Chapel Hill, N.C. — Holiday shopping can be tough. But the folks at Southern Season are trying to make it a little bit easier. Just go to the Chapel Hill store or even their satellite Cameron Village location and ask a one of the concierges to help you.
Questions could be as vague as "My aunt likes pizza. What should I buy for her?" And a concierge will help you find something that fits your budget whether it be a fancy pizza stone or just some delicious locally made sauce.
Southern Season is known as a foodie paradise, which makes it a great place to shop for the holidays. I caught up with Southern Season concierge Bethany Dale to find out what's hot on the shelves this year.
If you want to grab something quick, the store's signature gift baskets are perfect. They range in price and theme. Some contain just North Carolina products, while others a mix of Southern Season classics.
Don't see a basket that fits your needs? Well, make a custom basket. After walking around the store with Dale, I have an idea of some of the items to include in it.
Here are a few items that Bethany suggested for gifts:
- Chef and the Farmer Blueberry BBQ Sauce - Part of the new Vivian Howard collection for Southern Season, this sauce combines eastern North Carolina’s vinegar-laden barbecue sauce with summer blueberries.
- 350 Degree Cheese Straws - Not all cheese straws are created equal and these are definitely more cheese than straw!
- Southern Season's line of peanuts - They have just about every type of mix you could want.
- Chad's Carolina Corn - Made in Greensboro, this gourmet popcorn comes in traditional flavors and more unique ones like Buffalo Wing! The cheddar, caramel and butter flavors are even being featured inside Southern Season's Giant Popcorn Tin this year.
- Peppar Kaka - These Swedish tasty ginger snaps are always a huge seller.
- Goulibeur Shortbread - These French buttered cookies come from a 100 year old recipe.
- Local chocolate bars from Videri, Escazu and French Broad
- Olive oil - Go gourmet, you will taste the difference.
- Chapel Hill Toffee - a local staple!
- Moonshine Fudge rolls - Milk chocolate peanut butter rolls
- Christopher Elbow's beautifully designed truffles - They taste as good as they look.
- Chocolate dipped fruit - A huge seller each year and you can at least claim you are eating fruit.
Southern Season has partnered with the star of PBS' "A Chef's Life" for a special "Vivian Howard Shop" in each of its three retail locations, as well in the kitchen store's holiday catalog.
Howard is also the owner of Chef and the Farmer in Kinston. Her Peabody award-winning PBS show follows her restaurants and explores both traditional and modern uses of Southern ingredients.
At the Chapel Hill store, the Vivian Howard Store is located near the bakery and prepared foods. The store features her favorite artisan products, gadgets and kitchen staples. There are also gift sets sold in handcrafted wooden crates. The sets include:
- Kinston Inspiration - a selection of items from Howard's hometown
- Ben's Birthday Gift - A group of her husband's favorite breakfast items
- Childhood Memories - Some of Howard's favorite snacks when growing up
- Pimp My Grits - Honors the popular dish served at Chef and The Farmer
Local brews and rare wines
If it is wine or beer that you crave, head to the Chapel Hill store for a full selection of local beer and wine. You can even mix and match cases of them to get the daily discount of 10 percent off a half case or 20 percent off a full case.
Wondering what bottle of wine to get for that holiday party? Southern Season's Advanced Sommelier, Elizabeth Cooper, and her team can point you in the right direction. Just tell them what you like to drink and go from there.
For those wanting to shop quickly, there are several wine gift sets ranging from $10-$20.
There are "grab and go" gifts like the Port set, featuring three different types, and others highlighting the Wines of Italy.
And if something rare is what you crave? Cooper has a "Rare Wine Room" that is filled with bottles you can't find anywhere else. "If it is hard to find, chances are we have it," Cooper said.
There is a huge selection of local beer and brews from around the country. With such a focus on craft beer, the store has even created a gift basket for it. The "Best of the South Beer Bucket" has several craft brews, double cheddar popcorn, roasted peanuts and snack mixes. The "Southern Beer Sampler" sets offer tastes of brews from North Carolina, South Carolina or Virginia.
Cocktail mixes are also hot this year.
There are gift baskets featuring shakers and mix, but don't hesitate to build your own basket out of your favorites. Some to try: White Whale and Crude Bitters (both local) and Jack Rudy. For a great Bloody Mary mix, Dale suggested Charleston Bloody Mary Mix.
Another mix to try: Belvoir Fruit Farm Elderflower.