10 Gluten Free Gift Ideas

These days pretty much everyone has heard of gluten-free diets and seen a myriad of gluten free products in health food stores as well as on mainstream supermarket shelves. Many of us also know someone who has a gluten sensitivity or is gluten intolerant (also known as Celiac Sprue or just Celiac Disease), or we may, in fact, suffer from these conditions ourselves.

People with celiac disease or with gluten sensitivity need to avoid foods that contain wheat and that includes wheat protein, wheat starch, wheat flour (or bleached flour), wheat grass and wheat germ. Barley and rye are also considered “gluten grains”. Other grains that have gluten are bulgur, malt, couscous, semolina, farina, seitan, and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).

Reading ingredient labels carefully is essential. Sometimes it’s not obvious that a product may contain gluten.  Some products that say they are “wheat free” on the packaging may still contain other ingredients that could have gluten such as vegetable protein or vegetable starch (which can come from wheat), or natural or artificial flavorings (which can come from barley).

Sometimes you may find a product that contains no wheat, but is manufactured in a shared facility that makes other products that do contain wheat. Unless it can be specified that there is a dedicated gluten free area in the facility where only gluten free products are made, and that the strictest gluten free protocols are followed, the product must be considered suspect for those who have Celiac Disease. Smaller producers often have to share commercial kitchens so it can be especially difficult to find artisanal foods made in dedicated gluten free kitchens where no other products are made.

Fortunately, many packaged foods now have gluten free certifications on the front and produce their foods in dedicated facilities that are not shared so that it’s easier to know that the product can be trusted to be gluten free. But gluten free is relative. The FDA allows products to state that they are gluten free if they contain less than 20 pppm (parts per million) of gluten. The Celiac Sprue Association, on the other hand, has the strictest certification requirements. Their seals indicate that the product contains less than 5 ppm of gluten. Other seals such as that from the Glucose Intolerance Group certify that products with their mark contain less than 10 ppm. People with extreme gluten intolerance will need to adhere to the strictest criteria for their health.

So what do you do if you need to send a gift to a gluten free person? Don’t be afraid to send a fun food gift!  There are plenty of great options out there that can satisfy the requirements of a gluten free diet. Here are 10 gluten free gift ideas to consider next time you have to send a gift to a gluten free person. And check out our new and expanded gluten free gift  page for more ideas.

Gluten Free Cheese Gifts

Who doesn’t like cheese??? Well, maybe someone who is vegan! But people who are gluten free can enjoy most cheese freely. The only exception may be cheeses that have mold such as blue cheese and Roquefort. That’s because some mold may be grown on bread or another type of wheat based culture medium and then injected into the cheese.

Most blue cheeses are produced naturally, and those are perfectly safe for someone with gluten intolerance, but unless it’s clear from the label on the packaging, you can’t be sure. If you decide to send a cheese gift to a gluten free eater, just be sure it includes gluten free bread or crackers!

Award winning cheddar cheese basket with gluten free crackers and spicy plum chutney.

Gluten Free Baked Goods Gift Baskets

If your gift recipient has a sweet tooth, you won’t fail to please them with a gift basket filled with gluten free baked treats! Local gluten free bakeries are simply burgeoning and the variety of yummy options is larger than ever. Honestly, it’s hard to impossible to tell a gluten free cookie from a wheat based one!  We recently developed a new line of gluten free gifts to send including our “Gluten Freedom Supreme” which is our largest and most extravagant. This gift contains fresh fruit (naturally gluten free) and baked goods made by two different gluten free bakers: Tu-Lu’s Bakery and Las Delicias Patisserie in New York City.

Gluten Freedom Supreme —  the quintessential gluten free gift idea!

Gluten Free Beer Gifts

Beside bread and other baked goods, beer is probably the next most longed for item that a gluten intolerant person has to give up. But just the way inspired bakers have developed tasty gluten free alternatives, so have the brewers! There are Brew-It-Yourself gifts for the industrious or “delivered to your door” subscriptions to gluten free beer clubs. Check out Spirited Gifts for a nice gift basket selection of gluten free beers.

Note that other alcohol may also not be gluten free. Vodka is especially tricky since many are wheat based and although the gluten should be removed during the distillation process, apparently some gluten may remain. UrbanTasteBud.com is good to use as a reference for gluten free spirits, but nothing beats calling the company to confirm.

Gluten Free Cookbook

If you want a gluten free gift idea for a person who likes to cook, consider a gluten free cookbook. We cooks always love scrutinizing a new cookbook to bring some fresh ideas into our culinary repertoire! And if you know their taste, you can spare them the shopping by bringing the ingredients to make one of the meals. That way all they have to do is conjure up the magic in the kitchen!

Gluten Free Mixes for Baked Goods

Think about it. If you can’t eat wheat-based flours, does that mean you can’t have bread, muffins, cakes, cookies, brownies, pancakes and waffles? Not anymore! There are so many gluten free mixes for all kinds of baked goods that use rice, chickpea, tapioca or even coconut flour among others. To make it a gift with a theme, include all the utensils, pans or griddles needed and even a matching pot holder, dish towel or apron as well. Another great gift for the do-it-yourselfer gluten free cook!

Gluten Free Restaurant

Everyone enjoys a meal out. Think about finding a gluten free restaurant near-by (or at least commutable) and treat them or get a gift certificate to one. Many restaurants now offer “gluten free” options. But if your friend, business associate, or family member has Celiac Disease, you may want to find a restaurant with a dedicated gluten free kitchen to be sure to minimize the risk of cross-contamination.

Hire a Personal Chef to Cook a Gluten Free Meal

Imagine having a gluten free meal prepared by a chef in your very own kitchen! Shopping and clean up included! This is a really special treat and makes a lovely gift for gluten free people.  If you want to spend more, you can give them the gift of a dinner party with a meal for 8!

Magazine Subscriptions for Gluten Free Living

Just look at the magazine racks in your local health food market or in the health section of your local bookstore and you will see that there is a plethora of subscription options that focus on living gluten free. While you may pick one up for yourself on occasion, most people don’t have subscriptions to magazines, even if it’s one they really like. So a gift of a magazine subscription is a really nice gesture.

Gluten Free Makeup

Why is there gluten free makeup? Well, many people who eat gluten free diets also like to live gluten free and just feel better knowing that what they put on their body as well as in their body is free from wheat and other gluten products. However, it can be a real issue for lipsticks and lip glosses. For example, sometimes Vitamin E, a common ingredient in lip balms, is derived from wheat germ. If a person is sensitive to trace amounts of gluten, a tiny amount could be ingested if it is applied to the lips. There are quite a few cosmetic companies that certify that their makeup is gluten free and some good websites that rate brand name cosmetic companies for the gluten composition of their products.

Gluten Free Apparel

Another fun gift is clothing such as aprons and t-shirts, or hand bags and shopping bags. Being gluten free is being part of a group, and some people like to advertise their membership! The slogans can be really creative and funny, while others are just downright silly. But there are lots of options so you will be able to find just the right expression to capture the personality and sentiments of your gift recipient!

Even if you don’t know much about living gluten free, don’t be afraid to consider a gluten free gift! We’ve given you 10 great ideas to start you off. Remember that your gluten free gift will show that you know them well and care enough about their dietary restrictions and preferences to have taken the time to do a little research to find the perfect gluten free gift for them!

Vegan Gift Ideas for Him and Her

Veganism used to be a positively mystifying concept. People could grasp vegetarianism and could readily explain the foods that vegetarians could and could not eat, but vegans were perplexing. What was the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian? Why would a vegan consider it wrong to eat an egg or drink milk? Why do vegans eschew down pillows and leather boots?

Today, veganism is no longer judged to be an eccentric dietary choice. Increased awareness has come from many sources. Celebrities flaunt their veganism, the health benefits of a plant-based diet are well documented, and the campaigns of organizations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have become more established and widespread.

And as a result of that increased awareness we have seen an increased interest in veganism. Exclusively vegan restaurants are becoming much easier to find, even outside of big cities, and more and more restaurants are catering to vegans by offering explicitly vegan menu choices. Even mainstream food markets are setting up vegan grocery sections and with greater variety than ever. Companies producing really good vegan food products are proliferating.

So it comes as no surprise to us that there is a demand for vegan gifts! Manhattan Fruitier has offered a collection of vegan foodie gifts for a number of years now, and because our customers have proven the popularity of these gifts, we are very excited to announce that we recently expanded and updated this category.  Check out our entire vegan gift collection.

We have identified some vegan friendly gift ideas for him and for her that will be sure to please your vegan friends and family. We divided our gift ideas into Vegan Gifts to Eat or Drink and Vegan Gifts to Wear and Use.

Vegan Gift Ideas — To Eat or Drink

1.  Fresh and Dried Fruit Gifts: There is nothing simpler than sending a gift basket of luscious and beautiful fresh and dried fruit to a vegan colleague, friend or family member. Fruit is an unquestionably vegan food and when artfully arranged in a basket with leaves and flowers, it makes a perfect vegan gift for her or for him.

gifts for vegans - fruit basketsFresh Organic Fruit Basket

One caveat about fruit: some vegans will not eat figs. That is because some figs can contain the decomposed bodies of wasps. Figs are pollinated by a very specialized fig wasp and the natural symbiotic relationship between them is used in biology as a perfect example of co-evolution and/or mutualism. Since the figs could not exist without the fig wasp and fig wasps could not survive without the figs, many vegans feel that it is OK to eat a fig. By the way, most commercially produced figs are grown in California and are self-pollinating, so not much need to worry but it’s good to be aware of the potential issue.

2.  Vegan Cheese Gifts: Dairy products, whether made from cow, sheep, goat, or camel milk, are not acceptable food for a vegan. Vegans do not eat any meat (including fish), but they also do not eat any animal by-products and that includes milk, eggs and even honey! Vegan cheeses are generally made from nuts such as cashews. There are vegan cheese options available for parmesean, mozzarella, ricotta, cheddar, Monterey Jack and more. Unfortunately, the majority of the store bought brands don’t taste very good. In fact, the more the makers try to produce vegan cheese that looks and tastes like real diary cheese, the worse it is!  Vegan cheeses definitely taste different than cheese made from animal dairy, but vegans understand that and aren’t expecting vegan cheeses to taste the same.

 We foraged high and low to find the best vegan cheese available and found it in Dr-Cow: a Brooklyn-based husband and wife run business that lovingly makes hand-crafted aged vegan cheeses in a variety of cool flavors that look gorgeous and taste simply divine! This cheese is so special that we decided to design a gift around it. Introducing our new Strictly Vegan Cheese Hamper with three of Dr-Cow’s exceptional cheeses (Cajun, Smoky, and Reishi flavors) with all the natural accompaniments. Bring this unique vegan gift to your next dinner party (vegan or not) and it will be a hit!

 Strictly Vegan Cheese Basket. A unique vegan gift is as fun to send as it is to receive!

Another fun vegan gift to send for any occasion is our “Strictly Vegan Bagel Brunch”. This is an authentic  New York-style Sunday brunch complete with old-fashioned water-boiled bagels (made without using egg products to make the tops shiny), a spreadable vegan cream cheese with scallions made by Treeline, capers and an organic blood orange juice.

Strictly Vegan Bagel Brunch. A vegan friendly gift perfect for any occasion.

3. Vegan Snacking Gifts: Sometimes it’s easy to identify a food that is appropriate for a vegan to eat, such as fresh fruit and vegetables that can make a vegan friendly gift. But once you start looking at packaged foods, it becomes a little trickier. Not all packaged food that is vegan is labeled or certified as vegan. That can mean that even though the ingredients are vegan, that food could have been produced in a facility that uses the same equipment to make products that contain dairy or meat or their by-products, such as casein and whey. And just because a snack is made from a plant source, such as a potato in a potato chip, there can be additives or preservatives that are not kosher for a vegan (sorry, couldn’t help myself!) such as lecithin and gelatin. There are several really good websites that have lists of food additives that may not be vegan. Check out veggieglobel.com, vegan.org and/or peta.org if you are interested in learning more.

At Manhattan Fruitier, we make it easy for you to find certified 100% vegan gifts to send. We offer a variety of fun vegan snacking gifts perfect for him or her, and large or small parties. Think falafel chips with fresco salsa, popcorn, roasted chick pea snacks, peanuts in the shell and organic maple-glazed nuts — all vegan and all delicious! One of our premiere vegan snacking gifts is shown below. And it’s gluten free as well. Sure to delight!

4. Vegan Chocolate and Sweet Gifts: The good news for vegans is that yes, you CAN eat chocolate, provided, it’s not milk chocolate of course! Do not be deceived by the ingredient “cocoa butter” from which chocolate is made. Even though it has the word “butter” in it, cocoa butter does not contain any dairy. Cocoa butter, along with cocoa powder, is extracted directly from the cocoa bean: cocoa butter, a fat, is first squeezed out of the cocoa bean and then cocoa powder is made by pressing together the remaining substances.

However, do be cautious about the sugar in the chocolate. Dark chocolate contains varying amounts of sugar: the darker the chocolate (i.e. 75%), the less the sugar (i.e. 25%). Although sugar itself is not animal-based, the bleaching or refining process may be contaminated with animal bone char. Unless the sugar is specified to be raw or unrefined, or the chocolate is specifically labeled with vegan certification, it will be hard to know.

Vegans can be more or less strict about consuming small amounts of refined sugars. If you are sending a chocolate gift to a vegan, and you are not sure of his or her position, you will want to err on the side of caution.

Strictly Vegan Deluxe is the perfect vegan food gift for him or for her.

Our new “Strictly Vegan Deluxe” gift features the most delectable vegan chocolates made by Rawclates in Brooklyn, NY. Using only raw and organic ingredients, Rawclates makers create smooth and creamy chocolates that are as nutritious as they are delicious! We have found a new love in these chocolates. This gift also includes our famous “Choc-A-Bloc” cookies baked by Berenice Hurtado at our beloved Sweet Leaf Bakery in Long Island City that are made especially for us. These over-sized cookies are loaded with vegan certified coconut flakes, dark chocolate chips, almonds, banana and peanut butter. Rich and moist and a veritable feast for the taste buds. You can’t get these blockbuster cookies anywhere else!

 5. Vegan Beer and Wine Gifts: Bringing beer or wine to a dinner party is customary, and the same is true when the dinner menu will be vegan. However, it may be a little harder to find a vegan beer or wine. Animal by-products, such as dairy and honey, can be added directly into beer, wine or spirits (think Bailey’s Irish Cream or Dogfish Head Brown Honey Rum). That can be fairly easy to identify. But breweries, winemakers and distilleries can also add things during processing and filtration that are much harder to detect such as casein (from milk proteins), isinglass (from fish swim bladders), albumen (from egg whites), sea shells (from mollusks) or gelatin (from bone).

 Don’t make the assumption that a wine is vegan if it’s organic! Organic wine production processes do not necessarily exclude using animal by-products. Kosher wines are a good bet to be vegan, unless they include honey (like Mead or Honey Wine).

 The best way to be sure that a beer or wine is vegan, is to go to a website that specializes in checking: barnivore.com, urbantastebud.com, and vegan.com are some good options.  Bringing a vegan gift of beer or wine will be welcomed and the extra effort you put in to insure that the gift is vegan will be greatly appreciated by your hosts.

  

Vegan Gift Ideas — To Wear and Use

People who are vegan are often committed to more than just eating a vegan diet. Veganism can be a way of living. Being conscious of avoiding foods that come from animals lends itself to being conscious of avoiding products that either come from animals (such as leather or down) or contain animal by-products (such as glycerides derived from animal fat) or use animal testing during development (such as many cosmetics and skin care products). So when considering a gift to wear or use for a vegan, whether for her or him, you will want to be aware of the materials and substances used to make the product.

1. Belts, Wallets, Handbags or Satchels: Leather is the most common material used to make these items. However, there are a growing number of alternative materials that you can find if you are searching for a vegan friendly gift for him or for her. Called “pleather” in the old days, today the term is “vegan leather” — which sounds much more appealing, doesn’t it? Vegan leather can be made from cork (or even pineapple leaves!!) but usually it is made out of petroleum-based products such as polyurethane or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which may meet animal cruelty free standards but is certainly not eco-friendly. Something to consider. But there are also other materials that are used to make belts, wallets, handbags and satchels including re-cycled rubber, metal, cork, canvas and other cloth, nylon or bamboo. Check out the website theminimalistvegan.com for sustainable vegan substitutes. MattandNat.com has some really nice designs and always endeavor to use materials other than PVC.

 2. Cosmetics, Skin Care and Bath Products: Cosmetics and skin care products are notorious for employing animal testing during development. In fact, many of the very recognizable make-up and skin care brands still are not completely animal cruelty free such as Avon, Cover Girl, Clinique, Maybelline, and Revlon. Happily, there are a multitude of new companies that have dedicated themselves to designing products without cruelty to any animal.

Unfortunately, if you are looking for a gift for a vegan, products that are designated as: cruelty free, organic, non-toxic, 100% natural, botanical or vegetarian (which of course is commendable) does not necessarily mean they are vegan! Many companies use ingredients that are animal by-products, or do not specify whether an ingredient that could potentially be from an animal source is animal free or not. Some good examples of this are glycerin, which can be made from either animal fat or vegetable oil; and “natural flavors” which can be animal-, vegetable- or mineral-derived. If not specified, you can assume that it is not vegan.

So what is one to do?? Well, there are several websites that list non-vegan ingredients to avoid, and vegan ingredients to look for. Veganproducts.org has a very comprehensive list. I also like cruelfreekitty.com — very recently updated — for brands that do not use animal testing. The brand OCC Makeup (which stands for Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics) is one of the only companies I could find that is 100% vegan and cruelty-free. Note that there are also some companies that have 100% vegan sections such as Kat von D Beauty and The Body Shop.

3. Clothes or Jewelry: There are certain fabrics that vegans may choose to shun including the obvious: leather, silk, wool, alpaca, suede, mohair, cashmere and camelhair. But fabrics such as velvet, gabardine, satin, crepe de Chine, organza and felt may not be so blatantly non-vegan. Any synthetic fabric is probably vegan friendly, but for more natural options think cotton, bamboo, linen and denim if you are picking out a gift of clothing or other fabric article for the vegan home. There are quite a few websites focusing on vegan lifestyle and fashion such as the mega peta.org and the funky januarythreads.com. There you can find exhaustive lists of non-vegan and vegan textiles.

 Jewelry makes a great vegan gift for him or her. Just steer clear of jewelry with natural pearls! And if pearls are just what you want, there are plenty of natural-looking synthetic varieties available.

 4. Perfumes or Colognes: As with cosmetics, skin care and body and bath products, many perfumes and colognes contain ingredients that come from animals. Examples include musk (from deer, the African civet cat, beaver), waste products from the digestive system such as ambergris (from slaughtered sperm whales), or honey. Typically, these ingredients are not listed individually but rather are subsumed under the term “fragrance”. So even if you try to read the label, you won’t know for sure what’s inside.

In addition, many companies continue to use animal testing. Otherwise animal cruelty-free perfumers often state that they do not test on animals “except as required by law”. Apparently, if you want to reach the huge China market, and most brands do, it is mandatory that perfumes and colognes are animal tested.

 If you want to give perfume or cologne as a vegan gift, certainly avoid the perfume counters at the department store and steer clear of the major designer brands. The best way to find vegan fragrances is to go to a company that is advertised as vegan. Crueltyfreekitty.com has an updated list of companies that don’t test on animals and in that group there are several that are also 100% vegan including Auphorie, Pacifica, Tsi-La and Vered Organic Botanicals.

5. Treats and Products for Pets: While some of the strictest vegans may chose not to own pets, many vegan households include animal companions. One doesn’t automatically think of bringing a vegan gift to a friend for their pet, but it can be a very fun and thoughtful gift for a vegan friendly family.

Whether a vegan household chooses to feed a vegan diet to their pets will be a very personal decision.  There is some controversy over whether cats, who are carnivores by nature, can thrive on a vegan diet. Dogs on the other hand, who are omnivores by nature, can do very well. But you may well not know about the diets of your vegan friend’s pets! Fortunately, there are a wide variety of vegan treats available that both dogs and cats will love, whether their main diets are vegan or not.  Assembling a collection of vegan animal treat bags makes a very nice gift to bring to vegan friends. As a pet owner, I know that there can never be enough treats in the house!

And if you don’t want to bring a food-related pet gift, consider gifts of toys and blankets, collars and leashes made with hemp and other organic and natural fibers. Purrfectplay.com even offers gift boxes and baskets for dogs and cats! Now that’s a unique vegan gift that will not be soon forgotten!

Gifting for vegans (even when you aren’t a vegan yourself) isn’t something to be anxious about, especially if you are mindful. There are certainly many, many vegan foods and non-food items that are not specifically labeled as such. But when in doubt, look for the certified vegan logo by vegan.org on the packaging.

What are the Best Fall Fruits?

Although the Autumnal Equinox is not until September 22nd, you can sense the coming of Fall much earlier. On the drive north to visit my Dad in Connecticut shortly after Labor Day, I saw the first indisputable signs of Fall — changing leaves on some trees along the highway! Shortly after that, Jehv and I took out our air conditioners and opened our windows to the cooler night air. The next morning, I awoke to the sounds of the birds chirping (which I hadn’t heard all summer with the air conditioners roaring). It would have been an entirely lovely experience to hear the little birdies if only I could have gotten back to sleep!

Fall is truly upon us and while we may lament the loss of the long, lazy days of summer, Fall brings its own unique pleasures. For instance, what’s better than tasting an apple from the first crop of the season? We all look forward to the fruits that are harvested during the autumn months and here is what I think are some of the best Fall fruits!

Apples

Lady Apples, Fall FruitApples of all varieties are ripening in the orchards right now and some will be ready to pick before others. October is the peak month. Drew says “Apples are ready for picking when it’s cold enough for your nose to run!” Love the visual, Drew…..

Why are apples the number one best fall fruits when we can eat them year round? Because of their freshness! After picking, apples are placed in cold storage to retain their flavor and can last a long time. That’s why we can offer apples in our gift baskets year round. But there is nothing like biting into a crisp, juicy apple at the peak of its freshness!

At Manhattan Fruitier, we look forward to getting the first crop of freshly picked apples to put into our Fall gift baskets. We are always on the look-out for more unusual, antique apple varieties grown on smaller local farms. We also strive to select as many organic apple varieties as possible for our fruits for the Fall season. Below is an example of the kinds of apples we feature in our gifts for Fall.

September: Jonagold and MacIntosh apples.

October: Black Oxford, Blondees Champlain, Blue Pearmain, Esopus Spitzenbury, Hidden Rose, HoneyCrisp, Jazz, Mollies Delicious, Opal, Orlenas Reinette, Rambour Franc and Zester Champlain.

November: Northern Spy and Winesap

 

Pumpkins

What fruit better characterizes the Fall season then the pumpkin? Yes, pumpkins are technically fruit! (Fruits are the seed bearing part of the plant that grows from the ovaries of the flowering part. Vegetables are other parts of the plant: the stem, the leaf, the root and the bud). Pumpkins are one of the top fruits for Fall. We all associate the Fall with the pumpkin: in October, it’s the Halloween Jack-o-Lantern; in November it’s pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner. Those of us who frequent Starbucks’ stores know that the limited edition “pumpkin spice lattes” launch in early September! Many of us probably recall the tradition of going to pumpkin farms on school trips in October or with your family as a kid. You could pick-your-own pumpkins, have some hot apple cider, and grab a hay-ride too! Maybe you are planning a visit to a local farm with your own kids this year.

 

Pomegranates

Pomegranates, Fall FruitThe height of pomegranate season is in the Fall and that makes them another distinctive fruit for Fall season. The first pomegranates are harvested in California in October. Pomegranate season lasts until January. But we are able to offer pomegranates pretty much throughout the year for two reasons. First, as soon as you pick a pomegranate, the ripening process stops. If you can keep them in cold storage, pomegranates can retain their flavor for a long time, just like apples. Second, pomegranates are grown successfully around the world so that they can be available for import year round. For example, pomegranate season in the Southern Hemisphere is from March through May.

 

Cranberries

Cranberries are one of the few fruits native to North America and have a long tradition in New England culture. Most cranberries (which grow on vines) are farmed in Massachusetts in water-logged bogs. Cranberries are truly a Fall season fruit. The cranberry harvest is relatively short beginning in mid-September and ending sometime in early November before the frosts.  Cranberries have an especially strong connection to the Thanksgiving holiday: cranberry relishes are ubiquitous at the Thanksgiving table and probably have been since the time of the first settlers.  

 

Grapes

Bunch of Grapes, Fall FruitGrapes are readily available at the supermarket year round, but in the United States, the grape harvest begins in mid-summer in California and continues well into September. At Manhattan Fruitier, we especially look forward to muscat grapes. Muscat grapes are a bit more unusual than the familiar seedless red and green Thompson grapes, although we love them too! Muscat grapes have a distinctive perfume-y taste.  They look different too, tending to be larger than most grape varieties with slightly thicker skins which some people like to peel, a few big seeds, and a color that is a combination of green and red looking rather as if it is blushing! We think Muscat grapes are one of the best Fall fruits to look forward to.

 

 Figs

mission-figsGenerally, fresh figs have two crops. The first crop is picked sometime from May to July depending on the variety, and then again from September to November. At Manhattan Fruitier, we pair our Prosciutto and Parmigiano gift basket with fresh figs whenever they are in season.  Prosciutto and figs are a classic Italian combination, and nothing beats the synergy of those flavors. We get our fresh figs from California and typically use the rich and deep purple Black Mission figs. Sometimes we use the lighter tawny colored Kadota figs or the dark Brown Turkey figs.  If you’ve tasted a fresh, ripe fig, you’ll understand why we have highlighted them as one of the most eagerly anticipated fruits for Fall. And if you’ve never tasted a fresh fig, get to your local market — you are missing out on a real treat!

Want some inspiration for fall-themed gifts? Check out our 5 Fall Gift Basket Ideas post.

6 Halloween Gift Basket Ideas

halloween gift ideasbasketBoo! Don’t be surprised, but Halloween is just around the corner and we’ve got some spooky and fun gift Halloween gift basket ideas to share with you. Whether you’re hosting an adult Halloween costume party or helping your kids get ready for trick-or-treating, there are lots of entertaining ways to enjoy the holiday.

1. Carve a Pumpkin Party

Adults and children alike delight in the Halloween tradition of pumpkin carving. A classic Halloween gift basket idea is to find a nice sized pumpkin and then gather together all the tools you need for carving: knives, stencils or templates, markers, candles, etc. You can tie the bundle together with fabric such as a small tablecloth.

If you are looking for gift basket ideas for Halloween for children, specifically, you may want to make the pumpkin carving easier. Cut the top off and scoop out the seeds thoroughly.  You can even wrap the utensils you’ll need later in a Halloween-themed dish towel and put it inside the pumpkin so that in essence, the pumpkin becomes its own basket!

I have a friend who really loves Halloween – it’s her favorite holiday above all others! She hosts an annual pumpkin carving party for her friends in her backyard (she lives in LA). Everyone comes in elaborate costume and by the end of the evening’s festivities, everyone votes on the best carved pumpkin. She is already planning for this year’s event.

Tip: Don’t waste the pumpkin seeds! They are a delicious and healthy snack. Be sure to get the pulp completely off first. You can boil the seeds in salted water for 5-10 minutes or so, lay them out to dry on a dish towel, then toss on a cookie sheet with butter or olive oil and some salt and pepper, and roast at a high temperature until golden brown.

 

2. Halloween Boo Box

Halloween Boo-Box-2017-610x530This gift basket idea for Halloween will please revelers of any age! Perfect to send to a family if you can’t be with them for the holiday. In our autumnal colored keepsake box, we nestle five spooky but adorable hand-iced cookies: two ghosts, two black cats, and one BOO, with an eerie chocolate haunted house beside them.  Charming and delicious all at once!

Tip: If you like to bake, consider making your own cookies to pass out to trick-or-treaters! There are many cookie cutters available in Halloween-themed shapes and it’s easy to make colored frostings with food dye. You can make them a day or two in advance and keep them fresh and sanitary in little plastic bags tied with orange and black ribbon.

 

3. Candied and Caramel Apples

Applecaramelicious-in-Bambo-610x530So many apple varieties are harvested in the Fall that apples have come to be emblematic of the season. A sweet Halloween gift basket idea is to bring or send the ingredients to make candied apples. Generally, tart apples are the best to use when you want to candy them: the tartness helps balance the sweet of the candy. You’ll need plenty of sugar, corn syrup and red food dye. Be prepared for the process to take time and to be a little messy.

If you want to send a Halloween gift basket for adults, we recommend our grown up Applecaramelious! The caramel sauce is flavored with vanilla bean and made from goat’s milk for the most luscious and scrumptious Halloween treat ever. Because you can dip apple slices into the caramel sauce, this gift takes no time to prepare so it can be immediately enjoyed. We even include an apple corer!

Tip: When you send a gift that needs to be put together, it’s thoughtful to include everything you’ll need to make it. It will be appreciated, and so will you!

 

4. Create a Costume

These days there are plenty of stores that sell complete Halloween costumes for kids and adults: you can find some that are really well made if you look hard enough. Masks, wigs, vampire teeth, and fake blood are all readily available this time of year. A fun Halloween gift basket idea is to buy an outfit and gather together all the accessories into a container for presentation. Instant Halloween costume!

If you are so inclined, think about making a costume yourself. When I was little, my Mom used to create our Halloween outfits every year. Sometimes they were extremely elaborate and they were never ordinary. I decided to carry on this tradition with our own daughter, and also let her come up with what she wanted to be. Being not nearly as creative as my artist mother, I’m afraid to say we had mixed results over the years!

Probably our finest moment was the year that our daughter decided she wanted to be a question mark. We were impressed with her originality, especially in the context of her age mates who were going to be fairies or princesses, pirates or monsters. We wanted to rise to this challenge! We bought some foam and cut out a huge question mark (with dot), covered it in fabric that our daughter chose herself, sewed in all together (which took many evenings) and then strapped it on her front (over her shoulders and around her waist). It was truly adorable and completely unique. But unfortunately, everyone kept asking her “What are you?” so that by the end of the evening she wasn’t very happy about her costume choice.

Tip: If you want to make your own costumes, there are two roads you can take. The first is to plan it out in advance, shop for what you need and sew it together. This takes time. The second is to look around the house and create a costume from what you already have. This takes less time, although both approaches require a bit of inspiration and imagination!

 

5. Apple Cider

Cider is another way to take advantage of one of the best Fall fruits we have: apples! Ciders are making their way from farm stands to the markets and enjoying a hot apple cider is such an iconic Fall treat. To make the container look more like a gift, tie on a package of hot mulling spices with Halloween ribbon. Hard ciders are becoming more popular and the selections ever more interesting. Nothing makes a nicer gift basket idea for the Halloween season then a first press apple cider, hard or not!

Tip: When you are home, keep some mulling spices in water on your stovetop under low heat. It will make your house smell delicious!

 

6. Halloween Decorations

Whether you can join in the celebration or not, a fun Halloween gift basket idea is a box of cool or creepy decorations for the front door, the house or the party room. You can send a simple Fall wreath, a selection of colorful gourds, cobwebs, black and orange streamers, a colony of flying bats, a fright of ghosts, or a family of spiders to sit on the fireplace or decorate the porch! The options are endless.

Tip: Don’t go overboard when sending a gift with Halloween decorations. Sometimes less is more.

 

Halloween is the only holiday where it’s de rigueur to take on another persona and transform yourself for an evening!  Have fun with it.

 

 

How To Celebrate a Work Anniversary In a Meaningful Way

When an employee reaches a work anniversary date — 1 year, 5 years, 10 years or more — it is an occasion to commemorate in a significant and meaningful way. The magnitude of the celebration will, of course, vary depending on the degree of the achievement and the size of your pocketbook, but that shouldn’t limit your imagination! Companies both large and small can find ways to make an employee feel special and honored. Here are some unique and fun ideas to celebrate a work anniversary.

Go Out for Lunch

Taking your employee out to lunch may be just the ticket for an early work anniversary, especially for employees who have to travel a distance to get home or have a family to tend to. But I don’t mean to suggest that you head out to the local deli or salad bar where your employee likely grabs lunch every day. Make sure to find a nice restaurant, perhaps a bit out of the way, and linger over a long lunch. It will be a real treat for him or her to have time out of the office in the middle of the day.

Steer the conversation away from talking shop. Make this an opportunity to get to know your employee a bit more. Whether the entire team is invited and joined by the boss or it’s just the employee and his or her manager, you are going to offer a happy change to the rhythm of the work day!

Helpful Tip: Be sure that your employee has a light afternoon — don’t schedule any important presentations or meetings.

Throw a Party

Work Anniversary party

The “office party” is such a boring notion that it has become a cliché: worse, a dreaded event to endure. But perhaps that has more to do with lack of imagination than anything else. If you are going to celebrate a work anniversary with an on-site office party, make it festive and themed for your employee. Does she like to play poker? Set up a casino scene. Get some tables and cover them in green felt. Hire a croupier or two and hand out “chips” to play with. Cater with platters of finger food and offer a specialty cocktail reminiscent of another era (with a non-alcoholic version too). We once held an office party where we invited a chocolate and wine expert to lead us through a tasting of chocolates paired with various wines. Afterward, we all got messy making truffles while finishing off the wine!

Off-site office parties can be easier to implement, but don’t just trundle down to the local bar for Happy Hour. That shows no effort or creativity and is not likely to make your valued employee feel the proper recognition. Find a place for your party that’s has a focus or activity such as a comedy venue, country dance bar (preferably one that also offers lessons!), shuffleboard club or movie house you can rent out.

Helpful Tip: If your employee is shy, don’t make him sing karaoke! Not one to imbibe? Then don’t make alcohol the focus of the party. Be sensitive to the preferences of the person you are appreciating.

Organize an Excursion

More and more companies are finding fun excursions and experiences to share with their employee who is celebrating a work anniversary. You can conceive of the trip as just for the employee you want to commemorate, or for the entire team. The outing can be as extravagant as your budget allows. Consider hiring a bus to pick up the office for a day trip to the beach or a nature hike, or even air fare and hotel for a few days to an island resort or mountain lodge. If your employee is a golf enthusiast, consider sending him or her to one of the major PGA golf tournaments. Likes to fish? What about a day on the ocean in a saltwater fishing boat? Maybe a helicopter tour of the city with champagne and a friend of his or her choice?

Helpful Tip: If possible, close the office for a day, or make the excursion include a Monday or a Friday if it is a weekend affair. It will be the perfect time to celebrate and that much more of a treat for your employee(s)!

Give a Gift

A gift is always a nice thought. But be careful to select a gift that is fitting. Think about donating to your employee’s favorite charity, or offer a corporate sponsorship for a non-profit organization event that they participate in.

Consider a gift card, especially if you can make it personal. For instance, one of our employees loved to cook and would come in on Monday morning talking about the dishes he had made over the weekend. He would also often complain that he didn’t have the right cooking equipment. For one of his work anniversaries, we gave him a shopping spree at Williams Sonoma and he couldn’t have been happier!

work anniversary gift

Congratulatory Gift Baskets To Celebrate a Milestone

A gift basket is another work anniversary gift idea that you can personalize. Many of our clients send our “Congratulations!” gift baskets to employees celebrating a work anniversary. The gift embodies the sentiment with hand-iced cookies that say “Cheers!”, “Congratulations!” and “Hooray!”. Perhaps you want to treat your employee who is an oenophile to a wine subscription where a new bottle to taste appears at the doorstep every month for a year; or a food gift club that features different artisanal fare every month.

Helpful Tip: A gift basket or gift card can be the perfect addition to any work anniversary lunch, party or excursion.

 

Award Time Off

Perhaps nothing is more important than having a day off! Why not celebrate a work anniversary by offering your employee a paid day off to do something he or she has always wanted to do, but couldn’t because of work hours? This gift is priceless. How could you do better than giving the gift of time? Remember to make it clear that this time is free and not deducted from either vacation or personal days. And no judgments! He or she may just choose to sleep in, stay home and watch old movies.

Helpful Tip: Let your employee pick the day, if possible. Give him or her time to contemplate what they would like to do in case it requires advance scheduling.

Don’t leave the celebration planning to the last minute. Think ahead as much as possible to come up with just the right idea and give yourself the time to manage all the details so that the event goes smoothly. That will underscore your respect for the significance of the occasion. The most important thing is to make it all about celebrating the individual: making it personal is the best way to show your respect and appreciation for all of their hard work.