It’s the most “wanderfull” time of the year. You know the feeling, wandering about the city and web searching for the perfect gifts, hoping you’ll miraculously discover them before your cousin’s mini-van shows up in the driveway. The holidays should be a happy time, not one full of anxiety. Fortunately, Willy Street Co-op is here to help. Our Grocery departments make holiday shopping easy and meaningful. This year, you can help out local companies, and yourself, by purchasing gifts that have a purpose—to fill your loved ones’ hearts and bellies with sweet goodness. So take a deep breath of our cool Wisconsin air and put the wonderful back in your holiday season—your shopping list is finished.

Kickapoo Gold
Yes, we sell gold at Willy Street Co-op: Kickapoo Gold Organic Maple Syrup. This “tree-to-table” syrup is made in the Driftless region of Viroqua, Wisconsin. The Gudgeon family, owners of Kickapoo, has been producing maple syrup since the late 1800s. Now that is one sweet family tree. Willy Street Co-op offers two of their USDA styles: Grade A Dark Amber and Grade B. The distinction between the two styles is a common inquiry for grocery staff, so here goes: Grade A has a “robust maple flavor” and is great for anything you want to sweeten, especially that nephew. Grade B is also great for table use, but has a stronger maple flavor and is the preferred syrup for cooking. Both grades are available in 32 oz. jars. The Grade A is also available in an 8 oz. gift-basket-ready size. Your pancakes and hungry Uncle Paul from Texas are waiting.

Quince & Apple
Our next local company, Quince & Apple, is based right here in Madison. The philosophy of this company might best sum up why purchasing local this holiday season is so important. “Quince & Apple is based on relationships—with our farmers, our retailers, our customers and our community. We strive to build those relationships with every decision we make.” Q&A takes the guesswork out of holiday shopping by providing preserves and syrups that were specifically crafted to complement holiday foods like cheese, wine or crackers, to name a few. The preserves come in 6 oz. or 1.5 oz. jars and there are many to choose from, including Tart Cherry and White Tea or Apples and Cranberry. Each Q&A product contains a batch number and pairing suggestion right on the label to make your Willy Street Co-op shopping experience even easier. The Figs and Black Tea, for example, is recommended with goat cheese and prosciutto, or it can be paired with ice cream. Willy Street Co-op also sells four shelf-stable syrups in 8 oz. bottles: Tart Cherry, Citrus, Rhubarb Hops or Lime and Cucumber. All four are “a natural fit with vodka, tequila or gin.” The versatility of these high-caliber preserves and syrups make them ideal for gift boxes. This year, make the decision to build your family and friend relationships with a gift from Quince and Apple.

Mad Urban Bees
Mad Urban Bees offers honey produced by bees in the backyards of Madison. This unadulterated, completely raw, chemical-free honey is also offered in batches that evoke the particular nuances of specific hives around the city. Its holiday applications are endless. Mad Urban Bees is the one-person operation of Nathan Clarke, a Madison beekeeper who came to beekeeping after his Buddhist uncle-in-law told him, “you have a house; you should have bees.” Three stocking-stuffer sizes are available at both Willy Street Co-op locations and this is honey that will last “forever” according to Nathan, as long as it’s kept covered. You have a shopping list; you should have Mad Urban Bees honey on that list. (See my article in last month’s Reader for more info: www.willystreet.coop/digest/reader-editions/2013/11/mad-urban-bees.)

Gail Ambrosius
Madison’s own Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier has done it again, this time with 16 ounces of hot chocolate that will make Jack Frost get lost. Comprised of shaved Colombian dark chocolate, this is why Wisconsin made winter. Each bag contains 16 servings: 14 for you and two for the neighbor kids who shovel your sidewalk. Of course, hot chocolate is just one of the myriad chocolate creations from Gail Ambrosius that make gift purchasing simple. She has tea-inspired chocolates and infusions made from single-origin or blended chocolate. Willy Street Co-op offers a tremendous selection of Gail’s chocolate goodies. And please remember, when you purchase these products, you’re also supporting small, independent cacao farmers in countries like Peru, Ecuador and Costa Rica.

Mrs. Beaster’s Biskits
Lest we forget our canine friends this holiday season, there’s Mrs. Beaster’s Biskits. Located a short sleigh ride from Madison in Columbus, Mrs. Beaster’s makes dog treats without chemicals, pesticides or preservatives. Willy Street Co-op has several flavors to please any pooch, such as Peanut Berry Blasters, Grain Free Roast Pork Dinner, Tuna Melts or Grain Free Bison Sweet Potato. Perhaps the greatest reason to purchase Mrs. Beaster’s is because she employs adults with development and brain injury disabilities. Just don’t count on your dog sharing.

Life is pretty sweet, especially during the holidays. These five local companies provide us with the tangible proof. Sharing the gift of Wisconsin products is a fantastic way to support our economy while showing our friends and family that buying local is important.
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