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December 2000 Issue
by Ronda L. Halpin
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Well, the gift-giving season is upon us and people everywhere are rushing about to find the perfect gift for everyone on their list. Fortunately, those of us who are culinary inclined tend to be easy to shop for! Everything from a good skillet to an unusual spice blend can find its way to a gift box for an eager home chef.

With that reassuring thought in mind, we've put together a small guide highlighting some of our favorite holiday gifts. From ideas for the cook who seems to have everything to one just starting out, these themed gifts are just the proverbial tip of the iceberg when it comes to holiday shopping for cooks. Feel free to mix and match ideas from this guide, alter suggestions to fit your style or try something completely different. We're just offering some favorites to get the creative juices flowing. The rest is up to you!

For the Adventurous Cook

  • Remember Aunt Joyce who is always talking about going on that fun-filled Mediterranean vacation, yet never seems to have the time or money to go? Why not treat her to a virtual trip to the region by preparing a special gift basket? Start with a rustic woven basket -- choose the size based on how much you're going to put in it -- and stuff it with a wide assortment of Mediterranean-inspired items. We humbly suggest choosing 2-4 plates and cloth napkins in blue and white, a bottle of White River Seasoning for Lamb and So More (available from the White River Lamb Company -- call 1-800-454-LAMB), a jar of Kalamata olives, a bottle of high quality olive oil, and a Mediterranean-inspired cookbook (we chose Mediterranean Cooking from Williams-Sonoma). Who knows? Maybe your gift will inspire Aunt Joyce to finally take that vacation she's always been talking about!

  • Do you know someone who is always adventure-bound? The type of person who is hiking one weekend and rafting the next? Well, if this person is also a bit of a gourmand, consider giving the gift of portable fine dining! The Picnic Backpack from Picnic Time combines the romance and sophistication of a traditional picnic basket (complete with plates, utensils, cloth napkins and a complete cheese service) with the ruggedness of a sturdy backpack. Who says you can't enjoy the finer culinary pleasures and hike up the side of a mountain!?! Some useful, but not necessary, additions to the backpack are a set of containers to hold cheese, pasta salad, trail mix or whatever else your adventure-bound friend might want to carry along, a bottle of fine wine to tote along in the wine holder included with the backpack, or a hiking guide to points of interest in your area or around the world. With a gift like this, you may find yourself invited to a gourmet meal at the summit of a mountain. We'll leave it to you to decide if that's something you want to accept!

  • Fondue is making a comeback! For those looking to recapture memories of bygone fondue days or those from a newer generation looking to make some new ones, think about giving the gift of a "fondue basket". Begin by choosing a good fondue set. The fondue pot itself can serve as the "basket". Add a cookbook about making fondue (we chose The Book of Fondues by Lorna Rhodes) and, depending on the circumstances surrounding the presentation of your gift, include some wine, garlic and cheese for making a classic fondue or the canned seafood for the Seafood Fondue in this month's Rush Hour column. Maybe you'll even be lucky enough to sample some top quality fondue from the recipient of your gift!
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