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New Mexico food and drink are welcome holiday gifts

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Forget about fighting crowds at the mall and big box stores when you do your holiday shopping and instead treat yourself to a gastronomic adventure by visiting some of New Mexico’s best food and beverage artisans to pick up gifts sure to please.

Sweaters and mugs might end up gathering dust, but food gifts are always a good choice. Who wouldn’t want to eat some gourmet chocolate truffles or savor a cup of good coffee on a cold winter day?

Finding those sure bets is no problem thanks to the local artisans who are whipping up everything from craft chocolate and lavender honey to green chile sauce, roasting coffee with a hint of piñon flavoring, distilling fine spirits and more.

Sweet choice

At Eldora Chocolate in Albuquerque, owner Steve Prickett has adopted a “bean-to-bar” philosophy. He and fellow craft chocolate maker Anthony Evans use natural, organic, fair-trade ingredients to create 70% dark chocolate bars, milk chocolate and inclusion bars and truffles.

“We make everything from scratch all the way from the cacao to the chocolate bar,” Evans says, adding that they roast the beans themselves.

“We think of chocolate as food, not candy,” Prickett adds.

For the holidays, Eldora is making peppermint crunch and green chile biscochito truffles. A box of 12 sells for about $30. Single origin chocolate bars are $4, inclusion bars with things like fresh raspberries or pink Himalayan sea salt are $8 and individual truffles are $2.75. Eldora also has gift baskets that include truffles and bars as well as skin products made with chocolate for $50 to $70.

Farm fresh

The Los Poblanos Farm Store in Los Ranchos sells a number of favorite foods, including green chile jam.

“Developed in our own kitchen using fire-roasted New Mexican green chile, the best-selling food item at Los Poblanos is undoubtedly our green chile jam,” says Marketing Manager Lauren Kemner.

Kemner says another favorite is the lavender honey derived from bees that pollinate regional plants, including the farm’s own grosso lavender. It is available as regular honey and as a creamed version, which is thicker and easier to spread. Twelve-ounce jars are $16.

Back by popular demand for a limited time during the holiday season are Los Poblanos’ house-made caramels, which sell for $8 a bag.

The farm store also sells gift boxes filled with favorite snacks from the Los Poblanos kitchen. A $40 movie night gift set includes the recipe and fixings for Bar Campo’s sweet and spicy popcorn while the $45 Dulce y Rojo gift set includes Los Poblanos sweet & spicy pecans and Chimayó red chile truffles as well as Heart of the Desert red chile pistachios and an Eldora “Mole, Mole” craft chocolate bar.

Chile and more

Another good option for New Mexico foods is Apple Canyon Gourmet, which sells individual items and a variety of gift baskets ranging in price from $19.95 to $175 from its warehouse in Albuquerque. The company makes New Mexico foods under several brands, including Santa Fe Seasons and Holy Chipotle.

“We’re constantly in the kitchen,” says Jasmine Montoya, administrative assistant. “There’s always something going on.”

The company’s fire-roasted Hatch green chile, sold under the Santa Fe Seasons label, is one of the most popular items. It comes in jars of medium or hot chile for $6.49.

“It’s hard to get shelf-stable chile that’s ready to eat without a lot of ingredients,” Montoya says.

The company also has red chile sauce, Estancia Valley dried pinto beans, Hatch green chile bloody Mary mix, blue corn piñon pancake mix, a variety of rubs and seasonings, prickly pear cactus jelly and more.

A cup of cheer

All those delicious foods might leave a gourmand a little thirsty so don’t forget to include something to drink.

New Mexico Piñon Coffee’s roasting facility and gift shop at 2420 Comanche NE is the best place to find the full range of coffee flavors in both regular and decaf.

“We carry everything pretty much all the time at our gift shop,” says marketing director Drake Miller.

“Our most popular coffee is our traditional piñon,” he says, adding that the coffee is a medium roast with nice nuttiness but not too heavy on flavor. Twelve-ounce bags sell for $10.

The company has several varieties of naturally flavored coffee, including Mexican spiced chocolate, biscochito and “Essence of Santa Fe” with caramel and vanilla tones.

A gift box of three greatest hits or seasonal 12-ounce bags is available for $25, and a gift box of 15 K-cups in the company’s five best-selling flavors is $16.

“Coffee is always a gift staple,” Miller says. “Everybody loves to get coffee because everybody loves to drink coffee.”

Sippin’ whiskey

Another drink that many people love is whiskey. Santa Fe Spirits has been distilling fine spirits, including its flagship Colkegan single-malt whiskey, for almost 10 years.

“It’s a great gift for people who like scotches but want an American feel and definitely a Southwest feel,” says Caitlin Richards, business manager. The Colkegan, named for founder Colin Keegan, is made with mesquite-smoked malt, which gives it a unique flavor. It sells for $49 a bottle.

The most popular holiday gift for the last few years has been the Atapiño liqueur, Richards says. Santa Fe Spirits roasts piñon nuts and soaks them in a barrel of its Silver Coyote single malt white whiskey for six months. Resin collected from ponderosa pines at the top of Atalaya mountain above Santa Fe is added to sweeten the liqueur and add hints of vanilla and pine. The Atapiño sells for $30.

The liqueur is great for sipping on its own, in cocktails or even over ice cream, Richards says.

The distiller’s apple brandy, priced at $42, makes another good holiday gift. Made with apples from Keegan’s Tesuque orchard, the brandy has overtones of apple peel, vanilla, fruit and cinnamon and is delicious in a hot toddy.

Santa Fe Spirits also offers an age-your-own whiskey gift set that includes two bottles of unaged Silver Coyote and a two-liter oak barrel that sits 10 inches high for $99. Because the barrel is so small, the whiskey can be ready to drink in as little as three weeks.

“It’s similar to the giant barrels that we use but shrunk down to a mini size,” Richards says. “It’s fun.”