The holidays are almost upon us once again, and so it's time for After Hours to focus on gifts. Read on for what I've come across in this year's travels through the worlds of food and self-amusement. As always, feel free to browse my suggestions from earlier years, 2005 Holiday Gift Guide: Maximum Wow, the 2004 Holiday Gift Guide and Food Is the Anytime Gift, Part I and Part II.
Nothing Says "Please Share" like the Gift of Chocolate
Knipschildt Chocolatier's Chocolate Fairy Tales pair a delicately illustrated Hans Christian Anderson story with sixteen chocolates decorated with images from the story. Choose from The Little Mermaid, The Emperor's New Clothes and The Ugly Duckling.
Dancing Deer has just released a caramel fudge turtle cake with a description that borders on food porn: a gooey chocolate cake topped with caramel and toasted pecans. A one-pound cake costs $21.95. Dancing Deer claims the cake will stay fresh for 14 days after shipping, but my Spidey sense tells me it's unlikely any of the turtle cake will stick around long enough to test the claim.
Rose City Chocolatier produces boxed collections that taste as stunning as they look. The line includes vegan chocolates, sweetened by sugar beet. Should your flight path take you through Morris County, NJ on a Saturday, as mine often does, drop by the shop (on Main St. in Boonton) not just to ogle the wares in person, but enjoy a free sample.
The clever wrappers on New Zealand candymaker Bloomsberry & Company's chocolate bars are bound to trigger smiles - and likely end up taped to someone's refrigerator, or file cabinet. Favorite slogans include "Stuff the turkey, eat some chocolate" and "Emergency Chocolate." And, of course, I'm partial to the label lined with "Chocoscopes."
For a bar with less emphasis on packaging and more on culinary appeal, try Chocolove's smooth Tanzania 2005 dark chocolate bar, which is surprisingly mild for a 76% cocoa content.
Want to be nice to someone who's been naughty? A box of Lesser Evil Cocoa Coal will convey the mixed message quite well for you. The coal is gently cocoa-flavored popcorn, in wonderfully camp packaging.
Mario Batali has joined Rocket USA's series of Food Flippin' Wind-Up Chefs. Food Flippin' Mario, which is licensed by and vaguely resembles the dynamo celebrity (down to his orange shorts and clogs), flips spaghetti and meatballs with one hand, while shaking a bottle of his secret sauce in the other. Others in the white-toqued series are a happy fellow by the name of Louie and a pig flipping what looks like....uh....well, no wonder his eyes are glazed and averted. Food Flippin' Mario is available online from Toynk.com and from Rocket USA.
Office ToysPerpetual Kid offers plenty for those unannounced but ongoing "Take Your Inner Child To Work Days." It has an array of executive sandboxes in themes that go way beyond the beach, such as golf, dino land and space patrol. Want more action? How about a desktop swingball set? A Oreo-striped mechanical pencil? A robot calculator? A beverage chilling plate that plugs into a USB port? A trebuchet kit would send a certain message to passers-by, while a designer monitor rear view mirror could help someone watch his or her back. The pet- and neatness obsessed might welcome a cat- or dog-shaped fix for keeping cables tidy. And what survivor of a 1980s adolescence (actual or delayed) would not appreciate a miniature arcade loaded with Frogger or Space Invaders?
And show your solidarity with the cubicle-confined with Archie McPhee's must-be-seen Cubes collection. In addition to individual coworker dolls, the collection includes a miniature copy room, a motivational speaker and a sensitivity consultant. For those whose work is especially at the mercy of technology, the IT -- complete with posable sysadmin -- set might offer the means for some sympathetic magic (or entirely unsympathetic voodoo).
Copyright 2006 Kathy Biehl. All Rights Reserved.