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Food for thought(ful) gifts: A Spokane-focused holiday guide to spoil the foodies in your life

By Kris Kilduff For The Spokesman-Review

Whether you eat to live or live to eat, we all eat, so let’s get down to business: Herein lies our Spokane-centric holiday gift guide to indulge those special foodies in your life, yourself included. Bon appetit!

Spiceology and assorted grocery stores

The largest step in learning how to cook is understanding the delicate balance between spice and flavor. It’s overwhelming. What is the difference between cayenne and chili powder? Does paprika have to be Hungarian? What is celery salt? Local startup (turned fastest-growing spice company in the U.S.) Spiceology is here to help. Pack the pantry with fresh, high-quality spices or custom blends from some of the top chefs around the world.

What to buy: Warm up winter nights with the new Sriracha blend gift packs. Six spicy takes teamed up with one of the world’s favorite hot sauces. Sample 2-ounce bottles of black truffle, Thai lime, honey garlic, miso teriyaki, smoked maple and, my favorite, candied bacon for $38.

Cougar Gold Cheese cougar-cheese and assorted grocery stores

You don’t have to wear crimson or even set foot at Washington State University to be familiar with Pullman’s iconic creamery. Cougar Gold cheese has long been one of the area’s most coveted products. What I could really use from Santa this year is a pamphlet on places that help with cheese addiction.

What to buy: It’s tempting to pick up the delicious varieties made available every year – Crimson Fire, Smoked Cheddar, Dill Garlic and Viking Monterey Jack – but you can’t go wrong with the original. You will not find a better cheese anywhere in the Northwest. Prices vary store to store, and it’s $25 directly from the creamery.

Chno Chili Oils

Instagram @chno_chili_oils and 825 N. Monroe St.

No one has ever accused Ruins chef Joseph O’Neal’s recipes of having a lack of spice. Now you can have that heat at home for the holidays. After years of calculating his craft of chilis, O’Neal is packaging his peppery passion. He has traveled all over the world learning flavors and techniques that give his new product line legs. More than half of his first batch has already been sold since launching last week.

What to buy: All five of his current products for $60, but a single jar for $12.95 is a perfect stocking stuffer. Start with the Nashville Hot Chili Oil. You won’t find a product like it in retail stores. Just dab a bit onto fried chicken, and you’ll be sending chef a Christmas card this year.

Dry Fly Distilling; 1003 E. Trent Ave. and assorted grocery stores

Keen for a cocktail? Dry Fly is my pour of choice. Since 2008, the distillery has racked up a room of awards, and that doesn’t seem to be faltering any time soon. If you’re scratching your head for what to get someone for Christmas, my family’s motto is “A bottle of booze, you’ll never lose.”

What to buy: Regionally, Dry Fly’s gin is second to none, but I’m a whiskey fan. The three-year Triticale Whiskey for $39.95 will keep Rudolph’s nose red all night long. It is a hybrid grain of wheat and rye developed in Scotland and will turn your next Old Fashioned upside down with a standout sweet peppery boldness.

Side Hustle Syrups

With bars and restaurants in shutdown, there isn’t a better time for classic concoctions at home. “Our syrups are designed for you to be able to make a delicious drink with less than four ingredients,” owner Dillion Hueser says. Make a memorable Moscow mule with his ginger beer syrup and a Honey Boo-Boo with his lemon lavender syrup, gin, lime and berries. Not a drinker? These all-natural products also work well with soda, tea and coffee.

What to buy: You can’t turn down his collection at $66 for hosting parties. The syrups last forever, and a little goes a long way. The seasonal spiced cranberry at $12 will give any beverage a fresh splash of cranberries, whole clove, allspice and cinnamon. Plus, for Christmas, use the coupon code “holiday” and save 15%.

Roast House and 423 E. Cleveland Ave.

Cocoa and coffee are quintessential for Christmas morning. Whoever decided that Santa should have milk instead of Roast House obviously hasn’t spent a shivering night in a sleigh. For more than 10 years, owner Deborah di Bernardo has been Spokane’s premier coffee curator, sourcing organic beans that have kept her product the cream of the crop in the Northwest. With the addition of First Avenue Coffee downtown, enjoy a steaming hot cup of Joe on the go or in pajamas at home.

What to buy: For $11, spend Sunday sipping on the annual holiday Working Elf comprised of three coffees (from Colombia, Peru and Ethiopia) that have a tangerine, Asian pear sweetness with layers of cocoa in the finish. Delicious straight, but even better with a lil’ something extra in there to turn up the festivities.

Bombshell Sweets

Cotton Candy isn’t for carnivals and state fairs anymore. Bombshell Sweets has taken the popular kiddie confection and made it accessible for all ages. Made with all-natural cane sugar and a proprietary flavor process, the team is able to cotton up creations from black licorice and maple bacon to champagne and huckleberry. At $5 a tub, trying all of them won’t empty the wallet.

What to buy: Treat the kids and yourself. Here’s a bombshell for adults: The Ghost Pepper Punch is a somewhat savory, yet sweet recipe that is a standalone snack or gives chicken wings a next-level gusto that will have you grabbing for milk.

River City Brewing and 121 S. Cedar St.

Well the weather outside is frightful, but this beer is sure delightful. River City Brewing is no stranger to seeing its name in lights, as the locally owned brewhouse has long been one of the Inland Northwest’s most notable institutes. It’s rare to walk into a bar and not see River City Red or Huckleberry Ale on draft. Owner Jeremy Tangen and his team have placed a renewed focus on higher-end products. With this selection of wax-top, barrel-aged stouts and sours, a bottle in your stocking doesn’t sound too shabby.

What to buy: All beer is good beer, but River City’s “Peach Me Your Ways” is an exceptional option. For $10.99, enjoy an oak-barreled behemoth born of 150 pounds of peaches and aged for 18 months. This is the drink you’ll want to ring in 2021.

Caramel Kitchen and 200 W. Hanley Ave. in Coeur d’Alene

What started as a hobby making six jars at a time on a kitchen stove has grown into a full-time business producing more than 600 bottles a day in Caramel Kitchen’s commercial location in Coeur d’Alene. This family has a flavor for all occasions, from a dab of espresso caramel in coffee to chipotle caramel on brownies. Gift boxes include as many as six caramel flavors.

What to buy: It’s difficult to go wrong with something as delicious as caramel. There are a lot of flavors, but nothing stands out more than the Woodford Reserve Bourbon caramel for $12. I love the complex flavors of whiskey, and this caramel is the best of both worlds.

Booey’s Gourmet and assorted grocery stores

For the last 25 years, Booey’s Gourmet owner Casey Booey has been making hot sauce. The only difference is what was once a hobby has now turned into a full-time production as one of Spokane’s most successful sauce companies whose clients include Wandering Table, Bark, a Rescue Pub and Remedy. Sauces include smokehouse barbecue and Jamaican Jerk. This is the type of business that makes supporting local easy.

What to buy: For this hot sauce nerd, it doesn’t get better than Booey’s Original Pepper Sauce for $9. It’s a perfect marinade for any dish, including chicken, beef and fish. If you are a fan of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce for chicken wings, try Booey’s. It is a league of extra flavor.

Honorable mention: It must be the holiday season of hot sauces. The Spokesman-Review security guard Jeremy Wear has just launched three new hot sauces under his label Jeremeaty’s: Gas (green apple serrano), Umami Tsunami (habanero and roasted garlic) and Ancho Fury (smoked garlic adobo). The bottles ($8 each) are available at

Spokane native Kris Kilduff can be reached at