Fare & Ware

Tea Spree

What: Arbor Teas’ holiday gift set (top image) includes holiday spice organic Indian black tea (5.5 oz.), tea-infused chocolate truffles (four pieces), and tea-infused smoky caramels (five pieces), $29/gift set, from Ann Arbor, arborteas.com

The Lowdown: The organic Indian black tea — with its flavors of orange, cinnamon, and clove — combine the scents of the season in one delicious cup. The tea comes with a guide for brewing and a compostable bag. The caramels have a distinct smoky flavor, while the tea-infused chocolate truffles are to die for, especially the Earl Grey variety and its creamy, silky texture with a floral-citrus finish. (What’s next: The owners recently launched an organic tea farm in Ann Arbor!)

Local Package Pick-up: Arbor Teas is celebrating their 10-year anniversary this year and, for the first time, they will briefly open their doors to the public (10 a.m.-4 p.m., Mon.-Fri., and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat., through Dec. 23.), 1342 N. Main St., Ste. 4, Ann Arbor.

Pro’s Pick: Stressless City high-back recliner (far left) in Vanilla Palmoa leather, $2,895, Bright Ideas, Royal Oak. “This chair promotes something that all tea-lovers crave — a calm, comfortable moment to slow down, reflect, and enjoy the seasons,” says Aubrey Lopatin (right), co-founder of Arbor Teas.

Editors’ Picks: The Kati tea-brewing system (middle left), with an integrated infuser, will brew loose tea; the double-wall construction keeps it hot, $15, Write Impressions, Royal Oak.

Editors’ Picks: Good luck, wealth, progeny, and long life are all represented on the Purple Abundance cast iron teapot (middle right), $150, Teavanna, multiple metro Detroit locations.

Editors’ Picks: Everyday Magic Sunrise, Sunset: 52 Weeks of Awe & Gratitude (far right), by Kim Weiss (Health Communications), $11, amazon.com or barnesandnobel.com. Captures a year’s worth of inspiring photographs matched with meditations, passages, poetry, and contemplations. A portion of the proceeds benefits Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse.


Salsa Fiesta

What: Maria’s House Made Salsa, includes smoked ghost pepper, $8/jar; and roasted habanero and mango cranberry salsas, $7/jar, all made in Hamtramck, mariashousemadesalsa.com.

The Lowdown: Maria’s is a family business. Co-owner Marie Pronko (right) and her father, who created the recipe in 2008, and her brother and mother, spent years perfecting the salsa in their restaurant (formerly known as Maria’s Comida) in Hamtramck, using only the best and freshest ingredients. By 2012, the family had transformed the restaurant into a manufacturing facility to keep up with the salsa demand. This is tasty salsa, and it meets every craving for heat.

Local Package Pick-Up: Holiday Market, Royal Oak; Westborn Market, Berkley, Dearborn, and Livonia; Whole Foods stores, midtown Detroit and Rochester Hills.

Pro’s Picks: Nambé Braid chip & dip server (above left), $175, Nordstrom, metro Detroit locations. “A timeless piece,” says Pronko. “With the rustic acacia wood and polished serving dish, it’s stunning.  Because of its mix of materials, it will pair nicely with any home décor. And the clever part? The bowl can be removed so you can refill the salsa!”

Pro’s Picks: Nambé “Morphik” chip & dip dish (above right), $200, Nordstrom, metro Detroit locations. “Love at first sight,” says Pronko. “Just look at those curves. If you’re looking for a sophisticated gift, this is it.”

Salsa & chips photo plate/bowl information: Alessi, KU place setting, six/$142, and Alessi Mami small ceramic bowl, three/$22, ArtLoft, Birmingham.


BBQ Blitz

What: Bella Rouge Original Gourmet BBQ Sauce and Bella Rouge Barbeque Chipotle Gourmet BBQ Sauce, $8/ea. (16 oz.), made in Detroit, bellarougebbq.com.

The Lowdown: Co-founders Brent Stevenson, a Louisiana native, and Kathy Stevenson (right), from Oregon, melded their histories and tastes into one home-style bottle of “beautiful red” sauce. “Our lives and sauces are infused with our pasts and the future of the Motor City,” says Brent Stevenson, who now lives in Detroit. “If our first ingredient is love, the second is a passion for Detroit and the Mitten State!” The Original is “sweet with a little heat,” and the Chipotle is “heat with a little sweet.”

Local Package Pick-Up:  This company is getting  almost as hot as the chipotle peppers in one of its sauces.  At press time, it’s available at bellarougebbq.com, but look for it soon at various retail locations (check the Bella Rouge website for updates).

Pro’s PicksAll-Clad® stainless steel barbecue tool set (above left), $144, Sur La Table, metro Detroit. “After the grill, the next important tools are utensils,” says Brent Stevenson, co-founder with Kathy Stevenson of Bella Rouge Barbecue. “These are great — and the case is pretty cool, too. We also really love the sculpted thumb grooves — a smart (and thoughtful) design detail that reduces fatigue … because for us, grilling is an all-day affair.”

Pro’s Picks: K1000HS Hybrid Fire freestanding grill with side burner (above right), base price $21,195, built-to-order, Kalamazoo Gourmet, Kalamazoo, kalamazoogourmet.com. “Who wouldn’t want this grill?,” asks Stevenson. “This set-up is beautiful and would make the perfect centerpiece for any outdoor living space,” he adds. “We love that it’s made right here in Michigan! And we love that it gives the ‘grill master’ cooking options. We’re 100-percent charcoal enthusiasts, but it’s great that with this grill you can select charcoal, wood, or gas.”


Mixology Marvel

What: Two companies —  McClary Bros. Drinking Vinegar and Valentine Distilling vodka, Ferndale, mcclarybros.com and valentinedistilling.com.

The Lowdown: With these two ingredients, gift recipients can mix up the festive “Can Can” cocktail. The recipe: 2 oz. White Blossom vodka (the fragrance itself is intoxicating!), $30/fifth; and 1 oz. McClary Bros. beet & carrot drinking vinegar, $18/16-oz. bottle. Add to this 3 oz. cranberry juice. Serve in a lowball glass of ice with muddled orange peel. The splash of cranberry juice adds some holiday ho-ho-ho!, while the goodness of locally sourced ingredients from the vinegar evokes a fall harvest earthiness.

Local Package Pick-Up: McClary Bros. Drinking Vinegar, The Rust Belt, Ferndale. Valentine White Blossom Vodka, at Merchants, Dearborn; Plum Market, West Bloomfield; and Red Wagon, Troy.

Pro’s Picks: Waterford Crystal London double old fashioned pair (far left); $195, waterford.com, Neiman Marcus, Troy. “These are elegant and perfect for enjoying cocktails with friends and family,” says Josh McClary (right), senior elixir clerk at McClary Bros. Drinking Vinegars.

Pro’s Picks: Jasper Bar Tool set (middle left), $94Arhaus, Ann Arbor and Troy. Made of nickel-plated brass, this set features classic lines that  are accentuated by sculpted details and an understated, yet elegant sensibility. “A fantastic set — everything you need in one place for preparing quality craft cocktails,” McClary says.

Pro’s Picks: Alessi Moon Bar ice bucket (middle right), $224, ArtLoft, Birmingham, is chic with a stainless steel finish that’s mirror-polished; Cold Fingers ice tongs, $10, Leon & Lulu, Clawson. “This is a great ice bucket and I love the ‘cold fingers’ [far right] touch to these tongs — they’re must-haves,” he adds.


Honey for Your Honey

What: Hardy Honey Bee Farms’ Raw Michigan Wildflower Honey, $7/pound. Based in Sterling Heights, hardyhoney.com.

The Lowdown: What began as a hobby for the Daleos in 2007 grew into a business with hives on private properties located throughout northern Macomb and St. Clair counties, where wildflowers/pollen are plentiful enough to make high-quality honey.

Product Lowdown: Oh, the sweet manna from Hardy Honey Bees! The taste of this wildflower concoction is unparalleled by mass-produced varieties. In general, honey has an eternal shelf life, but we challenge you to go even one week before you finish your jar.

Local Package Pick-Up: Revitalizing Touch Wellness Spa, Rochester, and also at hardyhoney.com. Look for holiday pop-up shops in metro Detroit (check hardyhoney.com).

Pro’s Pick: Godinger honey bee honey pot with spoon (far left), $50, godinger.com. “This is a nice serving piece,” says Linda Daleo (right), “queen bee” at Hardy Honey Bee Farms. She reminds honey lovers that when storing the sweet nectar, keep it at room temperature — do not refrigerate.

Editor’s Pick: Bell’Invito bee jotter memo pad, $22; and Stingray moss-green pen (middle left), $40, both from Woodward & Maple, Birmingham. Of note: Bell’Invito stationery is printed using presses that date back to the late 1800s.

Editor’s Pick: Little Dippers Honey dippers (far right), $3/ea., hardyhoney.com. These drizzle honey perfectly and are designed to stay in the honey pot. Daleo says to return the dipper to your pot after use, and do not wash it.

Pot with honey product information: William Yeoward’s crystal Buzzy honey pot (note the handcut bees dancing around the hive), $175, Woodward & Maple, Birmingham.


Tiny Temptress

What: Sweet Gem Confections goes seasonal with exquisite assorted chocolates, $21/eight pieces; and salted pumpkin caramels, $9/quarter-pound bag. Ann Arbor, annarborchocolate.com.

Product Lowdown: Sweet Gem Confections grew out of a love affair with chocolate that owner Nancy Biehn (right) had when she was living in Spain in 1991. After she returned to the U.S., Biehn spent years honing her skills by making chocolates as gifts for the holidays. In 1997, she made her business official, and continues to create small-batch sweets using the highest-quality ingredients. The company equates the look of its chocolates to  gemstones — and we agree.

Local Package Pick-Up: Zingerman’s Next Door, Arbor Farms Market, Argus Farm Stop, and Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market, all in Ann Arbor.

Pro’s Pick: Michael Aram Fantasy Bloom amethyst-embellished, two-tier pastry stand (above left), $395, Slades, West Bloomfield. “This elegantly jeweled candy dish, with its whimsical organic design, speaks directly to my chocolate heart,” says Nancy Biehn, owner and chief executive chocolatier of Sweet Gem Confections. “We call them Sweet Gems because they often resemble the perfect beauty of a gemstone. About 9 inches tall, the stand is made of stainless steel with a nickelplate finish. Artist Michael Aram’s works are each lovingly made using age-old traditional techniques. The artisan nature of his works imbues them with a soulful quality.

Editors’ Pick: MacKenzie-Childs’ Courtly Check enamel three-tier sweet stand (above right), $198, La Belle Provence, Birmingham. The Courtly Check pattern is the most popular pattern of all, featuring glossy, hand-painted, high-contrast checks. White candy plate information: Alessi, KU place setting, six/ $142, ArtLoft, Birmingham.


Wine Not?

What: Chateau Chantal’s Naughty & Nice red and white wines, from Traverse City, $12/bottle, two-bottle gift pack in wooden case, $33. chateauchantal.com

The Lowdown: Established by the Begin family in 1983, Chateau Chantal overlooks Grand Traverse Bay . The family attributes their location along the 45th parallel — the same as the Bordeaux region of France — to their award-winning success. Whether your gift recipient has been naughty or nice, he or she will enjoy these wines, which have won medals from the Tasters Guild Wine Competition. Naughty varieties are dry/semi-dry, and Nice blends are sweet/semi-sweet.

Local Package Pick-Up: Market Fresh, Beverly Hills; Hillers Market, multiple metro Detroit locations; Showerman’s Fine Wine, Livonia; and select Kroger  and Meijer locations.​

Pro’s Pick: Sparq wine pearls (center left), $24.95/four, Paper Source, several metro Detroit locations. “Aesthetically pleasing and eminently practical, these will chill your wine but not water it down,” says Liz Berger (right), operations manager at Chateau Chantal.

Pro’s Pick: Coravin™ 1000 Wine Access system (center right), $300, Neiman Marcus, Somerset Collection, Troy. “Not going to drink the whole bottle? Just want a sample from an expensive, older vintage? This is the solution to your wine preservation challenges,” Berger says.

Pro’s Pick: All Mine! Wine glass writers (bottom left), $3.95/ea., Crate & Barrel, Somerset Collection, Troy. “I always tell people that the glass with the most wine is mine, but I’ll never be able to snitch another’s full glass if they have these to mark their glasses.”

Pro’s Pick: Glass knobstopper by Cake Vintage Table & Home (bottom right), $40; and vintage spigot knobstoppers by Cake Vintage Table & Home, $22, both from Rock, Paper, Scissors, Ann Arbor. “These are sure to be a conversation piece at your next dinner party,” says Berger. “They’re nostalgic fun with a practical application.”


Pie, Please!

What: Grand Traverse Pie Company’s Cherry Ganache pie, $26.99. Company headquarters is in cherry country — Traverse City, gtpie.com.

The Lowdown: More than a decade ago, Mike and Denise Busley (right) wandered into Julian Pie Co. in Julian, Calif., and, struck by the cozy, warm shop and thriving business, started dreaming of a pie business of their own. Fast forward to today, and the first words out of your mouth the moment you taste Grand Traverse Pie Company’s Cherry Ganache pie masterpiece, made from scratch daily with Michigan-grown ingredients, will be “Mmmm!”

Local Package Pick-Up: Metro Detroit store locations: Ann Arbor, Brighton, Plymouth, and Troy.

Pro’s Pick: Rosso Vecchio dot service plate (far left), $60, The Italian Dish, Birmingham. Its rich-red hue comes just in time for the holidays.

Pro’s Pick: Reed & Barton Burgundy pie knife (middle left), $170, Maloof Jewelry and Gifts, St. Clair Shores. “The classic design pairs well with our classic winter pies,” says Mike Busley, co-founder with Denise Busley of Grand Traverse Pie Company. It’s definitely an indispensable sterling silver serving piece that makes dessert time special.

Pro’s Pick: Pie plates (middle right), $24.95/four, Crate & Barrel, Somerset Collection, Troy. “These beautifully designed, scripted plates are the perfect complement to sharing the comfort of our seasonal pies this winter,” Busley says.

Editors’ Pick: Who says you can’t serve pie from a cake stand? Old St. Nick Vietri cake stand (far right), $139, The Italian Dish, Birmingham.

Pie photo plate information: Alessi, KU place setting, $142/six, ArtLoft, Birmingham.


Brewer’s Best

What: El Rojo Red Ale and Norm’s Raggedy Ass IPA, $8/four-pack, made at Griffin Claw Brewing Co., Birmingham, griffinclawbrewingcompany.com 

The Lowdown: These two popular, award-winning beers are clear winners. El Rojo has a rich roasted flavor with a hint of a caramel body, while Norm’s has a piney, citrusy flavor (and a higher alcohol content).

Local Package Pick-Up: Refillable growlers, 64 oz./$32; 40 oz./$25 (plus the price of beer), at the 1.5-year-old Griffin Claw Brewing Co., Birmingham; also available at metro Detroit retailers including Primo’s Pizza, Birmingham; and Beer Baron, Livonia. Four-pack cans available at metro Detroit retailers including Primo’s Pizza, Birmingham; and Beer Baron, Livonia.

Pro’s Picks: Dailyware™ Craft Brew beer tasting glasses (bottom left), $20/six, select Bed Bath & Beyond stores or bedbathandbeyond.com. “Glassware is very important when drinking a great beer,” says Julie Pete (right), tap room manager at Griffin Claw. “Showcasing (the beverage’s) appearance and enhancing its aroma are two key factors in choosing glassware.”

Pro’s Picks: Andy Warhol Philosophy pencils (bottom middle), $9, the Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit. “The pencils, inspirational items, would pair great with the beer guide,” says Julie Pete, tap room manager at Griffin Claw.

Pro’s Picks: 99 Bottles of Beer journal set (Chronicle Books) (bottom right), $13, Rock, Paper, Scissors, Ann Arbor. “This beer guide is a handy little thing,” Pete says. “It’s an appropriate size for taking to your favorite beer bar or a pal’s house to sample new brews,” she adds.

Large glass photo information: William Yeoward Marlene double old fashioned, $42, Woodward & Maple, Birmingham.


Dressed for Success

What: Fustini Sweet Italian Sampler (Tuscan Herb and Garlic olive oils/Sicilian Lemon and 18-year balsamic vinegars), $49/four 200 ml. bottle set, Fustini’s Oil & Vinegars, Ann Arbor, fustinis.com.

The Lowdown: Wanting to share their appreciation for the Old World oil-and-vinegar shops they experienced during their travels, Jim (right) and Lane Milligan founded Fustini (the name is used for Italian stainless steel vessels that store oil and vinegar) in 2008. Each bottle is freshly drawn upon purchase and marked with a filling date. The classic gift set is sweet, savory, complex, and  fresh. The Milligans’ cookbook, Celebrate, $25, includes recipes for hors d’oeuvres, side dishes, and more.

Local Package Pick-Up: Fustini’s store locations: Ann Arbor, Holland, Mackinaw City, Petoskey, and Traverse City.

Pro’s Pick: Regional Delight Rosanna olive oil dipping dishes (bottom left), $22, Tootie and Tallulah’s, Berkley. “These dishes are the perfect solution to table service while enjoying oils and vinegars that have been personally selected from various regions,” says Jim Milligan, co-founder of Fustini’s Oil & Vinegars.

Pro’s Pick: Simply Elegant Alessi Mami oil cruet by Stefano Giovannoni (bottom middle), $183, Hugh 1 Inc., Detroit, or alessi.com. “This cruet would be beautiful on any dining room table, filled with any oil or vinegar — simple yet elegant,” Milligan says.

Pro’s Pick: Artfelt Potter’s Workshop dip bowls (bottom right), in black/white, blue, red, sage green, $5/ea., West Elm, Birmingham. “What better way to enjoy the amazing flavors of oils and vinegars than to pair them with these festive dip bowls? Our colorful labels are ‘artfelt,’ just like these pieces,” Milligan says.

Oil & vinegar plate information: Amore plate, $13, The Italian Dish, Birmingham.