A custom Christmas | Gift baskets made personal

Food / December 15, 2016

Christmas celebrations with family, friends and co-workers are in full swing, which means it’s the peak time of year for giving gifts.

For many people, it’s difficult to carve time for shopping into a packed schedule, and it’s often just as challenging to figure out what to buy. When that is the case, Hot Springs businesses definitely offer options to take the stress off customers, so they can focus on the joy of giving itself.

Gift baskets filled with edible goodies have long been popular presents, but can seem impersonal when packaged for the masses. However, the Spa City is fortunate to have shops that specialize in personalization, making assortments

Reuseable gift totes can be filled with a variety of specialty food items from The Savory Pantry.

Reuseable gift totes can be filled with a variety of specialty food items from The Savory Pantry.

tailored specifically to match someone’s personality or interests.

• At The Savory Pantry, owner Keeley DeSalvo and her employees take pride in their ability to assemble customized gift baskets. She said for anyone who calls or comes in, the staff asks about the recipient’s likes, gets a target price, then fills baskets to the brim from a vast array of specialty food items.

There’s a large selection of the baskets themselves, which are all beautiful as functional gifts, even without the treats inside. In addition, gift totes can be purchased. DeSalvo said this option is great for shipping, for men, or for people who will be traveling and won’t have space to take a basket back home.

Many things in the store are carefully crafted by artisan makers of products including Scottish short-bread, Arkansas goods, jellies, chocolate and candies, savory foods, craft cocktail shrubs, bitters and simple syrups, innumerable snacks and seasonal items.

The shop has clients all over the country who choose Savory Pantry because of their made-to-order boutique foodstuffs. DeSalvo said, “It’s important to us that we convey to our customer the story behind the producers. People really want to connect and get back to the feeling of knowing where their food comes from.”

For shoppers who are more limited on time, they also carry assortments they’ve

preassembled with themes in mind, like teas, snacks, chocolates or Italian flavors, allowing the buyer to still feel good about giving something personal.

Corporate gifts are another service the store provides, and they’re able to ship to

Preassembled gift boxes from evilO make for easy Christmastime giving.

Preassembled gift boxes from evilO make for easy Christmastime giving.

all 50 states and Canada.

Located at 214 Central Ave., Savory Pantry is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday. Custom purchases can also be called in to 501-624-5858.

• Flowers & Home offers completely personalized baskets that can include not only edible delights, but also items like a candle or ornament, giving the giftee multiple experiences of things they can eat, use and display.

Owner Monroe Cranford said, “We carry specialty things that not everyone can get elsewhere,” like the seasonal English toffee made by a Hot Springs candymaker, peppermint candy pretzels, and hand-selected fruits arranged in an eye-popping display.

They can add boxed chocolates, packages of Christmas Crunch popcorn, and

gourmet cheeses, crackers and salami — all sure to please the palate of any recipient.

As an alternative to baskets, Flowers & Home can nestle items inside a unique pottery bowl, which would make a lasting gift in itself.

Staff members also create a “junk food basket,” popular as a gift for teenagers.

This small gift basket of flavored salts from evilO comes at a price point to suit many shoppers' needs.

This small gift basket of flavored salts from evilO comes at a price point to suit many shoppers’ needs.

The mix of salty and sweet craveables can be customized to match favorite brands of candy and snacks, and will be artfully arranged for maximum visual appeal.

Baskets can be delivered all across Hot Springs, and their Benton store covers the Little Rock metro area.

Orders can be called in, which allows the buyer to give shop employees direction on the recipient’s preferences.

Cranford said a big part of what his staff does this time of year is corporate gifts, making multiple baskets for one location or a single large arrangement for

employees to share.

Located at 245 Cornerstone Blvd., Flowers & Home is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Visit the store, or call 501-525-0444 to make gift arrangements.

• Specializing in flavored oils and vinegars, evilO is owned by Justin and Charlene Simon. The store’s name is wordplay on their extra-virgin olive oil products, spelling the word “olive” in reverse.

The shop’s red brick interior has an entire wall lined with bottles, and customers can sample from oils including blood orange or habanero, and the best-selling garlic and mushroom or Tuscan herb blends.

Christmas Crunch can be added to gift baskets from Flowers & Home of Hot Springs.

Christmas Crunch can be added to gift baskets from Flowers & Home of Hot Springs.

Vinegars are even more numerous, with flavors ranging from blueberry to espresso, or the top sellers — an Italian Lambrusco red wine and the 25 Star aged balsamic finishing vinegar with a syrupy pour and richly sweet taste.

Culinary applications include grilling, baking, dressings, marinades and drinks. For people unfamiliar with their offerings, the knowledgeable staff cannot only

direct shoppers to certain uses, but also let them taste before buying.

Additional products for easy food preparation include locally made What’s Cooking baking blends, and Resident Chef dip mixes from Maumelle. They also carry pastas, soup mixes, hot sauces, rubs and salts.

Customers can visit the store or browse online at http://www.olivebackwards.com, then call to set up for an order either to be picked up or shipped.

Baskets can also include simple directions for how to use the products, if requested.

Located at 360 Central Ave., evilO is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and staff can be reached at 501-609-0999.

Photos by Lorien Dahl






Lorien Dahl




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November 15, 2016