The Pitch‘s Wish Guide: Feeding holiday appetites and filling worthy stockings

First, we were hungry, so we went looking for food. Not (just) for ourselves, of course. We set out to build a better gift basket, made up of KC originals — the special pantry items we covet for our own. (And we felt an extra buzz about a certain Raytown apiary.) From pickles to sauces, breads, baked goods, candy and cheeses, here are items guaranteed to cause serious debate about whether one should give or keep. (Buy two. Ho ho ho.)

Then we thought about who should get such a basket, and we looked at one another and agreed that, if we gave in and ate all of this stuff ourselves, we should make up for our seasonal gluttony by patronizing one or more of our favorite arts groups, giving to some of our favorite reginal concerns — and urging you to do the same. You can call this happy assemblage a holiday wish list, but we really everything here is a big deal to us year-round. 


Tanzanian Vanilla

Vain Vanilla

All vanilla extract is boozy, but this one centers on a house-spiced rum that lends seasonal flavor to your baked goods or coffee. ($17,

Bourbon Pretzel and Coconut Lime Caramels

Salt and Flint

Gloriously sticky and explosively flavorful, the caramels from this Lawrence candymaker come in a variety of surprising (in a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that kind of way) flavor combinations. ($1.60 each at Better Cheddar, by the box at

Ibis Cranberry Almond Bread

Ibis Bakery

Here’s a seasonal offering that’s basically perfect with some fresh butter. If you want to get ambitious in the family kitchen, use it to make stuffing. ($9.50, Ibis Bakery)

Watermelon Rind Pickles

Better Cheddar

Watermelon rind doesn’t sound good. But Better Cheddar makes a variety with a perfect firm texture and a slightly sweet tartness that’s ideal for cheese plates or adding to cocktails. ($13.99,

Pineapple Cilantro Habanero Shrub

Las Californias Shrub Company

Who knew vinegar-based drinks could be this addictive? It’s sweet, tart and spicy, and a little bit of plain soda with it is all you need. ($20,

Q39 Barbecue Sauce


The speed with which Q39 became an essential KC barbecue destination is in no small part due to its tangy, sweet and slightly spicy signature sauce. ($10,,

No-Sugar Apple Butter

Louisburg Cider Mill

This inexpensive and ubiquitous apple butter is packed with flavor without any added sugar. ($4.99,

Red Wine Cranberry Sauce and Vanilla Bourbon Peach Preserves

KC Canning Co.

Skip the gelatinous canned log of cranberry sauce and opt for this one, made with red wine, which adds depth of flavor without cringe-y tartness. For the preserves, see KC Canning Company’s website for a vanilla-peach bread pudding recipe that will make you a holiday hero. ($10,

Heirloom Tomato Bruscetta 

KC Canning Co. collaboration with Boys Grow Farms

Here’s your new go-to snack in a jar. Just add toast or crackers. ($10,

Boys Grow Avocado Hot Sauce

Boys Grow Farms

Good for pizza, tacos, Bloody Marys and just about anything else you put in your mouth: jalapeno and avocado combined in a creamy sauce that delivers polite but addictive heat. ($4.50,

Spicy Chili, Garlic and Herb Fresh Cheeses

Green Dirt Farms

Green Dirt Farm has been teaching us for years that sheep’s-milk cheese can be superior to that from cows or goats. This spreadable fresh cheese is a convincing lesson in rich satisfaction. ($5,

Fresh Corn Tortillas

KCMex Tortillas

Local chefs are so fond of this new tortilleria’s products that they’re finding their way onto high-end menus around town. Good enough for them, good enough for us. ($4.50, several area locations, including Local Pig)

The Ploughman Spices

Wood & Salt

Sprinkle this multipurpose seasoning on just about anything to amp up the savory flavors: chicken, steak, seafood, vegetables for roasting. The only problem: You’ll run out too quickly. ($11.99,

Ghost Pepper Cheese


This is for the cheese lover in your life who also claims to love food that makes her sweat. Call that bluff, deliciously. ($9.50,

— April Fleming

Arts and Culture (with and without kids)

The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

We can attest to being grown up, if somewhat childlike, yet loving the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures with a toddler’s enthusiasm. And we can tell you that getting a couple of grown-ups into the place, anytime, over and over, is among the cheapest, most rewarding memberships anywhere: $25 and you get to be a card-carrying toy lover. Have kids? Have four kids (and a partner)? The price goes up … to a generous $75. Our renewal is already in the mail. (

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Meanwhile, the metro’s 800-pound art gorilla remains free (except for special exhibitions) but remains well worth joining. With memberships starting at $55, it’s not a budget buster, either. (

The Kansas City Zoo

Speaking of gorillas: For $99, residents of Jackson County or Clay County get family admission all year, plus tickets for pals and visitors, and a T-shirt. (

Union Station

For $95 a family, there could be a lot of repeat visits to Science City in your future. (

The Coterie

KC’s youth-oriented theater company has set a high standard for itself — and largely hews to it, year after year. A 10-pack flex pass for $100. (

— Jennifer Wetzel

Neither/Nor Zine Subscription

We’ve talked up KC’s zine resurgence in recent times, and now there’s an easy way to spread the word yourself. Kansas City-based Neither/Nor Zine Distro, run by KC Zine Con organizer Jess Hogan (and keeping kiosks full of DIY reading material available at Holy Cow Market & Music and two Crossroads record stores year-round), gives you several shop-from-home options. Order a package every three, six, nine or 12 months, or just call up a one-time purchase, customized to whatever nerd streak you want to tickle: punk-rock, comix, deminism, photography, and on and on. Tiny, earnest, smart surprises abound. (

— Aaron Rhodes

KTBG 90.9 (the Bridge)

There’s a lot of competition around here for your NPR dollar. But if your priority is supporting area musicians and venues, this gets the nod; $10 a month gets you a Bridge T-shirt. (

Girls Rock Lawrence

Dedicated to education and empowerment, this group puts on a weeklong summer camp for girls and trans youth, ages 12-18, where they form bands, write an original song nd play it live at the end of the week. (

Heartland Men’s Chorus

This nonprofit, volunteer chorus has made a significant cultural contribution to the community. When you support its work, you allow the group to purchase music, commission new works and help its outreach and social-justice programs. (

Kansas City Chorus

This vibrant group of more than 100 women gathers each Tuesday evening to sing and learn the art of barbershop harmony. Nothing else like it. (

Kansas City Civic Orchestra

For more than 50 years, the community-based orchestra’s mission has been to bring high quality, free concerts to the community, played by an all-volunteer orchestra of amateur and professional musicians. Supporting the group helps it pay its bills so the music keeps flowing. (

Kansas Public Radio

Back to your NPR dollar: If you nod along to the Retro Cocktail Hour or Trail Mix, here’s where to help out; $12 a month gets you a KPR MemberCard, providing two-for-one deals at some cool places. (

KCUR 89.3

Got anything left for NPR? KCUR is a juggernaut, but we don’t take it for granted. Also, Boulevard goes down nicely in a “Stand With the Facts” pint glass. (

KKFI 90.1

Community radio doesn’t get much less commercial — that is, old-school midtown weird, in the best way — than KKFI. We love it, and we know a few people who’d do great things with the guest-DJ slot a $250 donation earns. Just saying. (

Mid America Freedom Band

Kansas City’s LGBTA community band, jazz band and marching band is about to have a much-deserved really big 2018. Get in on it. (

Midwest Music Foundation

The MMF provides grants for musicians in need of urgent care, wellness services and healthcare grants. If you value local music, pledging support to this organization is as good a demonstration of good faith as a fan can give. (

— Nick Spacek


This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s where we’re starting this December with our social-justice and civic-improvement contributions.

Kansas City Anti-Violence Project

Elizabeth Wheeler, a volunteer on the board of directors for the KC Anti-Violence Project, says: “We’re growing, and always trying to meet the community needs as they come up.” What comes up is often a bummer, though: domestic violence, hate crimes, sexual assault. But KCAVP is succeeding in reducing the number of violent crimes in Kansas City by providing important services, education and support to those in need need — especially queer youth. “There was a vacuum of support for trans people of color here, so we established a weekly support group and are providing services to this demographic,” Wheeler says. “We are the only LGBTQ specific organization of this kind in the four state region of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska.” A “Drag Queen Bingo” fundraiser for KCAVP happens Saturday, December 16, at the Hamburger Mary’s on Broadway. (

KC Pet Project

KC no-kill shelters work with animals that elsewhere would be euthanized. As you’d expect, medical and housing costs add up, with a take-in rate of about 23 animals a day. Running the place isn’t easy, and the volunteer turnover rate is also what you’d expect. So, yes, your time is needed and welcome, but so are Amazon gift cards and numerous basic items. And for a $500 donation, you can book a fleet of puppies and kittens for a “Snuggle Service” to visit you and your co-workers at the office. We’re saving up. Who doesn’t need snuggle time? (

One Struggle KC

The group works on behalf of people of color to counter police brutality and lift up marginalized persons (including LGBTQ) within the black community. (

Stand Up For Racial Justice

Educational group for white people to help learn how to fight white supremacy and support people of color. Fifty percent of donations are shared with racial-justice organizations led by people of color. (

Kansas/Missouri Dream Alliance

Youth-led organization that works with high school groups to educate youth about immigration. (

Anytown Kansas City

Organization geared for educating and bringing together groups from different faiths, races and backgrounds. (

Stand Up KC

Helps to raise awareness in lifting the minimum wage and creating living wages while highlighting workers’ rights. (

KC for Refugees

Supports the city’s refugee community by connecting them with jobs, shelter and other necessities. (

Uzazi Village

This family clinic addresses maternal and baby care in the urban core. (

Center for Excellence and Immigration legal help

The center pairs asylum seekers with lawyers and supports immigrants with other legal help. (

Operation Breakthrough

Provides health services and educational instruction to low-income families. (

— Annie Raab and Traci Angel