Again, we all know 2020 is a WEIRD year. You don’t have to tell me that twice. But what you may not realize is how much local businesses need YOU right now.
I mean each and every person reading this needs to shop local here in Maine this year. Forget Amazon, forget Walmart, and every other big box store.
Yes, this is always important, but it’s never been more important than right now. If you want to see your favorite places make it out of this terrible year and last for many more years to come, support the businesses of Portland, southern Maine, and Maine in general.
I know these aren’t all of the businesses you could possibly support because there are a lot, but these are some of my favorites. And I’ve already purchased quite a few gifts from a few of these as well because I love what they bring to our fair state.
Looking to gift experiences that can be enjoyed later on? I’m pretty sure I recommended Wine Wise in the last Holiday Gift Guide I wrote all the way back in 2018 (oh how times have changed) but it’s still a good pick.
Whether you’re enjoying a Bourbon Walk or one of their infamous Wine Sails on a balmy summer day, this is a true Maine experience. And now, you have more opportunities than ever thanks to the Virtual Wine Dinners that sommelier Erica Archer is hosting with chefs from restaurants like Sur Lie, Chaval, and Solo Italiano.
The one I tried during quarantine this spring was easily the best takeout I had the entire time. If you’re not comfortable dining inside right now, it’s a really great way to eat incredible food. It’s delivered to your door while connecting with people. Right now, it’s more than many people thought they could have, and Wine Wise continues providing it.
Continuing down the experience lane, you can always purchase your loved ones a cooking class. But not just any cooking class! At Bravo Maine! you can take on new challenges like learning how to cook paella, learning how to make sushi, or even French Fondue if you’re so inclined!
Classes are held at a commercial kitchen (located in Fork Food Lab) so you’ll get the best possible experience. And yes, it’s COVID friendly, so masks and gloves are required.
Maine Brew Bus
If you have a friend that loves beer and wants to know all about how their local breweries make beer, a Maine Brew Bus tour is always the way to go. Yes, the Maine Brew Bus is still conducting tours even during COVID, meaning they are safely socially distanced to ensure that both tour participants and brewery staff are safe.
Tours may look a little different but it’s still the same concept! Keep in mind that it can be hard to know what kind of beer tour someone will like.
So it makes a lot of sense to give that special someone a Maine Brew Bus gift card instead. They can be bought in any dollar amount and you can redeem them over the phone or online.
The best possible thing about a gift card: unlike that 4 pack of craft beer that could skunk, your gift card will never expire!
If you’re already looking ahead to summer, why not plan to spend it on the Lucky Catch? You may not know this, but you can buy gift certificates for the Lucky Catch online.
Here’s to hoping that by summer, things will look slightly more normal and these kinds of activities may be more common again. But the best thing about gift certificates and gift cards is they don’t usually go out of season or expire!
So why not send one to your friend that you swear was born with fins since they love being on the water so much?
2Gether Private Chefs
If you’ve ever wondered about what a secret supper is or how you could experience one for yourself, 2Gether Private Chefs is now offering gift certificates. That’s right, you can now give the gift of 2Gether Private Chefs!
These gift certificates are good for Meals of the Week, Private Dinners, and yes even secret suppers, which fall under the category of Food Experiences.
Having been to a few of the 2Gether secret suppers, I can confidently say that this is one gift that anyone with tastebuds will enjoy!
Fork Food Lab
Fork Food Lab is one of those places that Portland needs in order to have a healthy food community. With over 30 members, Fork Food Lab allows food entrepreneurs to have both the space and the kitchen they need to succeed.
COVID, as you can imagine, is extremely hard on a business like Fork Food Lab. If you have a friend or person in your pod that is passionate about the food community, a donation to Fork Food Lab in their name may be the best gift that money can buy this year.
These donations are part of what keep Fork Food Lab running.
Restaurant Gift Cards/Merchandise
If you live in Westbrook or you remember Brea Lu’s original location in Portland (it was where Rose Foods is now) you’ll be familiar with their bigger than your head pancakes and generous portions. A simple gift, whether it’s a stocking stuffer or the main attraction, is a gift card to Brea Lu.
What’s not to love about a little breakfast or lunch to enjoy after the holiday season?
You already know I love Mr. Tuna for their hand rolls, and that’s still true. In fact, if I had my choice, I’d rather have a bouquet of their hand rolls instead of a bouquet of flowers, but that’s just me.
But if you have a foodie friend that loves sushi or is also a huge Mr. Tuna fan, you really just can’t go wrong with any of their merch. There’s no way you can get the exact crewneck that I recommended back in 2018, but I’m sure you can find something else like a tote bag, hat, or a different crewneck design.
And if merch isn’t doing it, a gift card always works as well.
Maybe I’m biased, but I love Legend’s Rest a lot and I just renewed my Mug Club membership for life. Yeah, if you hadn’t heard about that promotion on Black Friday, you really missed out!
But if you have a friend that loves craft beer, buying someone a mug club membership at Legend’s is an awesome holiday gift. If I didn’t already have mine taken care of, well, forever, it’s something that I would potentially ask for as well.
Again, if you don’t want to commit to the mug club membership, you can buy t-shirts, hats, sweatshirts (I have a sweet crewneck sweatshirt that I’m a bit obsessed with), or a good old fashioned gift card to Legend’s Rest as well!
On those days when you can’t think about cooking, takeout is your best friend. Yeah, it’s become the kind of year where a bad day means the only thing you can look forward to is having someone else cook dinner for you.
If you’re wondering what to get your seafood-loving friend (we are OUT HERE, seriously, there are so many Mainers that don’t like seafood and I don’t get it) ordering some takeout from DiMillo’s is a pretty genius idea. Even if you can’t eat it together, at least you can say that you did something nice for someone during a time that’s been anything but ideal.
Personally, a bowl of lobster mac n cheese can be as comforting as a cozy blanket! After all, this is one of the most popular dishes at DiMillo’s, besides the lobster roll for a reason. You can also easily purchase a gift card to DiMillo’s on their site to send as a holiday gift as well!
Portland Pie Company
Hey, who doesn’t love pizza? Well, I bet you’re thinking it’s someone who can’t have gluten but Portland Pie is one step ahead of you because they offer several food items that are gluten-free as well as a pizza crust that’s also gluten-free.
If that makes you nervous, that’s understandable, because dietary restrictions are nothing to mess around with. Instead, you can always decide to buy more merch (yeah, merch is really never a bad call).
Portland Pie has a really cool t-shirt that looks a lot like the Miller High Life logo but in Portland Pie form that you can get, or you could say a gift card is how to go and let someone order their own pizza in the new year. The gifts abound at Portland Pie!
Bite Into Maine
The food truck at Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth may be closed down for the season, but you can still get your Bite Into Maine craving satisfied. For one thing, if having the same old Christmas dinner sounds boring, you could get lobster rolls from their Commissary Kitchen instead.
Why not, right? I’d definitely do it! If you can’t convince your family to trade prime rib for lobster rolls, you can also check out their sweet merch! We’re talking sweatshirts, tank tops, t-shirts, and even a Bite Into Maine greeting card.
Hello, if you’ve ever wanted to find the perfect card to give a foodie (hint, this foodie) it’s that card. The lobster rolls and other items on the menu don’t ship and are only available for local pick up or delivery but the merch looks like it is available for shipping! So again, great holiday gift ideas here!
Can we please for a minute just talk about how hard it must be to open a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic? But that’s exactly what Broken Arrow did.
We’re talking the heart of the pandemic in October as cases only continued climbing. If you read my guest post over on Portland Old Port, then you already know how I feel about this new restaurant.
If not, here’s a quick recap: it’s pretty amazing. Imagine the Maine classics you love but more elegant and sophisticated than you ever thought possible and you would have a glimpse of what owners Lyle and Holly Aker are creating.
The restaurant industry is notoriously difficult to succeed in during a good year but during a pandemic? That’s not even fair, but for millions of restaurant owners, it’s their new reality.
If you want to see Broken Arrow succeed, buy a gift card for your friends and family this holiday season. It’s an easy way to put cash in their pocket when they need it most.
And of course, go make reservations and try the food in their space, which has been extensively modified to work in this new COVID landscape.
When it comes to gift giving or needing to give a holiday gift of any kind, who could possibly forget the many, many craft breweries that Maine has to offer? These are an incredible part of what makes this state and Portland what it is!
It’s so easy to pick up a 4-pack from the brewery of your choice (if you like sours, I’m always partial to Yes Brewing) or classics like Banded Brewing (they just opened a second location in Portland with a first one in Biddeford) and Lone Pine are never a bad call as well. If you like beer, there is definitely something here that you’ll love!
And if you don’t know what kind of beer your parents or your brother-in-law will like…you can always pick up a gift card at the brewery of your choice as well!
The Salt Cellar
Know someone that loves to cook but who owns every cookbook, gadget, or thing you can possibly think of? Same. I was positively stumped until I remembered the Salt Cellar and found one of their gift sets.
They vary from specialty salts like ghost pepper (yes the salt is apparently infused with ghost peppers) or they even have bath and spa products. Whether you’re looking to pamper yourself or you need something for someone who already owns everything, you can probably find something at the Salt Cellar!
Eat Drink Lucky
I don’t need to tell you that subscription boxes are hot right now, because they are. What you do need to know is that the boxes that EDL puts out are nothing but the highest quality.
Now, if you missed my last post on their December box, it’s filled with plenty of Maine purveyors. It’s close to selling out, so there’s a good chance that the January box could be announced soon.
But what I love about these boxes is the fact that you can support so many local businesses all in one go. You support Eat Drink Lucky, and then you’re also supporting the businesses that are featured in the boxes as well.
And don’t forget that they contain amazing gifts as well! It’s just a win-win-win all around!
Does 2020 have you kind of braindead? You scroll and scroll through Instagram looking for inspiration for something to buy your parents or your favorite aunt, or maybe even your boss, but your mind is just a sad blank.
If this sounds familiar, I get it. 2020 has been a serious overload on everything. Too many thoughts, feelings, emotions…it’s a rollercoaster and then some.
If you’re tired of thinking and want someone to do the work for you who is also local, Stroudwater Distillery has gift baskets they are selling. These are only available if you’re local but they are pretty great since they include some of their more popular spirits.
Stop on by to check out what’s available or you can have one delivered locally through CarHop!
Sagamore Hill Lounge
Everyone has that one friend that’s obsessed with a good cocktail. If I’m being honest, in my friend group, that person is me. No surprise there!
For that friend who loves cocktails who lives nearby, why not consider some to-go cocktails from Sagamore Hill Lounge? There’s very little about this pandemic that’s good, but one thing that’s come out of it that is kind of awesome are to-go cocktails.
Me personally, I’m partial to the cocktails at Sagamore Hill Lounge, since they are delicious, original, and usually have the best names you’ll find anywhere. The labels match their branding as well, which is important if you’re giving these as a gift!
The Gathering Board
I recently discovered The Gathering Board thanks to a free virtual class hosted by Yelp Maine a few weeks back on how to build the perfect charcuterie board. I’ve taken a few online classes throughout the pandemic and I’ve enjoyed them all.
But I must say, the Gathering Board was one of the most fun by far! And it also finally gave me the tools I needed to create dazzling charcuterie boards. You’d think this is a skill I’d be capable of but I’ve always struggled with it.
So I knew I had to include the Gathering Board on this local holiday gift list! You could very easily send a charcuterie board to a local friend as a gift because these boards are a true work of art.
Except unlike a beautiful painting, you can eat these! At the moment, you can’t ship them, so you’ll have to stick to local. But hey, you could always just order a charcuterie board for your socially distanced and small Christmas gathering as well!
And you can now purchase gift cards online as well if you’re not sure what kind of charcuterie board to buy for a finicky friend!
Three of Strong Spirits
Got that one friend who loves rum but you know they should be drinking something that’s made in Maine and that’s better than Captain Morgan? Three of Strong Spirits has got it covered!
This craft-rum distillery creates high-quality rums that are so smooth, your friend will never look twice at Captain Morgan again. Oh, and if you have that one friend that’s searching for a Maine gin, Three of Strong has recently released their first gin, Portage, as well.
Friends don’t let friends drink bad alcohol. This holiday season, give the gift of Maine made distilled rum and gin from Three of Strong.
If you want an example of resilience during the pandemic, look no further than Sur Lie. They have seriously pivoted like their livelihood depended on it, because it did.
Besides offering the usual takeout and curbside pickup, they also started the immensely popular Farmer’s Baskets. Now, the concept is simple: order a basket and you’ll support both the restaurant and the farmers as well.
But during a time when it’s been hard to find anything to depend on, these Farmer’s Baskets have become something people have started depending on. So if you want to give back in the best way possible, a Farmer’s Basket would be an amazing holiday gift to consider this year!
And if you don’t know what kind of basket to buy, you can always consider merch and gift cards. Support local businesses and you’ll help keep the places you love in business.
Maine Products Shipping Nationwide
Maine Oyster Company
Oysters are one of those things that Maine has a lot of but beyond the East Coast, there aren’t nearly as many of these crustaceans. Lucky for oyster lovers that aren’t local, you can have oysters from Maine Oyster Company shipped nationwide!
These oysters are sweet, briny, and taste like they’ve been kissed by the ocean. Hey, 2020 isn’t exactly a normal year, so why not give something a little different this year too?
Portland Hunt + Alpine Club
Another favorite spot for cocktails has always been Portland Hunt + Alpine. Whether you go for the amazing pre-packaged cocktails and mocktails or you want to ship a few retail items, there’s really nothing but options.
Want to go above and beyond? I’m eyeing the gorgeous Hunt + Alpine x Evangeline Linens Throw which is a limited run only for this winter.
But you can also choose from t-shirts, a Hunt + Alpine Yeti mug, their new Northern Hospitality cook and recipe book, and of course, a gift card. There are no bad choices when you choose to shop local.
Vena’s Fizz House
I recently read an article that gave me pause. In this article, it said that Vena’s Fizz House was closing their location in Portland. I immediately thought that COVID had claimed another victim.
Thankfully, I kept reading and realized that actually, Vena’s Fizz House is closing that location because they are moving to a bigger one and reopening sometime in the spring! Finally, some good news!
As Vena’s Fizz House is not currently open, the next best thing is enjoying their bitters and cocktails kits at home instead. For the friend that thinks they are a mixologist, Vena’s is truly a smorgasbord of options!
There are beverage kits, infusions, syrups, and even sugar cubes so the next cocktail they make during your Zoom happy hour is Instagram ready. Happy gifting!
Grey Goose Gourmet
There are different kinds of foodies out there. Some, like me, don’t really enjoy cooking. Sorry, that’s the way it is for me.
Others love cooking and live for being in the kitchen. For those foodies, things like Grey Goose Gourmet are pretty much made for them.
And actually, they are made for foodies like me as well! You want to know why? Most people love hot pepper jelly! Sandra is the creator, cook, and owner of Grey Goose Gourmet.
She’s also an incredibly nice woman. Now let me tell you, I love her pepper jellies. Every flavor I’ve tried is delicious.
These are good with your charcuterie boards, with appetizers, but they are also good if you’re cooking. I once used my Grey Goose Gourmet pepper jelly baked onto salmon.
It was pretty awesome if I do say so myself! And that’s coming from someone that doesn’t even love cooking.
So you can imagine how great they are for someone that enjoys cooking as well! This makes a fantastic gift and she’ll ship them!
For those that are gluten-free or don’t love sweets, I’ve recently gotten into Choomi Cookies. You may have seen the giveaway I ran on my Instagram account, which gave me my first taste of these cookies.
I have to say, I do have a bit of a sweet tooth so I was a little hesitant, at least at first. But what’s not to love about a cookie that’s incredibly moist and also the perfect treat for someone that can’t have most cookies?
I may not be gluten-free, but I know that there are plenty of people out there that are searching for something like this that they can enjoy! Choomi Cookies make a great gift and you can find them in many grocery stores throughout Southern Maine but you can also buy them on their website, where they’ll ship anywhere you want them to go in the country!
Have a coffee addict in your life? Help a local business and help those less fortunate in Rwanda at the same time by buying coffee from Rwanda Bean. I will admit, I’m not a big coffee drinker, but I love the idea of supporting a company that’s making a difference.
At Rwanda Bean, 50% of the profits go back to their coffee farmers. That’s a lot, and in a place like Rwanda, that can be enough money to change someone’s life for the better.
Whether you choose to give a handmade ornament, a coffee scoop, or a coffee subscription, buying from Rwanda Bean is a conscious choice to help.
There are very few people in the world that don’t like chocolate. And I can think of even fewer that don’t like Dean’s Sweets. Sorry, but in my mind, chocolate doesn’t get much better than this.
You could easily hit a home run by signing someone up for their new subscription box, available in three, six, and twelve-month increments, or you can order one seasonally as well. I bought one for myself because I simply love the idea of having their decadent chocolates sent to me every month.
Why not give someone you love something to look forward to? This is one of my favorite things on this list!
eighteen twenty wines
Okay, if you love wine or have friends and family that love wine, I really think that eighteen twenty wines are a bit of a no-brainer. Where else can you find rhubarb wine?
It’s tart, crisp, and unique to Maine! This local business can ship your wine assuming the state you’re shipping to allows alcohol shipping, so double check before purchasing. eighteen twenty is a great holiday buy!
There’s a good possibility that you’ve already heard about the new pasta delivery service that’s come to Portland. Called Fusillo, it’s run by the owner of Ada’s in Portland.
The concept is simple: you order your pasta, it’s delivered to you, and then you make it at home. The pasta is homemade and easily on par with anything you’d find in Italy.
I studied abroad in Florence for a month in college and my tagliatelle reminded me exactly of that! It took me 10 minutes at absolute most to make my pasta from start to finish and it tasted amazing.
Now, if you’re thinking this sounds great, it is. But if you don’t want to cook on Christmas Day, or even on Christmas Eve, maybe consider Fusillo as an option instead. Or, send over a kit to your favorite friend that doesn’t feel like cooking as a tasty holiday treat!
baristas + bites
It doesn’t get much better than baked goods from baristas + bites in my opinion. I won’t lie, I miss being able to come in and grab my favorites in person. That includes their holiday cookies or a delicious breakfast burrito (seriously those things are GOOD) but the next best thing is they are now offering nationwide delivery with Goldbelly.
That means your friend that lives in California or your mom in Michigan can finally experience those insanely amazing baked goods from baristas + bites for themselves! I mean, there’s not much that makes a better holiday gift than knowing someone picked out delectable goodies for you to enjoy. This is true no matter where you are!
Oh, and don’t forget to check out their online store, where you can find things like felted goat soap or a camper’s mug. There’s a treasure trove of potential holiday gifts to choose from!
At the end of the day, when you’re doing your holiday shopping and buying a holiday gift here and there, I hope you’ll consider these local businesses and many of the others here in Maine! Let me know in the comments where you’re doing your holiday shopping this year!