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Small Gifts That Make a Big Difference

December 03, 1987|MINNIE BERNARDINO | Times Staff Writer

Little things can express love in a big way. A charming yule tradition, bright and splashy oversized knit or embroidered Christmas stockings can be filled with little things that do big things. If someone who loves to cook is on your gift list, give a collection of neat kitchen gadgets or gifts that will be well appreciated all year round.

Various gourmet retail shop owners, sales reps and chefs were happy to share some ideas for the thoughtful kitchen gift giver. Many of them came up with the same suggestions.

Heading the list this year is the electric mini chopper, the garlic "susi" press with cleaners, gold coffee filters, combination salt and pepper mills and wine openers. Other innovative recommendations include video tapes on cooking and entertaining, timers with novel shapes and sounds, recipe computer software, thermometers, good kitchen shears and Chinese cleavers. For the modern cook, a lot of Euro-style, upscale tools in bold colors and high tech design have entered the market.

A haven for cooks, its shelves overflowing with an exciting assortment of kitchen paraphernalia, is Jeanne Kaats' 15-year-old gourmet shop, Cookin Stuff (Torrance and La Habra). Always pleased to help customers, Kaats suggested the following for yuletide presents:

The Vinnie Decorker, a functional wine decorker ($4.95) that stands 5 to 6 inches high.

Lightweight but durable is the Champagne Opener ($7.95), an invention from Champagne Products in Monrovia that has been a big seller all over.

Aprons in different shapes and darling designs from Mullins Square ($18.50). Salamander aprons ($17.80) with lobster, fish, sports designs with matching mitts.

Rubbermaid's Spoonula (from $1.99), a spade with a scoop shape at the end. "It's so practical it should have been done a hundred years ago," Kaats said.

Little puff pastry canopy cutters from Benson West ($14.95) that come in four sizes.

Not quite small enough to fit a Christmas stocking but inexpensive and appropriate for the season is Rowoco's lattice pie topper ($3). The plastic disk molds come with holes in shapes of Christmas trees, lattice squares, hearts and apples/cherries.

Another larger item is the Corian Cutting Board from Winterwood Originals ($35). "It's one of those few things that I've been really excited about," Kaats said. Available in plain rectangular or elephant, heart, kangaroo and other shapes, these marblelike slabs with nonporous surface are safe and free from bacterial buildup.

"When TV's Frugal Gourmet, Jeff Smith, recommends a tool, people rush to the stores to buy them and we have to reorder," says a Williams-Sonoma store clerk. The "Frug," as Smith calls himself, gladly offered some kitchen tool ideas.

"One of my favorite toys is the wooden lemon reamer; it works better than any juicer I have ever seen--get one made of good wood," Smith said. "I like the garlic susi press ($10.95) from Zyliss (this has a cleaner that loosens and removes all remaining scraps in the holes); the Moha Mandoline which is wonderful for cutting vegetables into thin slices or into julienne-style cuts ($24.95). Buy a good supply of wooden spoons and wooden whips--not metal, they're pan wreckers. Another favorite of mine is a little porcelain grater from Japan, it looks like a small washboard--great for grating ginger. "

For holiday entertaining, Smith highly recommends obtaining huge white platters as well as large dinner plates. He finds it much more exciting to see a platter heaped with vegetables at one end and a meat course at the other rather than a tiny serving presentation. More ideas on tools and equipment as well as recipes on American ethnic cooking can be discovered in Jeff Smith's new book "The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American" (William Morrow and Co.:$17.95)

Phil Carter, owner of Kitchen Kitchen in Rancho Mirage, has been helping cooks in the Coachella Valley since 1979. This year his beautiful catalogue has boosted sales in his specialty shop. Here are some of his many stocking stuffer suggestions:

For the most efficient corkscrew, Carter recommends the Screwpull ($14.95), either the compact pocket version or the classic version. Both are easy to use; the gadget allows the cork to climb out of the bottle whole, without leaving bits and pieces in the wine. For someone more special, there is also an ultimate Screwpull ($99) in gold or silver finish.

Dinosaur cookie cutters ($5.95 each) to bake cookies for youngsters that are still loyal to these creatures; or for the trendy, the darling little teapot from Otagiri ($24.95) shaped as a black-and-white cow, the animal craze forecasted to replace the dinosaur in 1988.

Unique and new from Zyliss is the fish and asparagus cradle or rectangular wide, slotted scoop ($19.95).

One of Carter's best-selling lines for the season is the Spice Market collection of porcelain scent warmers, the decorative Space Scenters that release fragrant oils.

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