Local gifts for lovely people
Spread joy in your community this holiday season with SN&R’s guide to the best presents in town
When it comes to thoughtful gift giving, where you buy is as important as what you buy. Sure, you want presents to bring your loved ones happiness on the day they’re opened. But by shopping locally, you support the health and vibrancy of your neighborhood, which brings your loved ones happiness all year round. Check out our suggestions for the best gifts Sacramento has to offer, and remember, there’s no place like home for the holidays!
Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates are more costly than See’s or Cadbury, but you get what you pay for. Take the Palet d’Or, a cube of chocolate ganache “enrobed” in dark chocolate from Venezuela and garnished with gold leaf. We dare you to find another item that decadent for under $2. The candies can be easily procured at the Ginger Elizabeth Midtown boutique or ordered online and shipped anywhere in the country. If you’re on a budget, a $12 box of six chocolates makes a lovely gift. If money is no object, $140 buys a large hat box overflowing with multiple gourmet candy bars, a 48-piece box of chocolates, hot cocoa mix and chocolate-covered candied almonds.
1801 L Street, Suite 60; (916) 706-1738; http://gingerelizabeth.com.
Thrifty treasure hunt
Times are tough, and most of us are trying to figure out how to make an unforgiving budget budge just a little bit more. Enter the gift card—a nice way to give friends and family the freedom to buy whatever they want (or really need). If you’ve got a bargain junkie or vintage aficionado on your list, take that idea one step further with a Thrift Town gift card. The thrift-store chain, with three locations in the Sacramento area, stocks a great selection of clothes, books, collectibles, jewelry and furniture. The stores are clean and neatly arranged and, unlike at other chain thrift stores, the prices are always budget-friendly.
Help for hackers
Are you and your buddies weekend-warrior hacker types when it comes to golf? That’s cool, but why embarrass yourself each weekend with crummy foreplay? Sweeten your swings with a half-hour lesson at Haggin Oaks Golf Complex. Haggin is one of the area’s longstanding public courses and has a killer practice facility and a pro shop. They offer individual lessons at rates ranging from $25 to $55, and solo packages that include anywhere from three to 24 hours of instruction time. Just imagine: You’ll no longer be the Saturday morning Charles Barkley at Bing Maloney. You’ll be Rodney Dangerfield. Maybe. If you can’t swing the private-lesson fees, group rates start at $39.95 per student.
3645 Fulton Avenue, (916) 481-4653, www.hagginoaks.com.
I admit it. I like fruity dessert wines that taste like wine coolers. In tasting rooms, sweet fruity flavors always tempt me, even though they’re reserved for last. I skipped a few of the reds at Revolution Wines to taste its 2008 orange muscat. The Muscat is nearly as sweet as a German Eiswein, but at only $13, it’s about half the price. Made from foothill grapes, it also hints at orange peel, honeysuckle and apricot on your tongue. If you haven’t been to Revolution Wines, it’s sort of like stepping into an urban oasis on the corner of 28th and S streets: tasty food and wine, and great service.
2831 S Street, (916) 444-7711, www.revolution-wines.com.
There are two ways to go right with a book gift. The first is to give a gift certificate to a local independent bookstore. (We suggest Time Tested Books, The Book Collector or Beers Books.) The second is to pick a book so interesting and thoughtful that the recipient will be awed by your choice. In the “fiction with a local bent” category, we recommend two new offerings. Santa María, written by Sacramento State Spanish professor Fausto Avendaño, is a drama of Alta California in which an American immigrant family’s future collides with that of an established Spanish family during the turbulent 1850s. Crown of Dust, by Grass Valley native Mary Volmer, is a novel set in Gold Country around the same time, and includes a young man with a secret and a hotel keeper who makes a bit of cash catering to lonely men.
Santa María, $12, paperback on Spanish Press, www.spanishpress.com.
Crown of Dust, $24, hardcover on Soho Press, www.sohopress.com.
The record store is dead. Long live record stores! Phono Select, one of Sac’s newest record shops, stocks CDs, vinyl and even cassettes—everything from new indie, punk and rock releases to hard-to-find discs, obscure vinyl and awesome old-school tapes. Need something to play your new purchase? The store stocks a carefully curated line of quality turntables, headphones and even vintage boomboxes. But Phono Select isn’t just music-geek nirvana. It also has cool rock T-shirts, old buttons (you totally need to gift that 1980s-era Aztec Camera or Bruce Springsteen pinback), vintage toys and games, and a whole wall of great art and rock books. Stocking-stuffer bonus? Gama-Go’s quirky line of wallets, key covers and ice-cube trays.
2312 K Street, (916) 400-3164, www.phonoselect.com.
Olive smooth skin
Combat dry winter skin with local love. The Winters-based Yolo Press, producer of award-winning olive oils, also makes the soothing Head to Toe Olive Oil Scrub. A generous jar only costs $6.99. The organic mixture combines the softening power of olive oil with the exfoliating properties of coarse salt to leave bathing beauties even more beautiful.
Available at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, 1900 Alhambra Boulevard, and the Davis Food Co-op, 620 G Street in Davis.
Big ideas and comfortable seats
Few community theater troupes are as consistent with their productions as Big Idea Theatre, the little company that really can. The 2011 season will undertake theatrical examinations of gender and sexism with a Renaissance twist (Compleat Female Stage Beauty); mathematics, mental illness, romance and filial loyalty (Proof); Shakespeare (Measure for Measure, Twelfth Night); drugs and art in 1980s Hollywood (Hurlyburly); a demon haunting San Francisco’s underground (King of Shadows); a woman’s manic joy ride to Niagara Falls (Wonder of the World); and the interrogation of a writer/suspected child murderer in a repressive police state (Pillowman). If it sounds like a season full of big ideas, well, you’re getting the point. Individual tickets are cheap and make great gifts. The folks at BIT will be happy to put together a ticket package for you, too.
1616 Del Paso Boulevard, (916) 960-3036, www.bigideatheatre.com.
Looking for cruelty-free, sustainably made gifts for the committed vegans and eco-saviors on your list? Anything from Midtown’s new Never Felt Better Vegan Shop is a guaranteed hit. Consider the fashionable belts made of recycled tires ($30) for guys and gals. For soy latte addicts, try the Flapper Girl reusable java jackets sweetly embroidered with bicycles or squirrels ($12). If you want to send a more intimate message, the store also carries Lollibomb edible vegan massage oils ($8).
2315 1/2 K Street, (916) 889-1189, www.nfbveganshop.com.
Tea for all
There always seem to be a few people that manage to stump even the most thoughtful and creative gift givers. Those bafflers probably don’t have any Blue People, which is good for energy and concentration. We’re not smurfing about the Blue Man Group here: Blue People is tea. It’s actually a green tea with ginseng, and it’s available in bulk at Tian Ran
Tea. This shop sells dozens of delicious teas, including white tea, oolongs, pu-erh, and black teas scented with mint, apple, rose or lemon. The shop offers free tastings to aid the decision-making process. In addition, they sell a multitude of Chinese-style tea cups and serving sets. The most impressive is the trompe l’oeil ceramic set that looks like tree trunks. Tian Ran Tea is relocating to Southgate Plaza Shopping Center at Florin Road and Franklin Boulevard soon, so call first.
6835 Stockton Boulevard, Suite 410; (916) 393-7888.
Unlimited chats with Humpty Dumpty
If the children in your life have too much stuff, give the gift of experience and imagination. An annual membership to Fairytale Town makes a wonderful present for any family. Fairytale Town memberships are priced according to family size and range from $40 to $150. Every membership includes free admission to the park’s quaint gardens, pettable animals, giant shoes, sailing ships, castles and carriages. Members receive discounts on special events and 10 percent off all merchandise. The deal also includes four free guest passes, so your gift recipients might even take you along.
3901 Land Park Drive, (916) 808-7062, www.fairytaletown.org.
Forget about Martha Stewart and her fancy imported ingredients. Buy the chef on your list the Placer County Real Food cookbook. Local authors Joanne Neft and Laura Kenny shopped the Foothill Farmers’ Market in Auburn every week for a year and cooked sumptuous Sunday dinners with the fresh ingredients they bought. Every delicious dessert, grilled fish, crisp salad and savory side has been documented in this beautifully photographed book. Simple but alluring recipes like roasted chicken with pomegranate glaze or German butterball mashed potatoes are sure to inspire, and the ingredients are easily obtained at your local farmers’ market.
Merry old souls
I know a guy who gets creeped out by antiques. He makes sure to buy all new, all the time—something about how used stuff is possessed by the souls of its previous owners. Funny, that’s the same reason I adore old things. Like-minded folks should pay a visit to the upcoming Sacramento Antique Faire on Sunday, December 12. With a myriad of vendors peddling furniture, art, jewelry, china and other collectibles, you’re guaranteed to capture the spirit of the season in an original, heartfelt gift for someone you love.
Every Second Sunday of the month, from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; $3 admission. At 21st between W and X streets, www.sacantiquefaire.com.
Supplies for any spiritual tradition
Whether your loved ones are Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, pagan or unaffiliated spiritual wanderers, Sunlight of the Spirit carries the gifts to nourish their souls. Deities from the world’s major religions rub elbows in this shop—Ganesh smiles at devout Virgin Marys who preside over handsome copies of the Quran. If you need an African goddess figure, it’s here. Meditation beads? Here. A book on Christian mysticism, a Tibetan singing bowl and Hanukkah candles? Here, here and here. If you’re unsure of the spiritual bent of your intended gift recipient, try the Celebrating Diversity Multi-faith Calendar.
2314 J Street, (916) 440-1533, www.sunlightofthespiritbooks.com.
Legally, you’re probably not supposed to give the gift of prescription drugs, but there’s no harm in recommending a few top strains as a patient-to-patient present, right? The holidays can be stressful, and there are few better ways to relax than a good cannabis head change. At One Solution, director Damien Payne recommends the Cherry AK-47 strain, which is a sativa dominant cross of Mexican, Thai and Colombian. In stoner speak, this means it will have a pungent aroma with a bright cherry flavor (duh) and a piney aftertaste. The high is a quick-hitting upper, good for doing holiday shopping! Just don’t tell Santa, lest ye receive nugs of black coal instead of green buds.
3901 Madison Avenue, Suite 180; (916) 993-9924.
Custom cartoon portraits
Sacramento artist Christy Savage specializes in colorful illustrations of sexy ladies, wild monsters, and crazy scenes informed by her passion for retro sci-fi and B movies. She’s designed posters for bands, movies and the Trash Film Orgy film festival for decades, and now she’s offering her services for custom portraits. At press time, her current project was “El Ataque de la Chihuahua Gigante!” an original portrait of a woman and her pet Chihuahua, in which the prized pooch has grown to giant size and is wrecking buildings as the woman flees in terror. Surprise your loved ones with braver, sexier, more exciting versions of themselves. Portraits start at $200, and Savage works from photos you provide.
(916) 498-9175, http://screamingcatfish.com.
We’re lucky to have Blue Diamond, the world’s largest tree nut processing company, headquartered in Sacramento. At its nut tasting and gift room, almond enthusiasts can sample flavored almonds, an almond beverage and almond butter, as well as purchase gift cans, boxes or baskets. Whether you want a snack or an ingredient for a gourmet meal, there are unlimited ways to cook, bake or garnish with the healthy nut. Warning: Honey-roasted almonds always sell out first and are extremely addicting.
1701 C Street, (916) 446-8438, www.bluediamond.com.
Can’t afford to take your loved ones on a Parisian shopping spree or a Tuscan wine tour this year? How about language lessons instead? Italiano Uno starts at $175 for a two-month course at the Italian Cultural Society. The Alliance Française de Sacramento teaches French lessons at a slightly higher rate, but offers couples discounts. After class, you can split a bottle of wine, practice your new words and dream of the European vacation you’ll take next year.
Alliance Française de Sacramento, 1721 25th Street; (916) 453-1723; http://afdesacramento.org. Sacramento Italian Cultural Society, various locations; (916) 482-5900; www.italiancenter.net.