Food & Drink

You want to give a tasty gift that’s made in Charlotte? Here are our top 10 choices

Want the tastiest Charlotte food gifts? Our expert eaters put them to the test

From muscadine soda mix to tomato jam to the perfect toffee, Kathleen Purvis of The Charlotte Observer and Sallie Funderburk of CharlotteFive sample enough great Charlotte products to fill anyone's holiday basket
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From muscadine soda mix to tomato jam to the perfect toffee, Kathleen Purvis of The Charlotte Observer and Sallie Funderburk of CharlotteFive sample enough great Charlotte products to fill anyone's holiday basket

Giving a food gift that’s a real taste of Charlotte is an idea that’s actually tasteful. We found 10 locally made products that are worth putting on your list, whether you need a stocking stuffer, a handy party gift or a whole basket of Charlotte.

1. The Unknown Craft Ginger Ale. Forget too-sweet mainstream ginger ales: Unknown Brewing’s nonalcoholic version is loaded with ginger and a hit of lime, with just a light sweetness. It begs to be in a cocktail, or just on the rocks. Usually $8 for a four-pack. Find it at the brewery, 1327 S. Mint St., or at a number of local stores, including Rhino Market and Harris Teeter.

2. Old North State Grape Shrub. Shrubs are technically “drinking vinegars,” but they aren’t as puckery as that sounds. Jamie Swofford of The Chef’s Farmer reached back to colonial America for his shrubs, made with N.C.-grown fruit, like the muscadines in State Grape. Use them in cocktails or to make a low-sugar soda. (If you want a taste first, Lincoln’s Haberdashery serves them in house-made sodas.) A 16-ounce bottle of concentrate is $22, but it goes a long way. Find them at Free Range Brewing or sometimes in local bottle shops.

3. Pour Olive Oil, butter flavor. Pour at 1528 East Boulevard has long rows of flavor-infused balsamic vinegars and olive oils (we particularly like the roasted walnut oil). But the butter flavor is special: They get the flavor with botanicals, not artificial flavors, and it’s dairy-free and vegan. Seriously good drizzled on popcorn. $11 for about 8 ounces; larger bottles are also available.

4. Cloister Bourbon-Infused Honey. Randall York and Joanne Young named their honey business for their Providence Road neighborhood. Today, they have a whole line of honey products, including creamy whipped honeys and even CBD-infused honey. But the bourbon-infused is special, especially drizzled in a hot toddy. It’s usually $14 for a 12-ounce bottle and it’s available in local stores all over Charlotte and beyond.

5. Cheddar Pecan Wafers. Community Culinary School of Charlotte, 9315 Monroe Road., is Charlotte’s nonprofit culinary school that trains people with impediments to employment for jobs in food service. To raise money, they sell red cans of these thin and crisp cheese crackers every year. $12 for a 9-ounce can. They’ll start taking orders Dec. 5; call 704-375-4500.

6. Ogre Sauce. Every backyard grill master dreams about bottling their sauce, but Mike “Ogre” Weeks and his friends Mike Vagianos and Chris Lawson actually did it, using Weeks’ grandmother’s recipe. It’s a great all-around sauce, with a mustardy kick that isn’t too sweet. (There’s a hot version, too). It’s available at stores all around town, like Rhino Market or Whole Foods, for $6.99, or you can get it on Amazon Prime for $11.39.

7. Cannizzaro Arrabbiata Pasta Sauce. Melanie Cannizzaro-Tritten and her husband, Andy Tritten, have turned her skills at making marinara into a full product line of fresh-tasting sauces with simple ingredients. Arrabbiata is our favorite, with just a little spicy heat. Bundle it up with some good pasta and bread for an excellent gift basket. $6.50 for a pint, $12 for a quart. Available in a lot of local boutiques like Rhino Market or Earl’s Grocery, even in Whole Foods.

8. Santhosi’s Savory Tomato Chutney. Local cooking teacher Santhosi Radhakrishnan came up with her own version of a savory Indian chutney that’s got all kinds of uses, from a spread to a dip. If you like a little heat and a lot of Indian flavor, it’s addictive. It’s usually $8 for a 12-ounce jar; find a long list of stores where it’s available on the website:

9. Chef Alyssa’s Champagne Tomato Jam. Tomato is a fruit, after all, so tomato jam is natural. Local chef Alyssa Wilen’s version is a little sweet and a little tangy. $8.99 for a 9-ounce jar. (There’s also a smoked chili and rosemary mustard, if that’s your speed.) Look in local boutique stores, and at her cooking school, 4001 Yancey Road.

10. Secret Chocolatier Sea Salt Chocolate Butter Toffee. The shop at 2935 Providence Road run by the Dietz/Cordia families hit a winner when they came up with this one: Tender-yet-crunchy toffee, coated in dark chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt. It’s $13 for an 8-ounce bag — and worth it.

Kathleen Purvis; 704-358-5236.