarians.
To learn more of the Cooleeney Cheesemakers and their farms, visit http://www.cooleeney.com/on_the_farm.php
Cahill’s Porter is Irish Cheddar flavored with Cahill’s own farm-made Irish Porter (a dark beer). The cheese is made from pasteurized cow’s milk. All of their cheeses are handcrafted and individually blended and have no artificial ingredients. Cahill Farms, too, uses vegetable rennet in their cheese production.
These cheeses pair well with beer or stout and are equally friendly with a red wine such as our Marimar Pinot Noir. You may request either of these cheeses in one of our Wine Gift Baskets or Gourmet Gift Baskets. Put your request in the Other Info box on the order form and we’ll replace the regular cheese with the one you specify. There will be a $3.50 charge added to your order for either of these premium cheeses. The additional amount will not show on your online order but will be included on your invoice.
These cheeses are, of course, available for purchase in our store. You can also call Fancifull at 800.350.4437 to order these and other products for yourself or to have us create a custom gift basket for you.
At Fancifull we’ve long been advocates of natural and organic food. They taste better and are better for you and the planet. Why wouldn’t we want to sell that? It is a matter of following our passion – after 24 years of running Fancifull we are actually more excited than ever about the direction we are going. We get to support the smaller artisan producers and introduce our clients to a world of good. Delicious isn’t it?
Trade shows help us locate sources for good food – we get to sample it and often get to talk to the producers themselves. The Natural Products Show West, which takes place this weekend in Anaheim, has become a very important resource for Fancifull. I remember when this show started. It was tiny. I think it took up only a few of the banquet halls at the Disneyland Hotel, but I found some interesting things. Smaller shows often are more affordable for the smaller businesses and start ups, which is why I attend them. A great opportunity to discover something new. The show has since grown considerably and is now busting at the seams, taking up the whole Anaheim Convention Center.
You can imagine our delight when we got a call from Danielle at New Hope Media, the company that puts on the Natural Products Expo. She needed over thirty gift baskets for people associated with the show. She saw our website and realized we carry many products from the shows exhibitors which of course made us the perfect company to use.
It was particularly validating because we’ve been working on our Healthy Gourmet and other special diet baskets so anyone can enjoy them, no matter the discipline they follow.
Right now, our van is full of gourmet gift baskets heading to Anaheim to delight attendees as they enter their hotel rooms. They’ll be munching on organic Falafel Chips, Bean Dip, Nuts, Fresh Fruit, Red Wine, Dark Chocolate – most of it is organic, gluten free, vegan and all of it is absolutely delicious.
I will be heading down there in a few days to sample foods, query vendors, and locate new goodies for Fancifull. The Natural Products show isn’t just about food. I have found organic baby clothes for our Baby Gift Baskets as well as all natural bath items for our Pamper and Spa Baskets. It is an exciting time in this industry right now. More people are joining the party when it comes to handcrafted food and organic products – and let’s face it, the more the merrier!
There is an growing emphasis in this country on “special” diets:
Gluten Free, Vegan, Kosher, Low Fat, Eastern, Western and so on and so on. It can get crazy sometimes trying to sort it all out. Because we are in the business of giving food as a gift, sort it out we must.
But first it has to be really good food, something that anyone would like no matter what diet they follow. We wouldn’t be interested in anything less for our gift baskets. If it’s not wholesome and delicious, why bother? It wouldn’t be a Fancifull basket.
Fortunately we are finding many fine things that also will fit into a specialized basket when necessary. For example, we have had terrific Kosher foods at Fancifull since our inception. We carried these foods because they were great and would work with all our gourmet gift baskets, not just the Kosher ones. Then again, one of our best selling baskets, Fine Food and Fresh Fruit, just happens to be a Kosher gift basket as well.
Same with Gluten Free and Vegan Baskets: our White Bean Spread matched with the Organic Hummus Chips in our Healthy Gourmet Gift Basket is a delicious snack whatever your regimen. Eating well prepared, good food is the key to good nutrition for everyone. And if some has special requirements we can make a Fancifull basket for them that meets their needs.