The A.V. Club's surprisingly specific (and Milwaukee-centric) gift guide
5 ideas for shopping local this holiday season
Like they do every year, major retailers are grasping for your holiday dollars with “door-buster” sales offering supposedly deep discounts on hot items. What they don’t tell you is that the people who want cheap Blu-ray players far outnumber the cheap Blu-ray players in stock, which means a lot of suckers end up getting trampled by angry shopping mobs. Why risk having your arm ripped out by sweatpants-wearing lunatics wreaking havoc in the electronics department? You’re better off shopping local. You’ll contribute to your community and protect your life all at once. Before you head out, please consult this surprisingly specific holiday gift guide for Milwaukee-centric shopping. We’re sure you’ll find something for the gift-grubbing loved one in your life.
For the relative you barely know but feel obligated to buy a gift for: Tea from Rishi Tea
Figuring out what to get your fiftysomething-year-old aunt is like trying to decipher a riddle wrapped up in a mystery inside an enigma. The easy way out of this quandary is picking something everybody likes, such as a soothing and all-natural tea. One of the best brands around is Milwaukee’s Rishi Tea, which is available at many local grocery stores, including Outpost Natural Foods and Sendiks. Almost all of Rishi’s teas are certified organic, and many of them are fair-trade certified. If you buy the rich and wintry cinnamon-plum ($14 for a quarter-pound), Rishi will donate 25 percent of the sale to Clean Water Fund, an organization devoted to protecting America’s waters. Imagine all the good you’ll do just because you never bothered to get to know your aunt!
For the budding crafter with more enthusiasm than skills: A class at Loop Yarn Shop (2963 N. Humboldt Blvd., 414-265-2312)
Don’t let your buddy struggle with a skein of cheap yarn and a crochet hook. Your friend needs instruction! Sign her up for a class at Loop Yarn Shop—it costs as little as $15 plus supplies. Classes don’t involve a huge time commitment and are taught by master yarn-slingers that will teach you the basics of casting on, knitting, binding off, and other crafty techniques. Your friend will be whipping up scarves, mittens, potholders, and Kleenex cozies in no time.
For the gluten-sensitive friend who wants to develop a drinking problem: A six-pack of Lakefront Brewery’s New Grist
For years, not being able to eat wheat gluten meant a life without beer. But thanks to Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery, the gluten-intolerant can now enjoy the mind-altering power of a good brew. Brewed from sorghum rice, hops, and gluten-free yeast, Lakefront’s New Grist is a sweet, light beer tasty enough even for gluten-gorgers to enjoy. If you want something to pad out that introductory six-pack, pick up a gift certificate and send him on one of Lakefront’s famously entertaining tours. You’ll be proud to turn your one friend that doesn’t drink beer into yet another drunk.
For the tree-hugger looking to conserve materials in a non-annoying way: Environmentally friendly clothes from Chartreuse (1224 E. Brady St., 414-747-8434) and Future Green (2352 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., 414-294-4300)
This friend is always giving you a hard time about the lack of solar panels and wind turbines at your house. It’s irritating, but this person means well. Reward her by buying clothes made of bamboo, organic cotton, and flax at Chartreuse and nearby Future Green in Bay View. You can get an organic T-shirt for as little as $15, or a bamboo dress for as much as $95. Wrap it up in last week’s newspaper and pretty it up with dried herbs, and your eco-friend will be so proud.
For the out-of-towner who constantly reduces you to an unflattering regional stereotype: Cheese products Wisconsin Cheese Mart (215 W. Highland Ave., 414-272-3544)
When you moved to Milwaukee, you bought yourself a lifetime of beer and cheese jokes from your clueless friends. Instead of getting defensive—“Have you seen our Calatrava-designed art museum, asshole?!”—embrace incredibly delicious stereotypes and show the out-of-towners what they’re missing. A three-pound bag of Wisconsin cheddar cheese curds ($22) offers a whole lot of squeaky, tasty, and oh-so-Milwaukee flavor. The Cheese Mart also stocks cheesehead hats ($18.85), because everybody knows that people from Wisconsin love cheeseheads. Now, who wants to go bowling?