It’s a wee bit late for 2023 resolutions but I just made a few anyway. One is to give my Amazon account less of a workout this holiday season, in favor of locally owned shops and products. The other is to bring something a bit more interesting to the holiday party than the Costco-bought bottle of wine that I added to my list along with paper towels and AA batteries.
Luckily, Anchorage’s small businesses have made these resolutions extremely easy to keep. In a fit of uncharacteristic holiday preparedness, I did a small-business safari looking for wonderful food-and-drink related presents for hostesses, under the tree, and — let’s be honest — a few for myself. I’ve been very good this year.
In fact, my shopping expedition was so successful, I couldn’t fit my findings into one article. Stay tuned for round two.
Summit Spice & Tea Company, 3030 Denali St.
For me, the Christmas season is not complete without a visit to Summit Spice & Tea. The fragrant air alone, laced with mint and cinnamon, will have you singing carols to the joy or dismay of your shopping companion — ask my husband. This shop has cozy on lock, with its incredible array of teas, candies, condiments and spices. They even sell a traditional Christmas pudding. Pro tip: If the person on your guest list is less “fireside tea sipper” and more “arsonist,” this shop boasts an impressive array of hard-to-find hot sauces from all around the world.
My pick: A cocoa care package with a variety of cocoa (starting at $2.50), a bag of irresistibly cute mini-marshmallows ($5.50), and an iconic owl or puffin mug ($15.75).
Alaska Seafood and Sausage, 2914 Arctic Blvd.
Walking into the little retail shop at Alaska Seafood and Sausage is like getting a little peek into my brain. Savory reindeer sausages, smoked halibut, salted licorice — controversial, I know — are indeed a few of my favorite things. But it’s their Christmas items that make this spot a mecca of Bavarian charm. Don’t snooze on their impressive array of advent calendars that you won’t find in the big-box stores. I dropped in to assemble a seasonal care package for my daughter at college and found, among other things, a glittery Victorian piano box and a tin VW bus filled with chocolates. She’ll also be receiving a sugary stollen, some authentically sourced Haribo gummy Schlumpfes — Smurfs, to we Americans — and an assortment of charming marzipan figurines. Does anybody actually eat marzipan? I don’t know. I only know that I can’t resist buying these adorable works of theoretically edible art but also can’t bring myself to eat them. In addition to having a unique assortment of treats and gifts, this store boasts one of the friendliest retail teams in Anchorage. So, no matter what you buy, you’ll be leaving with a supply of seasonal cheer.
My pick: Thinly sliced buttery smoked salmon lachs — perfect for a lazy brunch or a cocktail snack tray (starting at $17.95 for a 6-ounce package).
Nordic Home, 2217 E. Tudor Road
This Anchorage spot for all things hygge boasts an array of food-adjacent gifts that are both charming and sophisticated: Chic and simple barware, elegant culinary coffee table books and a curiously curated collection of Nordic ingredients, including marzipan dough, Kalles creamed cod roe caviar spread, and a mysterious wheel of something called “Christmas Cheese.” I did not buy it and I have regrets. This shop earns bonus points for its cozy children’s nook, where your tired-of-shopping kiddos can snuggle up with a book while you shop.
My pick: Everyone brings flowers. Why not bring your host a bouquet of wooden spoons engraved with Nordic motifs ($4 each)? Add a matching wooden cutting board ($19) and a patterned rolling pin ($28-$29) for extra points in your effort to be everyone’s favorite party guest.
Aurora Chocolates, 939 W. Fifth Ave. and 300 E. Dimond Blvd.
First of all, any excuse to duck into the Hotel Captain Cook around the holidays is a good one. The lights, the trees, the boughs of holly, and the astonishing gingerbread village all add up to a festive expedition, especially since this is the last year Alaskans will be treated to this amazing display. But Aurora Chocolates could be located in an underground bunker and I’d still add it to my shopping list. A box of their chocolates was gifted to a friend of mine several years ago — who was nice enough to share — and I’ve been gifting them ever since. These are the most beautiful confections I’ve ever seen. Inspired by the colors of the aurora, the boxes are as glittery and tantalizing as a box of Christmas ornaments. Chef Ingrid, a master chocolatier, brush-paints each chocolate by hand with cocoa butter, creating an almost mirror-like sheen. It’s a painstaking process for them. But simple for you. Just drop by and pick up a box.
My pick: 16-piece assorted box ($68.15).
Metro Cooks, 560 E. Benson Blvd.
No matter who you are shopping for, if you can’t find a gift at Metro Cooks, you might want to have a word with your inner Grinch. From serious cookware to silly stocking stuffers — pickle-flavored candy, anyone? — this packed-to-the-rafters shop has you covered. There are whimsical potholders — one says, “Food, ya burnt” — and professional-grade aprons for your friends who are cosplaying “The Bear.” I could cover a lot of my list just from their selection of coffee mugs emblazoned with modern-day heroes like, for example, Freddie Mercury, Wednesday Addams, RBG and Ted Lasso. But it’s their Christmas cookie baking section that really blows me away. The display of cutters, sprinkles and frostings inspired even me, who can ruin cookies even when they’re from a tube.
My pick: An adorable and oddly elegant stainless-steel penguin-shaped cocktail shaker ($62.98).
Anchorage Distillery, 6310 A St.
Of course, if you do pick up a playful penguin shaker, you’re going to need to something to put in it. After a hard day of seasonal shopping, we were ready for some literal Christmas spirits. We headed to Anchorage Distillery to cross the final item off our day’s gift list and to celebrate with a round of Christmassy cocktails. I opted for the Krampus Cosmo, infused with mulling spices, Full Moon spiced cranberry syrup, lemon juice and fresh rosemary. My patient husband decided on the Pomegranate Sour with small-batch whiskey, pomegranate juice, fresh lemon, Full Moon cardamom vanilla syrup and Peychaud’s barrel-aged bitters.
My pick: Anchorage Distillery Cinnamon Moonshine ($33).
And maybe add a bottle for yourself. Sometimes you have to be your own Santa.