Food (and drink) for friends

Locally produced food and libations are a good way to give with Butte County in mind

Teresa Hungate slices local gourmet cheese at Zucchini & Vine.

Teresa Hungate slices local gourmet cheese at Zucchini & Vine.

Foods and drink make for fine holiday gifts. They are classy, and even more so if they are of a local flavor. And we are blessed in this part of the state with nuts, cheeses, rice, olives and olive oil, beer and wine and other confections.

In your quest for locally harvested gifts, you can start downtown at the Zucchini & Vine store on the corner of Main and Second streets. The store has a high-class (bordering-on-snooty) air, which makes it a fine place to buy for those you’d like to impress or, more honestly, those you’d like to make feel inferior.

Z&V offers a good selection of locally developed tastes, ranging from wine and cheese to olive oil and jams. These gifts are each handsomely labeled and painstakingly crafted, which means, of course, they’re a far cry from the mass-produced stuff you find on the grocery chain shelves.

Walk to the back left-hand corner of the store and you’ll find the shelf carrying bottles of wine, including selections from the Gray Fox Winery of Oroville. The day we visited the store featured Gray Fox’s Port Syrah ($16.95), Port Cabernet Sauvignon ($16.95) and Port Moscato ($15). If you want the low-down on Fox, go on line and check out our story here.

There are also wines at Z&V bottled by the local fine-dining restaurant The Red Tavern, including a chardonnay ($11.95) and a zinfandel ($11.95).

Up in Tehama County they grow some pretty good olives, and those olives produce some darn tasty oils. Z&V has its own bottled olive oils that are combined with citrus fruits that ripen at the same time as the olives, so they can be crushed together making for unique and exotic flavors. The results are the Meyer Lemon Olive Oil, Blood Orange Olive Oil and Persian Lime Olive Oil, each selling for $12.95 per bottle. The oils can be used in salad dressings, as pasta sauce or brushed on fish, chicken and vegetables.

How about jams and jellies form the Mountain Fruit Company, which are packaged and offered by the Work Training Center: Fig Galaxy, Raspberry Tart and Ohi Berries at $3.50 a jar. Or try the Citrus Norte Blood Orange Mandarin, $5.50.

Don’t forget the cheese—Zucchini & Vine has a deli case full of the stuff, including offerings from the Pedrozo Diary of Orland. Black Butte Reserve, a white cheese, goes for $12.50 a pound, while Northern Gold can be had for $10.50 a pound.

There is also the Sierra Nevada Cheese Company of Willows, featuring cream cheese at $4.50 a tub and Sierra Jack at $8 a pound.

Speaking of Sierra Nevada, you’d be doing yourself and as well as the people on your gift list a favor to stop at the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company at 1075 E. 20th Street to visit the gift shop. Right now Celebration Ale is the seasonal brew, and six packs can be had for $5.35 and cases for $21.40.

Don’t forget the Porter, Pale and Stout mustards, available in a package deal for $13. Something fairly new is the Sierra Nevada beef jerky, which is made from cattle that have been fed the spent grains and hops used in the beer-brewing process. The jerky comes in three flavors, jalapeño, peppered and teriyaki, and is available in $3 and $12 sizes.

You can also purchase a handsome gift box, put together by the WTC folks, featuring two glasses and two beers of your choice for $29.95.

The gift shop is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

One other place you should consider is LaRocca Vineyards and Winery in Forest Ranch. If you can’t make the trip by car, do so via the computer, here. Prices for the organic, sulfites-free wines offered by the family winery run between $8 for a white zinfandel to $45 for a bottle of 1996 lush zin.—Flannigan Hollidae