32 food gifts made in Madison
Madison has so many great local producers
It’s something we might take for granted–Madison’s local food scene is incredibly robust for the size of our metropolitan area, where so many local producers call home. Madison is unlike a lot of other cities in that its proximity to farmland gives growers the opportunity to stock shelves with truly locally made products. This brings us closer to our food and also closer to our producers, who might be neighbors, friends or colleagues. They’re making waves in food innovation by producing meats, cheeses, chocolates and sauces and sometimes introducing foods we’re not yet familiar with; and you know it’s good when some of these products are garnering national attention. Here, we’ve rounded up a few local goods that don’t just make great gifts for the foodies on your list–they’ve set the standard for the meaning of “Madison made.”
Christine’s Gourmet Toffee
Christine’s Gourmet Toffee is made at Chocolaterian Cafe, a place that satisfies every Willy Wonka fantasy you’ve ever had. The toffee is crafted in small batches in a traditional copper kettle to ensure a perfectly sweet taste. Christine’s toffees and caramels may have taken a trip across the country after being selected in 2011 for inclusion in the Emmy Award gift bags, but they’ll always have roots here, as only Wisconsin Butter and Sassy Cow cream are used for all of their products. Find the toffee in store or on Chocolaterian Cafe’s website. 6637 University Ave., chocolateriancafe.com, 836-1156
Fraboni’s Italian Specialties
Walking into Fraboni’s shop in Monona, you’re met by aisles of authentic Italian and homemade specialties that give you ample options to put together a gift basket that is molto delizioso. You’ll find olive oils, vinegar, sauces, grains and legumes straight from Italy. The deli counter offers enticing main dish meats like sausage, meatballs, porchetta and ready-to-heat entrees that are made at Fraboni’s. The little Italian shop brings the best of Italy to Madison, and it’s been family-run since 1971. 108 Owen Rd., Monona, 222-6632, frabonisdeli.com
Madison Sourdough Company
When you stop in at Madison Sourdough to pick up a sourdough baguette or ciabatta rolls to complete a dinner-for-two gift basket, it’ll be hard not to stay a while at this cute Willy Street bakery offering breakfast, lunch, pastries and coffee. MSCo adopts classic French baking techniques to bring Madison delicious baked goods that’ll transport you to Paris. For the holidays, MSCo offers pre-order items like the take ‘n’ bake cinnamon rolls. And just next door is the MSCo Cafe, a full-service dessert bar with tarts, cakes and sorbet made in-house–to satisfy every sweet tooth on your list (or, you know, your own). 916 Williamson St., madisonsourdough.com, 442-8009
Off the Block Salsa
Off the Block started as a gardening program, but turned into a thriving fundraiser that helps support Mentoring Positives, an organization that serves at-risk Dane County youth. Originally, participants cultivated and cared for an acre of tomatoes and peppers to produce homemade salsa to sell as a fundraising effort but has since outsourced production to keep up with demand. The organization saw it as an opportunity to keep kids out of trouble, and the program has grown (and gotten even tastier) ever since. 819-6200
Pasqual’s Tortilla Chips
The popularity of Pasqual’s tasty tortilla chips has given owners enough reason to bring the chips not only to the table at the Tex-Mex restaurant’s three locations, but also to the shelves of grocers including Woodman’s, Hy-Vee and Metcalfe’s Market. You can also buy a bag to take home at the Pasqual’s restaurants. These signature chips aren’t complete until they’re fried in-house and topped with a sprinkling of Pasqual’s salt, a house recipe mixture of seasonings. Maybe now that they’re available outside of the restaurant, we won’t ruin our dinners by devouring an entire basket of them with guacamole and salsa pre-meal. Probably not, though. 1344 E. Washington Ave., 819-8002; 670 N. Midvale Blvd., 663-8226; 100 Cross Country Rd., Verona, 497-3333
Porchlight Products has the perfect gift for the community-minded foodie on your list. This nonprofit organization creates homemade products like jams, jellies, scones and applesauce that not only support Wisconsin food producers, but also groups that serve the homeless and disadvantaged communities. The nonprofit provides emergency shelter, food, counseling and affordable housing to more than 8,000 people in Madison annually, and its products help give people with physical or mental challenges a sense of purpose. You can find Porchlight Products at retail outlets including Madison-area Hy-Vee, Metcalfe’s, Willy Street Co-op and others. 306 N. Brooks St., 257-2534
With a mission to make a cracker worthy of sharing a plate with Wisconsin cheeses, Potter’s Crackers was born in 2006 by mom-and-son team Peter Potter Weber and Nancy Potter. Potter’s Crackers are made using local and seasonal flavors to create specialty, organic and artisan crackers that are crispy perfection. Local ingredients are used in the seven year-round cracker varieties, which includes the Winter Wheat, a vegan option. Potter’s Crackers can be found at the Dane County Farmers’ Market, at many local shops and food markets and on the menu at Roman Candle Pizzeria outposts and Brasserie V. potterscrackers.com, 663-5005
Quince & Apple
Quince & Apple products are downright charming. Pick up a tiny jar of small-batch preserves like apples and cranberries or figs and black tea as a stocking stuffer, or go for a whole party box of items that includes seasonal selections of preserves and syrups plus other items like Potter’s Crackers and Underground Meat products. The adorable couple behind the Quince & Apple label is Matt and Clare Stoner Fehsenfeld, who’ve garnered quite a bit of national attention for their hand-made goods. Bottled syrups and jars of these delicious spreads can be bought online or from retailers across the U.S. It won’t be hard to find Quince & Apple in Madison–put your address in Quince & Apple’s website retail location map and find dozens of options. quinceandapple.com, 301-5433
RP’s Pasta Company
RP’s Pasta Company puts Madison on the pasta-making map. Founder and master pasta maker Peter Robertson values fresh, natural quality and taste over everything, which leads to RP’s delicate, delicious and handmade pasta. Try the renowned egg fettuccine, the pumpkin tortellini or the award-winning gluten-free selection. Filled pastas contain quality Wisconsin-sourced cheeses and vegetables. RP’s has more than thirty Madison-area restaurants hooked–find the full list of restaurants that serve RP’s Pasta as well as a retail locator on RP’s website. 2901 Progress Rd., rpspasta.com, 257-7216
Smoky Jon’s #1 BBQ
Smoky Jon is a Madison BBQ sauce celebrity, and lucky for us, we can bring the award-winning sauces and seasonings home. Smoky Jon’s BBQ sauce has won more than 100 professional awards and has recently introduced a Fiery Supreme BBQ flavor. Smoky Jon’s Flavor Magic Gourmet All-Purpose Seasoning is a dry rub that provides a solid and classic foundation of BBQ, perfect for the grill master in your family. You can buy Smoky Jon’s sauces or its signature seasoning at the restaurant and also at area Woodman’s and Hy-Vee stores. 2310 Packers Ave., 249-7427
Yumbutter makes gift giving more, well, yummy. In 2010, Adrian Reif and Matt D’Amour, both Wisconsin natives, launched Yumbutter, a nut butter company that sells an assortment of butters, including a unique peanut butter spread with cranberry and coconut accents. The company has a holistic approach to making butter through its BuyOne:FeedOne model–every time you buy a jar or pouch of Yumbutter, you help feed a malnourished child. The company partners with Primeros Pasos in Xela, Guatemala, and has helped feed more than 14,000 children. Yumbutter’s reach has now spread past the borders of Madison; products are sold at Target and Whole Foods, along with many local retailers and markets that you can find using the store locator on Yumbutter’s website. yumbutter.com
100 Mile Sauce Company
Midwesterners love their condiments and sauces. So it’s fitting that three Midwestern boys, Jeff Cullen, Scott Kesling and Bobby Marshment-Howell, set out to take sauces to the next level. They brought to life 100 Mile Sauce Company, with a goal to make everyday cooking staples more sustainable through locally sourcing ingredients, 95 percent of them from within 100 miles away. The three started by creating their own signature ketchup, then expanded their production by moving into FEED Kitchens. Now their condiment arsenal includes original and interesting sauce and relish recipes such as Matchstick Pickles, 100 Mile’s take on pickle relish; Honey Bee-BQ sauce; and a killer bloody mary mix. Order 100 Mile Sauce products online or find them at Jenifer Street Market, Woodman’s, Hy-Vee and Regent Market Co-op. 1219 N. Sherman Ave., 100milesauce.com, 535-9095
Cheese isn’t the only thing Wisconsin does right–we also have a slew of talented chocolatiers. For a savory selection, check out Infusion Chocolates, 2503 Monroe St., 233-1600, which are often made with mixed nuts and spices. Gail Ambrosius, the master chocolatier behind Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier, 2083 Atwood Ave., 249-3500, offers a truffle box with beer pairing suggestions. With a factory in Verona and a store on the Capitol Square, Candinas Chocolatier, 11 W. Main St., 845-1545, sells truffles crafted by Swiss-trained chocolatiers. Keep the chocolate coming by signing up for a three-month Community Supported Chocolate share through Madison Chocolate Company, madisonchocolate.com. And Chocolaterian Cafe, 6637 University Ave., 836-1156, boasts an entire menu of desserts including brownies, tarts and other treats.
Bring back the element of surprise with the wine bottle gift bag by stuffing it with a non-traditional alcoholic beverage or aperitif. Bos Meadery, 849 E. Washington Ave., 628-3792, is Madison’s only maker of mead–which is fermented water and honey and about the strength of wine. Yahara Bay Distillers, 6250 Nesbitt Road., 275-1050, makes more than twenty types of whiskey, gin, rum and vodka and Wollersheim Distillery, 7876 Highway 188, Prairie du Sac, 643-6515, now has six distilled spirits to choose from. Tangy, bold and naturally sweet describes NesAlla Kombucha, 1418 S. Park St., 354-5293, the fermented tea that comes in berry, ginger or traditional jasmine flavors. Or try Mad Maiden Shrub, madmaidenshrub.com, a drinking vinegar that’s a refreshing aperitif mixed with water, a sparkling drink or your favorite alcoholic beverage. It’s available at Orange Tree Imports, Fromagination, Hy-Vee, Willy Street Co-op, Regent Street Market and the west side and north side farmers’ markets.
Say Cheese! (And SAUSAGE!)
It’s time to step up your meat and cheese tray game. Find top quality meats, sausages, salamis and charcuterie at The Conscious Carnivore, 3236 University Ave., 709-1418, and Underground Butcher, 811 Williamson St., 338-3421, Bavaria Sausage, 6317 Nesbitt Rd., Fitchburg, 271-1295, and Johnson’s Sausage Shoppe, 416 State Rd. 16, Rio, 920-992-6328. Then comes finding the perfect cheese pairing (which isn’t hard to do here in Wisconsin). Stop into downtown Madison’s Fromagination, 12 S. Carroll St., 255-2430, and put together an entire gift basket of goodies. If you’re willing to venture a little outside of Madison (which is highly encouraged given all of Wisconsin’s bountiful options), try Hook’s Cheese, 320 Commerce St., Mineral Point, 987-3259, Edelweiss Cheese, 529 First St., New Glarus, 636-2155, Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet, 4879 County Road V, DeForest, 846-4791, Landmark Creamery, 6890 Paoli Rd., Belleville, 845-7031, or Carr Valley Cheese, 2831 Parmenter St., Middleton, 824-2277; 428 Wall St., Mazomanie, 401-1043; 807 Phillips Blvd., Sauk City, 643-3441.
This article was previously published in 2015. Mackenzie Krumme updated this article to reflect current information.