Simple Gifts

Local artisans make holiday shopping a breeze.


“Simple Gifts” is a sweet and familiar American song that was written by Joseph Brackett in 1848. It begins, “’Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free.” Brackett was a member of a Shaker community in Gorham, Maine. Who better to inspire us with the call to simplicity and gratitude, which are hallmarks of his faith? After a stressful year of political, national, environmental and global upsets and disasters, the idea of offering simple yet meaningful gifts this holiday season is most appealing.

An abundance of such gifts can be found at the Downtown Winter Market at the gorgeously restored Rio Grande historic train station. Every Saturday, the place is filled with fabulous, high-quality offerings that are all locally produced. Hard-working ranchers haul in freezers of grass-fed beef and well-trimmed pork and lamb. Charcuteries offer sausage, ham and pâté. Or perhaps create gift baskets with crisp apples, Persian pears and unique cheeses from Caputo’s vast selection.

For the sweets lover, stock up on Chocolate Conspiracy’s certified organic, fair-trade, non-GMO bars and rich hot chocolate mix. It makes a great stocking-stuffer and the kids love it. A collection of hand-crafted caramels would surely please folks at the home or office, and fresh-baked sweet breads and pastries from Tuli’s or Crumb Brothers are just right for that special addition to breakfast or brunch. Select local honey and pick up a few sweet-smelling, slow-burning, pure beeswax candles while you’re at it.

For the health enthusiast, give energy-improving herbal Thrive Tonic from Millcreek Herbs. And, who wouldn’t want a gift certificate to Vive Juicery for fresh, cold-pressed, super healthy juice blends? All of these offerings can be obtained at the Winter Market on Saturdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Be on the lookout for high-quality Utah cheeses like Beehive Cheeses’ Fully Loaded, Whiskey Fortified Promontory and Barely Buzzed, Expresso and Lavender Rubbed. Gold Creek Farms from Kamas, Gossner Foods and Heber Valley Artisan Cheese from Midway are other delicious, award-winning Utah brands.

For those who appreciate good whiskey and spirits, High West Distillery in Park City offers award-winning bourbons and ryes. The Hive Distillery and Sugar House Distilling source Utah-grown fruits and grains for their products.

Simple does not mean boring! Vintage shops are chock full of unique objects that can add style or whimsy at all price levels. Pottery and glass are fun for gift-giving since there is so much variety. Consider serving dishes such as platters, trays, a tureen, even smaller items for condiments, olive-oil dipping and salsa. Serving utensils like long-handled, silver-plated spoons or carving knives with unique handles can be quite reasonably priced.

Bowls are a simple gift. There’s something just right—even perfect—when you dine from a correctly proportioned bowl: a thick, deep one for stews and chilis; a wide, shallow one for pasta dishes; and a broad and deep one for Asian noodle dishes like Pho. Whether you shop at IKEA, Crate and Barrel, locally owned Spoons ’n Spice or craft boutiques, keep an eye open for fun shapes and sizes in bowls.

Gift baskets with a theme are fun to create and assemble. If someone has recently become interested in grilling, for example, gather together the kinds of utensils they need along with marinades, rubs, cookbooks—and a very good set of fireproof hot mitts! A trip to an Asian market to collect ingredients for Thai ingredients like kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lemongrass and fish sauce will help stock someone’s pantry. Buy top-quality spices or herb blends such as star anise, cardamom, nutmeg or different kinds of pepper like white, tricolored or lemon. A basket of quality teas would delight many. Mountain Rose Herbs offer varieties of black, green, white, red, chai, mate, herbal and flowering teas.

Have fun and make some memories to brighten the season. Plan to enjoy the must-see, festive light displays with the crowds at Temple Square or Hogle Zoo, and then head to a warm eatery. Many offer special holiday meals. Get your blood moving with spicy fare from the growing number ethnic restaurants for flavors from Mexico, Peru, Tibet, China, the Middle East, Thailand, India or elsewhere. Anticipate a fun evening out by taking a class on holiday entertainment at the Salt Lake Culinary Center or give a gift certificate for other classes there. Topics include International Cuisines, Date Night and Baking and Indian Nights. For a really special get together, invite friends to the lavish Afternoon Tea at the Grand America Hotel.

The lyrics to “Simple Gifts” declare “’Tis the gift to be simple. Tis the gift to be free.” Keep simplicity in mind to be free to enjoy the giving and receiving of this holiday season, so at the end you’ll find yourself “in the place just right” of “love and delight.”

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