If you are looking for something new and interesting to buy your friends and family this holiday season, then try thinking local and edible.
The central San Joaquin Valley is home to dozens of food makers producing gourmet-caliber foods, premium wine and craft beer. Many are suitable for shipping and can be bought locally or online.
The easiest approach may be to visit one of several local fruit stands or specialty food stores that sell gift boxes and packages loaded with local nuts, fruit or wine.
Stores specializing in local food products include Sierra Nut House in the Villaggio Shopping Center on Blackstone and Nees, Simonian Farms at Clovis and Jensen Avenues, California Gourmet Company, 2015 W. Bullard Ave., and Sumner Peck Ranch, 14860 California 41, Madera.
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Popular items at the Sumner Peck ranch are their wines, dried fruit, chocolate-covered raisins and flavored almonds.
"If you are looking for something local and good, you can find it here," says Caitlyn Peck, a manager at the ranch store in Madera.
At Simonian Farms, you can design your own gift basket or chose one already made. The family operation sells wine, and their newest release is a Pink Moscato, called, "3 Farmer's Daughters."
Another option for gift baskets is CV Gourmet, or cvgourmet.com. The new company sells gift baskets made up of locally made products, including Bravo Farms cheese, Busseto Food's salami, and crackers from Valley Lahvosh Baking Company.
"We really want to highlight the local mom and pop producers and even the large food producers in the area that people should know about," says Enoch Sears, founder of CV Gourmet.
For those who are looking for something new, there are several producers that have come out with new foods in the past several years.
Among the newest artisan food producer in the Valley is Balakian Farms in Reedley. This multi-generational farming family makes a line of heirloom tomato sauces that are sold in specialty stores, including Dean & DeLuca and Sur La Table.
The Balakians are known for their extensive line of organic heirloom tomatoes, including Cherokee Purple, Green Zebra and Yellow Roman. The sauces range from $10 for a 16 ounce jar to $14 for 32 ounces. The tomatoes can be purchased on the company's website, balakianfarms.com, or at The Market in Fresno at Herndon and West avenues, Bella Frutta in Clovis at Shepard and Willow avenues, and Sierra Nut House.
Olive oil continues to grow in popularity, and the Valley is home to several extra virgin and flavored olive oil producers, including Rosenthal Olive Ranch in Madera (rosenthaloliveranch.com), Enzo Olive Oil in Clovis (enzooliveoil.com) and Bari Olive Oil (barioliveoil.com).
Each producer makes several different types of oil, with some bottles starting at $10.99. Several local olive oils can be found at We Olive in Fig Garden Village, The Market and Simonian Farms. Enzo is also sold at Bella Frutta in Clovis.
You can make spicy food fans happy with a jar of Deb's Gourmet sweet and smoky jalapeños. The jalapeños come sliced and ready to eat and were a hit at last year's Fresno Food Expo. The jalapeños can be bought at several locations, including The Market, We Olive and The Meat Market at 454 W. Alluvial Ave. in Fresno, or online at debsgourmet.com.
"We get a lot of people who buy just one jar and keep coming back for more,"said Debi Franklin, founder of Deb's Gourmet.
For those who like to give a drinkable gift, consider a locally made wine or craft beer. The Valley has several award-winning wine makers. To find out more about local wines, visit these websites: maderawinetrail.com, fresnowines.com or sierrawines.com. Also Appellation California at 32749 Avenue 7 in Madera sells more than 25 local wines.
Craft brew lovers may like a selection from local favorites such as Tioga- Sequoia Brewing Company in Fresno or Riley's Brewing Co. in Madera. Both companies make a wide variety of beers, including a lager spiced with chili peppers from Tioga or a malty IPA from Riley's. You can find Tioga-Sequoia at several Save Mart stores; Rileys is available at Old Doc's Discount Liquor, 3061 W. Bullard Ave.