Quick Take:

Lookout’s “Keeping It Local” gift guide continues with Lily Belli’s suggestions for chocolate and honey to charcuterie and beyond. She and Wallace Baine are taking turns this week on various guides, so stay tuned!

We all have people in our lives who seem impossible to buy for, but here’s the solution: Give them food. Everyone loves to eat delicious things, and while the consumerism associated with the holidays can sometimes feel unsavory, giving and sharing edible gifts is always sweet.

In Santa Cruz County, there is no shortage of inspired edible creations from local artisans to choose from. Here’s a short, curated list of exceptional products that would make memorable gifts.

Chocolate truffles by Mutari Chocolate

Mutari Chocolate, Santa Cruz’s bean-to-cup chocolate café, creates incredible chocolate bars, sipping chocolate, baking cocoa and baked goods using ethically sourced, single-origin cacao it roasts onsite. Mutari also makes chocolate truffles, and has released a stunning seasonal truffle collection for the holidays.

The collection highlights local flavors paired with Mutari’s dreamy chocolate, like India Joze Chai Dark Chocolate Truffle, Douglas Fir Caramel with locally foraged fir needles, Far West Fungi Candy Cap Mushroom Milk Chocolate Truffle and Santa Cruz Farmers Market Mint Dark Chocolate Truffle. There are plant-based and dairy-free options as well.

Mutari Chocolate makes beautiful chocolate truffles with local seasonal flavors.
Mutari Chocolate makes beautiful chocolate truffles with local seasonal flavors. Credit: Via Mutari Chocolate

The chocolates are simply gorgeous, and come in sets of four, eight or 16. Owner Katy Oursler says Mutari can also accommodate larger orders, in case you want to treat your whole office, which, ahem, sounds fabulous. $16 for four; $28 for 8; $46 for 16 at 504 A Front St., Santa Cruz, and mutarichocolate.com.

Panettone from Emozioni Artisanal Patisserie

It’s nearly impossible to enter an Italian’s home during the month of December without being offered a fluffy, orange-scented slice of panettone. This iconic Italian sweet bread is traditionally given and eaten throughout the holiday season, often in highly decorated boxes or wrapped in ribbons and cellophane.

But it’s notoriously difficult to make, and few bakers have the desire or skill to tackle the multiday natural leavening and baking process in-house.

A slice of panettone, an Italian sweet bread traditionally eaten around the holidays.
A slice of panettone, an Italian sweet bread traditionally eaten around the holidays. Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

Pastry chef Crescenzo Pelliccia, a native of the southern Italian city of Naples, is one of the adventurous few. He has been perfecting his recipe for panettone and is offering them at his pastry shop inside Lago di Como restaurant.

The loaves are baked in the restaurant’s wood pizza oven and come in several flavors, including a traditional preparation with liqueur-soaked dried fruit, one with fine Italian chocolate, and another with Sicilian pistachios and white chocolate.

Treat yourself or a loved one to one of these beautiful, handmade pastries and enjoy a towering slice with a glass of sweet wine or coffee. $40-$60 at 21490 E Cliff Dr., Santa Cruz.

Wildflower honey by Northern Roots Bee Co.

By now, most of us have heard the bad news about honeybees and other pollinators, namely that they are dying out at an alarming rate. Northern Roots Bee Co. is hoping to help change that. Its full-service honey management program installs and maintains honeybee hives for residential and commercial clients at hotels, farms, schools and backyards throughout the Bay Area in an effort to restore healthy bee populations.

The company also educates clients about their new neighbors, the benefits of sharing space with honeybees and the importance of pollinators.

Northern Roots also makes delicious honey. Made in small batches, the raw, unprocessed honey comes in beautifully labeled jars. Spooned into tea, served on a cheeseboard or drizzled over pizza, this is a sweet gift for your honey and the bees. $26 at Botanic and Luxe, 701 A Front St., Santa Cruz.

Mushroom grow kit from Far West Fungi

Santa Cruz County has a strong mushroom foraging community, so you probably have someone in your life who has given this trendy pastime a try. But do you know what’s easier and safer than trying to find and identify mushrooms you find in the woods, and just as fun? Growing them yourself.

Far West Fungi makes handmade mushroom growing kits in several delicious edible varieties, including lion’s mane, shiitake, and pink, tree or yellow oyster mushroom using the same materials that Far West uses at its mushroom farm in Moss Landing.

All that’s required are regular light mistings in order to reap one to two pounds of mushrooms from three to four crops over a two-month period. It’s basically an edible chia pet, and would be a fun, educational and delicious gift for the adventurous culinarian in your life. $25 at 224 Laurel St., Santa Cruz, and farwestfungi.com.

Charcuterie from El Salchichero

Is there any meat-eating person that wouldn’t love to find high-quality charcuterie in their stocking? To that end, the fine craft butchers at El Salchichero have an incredible selection of house-cured salumi.

El Salchichero sources all of its meat directly from small farms in Northern California, where all the animals are grass-fed and pasture-raised in a stress-free environment. At their shop on the Westside, owner Chris LeVeque and his team butcher by hand and cure their charcuterie on-site, transforming it into edible artistry.

In addition to their Prosciutto de Santa Cruz, wagyu bresaola and award-winning coppa, they have more than a half dozen flavors of dry salami, including seasonal flavors like morels with pine nuts, lavender and rosé, and one spiced with fragrant Douglas fir tips. Prices vary at 402 Ingalls St., Santa Cruz, and elsalchichero.com.

Belle Farms' Santa Cruz County Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Belle Farms’ Santa Cruz County EVOO. Credit: Via Belle Farms

Olive oil from Belle Farms

A bottle of great olive oil is a failsafe gift. Everyone has a bottle of extra virgin in their kitchen, but probably rarely splurges on the good stuff and, boy, is there a difference in taste, texture and aroma.

At Belle Farms in Watsonville, Steve and Marguerite Remde have seven acres of olive trees and produce outstanding extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin oil is unrefined, and is the highest quality of olive oil you can buy. Like many agricultural products, oil degrades as it ages.

Purchasing it close to the place where it was pressed and using it quickly ensures maximum freshness and flavor. Belle Farms Santa Cruz County Extra Virgin Olive Oil is produced using the Tuscan tradition from a harvest bend of five Tuscan olive varieties.

The finished product is a well-balanced oil with a delicate, peppery finish. $25 for 500 milliliters at local grocery stores and bellefarms.com.

Lily Belli is the food and drink correspondent at Lookout Santa Cruz. Over the past 15 years since she made Santa Cruz her home, Lily has fallen deeply in love with its rich food culture, vibrant agriculture...