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“10 Unique (and edible) Holiday Hostess Gifts (not a fruit cake in the list!)”


Nothing says “wishing you a boring Christmas” or “ho-hum Hanukkah” like another generic bottle of wine, or gift basket from Harry and David or Hickory Farms. Wouldn’t you rather your friends and family exclaim: “Where the bloody hell did you find this? It's fantastic!” Make their mouths drop open (the better for inserting tasty treats) by surprising them with one of these deliciously crazy gourmet gifts.

—Meg Hartman

1. Purple Condiment: This mustard dressed up in more regal colors will appeal to experienced cooks with a taste for elegance. Made in France by House of Denoix, “moutarde violette” has existed since the 14th century and is made of grapemust (the juice from crushed grapes found in Kalamata olives) and black mustard seeds. You’re not doing purple condiment justice if you just spread it on a sandwich, so give this gift to a serious French cuisine fan who will use it in a finishing sauce for fish, lamb, or pork. $15 for a 7-ounce jar. Where to order: Browne Trading Company, www.brownetrading.com, 1-800-944-7848.

2. Coconut Honey: If you want to be sure that your gift will be unique, this “Jungle Juice” may be your choice: the jar says, “The only coconut honey in the world.” Bakers can try using it in place of vanilla and other extracts, and tea lovers will enjoy sweetening their drinks with a different flavor. Coconut honey is made in the faraway Cocos Islands off Australia. Though it is in limited supply, a recently ordered jar arrived without a delay. $15.95 for a 230-gram jar. Where to order: Grateful Palate, www.gratefulpalate.com, 1-888-472-5283.

3. Tiramisu Almonds: Normally, the sweet-tooths you know wouldn’t want to carry tiramisu in their pockets (especially if they do their own laundry). These little candies change that. They combine the chocolate, coffee, and cream flavors of the gooey dessert in a compact nugget of flavor. Three layers of chocolate—milk, white, and semisweet—cover the crunchy center. A perfect way to up the ante for those who love candied almonds. $8.49 per pound. Where to order: NutsOnline, www.nutsonline.com, 1-800-558-6887.

4. Yuzu Kosho: Thrill sushi fans and lovers of hot stuff by sending them a bottle of Yuzu Kosho. This Japanese condiment is made of green chile, salt, and yuzu, an East Asian citrus fruit with a flavor similar to that of a lemon. The sauce’s fresh mix of sweetness and spice can give bite to many dishes. The most obvious choice is to use it in place of Wasabi, but the creative have been dabbing it on everything from pasta to steak fajitas. $11.95 for an 80-gram jar. Where to order: ChefShop.com, www.chefshop.com, 1-800-596-0885.

5. Elk and Buffalo Jerky: Mahogany Smoked Meat’s jerky is not a convenience store Slim Jim. Flecked with big specks of pepper and sticky with soy sauce, meat adventurers will view it as worthy of exploration. Both elk and buffalo meat are lower in fat than beef, so those considering a diet for their New Year’s Resolution will be able to negotiate with themselves in favor of these healthy(-er) snacks. $18.95 for 8-ounce package of either elk or buffalo. Where to order: Mahogany Smoked Meats, www.smokedmeats.com, 1-888-624-6426.

6. Popcorn on the Cob: Tins of flavored popcorn are a popular gift, but Popcorn on the Cob takes this tradition someplace different. According to popular lore, the Pilgrims and perhaps the Indians used to make popcorn by throwing cobs on the fire. The concept is simple: place one of these dried cobs in the microwave and wait for the ear to explode into those familiar white puffs. Kids especially will get a kick out of this novelty item. $2.95 per cob. Where to order: Rare Finds, www.rarefindsinc.com, 1-866-520-8648.

7. Jezebel Sauce: One taste of the sweet heat of this sauce and the recipients will know why it’s named after the Biblical temptress Jezebel. She led men astray, and this sauce will lead them to clean their plates. This variation of the Southern holiday favorite is a medley of horseradish, apricots, apples, and peaches. It can be served on ham or roast beef sandwiches, as a dip for fried shrimp, or with mayonnaise in stuffed eggs. It’s also great poured over a block of cream cheese and then spread on crackers. $8.95 for 9-ounce jar. Where to order: Taste of Gourmet, www.tasteofgourmet.com, 1-800-722-8931.

8. Carrot Jam: This jam has been the surprise best-seller at Rowena’s for 25 years. Surprisingly, it’s really popular with men: a fraternity used to order two cases every year before football season. People tend to be skeptical that jam made from a vegetable can be any good, but its cinnamon clove taste wins them over. Rowena and her staff use the jam not just on sandwiches, but also as a sauce for meatballs and in chicken salad. $7.49 for 8.5-ounce jar. Where to order: Rowena’s, www.rowenas.com, 1-800-627-8699.

9. Pomegranate Molasses: Pomegranate molasses has been used in Middle Eastern cooking for centuries, but now Western gourmets are beginning to discover it. It has an aggressive sweetness, but it’s not very sugary: the taste is deeper and more grown-up than grenadine. Culinary wizards looking for a new secret ingredient make the best recipients. They can try adding it to sauces and vinaigrettes or drizzling it over grilled meat or pancakes. $9 for 300-ml bottle. Where to order: Zingerman’s Mail Order, www.zingermans.com, 1-888-636-8162.

10. Hawaiian Da-Kines: In Hawaiian slang, the phrase “da-kine” is used to replace someone or something that you can’t remember the name of: “Da-kine (what’s-his-name) sent us another box of oranges this year.” But your loved ones will remember these little confections. The collection includes Sakura (Japanese rice crackers), Iso (candied peanuts), and Li Hing Mui (dried plum seeds). Big Island Candies has put their own stamp on these local-market favorites by dipping them in chocolate. $5.50-$7.50 per package. Where to order: Big Island Candies, www.bigislandcandies.com, 1-800-935-5510.


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