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Gifts for those who cook or entertain

For those on your list who like to cook, entertain, or just eat, we've picked some of our favorite new and old reliable products as gift ideas. Prices are suggested retail. More gift ideas on Page 3.

For those on your list who like to cook, entertain, or just eat, we've picked some of our favorite new and old reliable products as gift ideas. Prices are suggested retail.

More gift ideas on Page 3.

Nutcracker sweets

A novel take on truffles for the holidays from Portland, Ore.-based Moonstruck Chocolate Co. lets you nibble your way through the classic Christmas tale bound inside a book box with nutcracker, snowman, tree, snowball and other truffle confections.

The Nutcracker Sweet: A Chocolate Novel, 15-piece gift box, $40. At Blue Tulip in Ardmore, Paoli and Marlton. Or

- Marilynn Marter

Winning pitcher

The organic Francisco design of this handmade pottery pitcher from Portugal blends rustic and contemporary in a way that echoes the casual style of a country farmhouse. Designed by Simon Pearce, in earthtones of pumpkin, vine, berry and blossom.

Francisco Pitcher, $65. At Simon Pearce, 1333 Lenape Rd., West Chester; 610-793-0949; 27 Palmer Square West, Princeton, 609-279-0444; or visit

- M.M.

Sterling steel

We may be generations past any thoughts of polishing silver, but a sleek mirror finish still has appeal.

Give the best of both worlds - Old World elegance and modern ease of care - with a set of classically styled yet eminently practical stainless steel serving trays, one rectangular (17-by-12-inch) and one oval (16-by-10-inch).

All-Clad Entertaining Trays, set of two, $100. At Foster's Homeware, 399 Market St., 215-925-0950, 800-734-8511 or

- M.M.

A caring kitchen

Scented shea butter soaps spice up the kitchen with aromas of cinnamon-clove, rosewood, verbena and more.

Free of animal by-products, petroleum and wax, they are made the old-fashioned way: stirred, poured, cut and hand-wrapped in vintage wallpaper by Brickhouse Soap and Deweyhoward Paper.

Shea Butter Soap, 8-ounce bar, $14. At Open House, 107 S. 13th St.; 215-922-1415.

- M.M.

Classic copper

Ruffoni heavy-gauge copper cookware is handcrafted - turned, hammered, tinned and polished - by artisans in the Italian Alps. Made to serve generations, each heirloom-quality piece has a thick tin lining and riveted brass handles. Ideal for soup, stock, and other slow-cooked foods.

Hammered-copper stockpot, 43/4-quart, $249; 71/2-quart, $299; or 131/4-quart, $349. A Williams-Sonoma exclusive. See

- M.M


A passion for caramels

The creamy texture (soft or chewy) sets a higher standard for caramels. The innovative flavors - Celtic sea salt, chipotle, espresso, salt-chocolate, maple and black licorice among them - redefine the concept of caramels.

Bequet Gourmet Caramels, 11-ounce gift box, $19.99; 8-ounce bag, $9.99. At DiBruno Bros., 1730 Chestnut; 215-665-9220 or (toll free) 1-888-322-4337. Or see www.

- M.M.

Local and wild

The utensils come left-handed (if you wish), ring-tailed, and Lazy Spoon-style, notched to balance whimsically on the rim of your pot. But they're all Pennsylvania cherry, and hand-crafted in Berks County, perfect implements for the locavore in your life.

Salad set, $35, from Jonathan's Wild Cherry Spoons, 800-776-6853,; Pennsylvania General Store, Reading Terminal Market.

- Rick Nichols

Woolly wine tote

If that rubbery BYO-bag is just too wet-suitish for you, go warm and fuzzy with this pressed gray flannel wine carrier from Joshjakus. Pressed from excess factory wool, it's eco-friendly down to the matching set of coasters saved from the holes punched out for the bag's handles.

The bag costs $28, and coasters cost $16 at Open House, 107 S. 13th St., 215-922-1415.

- Craig LaBan

Edgy global duo

If I had to choose just two knives to start a kitchen, an all-purpose chef and a small-detail paring knife would be my workhorse blades. Sur La Table delivers a package deal of both with quality and style from Global, the solid-steel, dimple-

handled knives from Japan. The razor-sharp paring knife could use a slightly fatter grip, but the seven-inch Asian chef (with a divoted blade for delicate foods) is a lightweight slicing dream well worth the price for two.

The Global 2-piece Asian prep set, $99.95 at

- C.L.

Olio Pacifico

California's wine country has gone big into olive oil in the last decade, and McEvoy Ranch of Marin County produces some of the best olio this side of Italy. Made from peppery Tuscan varietals like Frantoio, Leccino, and Maurino, this vibrant green nectar has an elegant aroma of fresh apples and pie spice that tingles on the palate with nutmeg and spice. Its rich texture and delicacy shouldn't be wasted on high-heat cooking. Save it for a final drizzled flourish.

A 375-milliliter bottle of McEvoy Ranch olive oil costs $17.95 at Metropolitan Bakery, 262 S. 19th St., 215-545-6655.

- C.L.