The 2011 Chicagoist Gift Guide

By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 14, 2011 5:00PM

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If you haven't finished your Holiday shopping on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday—and there are a lot of you—we bring you our staff picks for that unique gift to warm the hearts, and fill the stockings, of friends, relatives and workplace Secret Santas everywhere. We hope there's something for everyone on this list.

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2011_12_13_giftguide1.jpeg The Chicago that Nelson Algren describes in Chicago: City on the Make may have vanished forever, but his classic essay makes the past come alive once again in this 60th anniversary edition. His prose is so crisp and juicy that reading this book is like biting into a sour apple. The new volume contains additional material by Studs Terkel, David Schmittgen, and Bill Savage. Buy it at Quimby's, 57th Street Books, The Book Cellar and many other local area bookstores. - Rob Christopher

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2011_12_13_giftguide2.jpg The Spice House sells everyday and hard to find herbs and spices, along with 10 blends inspired by Chicago neighborhoods. Get all 10 in a gift box or buy individual bottles. Blends include the Pilsen Latino Seasoning, Old Taylor Street Cheese Sprinkle, and my personal favorite, the Greektown "Billygoat" Seasoning. - Amy Cavaaugh

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2011_12_13_giftguide3.jpg LEGO's Architecture series continues the with the local love by adding Hyde Park's landmark Robie House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright to its collection, joining Wright's Fallingwater and Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House. At $199 it's a bit pricey but the 2200+ piece set is the largest, most detailed in the LEGO Architecture series. These sets were designed by area resident Adam Reed Tucker. You can buy this at the Robie House Museum's gift shop, Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio Museum Shop, ShopWright at The Rookery, or online. - Benjy Lipsman

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2011_12_13_giftguide4.jpg As part of his "Art & Soul of America" series of prints depicting American landmarks, illustrator Joel Anderson includes nine different Chicago posters. Despite hailing from Tennessee, he captures local icons like the Bean, Water Tower and Chicago Theater. Buy them online. - Benjy Lipsman

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The Hero Initiative creates a financial safety net for comic creators who may need emergency medical aid, financial support for essentials of life, and an avenue back into paying work. Since inception, the Hero Initiative has been fortunate enough to benefit over 40 creators and their families with over $400,000 worth of much-needed aid, fueled by your contributions! It's a chance for all of us to give back something to the people who have given us so much enjoyment. - Tony Peregrin

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Windy City Queer:LGBTQ Dispatches from The Third Coast is the first anthology of its kind to focus on LGBT authors. Celebrated writers Edmund White, Achy Obejas, Sharon Bridgforth, Brian Bouldrey, E. Patrick Johnson, Carol Anshaw, David Trinidad, and Mark Zubro are joined by emerging voices from the queer literary scene. The scope of the writing runs the gamut, from from fiction and poetry to memoir and essays, and portray gay Chicago lives from the everyday to the quirky, from public spectacles to quiet intimacies, from family life to nightlife, from dating to marriage, from loving to mourning. - Tony Peregrin

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2011_12_13_giftguide5.jpg Burlesque meets Priscilla Queen of the Desert in the new biography of Jim Flint, founder and owner of the world-famous Baton Show Lounge in Chicago—where the finest of female impersonators have been strutting their stuff onstage for more than 40 years. Jim Flint: The Boy From Peoria by Tracy Baim and Owen Keehnen (Prairie Avenue Productions, 528 pages) chronicles the unfettered life of this pioneer of the modern LGBT community. - Tony Peregrin

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Riding the CTA every day may be a nightmare, but seeing a vintage CTA poster (or a transit map on your shower curtain) in your house every day is kinda cool. You can also show off how cool you are because you live in X neighborhood with station specific tees and mugs. To order, visit http://www.ctagifts.com/ or http://transittees.com/. - Michelle Meywes

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Brand BBQ Market Chef Charity Smith dreams up some crazy BBQ sauces. Brand is having a Christmas sauce sale: $6 for a 16-ounce mason jar or three jars for $15. Try the Citrus Chipotle, the Smokey-n-Sweet, or the Smoked Jalapeno. Great for the BBQ lover in your life. - Caitlin Klein

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2011_12_13_giftguide6.png Dan Sinker's The F***ing Epic Twitter Epic Twitter Quest of @MayorEmanuel proved that the most-talked about Twitter feed of the year can work as a book. Now buy it for your family and friends. Because trying to tell your family and friends about that effing twitter saga you were following for months didnt come across all that clear. - Michelle Meywes

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2011_12_13_giftguide7.jpeg Dmitry Samarov's Hack: Stories from a Chicago Cab gives us a a unique peek in to the life of the artist/writer/cab driver, which is also a unique peek into his passengers lives in this book. - Michelle Meywes

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2011_12_13_giftguide8.gif Soup and Bread started as a simple event to raise money for Chicago food pantries and has turned into a weekly wintertime series of events at The Hideout and a pile of recipes collated into a second cookbook. This book is perfect to keep you cozy through the winter ahead. - Samantha Abernethy

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2011_12_13_giftguide9.jpg We liked the A La Card deck so much we included it in last year's gift guide. It's still fabulous and gets better every year. If you're buying for a bar hopper, get Drink Deck (either on your phone or on paper) and if your giftee has a sweet tooth, try Dessert Deck. Best part? Unlike Groupon, they don't screw over restaurants and A La Card donates a portion of all sales to Common Threads. - Anthony Todd

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Open since the beginning of time, Calumet Fisheries is a true Chicago classic, and our favorite product there is the smoked shrimp, which combines the best features of our two favorite meats: ham and shrimp. You might want to keep this in the fridge, instead of under the tree - but it'll be the most popular gift of the year. Even better, if you go to their website you can find a coupon for 10% off! - Anthony Todd

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2011_12_13_giftguide10.jpg Set in 1920s Chicago, Gangster: The Board Game comes complete with a detailed map filled with neighborhoods to control. Yeah, it's a tiny bit complicated, but what better way to spend that holiday break than mowing down your family with Tommy guns? Buy the game at Cat and Mouse Game Store (2221 W. Armitage) or online. - Anthony Todd

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2011_12_13_giftguide11.jpg A few years ago we bought some top of the line in-ear earbuds for mucho dinero and loved the experience of hearing a full stereo blasting into our ear canals while out and about without having to turn up the volume to 11. It took a while to get use to actually inserting them into our ear canal but, once we did, we fell in love with the sound. What we didn't love was when earbuds that cost us hundreds of bucks quit working three months in. Since then, we've stayed away from in-ear earbuds but when the folks at iFrogz sent us a pair to try out, we said why not. Imagine our suprise when these $50 earbuds sounded pretty much exactly like the top of the line ones! In fact, the only major drawback with these is the short cord, but if that doesn't bother you (or you're not as tall as we are) the TimbrePro deliver a really nice range of sound for a reasonably low price. And if they break after three months we won't feel as bad. - Tankboy

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2011_12_13_giftguide12.jpg Amy Sheridan realizes that if every word that falls from Kanye's lips is gold, then his Tweets must be diamonds. And since diamonds are forever shouldn't those Tweets be immortalized? Sheridan will hand stitch and frame your favorite Kanye Tweet for you for the low, low price of $40 (plus shipping) and while she's totally backlogged right now and you won't get it in time for the holidays, order it now so you can tell the eventual recipient that little bit of Kanye will soon be hanging in their home on permanent display. - Tankboy

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2011_12_13_giftguide13.jpg The Numero Group, Chicago's best and deepest crate diggers, are selling 2012 subscription plans right now, which would be the gift for the dusties fan in your life. The CD subscriptions ($100) guarantee you six of their planned releases for the coming year, while the LP subscriptions (starting at $150 for the first half of the year) is front-loaded with over half of the projected 14 slabs of vinyl for next year. - Chuck Sudo
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2011_12_13_giftguide14.jpg Designer Erin Boone and metal artist Sontra Stala have created a line of jewelry that "express and acknowledge the beauty inherent in seemingly incompatible forces." Inspired by lion's teeth, among other things, Their pendants and rings are hand-carved in wax, cast in brass or silver and look beautiful and tough as nails. - Chuck Sudo

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2011_12_13_giftguide15.jpg Edited by Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster Garrett Oliver, The Oxford Companion to Beer is the first major reference work to investigate the history and vast scope of beer. The book features more than 1,100 A-Z entries written by 166 of the world's most prominent beer experts. Attractively illustrated with over 140 images, the book covers everything from the agricultural makeup of various beers to the technical elements of the brewing process, local effects of brewing on regions around the world, and the social and political implications of sharing a beer. Entries not only define terms such as "dry hopping" and "cask conditioning" but give fascinating details about how these and other techniques affect a beer's taste, texture, and popularity. Cultural entries shed light on such topics as pub games, food pairings and the development of beer styles. Buy it online or at your local bookstore. - Chuck Sudo
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Sure, making a gift donation in someone's name isn't the same as giving them a sleek new gadget or some hipstery gewgaw. For one thing, it's a hell of a lot more useful. The use of and need for food pantries has skyrocketed since the recession; since July of this year, the Greater Chicago Food Depository has distributed the equivalent of more than 13 million meals alone. So ditch that twee iPhone cover and give that $20 to hungry Chicagoans instead. - Rob Christopher
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The True Colors Fund was co-founded by Cyndi Lauper to inspire and engage everyone, especially straight people, to become active participants in the advancement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality and to raise awareness about and bring an end to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth homelessnes. - Tony Peregrin
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2011_12_13_giftguide16.png We sure as hell don't pimp the Chicagoist Spreadshirt store as often as we should but, if you're a fan of the little site that does, consider stuffing stockings with Chicagoist t-shirts, sweatshirts and ballcaps. And they're all moderately priced, to boot. My mother doesn't use a computer but she'll be wearing her Chicagoist t-shirt with pride in rural Wisconsin, proudly telling everyone within earshot that she doesn't exactly understand what I do for a living, but she's proud of me all the same. - Chuck Sudo