There are a lot of great gifts out there with which to shower well-deserving colleagues and clients. But you know, deep down, that more than half of those gifts eventually get stashed in the back of a closet or become the property of a favorite nephew — just a blip in the recipient's short-term memory.
But a comestible tip o' the hat — a box of mouthwatering chocolates or the chance to sample caviar for the first time — can last forever. Nothing sticks in the mind quite like the memory of good food.
Here's just a taste of what's out there:
In the Kitchen
Every cook needs a place to start. Give your associates a map to the kitchen with The Kitchen Companion: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking in the Kitchen available through the Coffee Table Book Co. The reference guide is filled with wisdom, hints, tips, shortcuts, and fun trivia. Through the Coffee Table Book Co., you can add your logo to the cover. www.ctbook.com
Accessories can make all the difference. Williams-Sonoma, Sonoma, Calif., offers an extensive selection of gourmet cooking items, such as the table-mounted cork remover ($149). Similar devices are used by wine bars that rely on quickly extracting corks from bottles. Or check out the monogrammed Italian-made stainless-steel wine bucket and stand; finished with a rolled rim and knob handles, the bucket is made of polished stainless steel ($45 to $129). The company's corporate gift and incentive award programs include gift certificates, volume purchase discounts, gift wrap, customized cards, and shipping services. Corporate program gifts include an assortment of handmade sweets, such as its Rocky Road treats, priced from $18 to $22, and holiday savories, available from $22 to $55. www.williams-sonoma.com; www.williams-sonomainc.com
Ah, a bit of the bubbly! It's the perfect way to celebrate success. And Champagne Veuve Clicquot is some of the best. Clicquot Inc.'s Veuve Clicquot Box adds a little sparkle to the sparkling wine, too. It's a gift box that — by slight of hand — transforms into a portable ice bucket. Unfurl its foiled panels, add ice, and chill the bottle. It's even reusable. Bubbly lovers can sip out of tulip-shaped stemware that features Madame Clicquot's signature. Sold in sets of six ($40), the crystal glasses are designed to concentrate the aromas of champagne and showcase its bubbles. The discreet etching of Madame Clicquot's signature is featured on the foot of each flute. www.clicquot.com
Everyone remembers their first taste of caviar. And for more than 20 years, Bemka House of Caviar and Fine Foods, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has been importing some of the best from Iran and Russia. The company also supplies gourmets with roe fish, foie gras, smoked salmon, truffles, and mushrooms. Give the taste of luxury with the Prestige Caviar Sampler I — which contains 1 ounce of Iranian Royal Beluga, 1 ounce of Iranian Ossetra, 1 ounce of Iranian Sevruga, one mother of pearl caviar spoon, and a package of Blini ($160); or offer the Prestige Caviar Sampler II, which contains 1 ounce of Russian Royal Beluga, 1 ounce of Russian Ossetra, 1 ounce of Russian Sevruga, one mother of pearl caviar spoon, and 16 mini Blini. ($144) www.houseofcaviarandfinefoods.com
The Main Course
When you think Texas, think robust. The Ranch House, Menard, Texas, offers up a mess of hardy smoked and barbecued main dishes. The company — which resulted from the recently joined forces of Ranch House Mesquite Smoked Meats and Guadalupe Pit Smoked Meats — has produced blue-ribbon meats for more than 20 years. Ranch House serves up everything from beef to turkey, and you'll find a zesty line of condiments to smother them with. For the real meat lover, consider the Grand and Gala gift basket. It offers up a 1 pound pork tenderloin, 2 pounds of beef tenderloin, a 2 pound, spiral-sliced, honey-glazed turkey breast, a 4 pound smoked brisket, and a jar of raspberry chipotle. The Grand and Gala costs about $130. www.brisket.com
Michigan's Harry J. Hoenselaar knew what he was doing 40 years ago when he started curing his ham in a secret marinade and smoking it in a special blend of hardwood chips. When the holidays roll around, some stores of the company he founded, The HoneyBaked Ham Co., have to hire off-duty police officers to handle all the traffic. So you may have to stand in line to pick up The Royal Feast, which includes a 14 pound HoneyBaked Whole Ham, a 3 pound sliced and glazed oven-roasted turkey breast, a 1¼ pound smoked Gouda cheese wedge, gourmet crackers, two HoneyBaked mustards, and a cutting board ($169). Or stick with Dinner and Dessert: A fully cooked, spiral-sliced, glazed 8 pound ham, along with a plain New York cheesecake ($83). www.honeybaked.com
In the 1920s, two Armenian brothers, Melkoum and Mouchegh Petrossian, introduced Paris to the magic of caviar and founded Petrossian Paris, New York City, which today is one of the premier buyers and importers of Russian caviar. The Royal Caviar Solitaire includes the buyer's choice of one 50 gram serving of Royal Beluga ($160), Royal Ossetra ($138), or Royal Sevruga ($108) caviar, with a mother-of-pearl spoon. Beyond caviar, the company also offers a wonderful selection of smoked fish. Gourmets might like the Poissons du Nord Collection, which offers three smoked fish, all from icy northern waters: a 5.5 ounce unsliced Black Sea spiced salmon, a 5.5 ounce unsliced smoked sturgeon, and 5.5 ounce unsliced Tsar-cut smoked salmon ($80). www.petrossian.com
Considered by many to be one of the world's greatest chocolatiers, Godiva, New York City, has a new gift offering for 2002. The Godiva Nut & Chocolate Collection is a departure from the traditional Belgian-style, shell-molded design for which the chocolatier is famous. Six flavors — hazelnut croquant, pecan croquant, almond croquant, macadamia croquant, and a milk almond and dark almond bark — highlight the new collection. And in case you were wondering, “croquant” means “crunch.” A 12-piece assortment runs about $15, and a 20-piece gift assortment is $25. Or stick with the traditional Signature Ballotin — an assortment of milk, dark, and ivory chocolate pieces boxed and wrapped in ivory an gold ribbon — in half pound ($23), 1 pound ($38), 2 pound ($70), or 7½ pound ($250) sizes. www.godiva.com
A scrumptious creation from Harry and David, Medford, Ore., is only a few mouse clicks away. The Gift Express Online Corporate Gift Program allows you to manage gift giving over the Internet and includes personalized, custom gifts to mark promotions or give as rewards. You can also select popular holiday gift items such as Harry and David's new Treasure Chest. The gift basket includes the company's famous Royal Riviera Pears and Crisp Mountain Apples. Added to that are smoked sausage, cheddar cheese, honey mustard, sesame crackers, chocolate truffles, royal cherry chocolates, a nut assortment, and pecan chews mini cookies. It runs about $100. Or pick the Ultimate Tower (also about $100), which serves up 11 tasty surprises. www.harryanddavid.com
Here's a sweet treat from Nantucket Island, Mass. Nantucket Clipper Chocolatier offers a number of corporate gift services, such as a corporate discount program, personalized gift packaging, custom gift baskets, and global and express delivery. Some of Nantucket Clipper's confections include “World Class” chocolate truffles, assorted fine chocolates, and Cranberry Creations chocolates. Sweets can arrive in treasure chests, wood Shaker-style boxes, and gift baskets, accompanied by cocoas, teas, cranberry honey, roasted nuts, and Café coffee. www.nantucketclipper.com
There's nothing like a good coffee to end a delicious meal or start a Sunday morning. And Hawaii's famed Kona coffee is some of the best. Coffee cultivated in the North and South districts of Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii is the only coffee that can be called “Kona Coffee.” Kona is handpicked, pulped, dried, hulled, and eventually graded. Peaberry is considered the best. The Web site suggests checking the label to make sure you're getting 100 percent Kona coffee. Kona Blend, it notes, only contains a percentage of Kona beans. A pound of pure peaberry runs about $32. www.konacoffee.com
A Taste of the U.S.A.
Give your colleague a taste of summer any time of year. Clambake Celebrations, Chatham, Mass., will FedEx a tasty Clambake-to-Go! anywhere in the United States. (Make sure you give them 72 hours notice). Lobster Clambakes-to-Go! are available in any number of servings, and include live lobsters, steamer clams, mussels, corn on the cob, new potatoes, onion, and sweet sausage. The meal comes with lobster claw crackers, bibs and wetnaps, and a recyclable steamer pot. www.clambake-to-go.com
Send your star employee a sampling of the Big Easy and Mardi Gras. You'll find Maurice's French Pastries' famous King Cakes at New Orleans Over Night Inc., New Orleans. Owner Jean-Luc Albin uses a secret recipe and secret baking methods — of course — and assures customers that they will receive “the freshest King Cake delivered any where in America.” The cakes are filled with a variety of offerings, from almond to cream cheese to piña colada. Each King Cakes package includes King Cake, French Market coffee, Mardi Gras cup, beads, a doubloon, and a history of the King Cake. From $35 (serving 12) to $40 (serving 16). Also find a number of Cajun and Creole entrees such as seafood gumbo and crawfish etouffee. www.nuawlins.com
It's a Carolina favorite, and you can share it with your associates. Cheerwine soda pop was formulated in the basement of L.D. Peeler's wholesale grocery store in 1917 in Salisbury, N.C. He was fiddling with a cherry flavor he bought from “a flavor salesman from St. Louis” when he created the burgundy-red, bubbly cherry drink. A 24-can case costs $12. www.cheerwine.com
Dick and Nancy Ponzi, who co-founded Ponzi Vineyards, 30 minutes south of Portland, Ore., are known for helping to create the Oregon Winegrowers Association and the Oregon Wine Advisory Board, which provide research and promotion for the industry. They're also known for producing some of the best domestic wine. Ponzi's two bottlings are Willamette Valley and Reserve. Both are created by blending wines from long-established vineyards, and its Pinot noirs are neither fined nor filtered. They are crafted to be delicious at release. www.ponziwines.com
It's a Northcoast obsession (and personal favorite). It's Malley's Chocolates, Cleveland. The company creates tasty chocolate treats — from bars to bonbons — and is known for miles around for its quaint ice cream parlors and thick hot fudge. Give your office sweet tooth a taste of the Gold Cup Traditional. It features a mix of milk and dark chocolate treats, or all milk or all dark pieces ($60). Or try The Classic, designed for chocolate connoisseurs ($85). www.malleys.com