Top 5 unexpected stocking stuffers for food fans

Perfectly shaped for stocking stuffing
Perfectly shaped for stocking stuffing
Photo courtesy Proper Toffee Waffles

Opening up the stockings Christmas morning is full of comforts from childhood: orange, apple, chocolate, maybe some socks, which is all useful, if snoozy. Why not surprise the food fan or bar chef in your life with some of these affordable and fun finds? They get to experiment with new ingredients, and you reap all the rewards. Who says selfless is the way to go this season?

5. Proper People Toffee Waffles
It's a cookie, it's a tea and coffee condiment, it's a waffle, it's a salty, sticky pile of caramel -- it's a toffee waffle! These addictive treats are fantastic no matter how you eat them, straight out of the package or as intended. Place the disk atop a hot beverage and allow the interior toffee to slowly melt. The result is gooey and sweet, with just enough crunch and salt. Best of all, they're made locally, wrapped and sent with a little extra love from St. Paul. Find them at Hampden Co-op, Local D'Lish, and Kopplin's Coffee. (For a full list of locations, check their website.)

4. Heath Glen jams and jellies
See what Saveur magazine was raving about. These award-winning preserves are wonderfully balanced, with interesting flavors like blueberry Sambuca or raspberry Chambord. Perfect for New Year's Day breakfast is a swipe of strawberry champagne on a scone or whipped into a salad vinagrette. For an unexpected twist, heat up the jellies and use as you would a simple syrup to dress up cocktails. Look for these sweet jars in places like Linden Hills Co-op and Surdyk's Cheese Shop (for a full list of locations, check out their website.)

Colorful coolers are sensational sippers
Colorful coolers are sensational sippers
Photo courtesy Golden Fig

3. Cardamom Cooler at the Golden Fig
With soft, floral spice notes cut with zingy-tart juice, this refreshing drink base trims every occasion like an extra-sparkly dose of tinsel. Mix with a little bubbly water for a nonalcoholic refresher (perfect with a big breakfast strata) or add a little vodka to rosy up those cheeks while exchanging presents. Golden Fig website.

Dress up those cocktails for the holidays
Dress up those cocktails for the holidays
Photo courtesy Bittercube Bitters

2. Bittercube Bitters
Crafted from scratch with only the highest-quality ingredients, these bitters will fast become the ingredient your mixologist can't live without. A couple of drops on a sugar cube at the bottom of a champagne flute is the perfect way to toast the new year. Find them at Thomas Liquors in St. Paul and Kitchen in the Market in Midtown Global Market. Bittercube website

Hurts so good
Hurts so good

1. Gojuchang -- the new hip hot sauce
Remember a world without the red rooster? Hot sauce was simple, a little watery, kind of "meh." Then our world was changed with sriracha sauce. However, the moment has passed. The new must-have zippy condiment is Korean gojuchang. A fermented red pepper paste with just a hint of sweetness goes with just about everything. Try a dollop on eggs and prepare for a proper eye opener. Find it on haute menus, like at the Left Handed Cook. Although this sauce is making inroads at supermarkets, the best place to pick some up is at local Asian markets like United Noodles.

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