The calendar keepers tell us it’s the gifting season. If I ran the world, I would propose that we all give each other the gift of food and each other’s company. The list below is a start, with a focus on small businesses and producers trying to keep the lights on in these pandemic times. As always, let us know if we have missed something that’s special to you at this time of year. Send us a note for possible mention during the holiday season.
LANCASTER IN A BOX
Lancaster Local Provisions
What started out as a produce delivery service in the early months of the pandemic, Lancaster Local Provisions has morphed into an online marketplace for locally curated food-centric gift boxes. Owners Gabriel Luber and Diana Smedley, who are donating 1% of profits to Lancaster Farmland Trust, have cooked up an extensive menu of treat boxes starting at $45. Their Taste of Lancaster box comes in three sizes, starting at $50; it’s a mix of savory and sweet snacks sourced from small, independent producers in Lancaster County and around central Pennsylvania. (For example, the cranberry mustard is from Tait Farm Foods in Centre Hall and the whoopie pie is from Tico’s Whoopies in York County.) Orders are shipped three times a week.
More info: lancasterlocalprovisions.com.
FOOD AS MEDICINE
Whenever I pop into Christi Albert’s feel-good apothecary/boutique/event space, I inevitably find something food related, and a recent visit did not disappoint. Her “Dreamy Sleep Set” ($25) includes the usual new-age suspects (a palo santo stick, an amethyst crystal and lavender bath salts), but with her hand-crafted herbal tea blend, she’s creating an experience. As the pandemic marches into two-year territory, who isn’t looking for a 2021 version of “Calgon, take me away?”
Getting there: 332 N. Queen St., 717-725-0071.
Farmer Elisabeth Weaver fashions greeting cards from hand-carved wood block prints with plants as her muse ($13, set of 5) as well as floral-inspired flour sack towels ($8). Holiday gift wrapping with botanical flourishes is available for an extra fee.
More info: lancasterfarmacy.com.
Michael “Baldy” Arrowsmith had been working in Las Vegas running convention tournament logistics for the fantasy card game Magic: The Gathering. The pandemic put him out of work, so he packed up for Lancaster and focused on another passion — making spice blends. Arrowsmith’s Lancaster city shop doubles as a production space, where he dehydrates seasonal vegetables and herbs into spice blend form and ships online orders to addresses across the country. In 15 months, Arrowsmith has created 122 spice blends, plus a line of infused sugars and oils, with salt-free and allergen-free options. For the holidays, he has created several gift packs and sampler bundles, from hot chocolate ($11.99) to a trio of infused olive oils ($20). In addition to store hours, Baldy is holding court at Root’s County Market & Auction every Tuesday.
Getting there: 302 E. New St.; 717-209-7001.
More info: baldysblends.com.
Spice & Tea Exchange of Lancaster
Inside this Lancaster city storefront teeming with gift baskets, bundles, teas and every spice imaginable, the cast-iron spice grinding gizmos from Germany are what this shopper spies with her little eye. Although an electric coffee grinder-just-for-spices is my go-to, I have long been on the search for something that can efficiently grind small amounts. The handheld, two-piece grinder from Zassenhaus ($38.99), with respectable “teeth” and a storage lid, looks just what I’ve been looking for. The mortar ($44.99) is designed more like a shallow dish than a deep bowl, and its horizontal design could be a boon for properly smashing long or bulbous herbs, such as lemongrass and rosemary.
Getting there: 20 W. Orange St.; 717-394-4328.
More info: spiceandtea.com/lancaster.
SPEAKING OF CAST IRON…
Ellicott & Co.
Just around the corner at Ellicott & Co. (45 N. Market St., 717-690-2505), a noteworthy display of Smithey Ironware awaits. As the owner of a few Lodge cast-iron pans, I have no complaints. But wait until you see these hand-forged beauties (starting at $80) coming out of South Carolina, a product line that includes carbon steel. This cook has pan envy.
Getting there: 45 N. Market St.; 717-690-2505.
More info: ellicott.co.
AN OLDIE, BUT A GOODIE
From an outsider still getting to know Lancaster, Hammond’s Pretzels aren’t just great pretzels; they make even better gifts for the outside world. We recently sent one of their decorative green and orange tins as a thank you to friends on the other side of the country, and their lives are forever changed. Just sayin’.
P.S. According to the website, it may be too late for online orders to arrive in time for Christmas. A tin would be a great way to ring in 2022, however.
Getting there: 716 W. End Ave.; 717-392-7532.
More info: hammondspretzels.com.
FURTHER AFIELD (BUT NOT REALLY)
You’re driving south on Route 896 and you cross the county line into Upper Oxford Township. Five, 10 minutes later you are on a road that is like so many others in John Deere country, you may very likely miss the sign that points the way into the nondescript driveway. You think, there is no way a chocolate factory exists in the middle of Tractorville or at the end of this road, and surely not one run by a Swiss chocolatier with chocolate from his homeland. But you would be wrong. It will feel like you’re in on the most delicious secret, but it’s so delicious and so special you have to tell a friend. Go before I buy all the canisters of the milk chocolate-covered potato chips. They also make their own Advent calendars, chocolate gelt for Hanukkah and have truffles for days. Just get in the car and go.
Getting there: 461 Limestone Road, Oxford; 610-932-2706.
More info: neuchatelchocolates.