Each year, like you, I become frazzled at Christmas time trying to select the perfect gift so that I will not disappoint the people I love. Over the years, it has become increasingly more difficult to surprise my family and friends.
This year, as I prepare to select holiday gifts for friends, I’ve decided to explore the many Louisiana certified products available throughout our state. A directory of Louisiana Certified Products can be found on the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry’s website: www.ldaf.state.la.us The directory includes information on the products grown in Louisiana and where they can be purchased.
For my friends and family living out of state, I know it will be a welcomed surprise to receive a food basket from Louisiana. I’ve decided on three possible themes for my gift baskets: wine and cheese; rice and seafood; and sweet potatoes and pecans.
To fill a wine and cheese basket, travel to Landry’s Vineyards in West Monroe. Arrange your shopping time on a day when the tasting room is open so that you can sample what you put in your basket. If you plan ahead, you might even get to enjoy one of their concerts along with your shopping trip.
For cheese, you can stop at your favorite grocery store and select from a wide variety, or if you want something extra special travel to Moreauville and shop at WesMar Farms. The Constantine’s who own the farm make a variety of goat dairy products and their cheeses are wonderful. Call ahead and make sure they are not out at an area farmers market before you go. For more ideas on the basket, log onto LA MarketMaker.
If those on your gift list enjoy Cajun foods, fill a basket with rice and crawfish. For suggestions on where to shop, refer to the Louisiana Certified Products Directory or LA MarketMaker. To locate the freshest catch of seafood, log onto www.louisianadirectseafood.com/ This website suggests four ports near New Orleans where seafood can be purchased right from the boat. This site also offers suggestions on companies that freeze their seafood fresh off the boat. Many of those brands are in our local stores, but if you prefer travel to the coast and make your own selection of fresh off the boat seafood.
Many Louisiana brands of rice are sold directly from our grocery store shelves, but if you want to do a road trip travel south. In New Iberia, you can purchase rice from the oldest working rice mill, Conrad Rice Mill Inc. In nearby Crowley, travel to Crystal Rice Plantation Heritage Farm. Call ahead for both of these venues.
For the final basket, I suggest sweet potatoes and pecans. Using suggestions from the Louisiana Certified Products Directory or LA MarketMaker, travel to northeast Louisiana for these two basket fillers. The nearby West Monroe Farmers Market may be open for the holidays and the market vendors generally sell those delicious sweet potatoes from Oak Grove.
Dora Ann Hatch is agritourism coordinator with the LSU AgCenter. She can be reached at (318) 927-9654 x229 or e-mail her at email@example.com