Holi­Gay Gift Guide: Pastoral

Tue. December 22, 2015 10:46 AM by Anthony Morgano

- This year's lack of snow is no excuse to skip Christmas, but if you're smart and skipped the mayhem of Black Friday you're probably still searching for that perfect gift for your best friend, boss, lover, partner or still ­closeted gay uncle. Afraid to enter the crowds gathering at Watertower Place and along the Mag Mile? Or perhaps you've just been spending hours standing in front of displays at Macy's wondering "do they actually NEED that? does ANYONE?" Never fear, because until Christmas, ChicagoPride.com will help you last­minute shoppers find the perfect, local queer gift for everyone on your list!

There's no denying that scrumptious and plentiful food is part of what many people look forward to (some with a mixture of dread) throughout the holiday season, so it follows that gifts of food will always be met with smiles. This holiday season, choose one of the fabulous gift medleys or food subscriptions offered by Chicago's own Pastoral Artisan, Cheese, Bread and Wine.

Founded by partners (in both business and life) Ken Miller and Greg O'Neill, Pastoral is a group of national award­winning, European­style neighborhood cheese, speciality food and wine shops specializing in both domestic and international cheeses, fabulous charcuterie, freshly baked bread, small production wines, hand crafted beers and spirits and more. Walking into any Pastoral location is to be overwhelmed with color, scent and flavor ­­ and you can be sure that each one brings something special and unique to palette.

"Some of our favorite holiday medleys are those that highlight the artisan products and producers that we carry at Pastoral," O'Neill told ChicagoPride.com. "These gift collections feature cheese and artisan accompaniments from amazing small batch producers, and are sure to please any food lover."

Pastoral offers several special holiday collections ranging in price from only $20 ­­ for the "Cheese Survival Kit" ­­ all the way up to their $200, with something on the list for everyone. These range from pairings of cheese, charcuterie and other delicious bits to regional tours of taste.

Pastoral particularly recommends the international flavors of "The World Traveler," which includes a Marcel Petit Comté from France along with a creamy Brabender goat cheese from the Netherlands. If you're looking for something from a little closer to home, they suggest the "Best of the Midwest" collection, stuffed with award-­winning Pleasant Ridge from Wisconsin's Uplands Dairy and goat cheese from Indiana's Capriole Farms.

For wine lovers, the "Old World vs. New World Wines" collection is a chance to compare and contrast unique favorites, while "Wine 101" is perfect for burgeoning winos in your life. You can also add up to two bottles of wine to any collection for $20 and $40 respectively (or upgrade to Benchmark world class wines for $50 and $100).

For the gift that keeps on giving, Pastoral also offers monthly membership clubs, which deliver a selection of artisanal cheeses, wines, charcuterie or a combination thereof right to your loved one's door.

"The holidays are especially busy and exciting for us at Pastoral," O'Neill said. "Our goal is to make heroes out of the season's gift givers."

Miller and O'Neill founded Pastoral in 2004 when they opened their first shop in Lakeview. They have since expanded to three more Chicago store locations (at the French Market, in the Loop and recently in Andersonville) and also ship nationwide from their website PastoralArtisan.com. They were named "Outstanding Retailer of the Year" in both 2007 and 2012 by the Speciality Food Association.

Pastoral's empire expanded further three years ago when they opened Bar Pastoral, an award winning, Michelin Guide recommended bistro serving shareable goodies in a cozy neighborhood setting in Lakeview. This October, they also opened Appellation, a 75­seat wine bar and restaurant offering simple, but delicious food on Clark Street in Andersonville.

"Since opening in 2012, Bar Pastoral has been such a success that we have always had interest in expanding the concept into another exciting Chicago neighborhood," O'Neill said. "For us, Andersonville was the perfect fit. We're very proud of both restaurant concepts, which offer approachable, seasonal fare along with a great wine selection."

You can get your holiday gift by stopping in any of Pastoral's Four Chicago locations this week, or by visiting their website (and don't worry about missing the holiday shipping deadlines ­­ nothing says "I'm sorry for getting you a late present" like cheese...except maybe wine). For store addresses and more information, check out www.pastoralartisan.com.

Related: Holi-Gay Gift Guide: The Gayme (A Social Lubricant)