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Archive for Wednesday, December 15, 1999

GOURMET GIFTS EASY TO DIGEST

December 15, 1999

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There are plenty of Christmas gifts for the hard-core epicurean at three downtown Lawrence shops.

Local stores selling specialty foods, kitchen gadgetry and other gifts for the gourmand are stocked for the Christmas rush.

A survey of three downtown Lawrence stores turned up ingenious accessories and fancy victuals that would delight any gift recipient.

Anne Yetman and Gunda Hiebert, owners of The Bay Leaf, 725 Mass., recently spread a countertop with products that are new for the holidays.

"When we go to market in New York and Dallas, and talk to vendors, we always try to look for something different and unique," Yetman said.

One of their favorite lines is from Bella Cucina Artful Food, an Atlanta gourmet company.

The store carries hefty, clamp-seal decorative jars filled with antipasti olives and preserved lemons with Kalamata olives, lemon leaves and salt (both $16.50).

The ingredients of both jars are often used in Mediterranean cooking; the preserved lemons are good to used when roasting chickens.

One of Bella Cucina's tastiest products is its artichoke and olive pesto.

Hiebert should know.

"It's an upscale specialty food item that's decorative and delicious. We've sampled so much of their pesto at the market in New York City, we decided we'd better place an order for it," she said.

Yetman and Hiebert are fond of two other products that are new to the store: Late Harvest Riesling Vinegar and D'Anjou Pear Vinegar from Cuisine Perel, a San Rafael, Calif., company.

"We like to use them for salad dressings, or deglazing a pan for a sauce. They're slightly sweet and add a delicate flavor," Hiebert said.

Foaming at the holidays

As for kitchen accessories, they recommended a line that's being marketed in the United States for the first time, Microplane Graters.

The stainless-steel graters, which have dozens of tiny, razor-like edges, actually started out as woodworking tools in the inventors' Canadian hardware store.

They produce mounds of lacy zest and powdery spices, and The Bay Leaf owners swear by them.

The cost of the line ranges from $10.50 to $15.25 per grater.

Another clever new product in the store is the Bonjour Froth Turbo, a palm-sized, battery-powered device that produces a thick froth of skim milk or whipping cream in seconds.

Selling for $21, the item is handy when making blended drinks, cappuccinos and lattes.

A product that customers are snapping up is the Mystic Maid, an all-purpose microfiber cleaning cloth that was originally used in the Japanese semiconductor industry.

The washable, reusable cloth gets remarkable results when used to clean compact disks, digital video disks, car windshields and computer screens, Hiebert said.

Pancetta, panforte

Lora Duguid, owner of Au Marche the European Market, 19 W. Ninth, has also brought out new goods for holiday gift-giving.

One popular product is the Bialetti, a stovetop espresso maker from Italy that sells for $22 and comes in three sizes: one cup, three cups or six cups.

"They're just so easy to use, and they're great for travel. Customers say, 'Oh, my gosh, I never thought I'd see this again (outside of Italy),'" Duguid said.

Au Marche has also started to carry a Raclette Grill, used to create a traditional meal eaten in Switzerland and France.

The top tier is used to grill vegetables and slices of ham. The bottom tier has six small trays with handles, which are filled with slices of baked potato.

As the ham cooks, the raclette cheese -- which Au Marche also carries -- melts over the potatoes. The ingredients are then combined to make a warm, satisfying meal.

The electric grill sells for $89.90.

Au Marche offers several specialty foods that are new to the store, such as: Volpi pancetta, thin slices of ham rolled in pepper ($6.45 for 6 ounces); Stroopwafels, Dutch waffle cookies filled with syrup ($2.30 for a 9-ounce package); panforte from Italy, a very dense cake filled with nuts and fruit and dusted with powdered sugar ($10.45 for a 15.8-ounce cake); and German Christmas Stollen, a traditional holiday cake filled with dried fruits ($4.89 to $5.35).

The store also recently received a variety of new corkscrews from Italy, France and Spain that range in cost from $18.50 to $22.

Gifts for Anglophile

Sally Helm, co-owner of the five-year-old Brits Purveyors of British Goods, 732 Mass., has stocked a number of items that are always popular this time of year.

One such product is Mrs. Peek's Oven Steamed Christmas Pudding with Rum and Brandy. A 2-pound package costs $17 and serves eight.

"It's the densest fruitcake I've ever had in my life," said Helm, pointing out that "pudding" often means cake in Britain.

This dessert is often served warm, along with products such as Tiptree Brandy Butter ($7 for 6-ounce jar) or Rowse Luxury Brandy Sauce ($5.50 for a 250-gram jar).

Or an Anglophile might enjoy a box of Sultan's Turkish Delight -- bit-size jellies in rose and lemon flavors -- sort of like sugar-dusted jelly fruit slices in this country. An 11.5-ounce box costs $5.25.

Brits offers 18 varieties of tea from companies such as Jackson's of Piccadilly, Ahmad Tea of London, Fortnum & Mason Famous Teas and Twinings (peppermint, chamomile, pink grapefruit, mandarin and lime).

The store also sells "crackers": foil-wrapped cylinders that pop with a bang when the ends are pulled, revealing a toy, a party hat and a joke written on a slip of paper.

Commonly used on Christmas, the holiday poppers sell for between $10.50 and $18.50 for a package of 12, depending on the style.

"As the British say, 'they snap, with a hat, novelty and motto,'" Helms noted.

-- Jim Baker's phone message number is 832-7173; his e-mail address is jbaker@ljworld.com.



WHERE TO FIND IT

Au Marche the European Market, 19 W. Ninth, (785) 865-0876 (phone/fax), www.aumarche.com.

Brits Purveyors of British Goods, 732 Mass., (785) 843-2288 or 888-38 BRITS.

The Bay Leaf, 725 Mass., (785) 842-4544 (phone/fax).

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