The Hippo


Aug 24, 2019








Cooking class at The Culinary Playground in Derry. Courtesy photo.

Gifts with taste
Your guide to foodie holiday gifts

By Angie Sykeny

 Get the foodie, wine lover or beer enthusiast in your life something memorable this year. From unique gifts like monthly box subscriptions and custom labelled wines to hands-on experiences like cooking classes and brew-your-own sessions, there’s something for every taste. 

The gift that keeps on giving 
Give something that goes beyond Christmas Day with a subscription like Spiced Up (, which will deliver a box of four hand-selected spices from around the world to the recipient’s door every month. Each box contains one full-size featured spice and three smaller sampler spices along with facts about their origin and history, suggestions for how to use them and a kitchen-tested recipe. 
“It’s a great gift for the seasoned chef,” said owner Helen Ryba, “but I also think it’d be really cool for a young couple or single person who wants to experiment a little bit with cooking and delve into different recipes.” 
You can gift a three-month, six-month or 12-month subscription; the six-month comes with a free ceramic pinch bowl, bejeweled salt spoon and an ounce of Himalayan Pink, and the 12-month comes with a free hand-crafted test tube spice rack filled with 12 additional Spiced Up spices. If you’d like to add a little something extra, Spiced Up has other products to accompany the subscription that you can buy separately, including individual spices and sugars, rubs and kitchen accessories like a teak wood measuring spoon set and a mini mortar and pestle.
Other locally based subscriptions that you can gift include Local Baskit (, 270-9220), which delivers healthy meal kits with fresh, pre-measured ingredients from local farms, and All Real Meal (, 661-2833), which delivers gluten-free, paleo and vegan meals and offers additional gifting options like gift coolers filled with meals and desserts and gift baskets with dry goods and snacks. 
“I think it’s a unique kind of gift,” Ryba said. “It’s something they can look forward to. They’ll continue to get something after Christmas is over and will be reminded of the great gift you gave them.” 
The gift of knowledge 
If you’re buying for an aspiring chef, try a gift certificate for a local cooking class. The Culinary Playground (16 Manning St., Suite 105, Derry,, 339-1664) offers a variety of classes for kids and adults. 
“It’s great exposure for kids who’ve shown an interest in cooking or baking and for any person who loves to cook or wants more cooking experience,” owner Kristen Chinosi said. 
Kids ages 3 through 6 can learn to make things like mini chicken pot pies, cookie pops and Irish soda bread while kids ages 6 through 11 and teens can make snowman sugar cookies, red velvet cupcakes and other sweet treats. 
For adults, Chinosi said the new vegetarian cooking class series has been very popular. Participants can learn to make three-course meals with dishes like maple balsamic Brussels sprouts, creamy vegan macaroni and cheese and spice-poached pears. 
Give your foodie friend, family member or significant other an experience they can enjoy with you: a couples’ cooking class. The three-hour BYOB workshops invite couples to cook, taste and take home their own three-course meals. Upcoming themes include Indian, steakhouse and game day cuisines. 
“A lot of people will buy those as a date night for their spouse, or kids will give it as a gift to their parents,” Chinosi said. 
You have the option to give a specific class or a gift certificate that the recipient can use for the class of their choice. The certificates can be sent via email and printed, or for more festive packaging you can have it gift-wrapped in a mini pizza box with your choice of a chef’s hat or apron. 
More local culinary classes and other hands-on experiences like private classes, date nights and in-home cooking parties are offered at Calcutta Curry (35 Manchester Road, Unit 9, Derry,, 232-6498), Chez Boucher Cooking School (32 Depot Square, Hampton, 926-2202,, Colby Hill Inn (33 The Oaks, Henniker, 428-3281, and The Creative Feast (5 Broad St., Hollis, 321-5011, 
“I think [a cooking class] is relevant. People are trying to eat healthier and have more control over what they put in their bodies,” Chinosi said. “It’s a lifelong skill. You have to eat your whole life so you might as well learn to cook.” 
For the wine lover… 
Instead of a regular bottle of wine, go with something more personal like custom-labeled bottles. 
Aside from the formatting guidelines, anything goes at IncrediBREW (112 Daniel Webster Highway, Nashua, 891-2477,; recipients create their own solid ink high resolution labels with photos, graphics and text of their choosing. 
“You could design your own graphic. You could make it a picture of your family and have it say ‘Hand-crafted by the Smith Family,’ or something like that. It can be whatever you want,” IncrediBREW owner Erik Croswell said. “It’s a super unique gift for this year.” 
The minimum order is a case of 12 bottles, and recipients can mix and match with the varieties they want. Choices include pomegranate zinfandel, white cranberry pinot grigio, green apple riesling, super Tuscan and German riesling. 
If you don’t want to order a whole case, Flag Hill Distillery & Winery (297 N. River Road, Lee, 659-2949, offers custom labels for cases as well as single bottles, with 13 varieties of red, white, fruit and sparkling wines to choose from. You can keep the Flag Hill logo or choose one of their template pictures and just add custom text, or you can get fully customized labels with your own picture and text.
...or the DIY brewer
Give the beer enthusiast in your life a chance to live the dream with a home brewing starter kit, which you can pick up at a home brew shop. If you’re buying for someone who is already a hobbyist and has the basic equipment, there are plenty of accessories and recipe kits that would make great gifts for them, too. Local shops include Kettle To Keg (123 Main St., Pembroke, 485-2054,, Border Brew Supply (224 N. Broadway, Salem, 216-9134,, Jasper’s Homebrew & Winemaking (522 Amherst St., Unit 17, Nashua, 881-3052, and Nepenthe Ale House (840 Candia Road, Manchester, 935-8123,  
For a gift with less commitment, consider a brew-your-own experience at IncrediBREW, where participants can receive hands-on instruction to brew, bottle and add custom labels to their own batch of beer. 
“The gift of an experience is becoming very popular,” Croswell said. “We’ve definitely seen more people asking about it as a gift. … It’s an awesome thing for a craft beer lover who is interested in crafting their own or just understanding what goes into making beer.” 
The recipient can brew in a private session or participate in one of the themed split-a-batch brewing events. Winemaking and old fashioned soda-making experiences are also available. 
You can either print out the gift certificate or stop by the facility and have it packaged as a gift in a beer or wine bottle with a customized label. 

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