Gourmet Giving

December 2023 View more

Three local couples share their love for food at their specialty-food shops

Groceries from The Royal Wren

The Royal Wren


“Spoils and oils for the modern-day tastemaker” is the catchphrase for this shop opened by husband-and-wife team Jennifer and Tom Feltes in 2016. “You can taste just about anything in the store, and you can also have a glass of wine or a cocktail while you’re walking around,” says Jennifer, who named the business after her grandmother Helen Royal Wren, a longtime chef. The shelves are stocked with imported olives, pasta, vinegars, and oils as well as a variety of house-label mixes to make dips, scones, bread, cookies, and more at home. There’s also a small selection of wine, cheese, and charcuterie ready to take home for your next party or picnic. Some items are stocked year-round, while others are seasonal, such as apricot-Chardonnay jam or truffle Gouda. “We do all sorts of sizes of gift baskets, and it’s a lot of fun,” Jennifer says. “We’ll pack up consumables with a cute little kitchen towel, or a beautiful bowl for dips, or maybe a plate to serve the cookies made with a cookie mix. They are absolutely stunning.”
Good to know: Tom grew up in Aurora and Jennifer spent years living abroad in Europe; her time there has inspired much of the home goods they carry, from English tea towels to French table runners to Italian pottery. 11 S. 3rd St.


A tea set from The Cornucopia Shop

The Cornucopia Shop


This tea and gourmet gift basket emporium, from Aurora couple Kate and Dave Lasota, debuted just last year in downtown Aurora. Here, you can build your own gift basket for any occasion with treats such as Long Grove Confectionery Co. candy, Too Good Gourmet cookies, Bella Cucina pestos, Thatcher’s flavored popcorn, to name a few. The store carries its own line of loose-leaf teas, with more than 100 blends. “We cover the gamut from traditional black teas and green teas to oolong, rooibos, fruits, and herbals,” Kate says. “You can buy starting at one ounce up to six ounces, which is what we feel is all anyone should be buying at one given time. After that, you might as well come in and get it fresh again.” For gift baskets by mail to ship nationwide in time for Christmas, Kate suggests placing online orders by December 15. “Or for a local gift, you can come in and buy on December 23, and we can have it ready for pick up on December 24,” she says.
Good to know: Locomotive fans of all ages will dig the shop’s window display. “My husband is a train fanatic, so in our front window we have a huge train, and he changes it out every season,” Kate says. “We have a Halloween train, a Christmas train, a London Victorian–style train that looks like [it’s headed to] Hogwarts.” 63 S. Broadway


A variety of olive oils from Olivaceto



More than a decade ago, Josie Rivas and her wife, Lucy, were vacationing in Maine and ventured into a tiny shop stocked with delicious olive oils and gourmet foods. “After we came home, I just couldn’t stop thinking about it,” Josie says. “I thought: This is a little store that La Grange absolutely needs. And a year and half later we opened.” The shelves are stocked with the couple’s favorites goodies—Rancho Gordo heirloom beans, Greek honey, lemon-stuffed Manzanilla olives, Himalayan salt—but the olive oils and vinegars are the main event. Her top-selling vinegar is a balsamic from Modena, Italy, that’s aged for 18 years. But olive oil is another story. “I never sell old olive oil. That’s my No.1 rule,” Josie says. She sources the store’s oils from different regions, timed with the olive harvests to maximize freshness. “The Northern Hemisphere’s harvest time is November/December, and that is Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, and California. Once spring starts, I’m going to get ready to buy from the Southern Hemisphere—Australia, Chile, Peru,” she says. “The polyphenols—the antioxidants in olive oil that make it so super healthy—are most potent in the beginning of the harvest.” A variety of unflavored and infused olive oils—from harissa to herbs de Provence—await in stainless-steel containers called fusti, and the Rivas will fill your bottles to order when you’ve made a selection.
Good to know: “We have beautiful arrangements for Christmas,” Josie says. “We will ship anywhere in the U.S. for just $10, and we also do local deliveries.” 77 S. La Grange Road


Photos: Jennifer Feltes (The Royal Wren); The Cornucopia Shop LLC; Olivaceto