It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Once again, we’ve spent the year shopping and sampling, remembering and pondering, to bring you our annual Triadfoodies’ favorite things and Holiday Gift Guide. Each of these goodies are quite easy to find, so we encourage you to support your local makers and small businesses. This year, each product has a bit of a story that won our hearts with flavor that will fill your tummy after you stuff the stocking with it. All of our gift guide items will be presented lovingly in a basket that one lucky winner will take home. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, Dec. 18, via YES! Weekly’s Facebook page. So, these are a few of my favorite things…

Extraordinary Snacks

Founded by snack queen Erica Thornberg, a neuromuscular therapist, out of the necessity to eat healthy snacks that actually taste good. Extraordinary Snacks are “energy-packed snacks with nuts at the core.” Think of the healthiest, grainiest, crunchiest cheese nibs ever with Cave Nibs. Enjoy the Banana Not Bread, made with activated walnuts, marinated in a banana purée, then crisped that tastes freakishly just like banana bread. You’ll find Extraordinary Snacks at Buie’s Market, Juggheads, and Wiseman Brewing in Winston-Salem, or check her site, ExtraordinarySnackCo.com, for other retailers.

Batistini Farms, Extra Virgin Organic Chili Pepper Olive Oil

This is the third year in a row that Batistini Farms has been a favorite. Funny how I seem to find something new I love with B-Farms. The balsamic vinegar already can’t be beat, and the olive oils are amazing, but we especially love the Chili Pepper Olive Oil lately. It’s wonderful drizzled on white bean chili, salads, on Asian dishes, or hummus. Seriously, I can’t get enough! You can find Batistini Farms products at various retailers, including Wine Merchants in Winston-Salem and Earth Fare. Check their website, b-farms.com, for more retailers, or to order online.

Sweet’s Syrup

Elderberry syrup might not be your first choice for food, but during these cold, germ-filled months, Elderberry syrup has long been known as an immunity booster. Take it daily, kind of like a vitamin, or give yourself a shot or two of it when you feel something coming on. Stephanie Rickenbaker developed an elderberry syrup after a loved one was diagnosed with a chronic illness, which inspired her to reduce her family’s exposure to toxins and boost their nutrition. The syrup, which combines elderberries with raw local honey and spices, is named after her daughter, whose nickname is “Sweet.” You can find Sweet’s Syrup at various shops in Winston-Salem and Greensboro, such as Buie’s Market, City Beverage, Deep Roots, and Lizzie’s Herb Shop. Check her website, sweetssyrup.com, for other retailers.

Doc Brownstone’s Seasoning Blends

Because chef and author Tim Grandinetti doesn’t already have enough to do with multiple restaurants in the Triad and another Quanto Basta on the way in downtown Wilmington, the enthusiastic and affable owner/chef of Spring House Restaurant Kitchen & Bar, and Doc Brownstone’s BBQ introduces his brand new signature line of seasoning blends that is perfect for your holiday roast, veggies, seafood and chicken. We are excited to tell you that the spices are getting their debut right here in our gift guide! The winner will be one of the very first people ever to try these seasoning blends. They’ll be available at “The House,” located at 450 N. Spring St., Winston-Salem with an online store coming soon. You saw it here first, foodies. For more information, visit Spring House’s website sprinnhousenc.com.

Yadkin Valley Popcorn

Shallowford Farms, founded by Caswell Booe, has been growing corn for decades, and its Yadkin Valley Popcorn has been the leading popcorn producer in the Southeast ever since. A true farm-to-table and growing international business that sells and pops what they grow, you can find Yadkin Valley Popcorn at Food Lion, Piggly Wiggly and online. If you want some in person, visit the gift shop in Yadkinville. There you’ll find classic flavors such as the popular butter, movie theater, cheese and kettle, but also caramel, birthday cake, fruit flavors and more. Take a tour while you’re there. In the basket, we’ve thrown in our favorite flavor, cheese. The farm is located at 3732 Hartman Rd. in Yadkinville. For more information, visit ShallowfordFarmsPopcorn.com.

Kill Devil Pecan Rum

This rum, though. It’s made with pecans and honey and is so great in a variety of cocktails. A shot in Fresca soda is nice, or in orange juice with vanilla for a great Dreamsicle-style cocktail, but my absolute favorite way to enjoy it is in eggnog. The gift basket winner scores the rum, but as Oprah would say, “You get a recipe, and you get a recipe!”

I’ve included this can’t-be-beat eggnog recipe below, but if you feel like being lazy, which I often do, go ahead and load up on a few cartons of store-bought eggnog, heat it (or don’t), throw in a shot (or two) and enjoy its coziness. Found at ABC stores statewide in North Carolina and Virginia. For more information, visit the website, outerbanksdistilling.com.

Fiddlin’ Fish Barrel-Aged Black Mountain Chocolate Stout

Just released, the year-round staple Barrel-Aged Black Mountain Chocolate Stout. This beer features fresh-roasted cocoa nibs from their neighbor, Black Mountain Chocolate, across the way at Big Winston Warehouse. A small batch of the stout is aged for six months in a fresh-dumped Nobilium whiskey barrel from Broad Branch Distillery. The brewers can describe it better than I: “It imparts rich notes of oak and whiskey and a warming mouthfeel that balance nicely with the stout’s natural roasted flavor profile.” You can only get BMC Stout at Fiddlin’ Fish Brewing, located at 772 Trade St. NW, Winston-Salem. We’ve included a gift card so that you can get your own growler filled. Enjoy a beer while you’re there, and maybe try a food truck.

And since we’re feeling the chocolate…

Black Mountain Chocolate Fruit Cake

There she is, Miss Winston-Salem, the Queen of the Gift Guide. Never will there ever be a gift guide without the pre-eminent fruit cake of the city. I dare say the state, until or unless there’s ever a sad day when BMC doesn’t make it anymore. Rich and chocolatey, fruity and a bit boozy with Broad Branch Distilling’s Night Lab, this fruit cake is worthy of any nightcap to your meal. You can find her at Black Mountain Chocolate’s factory, 732 Trade St. NW, Winston-Salem. Visit blackmountainchocolate.com for more information.

Triadfoodies Eggnog

6 Egg yolks

1-teaspoon Ground cinnamon

1/2-cup Sugar

1/2-teaspoon Vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

1/2-teaspoon Freshly grated or ground nutmeg

A pinch salt

1-cup Heavy whipping cream (optional)*

2-cups Milk or nut milk of choice (you’ll want to add some more milk here if you’re opting out of heavy cream.)

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl until foamy. Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, milk, salt and spices until it reaches a simmer. Temper the hot mixture to the egg mixture a little at a time, whisking all the while. Pour it all back into the saucepan until it is warmed and just a little bit thick. Fold in the vanilla and refrigerate, or if you like it warm, it’s ready to drink.

To make it boozy: Add one or two shots of Kill Devil Pecan Rum (or your choice of bourbon or whiskey) to your eggnog. Top with whipped cream if you like with cinnamon and more nutmeg.

*Note: You can use your egg whites instead of heavy cream if you’d like a thicker, very old-school, dairy-free eggnog. Whip the whites with a tablespoon of sugar until stiff peaks form and fold into the chilled eggnog. I’ve folded it into the heated mixture, and it was fine, too.Consumption of raw or undercooked eggs, shellfish and meat, may increase the risk of illness

Kristi Maier is a food writer, blogger and cheerleader for all things local who even enjoys cooking in her kitchen, though her kidlets seldom appreciate her efforts.

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