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Salt horse basket_Taylor Mosby
A gift basket at The Salt Horse | Photo by Taylor Mosby

Curated baskets of gift items from local shops are sure to bring a smile during the holiday season.

By Sharael Kolberg

 

Surprise loved ones this winter by creating gift baskets filled with presents tailored to their interests. Whether they like cooking, reading, painting or just spoiling their dog, your custom combinations are sure to be a hit. Select items from shops in town to support local purveyors at the same time.

For even more local flair, skip the generic basket and deliver the items in a reusable cloth bag featuring an image of the iconic Laguna Beach lifeguard tower, available downtown at Bushard’s Pharmacy & Apothecary.

“Giving a personalized gift basket is the perfect definition of what it means to curate—to gather and select with care the best products, in a thoughtful way, to tell a meaningful story,” says Samantha Savage Breit, owner of The Salt Horse, a shop that carries farm-fresh produce and artisanal gourmet goods as well as offering gift basket creation upon request.

 

Sip and Savor

For the coffee or tea connoisseur, build a basket with freshly roasted coffee from Colombia, Costa Rica or Guatemala, available in whole bean or ground coffee at Jedidiah Coffee, or choose from a variety of Tea & Turmeric’s loose leaf teas ranging from mango-peach green tea to masala chai, ginger-pear white tea, herbal blends and functional options that have long been used to aid in digestion and relaxation, help alleviate anxiety or reduce inflammation. Some special tea and meditation kits are now available at the shop, too. Make your recipient’s sip extra special by adding a coffee mug with a Laguna Beach logo from Ryan’s Art for the Soul or a beautiful teapot and cup from Tea & Turmeric. For a sweet treat to accompany a hot morning beverage, toss in a fresh cinnamon roll from Bread Artisan Bakery, available at the Laguna Beach Farmers Market on Saturday mornings.

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Jedidiah Coffee’s freshly roasted beans | Photo by Jedidiah Coffee

When gifting to friends and family who prefer a fine bottle of vino, local options also abound, such as McClain Cellars’ Laguna Sunrise: This sweet and refreshing white wine blend is made with grapes from Santa Ynez Valley, but pays homage to Laguna Beach, where the winery has both a library and tasting room. Or grab a bottle of red, like the Signature Zinfandel, or a rose from Paso Robles-based Bianchi, which is run by two Lagunans and has a tasting room in town. Pair these with some of Salted Co.’s Fancy Cocktail Nuts at Mercado Laguna, such as the marcona almonds with candied rosemary and green raisins. Include a couple of 19.5-ounce crystal wine glasses with an etched logo from Laguna Canyon Winery, which offers its own vintages as well. Wine Craft and Wine Gallery are other options for selecting some unique varietals from around California and the world.

 

Artful Accessories

Those who appreciate Laguna’s long history as an artists colony or have some artistic talents themselves will love a basket or bag full of various types of art—from note cards with Wyland’s marine life paintings or jewelry based on his pieces to books of artwork by metaphorical realist Vladimir Kush—or supplies such as colored pencils and a coloring book or acrylic paints and brushes from Laguna Art Supply to get the creative juices flowing. For an experiential addition, add a gift certificate for a class (offered year-round) at the Sawdust Art Festival grounds, such as glass blowing or jewelry making, or a membership to the Laguna Art Museum. Top it off with an artisanal glass holiday ornament in the shape of the Laguna Beach lifeguard tower, the local trolley or—new for this year—The Greeter, sold by Iconic Ornaments, founded by local brothers Sawyer and Jackson Collins. The festive ornaments are available online or at retailers such as Bushard’s Pharmacy, Good Together House and Laguna Beach Books with a portion of the proceeds being donated to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center.

 

Beneath the Surface cover_credit Thomas & Mercer
Local author Kaira Rouda’s latest book, “Beneath the Surface” | Photo by Thomas & Mercer

Bookworm Basics

Encouraging someone’s reading habit by assembling everything they need to curl up with a good book this winter. Perhaps a candle or some incense from The Chakra Shack to set the mood, then a cozy throw blanket from Tuvalu Home Environment. Swing by Laguna Beach Books to pick out any number of reading options, including several recent novels by local authors like Suzanne Redfearn’s “Moment in Time” or Kaira Rouda’s “Beneath the Surface.” Make sure to add some bookmarks from Friends of the Laguna Beach Library’s shop to nestle between the pages from one reading session to the next. And maybe a mug like the cute one from Thalia Surf Shop (featuring the lifeguard tower and trolley and the proclamation to “Keep Laguna weird”) to enjoy some tea while getting lost in the story.

 

Epicurean Enjoyments

The budding chef on your list will love adding flavor to dishes with items such as the Apeiron Sauce, part of Strongarm Barbeque sauce line by David Strong, who also owns a local menswear shop called Store. For his sauce, Strong tweaked the traditional Buffalo sauce recipe for a taste described as “a familiar flavor, but with hints and tones of depth and complexity.” Locals also love Mago Hot Sauce—handcrafted, flavor-focused and balanced hot sauces with no preservatives. Created by Laguna resident Clark Olson, the hot sauce is available in five flavors, plus a seasonal variety, on the brand’s website and in local shops like The Salt Horse, Mercado Laguna and Tea & Turmeric.

Mercado Laguna baskets-credit Danielle Holland
A gift basket at Mercado Laguna | Photo by Danielle Holland

In addition to bringing some heat with the above sauces, two gourmet cooking staples that will be appreciated are a bottle of the Olivum Reserve Late Harvest Olive Oil from Temecula Olive Oil Co. and Camino Red Wine Vinegar available at The Salt Horse, which carries California-sourced provisions.

To really spice things up, add one of the boxed sets at Tea & Turmeric. Among the boxes are Catch of the Day with seafood seasonings, Around the World with a chimichurri spice blend, Jamaican jerk seasoning and Japanese shichimi togarashi, and Indian Made Easy with Veggie Mix, Meat Mix, Antha Mix, and GG Mix (garlic and ginger) seasonings, which can be used with the included recipes, to make flavorful dishes at home.

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Various gift baskets assembled by The Salt Horse | Photo by Samantha Savage Breit

Tea & Turmeric owners and sisters Kavita and Vidya Reddy, make about 50% to 60% of the shop’s spice and tea blends themselves. “These are generational family recipes. My grandmother passed them on to me and her grandmother passed them on to her,” Vidya Reddy says. “Everything in our store would be amazing in a gift basket because most people love food and cook food.”

The Tea & Turmeric shop also carries a wooden spoon engraved with the Laguna Beach lifeguard tower, which would be a nice touch for local chefs. For healthy cooking inspiration, add Joanne Lee Molinaro’s “The Korean Vegan Cookbook” (from Laguna Beach Books) to the basket to inspire even more cultural cuisine.

 

Pet Presents

Of course, we can’t forget our fur babies. Pet owners will love gifts that spoil their four-legged friends. Start with a ceramic food or water bowl, custom painted with a pet’s image and name, from Faux Paw Artique. The shop also carries a variety of plush squeaky dog toys, including Gronk Santa and Hank the Hydrant, for the holidays. At Naked Dog Bistro, you can pick up freshly made dog treats in the shape of things like sushi, doughnuts and French fries, available in flavors including bacon, peanut butter and salmon. You will also find soothing CBD products for dogs.

dog bowls Faux Paw Artique_Debby Carman
Decorated dog bowls at Faux Paw Artique | Photo by Debby Carman

For some fashionable fun, add a stylish sweater to bundle up the pup for those cool, foggy morning beach walks, from Coast Pet Supply & Grooming. Take your pup out for a treat by including a gift card to the Bark & Chill Cafe that serves ice cream and custom bakery goods for furry friends as well as a variety of “designer” dog clothes for strutting down Forest Avenue.

If you’d rather not run around town collecting personalized products and finding the right box or basket to present them in, some vendors in town can create a custom themed basket for you, including The Salt Horse and Mercado Laguna, while Tea & Turmeric offers pre-set kits and can customize tea or spice blends for a gift box. Because getting one gift is nice, but receiving a whole box or basket of goodies is always a delightful surprise.

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