If there's a cook or person who entertains a lot on your Christmas list, you're lucky. It's always easy to find great gifts with a culinary theme. For armchair shoppers and those who are just beginning to think about the annual shopping spree, the following is a compilation of some items that struck our personal fancies in tours of area shops and stores. They're grouped by category and prices range from $.99 to about $50.
All of a sudden, tables have developed a sense of humor. Such once-humdrum items as butter dishes and sugar bowls now do their duties while making us smile. Any of the following items would make a good gift for a wacky friend, and might even make uncommunicative family members start talking to each other over the breakfast table.
A dinner party or tea will get off to a lively start with authentic place markers from the 1920s, from Circa in the Antique Galleria, 853 N. Howard St. Brides, grooms, flappers belles and seasonal figures, some decked out with bits of veiling or sparkles, are made of heavyweight paper, wired to stand up. Owner Linda Sarubin has an ample supply of the mint-condition figurees, which range from $1 to $4 each.
Kitchen Basket in Ellicott City, 8020 Main St., is a one-stop shopping zone for table-top whimsy. Among the notable offerings are a hand-painted butter dish in the shape of a serene and rosy sleeping pig ($16.50), which may inspire you to cut down on your butter consumption; innovative one-piece chopsticks, hand made by Oregon woodworker Michael Allender in the shape of cats, dragons, hummingbirds and other creatures ($10); Mary Ann Baker's variant on the old-fashioned ceramic "cow creamer," this one a creamer in the shape of a frog in blue waistcoat and red bow tie ($13.50); and a whole ceramic Victorian village, in which salt and pepper shakers, butter dishes, teapots, sugar bowls, creamers, cookie jars and canisters all take the shape of turreted, gabled Gothic houses. Prices for the hand-painted items range from $13.99 to $49.99.
Salt and pepper shakers have long been a vehicle for their manufacturers' more bizarre flights of fancy; any antique market has a variety, from the adorable to the truly kitschy. And the traditional continues. Two of the most charming we've spotted recently include a plump little pair of painted ceramic lovebirds from Williams-Sonoma ($12), and the men (or cats) sitting in flowered easy chair from Discoveries, 8055 Main St., Ellicott City. The handmade pottery figures hold pepper, the chairs are for salt, and a pair costs $29.99.
-- Lynn Williams
Want to give something that can be a reminder of friendship for years? Try a set of kitchen canisters for dry storage, a useful bit of domestic hardware that looks pretty and isn't quite outmoded or even very expensive, even in this high-tech era of food service. Canisters in abundance can be found in home equipment stores and in housewares sections of chains. Macy's has the delightfully Portmeirion ceramic decanters from Wales in ranges from $20 to $33, according to size. Each carries the botanical name of the illustrated flower, things like purple rock roses, heartsense and meadow saffron.
For a more contemporary look see Williams-Sonoma's everything-proof, no-nonsense stainless steel canisters from India ($50 a set), unbreakable glitter for high-tech kitchens. The store also features engraved floral sets by Harvest in tin shapes - circles, octagons and rectangles ($25 for the set). Lechter's has Luminarc's tall, elegant, see-through glass canisters for staples pasta ($4.49 each), wiht smaller, matching pieces available for $2.99. Snap-on storage jars in six sizes are also featured from $2.29 to $2.79 for storage buffs. Similar is Anchor Hocking's glass canister jar series from $2.99 to $3.99.
Boxed, three-and four-piece canister sets are offered at Montgomery Ward's, including a spill-proof design where teh glass, half-gallon jars are cradled safely in beechwood and include matching beechwood tops, ($24.99), a system that won't slide all over the place while you are dredging the flour. For the same price you can get Kitchen by Design's four-piece, glazed ceramic sets ina deftly light and traditional floral pattern or smashing-looking black or marbleized white tones for the contemporary look. Ward's seems to have safety on its mind in this sort of ware, since it also offers heavy, break-resistant, transparent plastic sets ($14.99) with tops that are keyed to match decors, your choice of blue, white or black.