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Ask My Friend Maillard

This post has tons of answers for unspoken questions: a food-centric gift guide. And in honor of Small Business Saturday (this coming weekend, November 28th). The categories are in a bit of a jumble, but I think you’ll still be able to find something great!


  • Starting, as one always should at the holidays, with friends and parties: what should you give to the host with the most? Wine or chocolates are always appreciated of course but, especially if it is unwrapped, your host may feel pressure to open it at the party. Instead give them something that is just for them the next morning: coffee! If you attend lots of holiday parties you could buy a 1 pound bag of coffee beans (preferably from a local roaster) and transfer them into smaller, decorative paper bags, and if you’re a baker yourself add some coffee cake in those mini paper loaf pans that are everywhere this time of year. If you know your host doesn’t make coffee at home go the gift card route to their favorite cafe. If they don’t do coffee at all, try loose leaf tea or gourment hot cocoa.


Ideas Under $20 / Secret Santa / Stocking Stuffer:

  • A six pack of pocket sized Tabasco sauce shakers for the friend/colleague who always says “this could be spicier” $5.75 
  • For the local-food lover: a reusable tote bag to do their farmer’s market and butcher shop groceries with; you can definitely find some branded “Made in Virginia” and if any readers know of a place in town that makes them specifically Fredericksburg-related, please let us know in the comments section. LOCAL You could even make your own, or find a willing artist at Libertytown to help. Just make sure the bag IS large enough to hold groceries.
  • Chocolate is always a good go-to. Find an interesting new flavor or curate a themed collection, for extra flair include a quote or poem related to that theme/flavor in the wrapping. LOCAL: Checkout Sweets on Caroline, a new confectionary shop downtown.


For the rest of your list:

  • Sometimes, you just don’t have that much time available to shop and browse for the perfect gifts so if you only have an hour or two to buy everyone’s presents then you will want to point your URL box towards mouth. Mouth is an aptly named superstore that sources anything and everything associated with food and drink. Find indie ingredients, snacks, drinks, tools, books and pre-made theme gift boxes to gift to that someone who’s always looking for the next cool vinegar, salt, or technique (i.e. they had a spirilizer two years ago). Or, if everyone on your list just enjoys getting food try FoodyDirect, you can even find goodies from nearby Red Truck Bakery there.


  • For those on your list who like to cook, please, please please, unless there is one they have specifically asked for, do not get them a random tool. Unneeded tools just take up valuable real estate in the kitchen. Instead, find them interesting ingredients. Specifically sourced salts or a fancy vinegar are more likely to be cherished than the decorative knife or whisk. LOCAL: Taste downtown has a great selection of olive oils and vinegars. Or try spices. The Spice House has been a Chicago institution for years and their gift boxes keep getting better and more interesting. LOCAL! Stop into PA Dutch Spice and Tea downtown to pick up sachets of spices.


  • For those on your list who like to bake throw out my “no tools” rule above. Baking tools are different, mostly because for many baking tasks you need SOMETHING whereas cooking can be done largely with one spatula, one pan and one good knife.Traditional tools for a bread baker include a lame or couche for beautiful baguettes. A lame (pronounced lahm) creates the slices which vent and decorate baguettes and other french-style loaves of bread. A couche, also called baker’s linen, is for rising shaped baguettes and aides the creation of the perfect crust. Know someone who’s more into baking treats and/or sweets? Try a cookie press, this one by Kuhn Rikon includes decorating tips as well. For a cheaper AND more personalized alternative, this Etsy store makes custom cookie cutters at a great price. 


  • For those on your list who love food but hate to cook/bake, there are subscription services for everything from coffee or tea to popcorn, bacon, cheeses, mustards, wine etc. to send your favorite food lover a little something throughout the year (most also offer a single box option). Interesting boxes on the cheaper side include Japanese Candies, Natural & Organic snacks or spend more on monthly condiments, chef designed global food boxes,


  • LOCAL! Most of the restaurants downtown do gift certificates, or you could craft your own certificate for “Brunch at the Restaurant of your Choice”


  • For those on your list who want to learn how/cook more DIY kits are a great choice. Like this make your own hot sauce or mustard kit (I got a DIY mozzarella kit a couple years ago and LOVED it). Cooking lessons are great too. LOCAL: There are always some going on at The Kitchen at Wittingham downtown. And I do cooking lessons (and other gift certificates) as well! You can gift someone a lesson on how to bake bread, how to cook their favorite dish, or how to turn anything into a pasta sauce, the only limit is imagination!


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About Joanna

blogger joanna2

I am a young entrepreneur who loves to solve problems; from the daily crossword to a client's cooking conundrum. Passion for soccer, architecture, travel, and experimenting with cooking techniques (mostly) define my life. My company, My Friend Maillard, is a personal chef service designed to help clients who don't have the time or inclination to cook at home. I approached Fredericksburg Parent to host this blog so I could also help local families find answers for their seemingly intractable food and cooking related problems.

Did your teenager just decide to go vegan? Do you want to know why your cakes always collapse in the center? Do you want to know how to get chicken skin really crispy? Just Ask My Friend Maillard. Make your queries as specific or as weird as you like and submit them anytime through Twitter, on Facebook, or via email to myfriendmaillard (at) Can't wait to hear from you!

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