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Columbia food gifts for your holiday shopping list

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Congaree Milling Company grits

Every year is a good year to shop local, but in 2020, it’s never meant more.

Columbia businesses need this holiday season to be a boon after a pandemic-stifled year. Whether it's supporting restaurants through gift cards or pieces for your holiday dinner table, or by searching out locally produced items, this is the time to not only avoid some of the pains of long-distance shipping — and shopping in general — but to help out your community in the process.

In the spirit of small business shopping, here are a few favorite locally made items to check out this season.

Agape Chocolate

50 Canal St. Suite #8, Graniteville (at Soda City Market on Saturdays).

Shipping available: Yes

Who this is for: All ages, especially your adventurous friend with a sweet tooth

Buy a bar, feed a child. With that simple mantra, James Stefanakos has been working hard to deliver delicious handcrafted chocolate out of Graniteville, a few miles outside of Aiken. His homemade chocolate bars vary from simple milk and dark chocolate flavors to more complicated options — like the Maian My Own Business, a chili-cinnamon-and-crushed-red-pepper-infused dark chocolate bar. The chocolate has a beautiful snap to every bite, and a silky texture that’s a step above your typical bar.

For each bar sold, a kickback goes to either the Golden Harvest or Harvest Hope Food Bank’s backpack programs to help provide kids nutritious meals on the weekend. Since starting in July of 2015, Agape has helped provide meals to more than 36,000 children.

Loveland Coffee Beans

7475 Carlisle St.

Shipping available: Yes

Who this is for: Your french press/chemex-loving loved one

For those who enjoy coffee, there’s something special about the simple pleasure of a good, freshly ground cup. What used to be a fairly average drink has in the past 20 years exploded into an industry obsessed with the thousands of subtle nuances that coffee beans provide.

Loveland Coffee is just one of many local roasters (there’s also Indah, Turtle Creek, Iron Brew Coffee, and Bert’s Crazy Good Coffee) that have spent the time and effort to get the most out of every bean that comes through their door. Loveland in particular has a huge following in the Irmo area and is the key ingredient to Steel Hand’s signature Coffee Lager. With a wide variety of roasts to choose from, whether as a gift set or just to have a special cup in the morning, Loveland is a versatile choice that’s perfect for any coffee-centric home.

The War Mouth Hot Sauce

1209 Franklin St.

Shipping available: No

Who this is for: Heat seekers with a refined palette

This is a seriously delicious hot sauce. First served as the restaurant's complementary in-house hot sauce, it gained such a following that The War Mouth decided to bottle it. It doesn't just bring heat, but sweetness and a touch of acidity that makes it incredibly versatile for dousing everything from potatoes to meat to even your everyday sandwich, adding a bit of bite to your meal.

Congaree Milling Company Grits

Shipping available: Yes

Who this is for: Serious cooks interested in southern culture

When you think about those creamy, fragrant grits you get at restaurants around the city, there’s a good chance that they came from Ken Dubard at Congaree Milling Company. It’s an incredible luxury to have stone-milled grits like Dubard’s that can be made and sold to cook in your home within a short amount of time, meaning you’ll have at hand the freshest, most flavorful grits you can get anywhere.

Unlike grocery store grits, which need some help from friends like buttermilk, salt and butter are all that’s needed due to Congaree Milling’s phenomenal flavor. Dubard sells a large variety of products from coarse red, blue or yellow corn grits to quick grits, cornmeal or polenta, all of which can combine to make the perfect gift set for those family and friends who love to try new things in the kitchen.

The Gourmet Shop Raspberry Rhubarb Preserves

724 Saluda Ave.

Shipping available: No

Who this is for: The everyday sandwich eater and cheese plate lovers

While The Gourmet Shop is an easy go to for a variety of gifts, many may not realize that they also sell a few products that have become popular in their cafe over the years. One of the best things is their raspberry rhubarb preserves. What makes the preserves such a great gift is their sheer versatility. Whether swabbing on a sandwich, snacking on crackers with cheese, or as part of a glaze over poultry, there are a lot of ways it can be used thanks to its sweet, tart bite.

Cromer’s Guaranteed Worst Gift Box

3030 N Main St.

Shipping available: Yes

Who this is for: Snack aficionados who love variety

It’s actually incredible that Cromer’s, a business built on popcorn and peanuts, has been a part of the Columbia landscape since 1935. One of the ways they do it is through their sheer variety. Cromer’s subscription box is proof of that, and the perfect gift for those who love snacking in the ultra-seasonal spirit of places like Trader Joe's. Cromer’s most recent October box is a perfect example, filled with things like apple pie spiced caramel popcorn, Sweet Hearts candy trail mix, and chocolate-covered pecans.

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