We've heard it time and time again: Eat local. Shop local. Think global, act local. Local, local, local: It can start to sound like a broken record.
But the fact is, going local pours money back into your city's economy, and Valentine's Day gifts that come from Houston purveyors show that you didn't just rush to the grocery store at the last minute for a box of chocolates and some dying flowers. You put some thought into your gift. That's why we're crushing so hard on these local goodies for Valentine's Day this year.
And if you're one of those single Valentine's Day haters? That's OK, too. You should still go out and treat yourself to something tasty made by one of Houston's many talented chefs and artisans. Consider it your love letter to this great city.
And let's face it: Anything is better than a goddamned Edible Arrangement.
10. The Chocolate Bar chocolates Of course The Chocolate Bar is an obvious choice for a Valentine's Day gift, but part of the reason many of our minds immediately go there is because it's so darn good. No need to search high and low for imported artisan chocolates, because The Chocolate Bar makes rich, smooth, creamy chocolate right here every day. The chocolatiers make it in all shapes and sizes, so it's not hard to find something that will speak to your special someone. Or you could play it safe with a box of assorted gourmet chocolates, also available online.
9. Bravado Spice Pineapple Habanero Sauce Local boys James Nelson and Jeremiah Tallerine want to make your Valentine's Day a little sweet and a little hot with their award-winning Bravado Spice Pineapple Habanero hot sauce. The recipe is simple and uses only natural ingredients: just pineapples, habanero peppers, yellow bell peppers, vinegar, garlic and salt (and some xanthan gum to thicken it, but that just makes it sound cooler). The hot sauce is great as a marinade for meat or seafood or a condiment on a burger, but you can also drizzle it over cheese or
eat it with a spoon dip chips in it. Order it online for just $7 a bottle or pick it up at one of many locations all over Houston.
8. Guerrilla Canning Company pickles You may not have heard of Guerrilla Canning Company yet, but you certainly will in the future. The relatively new company will start selling jars of pickled fruits and veggies out of Goro & Gun next week (the week before Valentine's Day), so you can stock up on all the okra, green beans and, of course, pickles your honey could ever want. The pickled grapes are particularly intriguing, and all of the products are great either on their own or incorporated into a dish. Contact Guerrilla Canning Company at @GuerrillaCanCo on Twitter to order, or swing by Goro & Gun next week, where you can chat with one of the canners himself, chef JD Woodward.
7. Katz Coffee Velvet Espresso beans Velvet Espresso just sounds sensual, doesn't it? Katz Coffee's best-selling blend is smooth but packs a great espresso punch to keep your love going all night. At work, of course. When he or she has to stay late. Where was I? Oh yeah, it's a northern Italian-style espresso with a hint of semi-sweet chocolate. You can order a 1-pound bag online for $12.95 or seek it out at several local retailers.
6. Buffalo Bayou Red Velvet Stout and Saint Arnold Icon Red If there's a beer-lover in your life, gift him or her a local beer package with some Buffalo Bayou Red Velvet Stout and Saint Arnold Icon Red, two not-exactly-holiday-themed-but-still-awesome brews. The Buffalo Bayou beer was developed with Fluff Bake Bar's Rebecca Masson, who inspired brewmaster Ryan Robertson with her red velvet cake|cups (as opposed to cupcakes). The result is a dry, malty chocolate cherry stout. The Saint Arnold Icon Red is a limited-edition brew released this past November. It's called a Bohemian Pilsner and is described on the Saint Arnold website as having "a pleasant maltiness for such a light beer followed by a floral, spicy and earthy hop flavor that closes with a focused bitter finish." You can find both beers, as well as many other local options, at Spec's.
5. Araya Artisan chocolates For a traditional gift with non-traditional flavors, look no further than Araya Artisan Chocolates, with locations in River Oaks, Uptown Park and Katy. A $28 box of 12 chocolates includes flavors like Strawberry Balsamic, Acai-Pomegranate, Cinnamon and Walnuts, Strawberry Champagne, Bourbon and Cherry and Pink Salt -- much more interesting than the usual caramel or strawberry fluff flavors a la Russell Stover. For the lush in your life, there's also a liquor-filled chocolate collection with margarita and Manhattan bon bons. Pick up Valentine's Day-themed assortments at a store or online.
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4. Caphin Vietnamese coffee Give a little exoticism with Caphin Vietnamese iced coffee (cafe sua da) produced and bottled right here in Houston by Huan Le. Before Caphin was founded in 2013, the only place Houstonians could get cafe sua da was at Vietnamese restaurants. There are now two bottled varieties available (signature and artisan), and they're sold at stores and restaurants all over town. In the brief time that Caphin has been available, it's really saturated the market, probably because it's so sweet and delicious. To find out where to pick up a few bottles (for gifts, I recommend the Artisan version in beautiful brown glass bottles), see the website.
3. Goro & Gun syrups This past fall, Goro & Gun's beverage director, Alex Gregg, created the "aromatic syrup," a mixture of holiday spices like cinnamon, allspice, cloves and nutmeg, to add to cocktails around town as part of the Falliday Cocktail Quest with Deep Eddy vodka. Falliday cocktails are now retired (perhaps until next year), but the syrup was such a hit that Goro & Gun has started bottling it and selling it at the restaurant. Gregg has also developed a lemongrass syrup to use in summery cocktails. Of course, either syrup is versatile enough to be used in anything from a shot of liquor to tea to baked goods, so get on down to Goro & Gun and pick up a few bottles for your sweetie.
2. Fluff Bake Bar macarons and Fluffernutters Get some sugar for your sugar and help out a dog in need with Fluff Bake Bar's fourth annual Valentine's Day Bake Sale benefitting Lucky Dog Rescue. The full menu of goodies is available online at the Lucky Dog website. Simply check out the menu, which includes Rebecca Masson's -- aka The Sugar Hooker's -- delightful macarons, signature chocolates and Fluffernutters, as well as cupcakes, cookies and ice cream from Fat Cat Creamery. Order online and pick up at Kraftsmen Bakery on February 13 or 14.
1. Revival Market charcuterie Nothing says I love you like meat. Whether it's a venison steak, Italian sausage, cured ham or a terrine, Revival Market's meats are some of the tastiest. Everything in the case at Revival is antibiotic free and butchered and smoked in-house, so you know it's legit. Wrap up some prosciutto for your love, then munch on it together while you gaze into each other's eyes by candlelight. Alternatively, lie down, cover yourself in speck, and wait for your honey to come home and...eat it. Too much? Well, whatever you decide to do with the sausage, pâté or tenderloin, it's guaranteed to be delicious, different and totally romantic.