I Love Chocolate

by Stephanie Zonis


Non-Chocolate Gift Foods


We all have special people in our lives who can't or won't eat chocolate. If you'd like to get them gift foods for the holidays, take a look at the following highly selective list, which should contain something for almost everyone. Not all of the companies have websites or shop-on-line capability, but all are worth checking out.

In Pursuit of Tea, Inc., P.O. Box 1284, Cooper Station, New York City 10003, (718) 302-0780, website: www.inpursuitoftea.com. Tea companies have put flavorings and sweeteners of every possible type into their products in the past few years. But here's a different approach: In Pursuit of Tea sells only unflavored, unsweetened, non-perfumed, hard-to-find types of genuine tea. There are green, black, oolong, white, and pu-erh varieties, some of which have wonderfully evocative names such as "Snow Dragon" or "Phoenix Bird." Teas are sold by the quarter pound; when you consider that you can make up to seventy-five cups of tea with just those four ounces, the prices become quite reasonable. Gift certificates and tea gear are also sold, including an extremely clever Easy Steep cup for brewing individual servings (it works beautifully). with an informative website, In Pursuit of Tea is for people who love real tea and those looking to expand their tea horizons.

Indian Harvest Specialtifoods, Inc., P.O. Box 845, 909 Paul Bunyan Dr. SE, Bemidji, MN 56619-0845, (800) 294-2433, website: www.indianharvest.com. Black barley. Purple Thai rice. Mortgage Lifter beans. Indian Harvest bills itself as "The Ultimate Rice, Grain, and Bean Catalog", and they might just be right. Pilafs, lentils in multiple colors, and heirloom legumes catch the eye at every turn. Cooking equipment is here, too, from pressure cookers to pepper mills. Gift assortments and samplers abound. There are so many items packed into these pages that you won't be able to decide what to order first! Indian Harvest presents many intriguing choices for cooks of all ability levels, whether you're a dedicated vegetarian or merely want to add some healthy variety to your diet.

Applesource, 1716 Apples Rd., Chapin, IL 62628, (217) 245-7589 or (toll free) (800) LUV-FUJI, website: www.applesource.com. If you're lucky, your local supermarket will offer six or seven varieties of apples. Applesource has over eighty, many of which are "antiques"--older apples that have been replaced in the flood of so-called progress by strains that are more disease-resistant or bear higher yields. Fortunately, Applesource sells a lot of interesting, flavorful antiques, as well as types more familiar to today's consumer. The apples have been taste-tested by customers, and those that have fared especially well receive "A" or "B" letter grades by their names. Distinguished antiques Esopus Spitzenberg and Northern Spy compete for your attention with more recent introductions such as Honey Crisp and Goldrush in this incredibly diverse listing. Your apples will arrive in excellent condition, ready for casual munching or an apple tasting party. There are fun and clever assortments, too, where you can choose your own apples or let the company choose for you.

Hammond's Candies, 4969 Colorado Blvd., Denver, CO 80216, (303) 333-5588 or (toll free) (888) CANDY-99, no website. When was the last time you had a candy cane that really tasted like something? Hammond's specializes in traditional hand-made hard candies, including gorgeous, large, festively-striped candy canes that genuinely have flavor in addition to their (restrained) sweetness. I have never seen anything like their art candy "cut rock"--small sections of striped-on-the-outside hard candy, each with a tiny seasonal scene in the middle. They are fascinating to look at, and, again, they have real flavor. Their ribbon candy is beautiful, too. Other holiday favorites include large and small "whirl suckers," candy coal, peppermint pillows, gift boxes of brittles or assorted candies, specialty popcorns, and Christmas straws (a hard candy shell surrounding a creamy filling). They make chocolates here, too. Call for a brochure.

Walnut Acres Organic Farms, Penns Creek, PA 17862-0800, (toll free) (800) 433-3998, website: www.walnutacres.com. If you want a huge range of products from which to choose, look no further. Walnut Acres has been farming organically for over fifty years, and their catalog includes a wealth of fruit and vegetables--fresh, canned, and dried. But there's much more. Nut butters, soups, full-spectrum lightbulbs, personal care products, laundry alternatives, cheeses, cookware, preserves of all types, meats, baked goods, vitamins and supplements...the list goes on and on. There are even gourmet mixes here, for those short on time. It would be an easy matter to make up a gift basket for anyone just by looking through this company's selections.

Reed's Original Beverage Corporation, 28926 Boniface Dr., Malibu, CA 90265, (toll free) (800) 997-3337, website: www.reedsgingerbrew.com. This company has revived the nearly lost art of actually brewing ginger ale, using fresh ginger root and sparkling filtered water. There are five varieties: original; extra (with more ginger for more of a "bite"); premium (the no-fructose version, sweetened with honey and pineapple juice); raspberry, and spiced apple. In addition, Reed's makes great crystallized ginger, using only baby ginger root (very tender) and raw cane sugar. To me, the raw cane sugar lends a wonderful flavor to the ginger root without overwhelming it, and this is my first choice in any recipe I make containing crystallized ginger. By now, they should have come out with their certified organic crystallized ginger. Tianfu Colas and Malibu Teaz are also sold from the informative and amusing website, and plans to sell Virgil's Root Beer are in the works.

Al Dente Pasta Company, 9815 Main St., Whitmore Lake, MI 48189, (734) 449-8522 or (toll free) (800) 536-PASTA, website not yet on line. I could eat Al Dente's fettuccine every day and never tire of it. Their packaging is eye-catching and pretty, but it's what's inside the package that matters, and this is the pasta I often use for a special dinner or if I want to treat myself to something of superior quality. Al Dente sticks mostly to fettuccine, which is available in varieties from spinach to red chili to fennel bell pepper (the company does sell egg and spinach linguini, however). In addition, Al Dente has come out with several organic pastas, two sauces, and pasta "kits" (these include both pasta and sauce--rotini with spring pesto, for example). In addition to great taste and texture, their fettuccine is done in three minutes, a great boon for a busy cook.

Bela-Olhao Sardines, Blue Galleon, 1007 Chestnut St., Suite C, Newton, MA 02164, (617) 558-7156, no website. Sardines as a gift, I hear you say? Well, these are special. They are whole sardines, without heads or tails, caught in non-polluted waters off the Portugese coast. Bela-Olhao (pronounced "bela-ol-yow") sardines are canned within eight hours of being caught, and the fishing practices used are both dolphin-friendly and ecologically supportive. These all-natural sardines (which are huge, by the way), don't have that nasty, "fishy" smell when you open a tin; they're a fantastic source of vitamin B12; and they contain calcium and omega-3 oils. A good source of protein, they're also convenient, and they happen to taste really good, too. The lightly-smoked sardines are available in olive oil, soybean oil, hot sauce, tomato sauce, and lemon sauce. They are distributed nationally (but most heavily on the East and West coasts); the company will mail-order if you cannot find them locally.

American Spoon Foods, P.O. Box 566, Petoskey, MI 49770-0566, (616) 347-9030 or (toll free) (888) 735-6700, website: www.spoon.com. There are countless manufacturers of jams, jellies, and fruit butters in the US, but this company is one of my favorites in that line. Their preserves are less sweet than most, and they truly capture a good fruit flavor. In addition to standard varieties (strawberry, apricot, etc.), they have some that are less common, such as marionberry. American Spoon Foods also sells preserves sweetened only with fruit juice, called SpoonFruits, and several types of a product that resembles pie filling, called FruitPerfect. Other offerings include dried fruit and dried mushrooms, interesting condiments (ginger plum grilling sauce and portobello mushroom relish, for example), salad dressings, a few sweets, and a number of gift assortments that sound mighty appealing.

Restaurant Lulu Gourmet Products, Inc., (toll free) (888) 693-5800, website: www.restaurantlulu.com. Most people have some fondness for honey, but even if you don't Restaurant Lulu has a product that will change your mind forever. It is their White Truffle Honey. I have tasted this at numerous food shows, where it is always served drizzled over sweet butter on good, crusty bread; it is paradise. I've never tasted anything else quite like it. I also enjoy their fig and black cherry-currant balsamic vinegars, which can lend a whole new dimension to many dishes. Check out their website for other condiments, sauces, and mayonnaises.

Lundberg Family Farms, Richvale, CA 95974-0369, (530) 882-4551, website: www.lundberg.com. If you think rice is plain and boring, take a look at Lundberg; they offer rices and rice products in a staggering array. California Brown Basmati not to your liking? Perhaps you'd prefer Wehani, an aromatic brown variety, or some organic sushi rice, or maybe a few wild rice cakes instead. You have a lot of choices here! There are risotto and rice pudding mixes, and a number of rice blends; I am never without a package of Lundberg's Wild Blend in my kitchen, as I love the distinct textures of the different rices used. The blends look attractive on your plate, too. This company's agricultural practices, which include crop rotation and soil conservation, are praiseworthy as well. Many of their products are organic.

Florida Crystals Corporation, 50 Coconut Row, Suite 215, Palm Beach, FL 33480, (561) 366-5200, website: www.floridacrystals.com. Florida Crystals grows and produces sugars and rice, but they are very environmentally responsible; using renewable energy to power their mills is just one example of that. Their website is filled with all kinds of information, including recipes and advice on "natural living", and you can shop on line. I haven't tried their rice, but some of their sugars are wonderful. Their demerara, a coarse-grained brown sugar, would be great for hot drinks or for sprinkling atop muffins, scones, or cookies before baking. and I love their milled cane product, a light tan sugar with a gorgeous molasses aroma; several friends have told me it is far superior to white sugar in coffee or tea. Powdered sugar and a certified organic cane sugar are also sold here.


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Stephanie Zonis provides the above information to anyone, but retains copyright on all text. This means that you may not: distribute the text to others without the express written permission of Stephanie Zonis; "mirror" or include this information on your own server or documents without my permission; modify or re-use the text on this system. You may: print copies of the information for your own personal use; store the files on your computer for your own personal use only; and reference hypertext documents on this server from your own documents.

This page created December 1999