I remember the gift baskets my dad would bring home from his office from well-meaning souls.
They -- the baskets -- were usually wrapped in red cellophane and container one or more of the following:
Shelf-stable cheese (I think the technical term is "cheese food")
Red Delicious apples (softball-size)
Hard Anjou pears (rock hard)
Foil-wrapped milk chocolate Santas (or other festively shaped chocolates).
The chocolate and shortbread were always the first to go. The rest ... eh.
That was what I thought of gift baskets then, but what did I know? It has since dawned on me that Chicago is one of the top cities for gift-basketing. The breadth of talented food and drink artisans in our fair city means there is potential for some pretty kickass gift baskets.
All of this is a long-winded way of pointing you toward a DIY gift basket day at Blue Sky Bakery and Cafe, 3720 N. Lincoln. From noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, the bakery -- which employs at-risk and homeless youth -- will provide the baskets, wrapping and shipping materials and let you have your pick of goodies from Rare Bird Preserves, Pasta Puttana, Jo Snow Syrups, Rich Chocolates, Tomato Mountain, the Coffee & Tea Exchange and Blue Sky's own baked lineup.
The event is free; prices for basket range from $15 to $100, depending on what you choose. Proceeds fund a good cause.
And there'll be nary a shelf-stable cheese stick in sight.