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“The Strong Buzz Guide To Holiday Giving”

This Holiday Season is not like those of recent years’ past. We’re officially in a recession and many of us are dealing with the reality of major financial losses (some of life-long savings), if not unemployment or the threat of being downsized in the New Year. It’s hard to feel like you can give when you’ve just seen so much of your net worth vanish.

But it’s the holidays, and we’re not into letting the dark cloud get the best of us here at The Strong Buzz. I think that there’s still some room for presents, especially when your gift has a component that gives back to those who are in need more than we are.

With the help of my interns Bao Ong and Dara Levine, we’ve assembled a list of reasonably priced holiday gifts, many of which are linked to a charity or a cause that will turn your money into a gift that goes not only to the recipient but one that gives back to the world. And a few are just plain fun and have no good cause attached to them other than being a good gift giver.

From my home to yours, I wish you all a joyful holiday season filled with love, laughter, prosperity, good food, and good health.

For the Chocoholic

Everyone’s got a chocoholic in their lives—someone who goes weak in the knees at the sight of a bar of the good stuff or a rich and gooey molten brownie. Here are a few ways to satisfy the addict in your life.

Do-Goodie Brownies

Rich, chewy and chocolaty Do-Goodie Brownies are made with all-natural ingredients, cage free eggs and rich Belgian chocolate, and come in four flavors: Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Brown Sugar Blondie, Walnut Fudge Brownie and Espresso Bean Brownie. (Six brownies for $17.99, 12 for $33.99, or 48 for $95.99). But these brownies are more than rich in taste; they have the ability to provide a world of riches for a network of non-profits.

100% of the profits from the Do-Goodie support the Greyston Foundation, a $13,000,000 integrated network of for-profit and not-for-profit entities, a few of which include providing jobs, childcare, health services, comprehensive HIV healthcare and community gardens. To order, visit www.do-goodie.com, or call 800-289-2253.

Red Thread Confections

Red Thread Confections is a small artisan chocolate company in Albany founded by Annika Pfluger, a CIA grad and professional chocolatier who adopted a child from an orphanage in Ecuador. Although the orphans there received endless love from the nannies who cared for them, it was clear that the orphanage was in need of many material things—from toys to clothes.

Her vision was to start a handmade chocolate company that would use fair trade organic chocolates, and premium all natural ingredients and that would give back to orphanages and humanitarian aid organizations that help children around the world, and help needy children in the United States and overseas.

The name of her company comes from an ancient Chinese legend: “At birth, an invisible red thread connects us to everyone in our life who will become important to us. That thread may stretch and shrink over time but it will never break.” With Red Thread Confections, her goal was to create and preserve these connections.

For the holiday season, she’s offering small, medium and large gift boxes of her handmade chocolates (small - 4pc, medium - 8 pc and large - 15 pc, priced from $7.95-$31) that include all of her signature bon bons from the Starry Night (74% single origin dark chocolate ganache) to her Heavenly Hazelnut (honey, creamy milk chocolate and hazelnuts wrapped in dark chocolate) and Mayan Fire (dulce de leche caramel with dark chocolate ganache and just a hint of chile-pepper heat). To learn more about her chocolates, and to order yours, visit www.redthreadconfections.com.

Comfort Foods

Salty Turtles dusted with organic French gray sea salt, Caramel Almond Chocolate Chip Bars, Chocolate and Toffee Covered Pretzels, and a decadent caramel and chocolate-covered “Popcorn Extravaganza” prepared by designer chocolatier Choco-Logo in Buffalo, New York are all part of HELP’s new line of comfort food snacks. 100% of sales of these chocolate snacks are all invested in HELP USA’s (www.helpusa.org) programs, which serve the homeless population. The treats are available online, www.helpusa.org, or by phone 800-852-4626 or at select Bloomingdale stores.

The Chocolate Prescription®

We’ve all got something we crave. Some people need their morning dose caffeine, others, their daily glass of wine with dinner. For those who can’t face the day without a square (or ten) of good dark chocolate, the Chocolate Prescription comes to the rescue.

This chocolate of the week service sends a conveniently packaged (read: portion controlled) one ounce bar of 72% cacao dark chocolate once a week for a four week prescription, so there’s a moderate chocolate fix on the way every week. Individual bars are $3.29, a One-Week Prescription is $19.99, and a Four-Week Prescription is $76.99. Check with your insurance company for coverage (and send me the tape of that conversation, please.) To order your prescription, visit www.ChocolatePrescription.com.

For the Bacon Hound

Greasy. Messy to cook. Fattening. Who doesn’t love bacon? If you’re among those who believe everything is better with bacon—ice cream, popcorn, beer, martinis and even candles, there’s camaraderie to be found in the Bacon of the Month Club. Buy an annual membership (for yourself) or a loved one at $315 and you get one neatly delivered package of artisan bacon each month (and for the truly bacon crazy, $375 gets you two shipments a month). You’ll never get bored with flavors such as 10-clove garlic, hickory juniper and Swiss honey cured bacons. The Bacon of the Month Club has a rabid fan base any true follower would want to join. Other perks include discounts for a variety of bacon products, a monthly bacon comic strip, recipes and a pig nose – oink, oink. Check out www.gratefulpalate.com for all the bacon products you could imagine.
—Bao Ong

For the Gift Basket Nut

Gift baskets are always a nice bet for that gourmet foods culinarian in your life. While Harry & David, Manhattan Fruitier make nice ones, theirs don’t give back to the community. But the overstuffed gift boxes prepared by Tavern on the Green, do. Stocked with everything from elegantly packaged Tavern on the Green branded oils, vinegars and marinades, to artisan chocolates, pastries, nuts and gourmet snacks, these gift baskets are priced around $150 (depending on your choice of basket) with a full 25% of the profits donated to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children www.missingkids.com the non-profit organization founded John Walsh that has reunited more than 100,000 families with their missing children. To check out the selection of baskets and place your order visit www.taverndirect.com.

For Lusty Locavores

Firemen of New York, watch out. There’s a new pinup in town, a group of sexy, hard-working, muscled men inching their way into your calendar territory. No, not the Major League, or the NFL. It’s the American Farmer and their 2009 Calendar, titled Down to Earth, is an essential stocking stuffer for the lustful locavores in your life.

The Down to Earth 2009 calendar, produced by Great Performances, is a celebration of sustainable agriculture and of their commitment to preserving local farms, nutrition education, and food justice for all. By purchasing the Down to Earth 2009 calendar, you’ll not only be treated to a sexy smile looking back at you every month, you’ll help to educate and enrich the lives of children throughout New York. One hundred percent (yes, 100%) of proceeds from the sale of this calendar will benefit The New York City Greenmarket and Great Performances’ Sylvia Center, a non-profit organization committed to teaching children about the benefits of maintaining a healthy and balanced diet. These much needed funds will go toward continued culinary, agriculture, and nutrition programs targeting children from underserviced neighborhoods.To order your calendar visit http://katchkiefarm.com/nyfarmerscalendar/

For the Philanthropist

The World Vision Gift Catalog offers a wide variety of different projects around the world that help hungry families and children that can go a long way to promoting good health and nutrition in the developing world. There are plenty of great gifts at a variety of donation ranges from under $30 to over $500. Here’s list of some donations that can be made in the name of your friends and loved ones that are under $50:

  • Chickens to provide a lasting source of nutrition & income to a family.
  • ($25 for two chickens; $50 for four chickens)
  • Hybrid or drought-resistant seeds to help produce a bounty of nutritious crops like rice, carrots, and corn ($17)
  • Tools like fertilizer and hoes for farmers to improve their harvest ($35)
  • Food for a hungry mother and her children ($50)
  • Two soccer balls so kids can get out and play ($16)

More gift ideas are on the website www.worldvisiongifts.org.

For the Vodka Lover

You can buy bottled water at Starbucks and help kids in Africa, which is a great way to help, but if you’ve had your fill of agua and are craving something a bit stronger that can still make a difference, add TRU Organic Vodka to your shopping list.

For every $34.99 bottle of the American wheat-based vodka you buy, the company will plant a tree in the rain forests. Besides straight vodka, flavors like lemon and vanilla are available. You can drink some of this clean, crisp tasting vodka while celebrating in (green) style this year. Check out http://truorganicspirits.com for more information.
—Bao Ong

For Those in Need of a Detox

The holidays tend to be all about excess, spending too much, drinking too much and certainly eat too much. This year give your body a and make a pre-New Years resolution to get back on track by trying out the Blueprint Cleanse, the first line of juice cleanses developed to suit your dietary habits and history.

Whether you are a diehard over indulgent carnivore (the Renovation Cleanse), a quasi-vegetarian that wants to go to the gym (the Foundation cleanse), or a raw food vegan who does yoga five days a week (the Evacuation cleanse), there is a cleanse to fit your lifestyle, packed with the finest rawfood ingredients. You can sign up for 1 day for $75 or multiple days, 3, 5 or 6 for $65 per day, to suit your schedule and rid your body of all of those nasty impurities that we have all racked up.

Cleanses start on Mondays or Thursdays, and be sure to reserve your cleanse one week before you plan to start. Like everything else in New York, you can get your cleanse delivered, if you like, at no extra cost, in batches of 3 days at a time to ensure freshness. The bottles come in an insulated cooling bag, perfect for taking them along to work for lunch. But you don’t have to be in New York to try Blueprint, they will ship anywhere in the country for $85 per day.

Cleanse your way into that hot New Years dress and gift it to two friends for a 10% discount on a group of 3 or more, or gift it to your whole office; when you sign up for a group of eight or more you can get 15% off.

For more information check out https://blueprintcleanse.com or for questions call or email 212.414.5741, info@blueprintcleanse.com.
—Dara Levine

For the Tea Lover

Sanctuary T has the perfect gift this year for the tea enthused, designing an original collection of holiday gifts suitable for anyone in need of a little Zen in their life.

Four unique gift sets are designed to ensure that you find the perfect gift for the tea lover on your list. You can choose from the Tea Lover on the Go, the Chai Lover’s Collection, complete with recipes for DIY Chai, the Flowering Tea Collection, a must have for the adventure tea drinkers, with twelve pieces featuring four varieties of hand-tied flowering teas or the Rejuvenation Kit, perfect for unwinding from holiday madness.

For a real gift, treat your loved one to some quality tea time together at the restaurant inside Sanctuary T, where the menu features a number of tea-inspired dishes, then have a look around the retail shop for one of these special gifts. Additional tea-related gift items include a tea tumbler, candles and bath salts to name a few, all sold individually.

Gift sets cost between $39 and $59 and are available at the flagship Sanctuary T store located in New York City (337B West Broadway; 212-941-7832) or can be ordered online at www.sanctuarytea.com.
—Dara Levine

For the New Parents

Maybe it’s my move to Brooklyn, but over the past six months, so many of my friends have had babies I feel like we could start a communal day care center. Chances are you too have a little bundle of joy either in your family or among your friends, and this gift is perfect for all the babies in your world.

Have you ever eaten a meal using only one hand, while the other was keeping your baby from sliding out of a restaurant highchair? I’ve got the solution. It’s called Stickee Buns! These are soft and cozy two-piece outfits for the little one that come equipped with “Sticky Buns” on the tush to prevent tiny hinnies from sliding out of baby swings, bouncy chairs, car-seats, laps, or just about anywhere. The non-slip Stickee Buns, which look like fresh baked cinnamon rolls, are strategically placed on the "buns" and backs of the tops, creating friction, to help keep babies in an upright position.
The two piece sets ($39.95 each, includes 100% cotton snap-bottom bodysuit and pants) come in long and short sleeve in three color choices: Bakery Blue, Pastry Pink and Yummy Yellow.

What’s more Strong Buzz readers get 20% off by using the Coupon Code HolidayBuns08, which is active now through Dec. 31st. To order your Stickee Buns visit http://www.stickeebuns.com/cgi/stickeebuns-bin/access.cgi.

For Die Hard Foodies

Celebrity Chef

This the perfect gift for any diehard foodies in your life, from those who live for Top Chef, follow the food world with rabid attention, and/or can name all the ingredients in a sauce Béarnaise without having to consult Larousse. Trivia questions, food factoids and open-ended challenges move you around the board game, sort of like a game of Life until you are crowned winner and Celebrity Chef. You can check it out and sample the goods on their mini game at celebritychefthegame.com. At $29.99, Celebrity Chef The Game is easy on the pocketbook and a great way to have fun with friends and family. Plus there is an expansion card deck with hundreds of additional questions for $14.99 You can order online www.celebritychefthegame.com or amazon.com.

Membership to the James Beard Foundation

One of the best gifts for a food lover in your life is a membership to the James Beard Foundation. The Foundation has just created a $29 per year national membership category called “Friend.” Benefits for the national membership option include a subscription to JBF Notes and Beard Bites (the Foundation’s bimonthly printed newsletter and biweekly electronic newsletter, respectively); and a $50 dining gift certificate for your first visit to the James Beard House.

If you’ve got a little more to spend, give the gift of a JBF Associate Membership, ($125) which will introduce your food-loving friends and family to the pleasures of dining at the Beard House. And when you purchase an Associate gift membership, you’ll receive a gift from the Foundation—a gift certificate for one seat at a lunch, brunch, or workshop at the Beard House ($75 value).

Giving to couples? Try the JBF Fellow Membership, $250 ($150 for non tri-state residents). This membership offers member discounts for two people at all JBF events. When you purchase a Fellow Gift Membership, you’ll receive a gift certificate for two for any lunch, brunch, or workshop at the Beard House ($150 value).

The best part is that your donation goes to continuing James Beard programming which include educational initiatives, food industry awards, scholarships to culinary schools, and publications. You’ll also helping to maintain the historic James Beard House in New York City’s Greenwich Village as a “performance space” for visiting chefs.
To purchase your gift of membership please visit www.jamesbeard.org/membership.

For the Wino (who hasn’t lost his shirt in the market)

If you know someone who loves wine like Angelina loves children, you may want to consider this unique oenophile opportunity at City Winery. Michael Dorf’s latest venue (he founded the Knitting Factory) is NYC’s first winery and it allows the wine geeks in your world to become wine makers with the guidance of Master Winemaker, David Lecomte, who’ll walk them though the steps of crafting their own custom barrel of wine, starting from when the grapes arrive for the crush to fermentation and bottling.

Now, this is not a recession gift, as it’ll cost you a couple of grand but if you’re someone who’s got a lot of cash lying around, why not splurge on someone who’s been especially nice this year.
A Basic Barrel will cost an annual fee of $5,000, plus the cost of the grapes, barrel and labeling. Premier ownership, which allows up to 40 members to your barrel, will cost $15,000 and a Corporate Gifting Membership is $12,000. If you have six equally enthused wine-o friends, a Share Barrel can be purchased for $1,500 per person (plus the additional costs associated with a Basic Barrel.)

Additional perks, besides getting to show off to your family and friends at dinner parties when they are drinking your very private label, include City Winery’s VinoFile membership ($50), which gives access to winemaking classes, workshops, tastings, wine dinners and tickets for impressive musical acts that often take the stage at the winery. Owning your own barrel is the gift that keeps on giving, as you can have the winery assist you by mailing out your bottles (about 260 of them per barrel) for gifts to others next year, making for some serious forward planning.

City Winery opens on New Years Day, but you can jump start your barrel right now, pre-opening. For more information, call 212-608-0555 or visit www.citywinery.com
—Dara Levine


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