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La Tienda in the Press

United Media - December 05, 2007
United Media

Edible gifts make a welcome stocking stuffer

A Repast for the Holidays
Marialisa Calta

If nothing else, the holidays are about gathering around a huge meal with friends and family. But that doesn't mean delectable edibles won't be welcome as gifts, too. From the gourmand to the afternoon snacker on your list, these scrumptious tidbits make for some delightful stocking "stuffers."

Add spice to a loved one's life with a Big Crate of Spices from Penzeys, the venerable Wisconsin spice dealer. The crate contains three dozen spices, all packed in an attractive wooden box, containing everything the serious cook could want and more. Included, for example, are basic seasonings like French thyme, California basil and Hungarian sweet paprika, seasoning combos like Sandwich Sprinkle, and exotics like Kashmir saffron, French Fleur De Sel and Madagascar vanilla beans. Individual spices and seasonings are available, as is a large array of other gift boxes designed for every taste - from cocoa lovers to grill-meisters ($199; 800-741-7787; www.penzeys.com).

Tea drinkers will swoon over African Nectar from Mighty Leaf, a fragrant blend made with African rooibos leaves, redolent of tropical fruit and blossoms. Rich in antioxidants, the tea is said to promote calm and relaxation. Aside from the taste, we like the look of this colorful blend in its biodegradable, see-through pouches. Mighty Leaf, founded in California in 1999, sells a variety of teas - black, herbal and iced, as well as tea wares. Try the Master Tea Pouch Sampler ($53.95 for 108 teabags; 877-698-5313; www.mightyleaf.com).

Coffee lovers, on the other hand, will stay awake nights trying to figure out how to thank you for a gift of Stumptown Coffee Roasters Karabe coffee, imported from Rwanda. Like many small roasters, Stumptown buyers are concerned about social conditions, the physical welfare of coffee workers, and the health of the environment; their coffee carries labels like "Fair Trade" and "Direct Trade." Stumptown's owner also started a "Bikes to Rwanda" program, which donates bicycles to coffee plantation workers ($15 per pound; 503-230-7797; www.buystumptowncoffee.com).

Tapas - those small noshes to enjoy with drinks (think of them as the Spanish equivalent of dim sum) - make for a gala gathering. Cocktail-party hosts on your list will relish Tapas Gift Boxes from La Tienda, the retailer that calls itself "the best of Spain in America." Gift boxes range from serving two, to the "Supreme" tapas collection, which includes sausages, stuffed olives, roasted peppers, aged sherry vinegar, Marcona almonds and four mini-paella pans for serving ($39 to $199; 800-710-4304; www.latienda.com).

It's admittedly a cheesy gift, but any lactose lover will be thrilled with the bevy of "golden moldies" from Artisanal Premium Cheese. These cheesemongers have got everything, from a single hunk of Double Gloucester cheddar-style cheese from England ($15 per pound) to the Exotic & Rare Cheese Collection. This collection - one of many offered by this New York City-based emporium - includes Couronne Lochoise, a goat's milk cheese from France; Prattigauer, a rind-washed cow's milk cheese from Switzerland; Azeitao, a thistle-rennet sheep's milk cheese from Portugal; a jar of Armenian preserved walnuts; and a box of Charcoal Crackers, black crackers from England made with "natural charcoal powder" ($85; 877-797-1200; www.artisanalcheese.com).

Not up for cheesy? How about corny? The small Popcorn Sampler from Dale & Thomas includes six packets (each serves two to four people) of various flavors like "Popuccino" (caramel and coffee) and "Hot Wing" (cayenne, vinegar, garlic and spices). The company offers popcorn bowls, tins and other gifts as well ($28 for a six-pack sampler; 800-767-2676; www.daleandthomas.com).

You probably knew you could sign up a friend or loved one for a fruit/wine/dessert/whatever-of-the-month (866-682-1052; gourmetgroceryonline.com), but did you know you can join the Potato of the Month Club? Send from three to 12 fresh, nonirradiated Idaho spuds a month ($16 to $26 per month, includes shipping; www.curiouscountrycreations.com).

Homesick Southerners will delight over any gift from Boiled Peanuts, a catalog by award-winning cookbook authors Matt and Ted Lee. Try Mrs. Sassard's Green Tomato Relish ($16 for two 10-ounce jars) or a six-pack of bottled Cheerwine soda ($15). Or send the Boiled Peanuts Kit for a one-of-a-kind, make-your-own snack ($22.50 for 5 pounds; 843-720-8890; www.boiledpeanuts.com). Buy signed copies of "The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook" on the site as well ($35).

Instead of sending your loved ones to a gourmet restaurant, send them a gourmet meal via Home Bistro, a company that employs "sous vide" technology, developed in France, for vacuum-packing and flash-freezing meals. Try roasted rack of lamb with a creamy garlic sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, peas and onions ($19) or wild mushroom ravioli with marsala sauce and asparagus ($12). Recipients just drop the bags into boiling water, and voila! dinner is served (800-628-5588; www.homebistro.com).