When there is a quandary about gift selection for a special occasion, particularly a bridal shower or wedding, the kitchen or dining area can be a source of ideas for myriad choices. Potential candidates run the gamut from an inexpensive refrigerator magnet or a colorful gadget (red being the hot color of the season) to an appliance or cookware of greater value.
Fine craftsmanship is often expressed in many items that are geared for gift giving or even for a lasting personal buy. Classic styling plus Old World charm in a cutting board was the direction taken by JoAnn Messina and Ron Fortner. Partners in their new company, Winterwood Originals Inc. in Ventura, they have designed some unique cutting boards called "Family of Friends" ($8 to $48).
"Made with function and design in mind, they make wonderful gifts," Messina said. "If I wanted to make just a regular board, I'd do a square, period. These are different from any ordinary mundane cutting board or cheese board."
If you like Corian, a marble-like solid surfacing material, you will love Mr. Hambone the pig, Derek Duck, Silly Rabbit, Mr. Green Peace whale, Sweet Swan, Eli Phunt and California Cat--just a few of the charming animal shapes cut out from Corian. Specified by architects and designers for residential and commercial countertops, Corian is non-porous, eliminating the possibility of bacterial buildup. Although stain-resistant, stubborn stains such as cigarette burns can be rubbed from this beautiful board with a soft abrasive cleanser, while accidental scratches can be buffed out with fine sandpaper. To preserve its lasting beauty, an occasional drop of oil can be wiped on the board.
Also available in similar shapes are the wood models, finished from hard rock maple, and two-tone boards called Gemini that are made of Corian and wood. Other shapes include a heart, fish, bear, apple, pear, rectangle and palette, the last two being best sellers, according to Messina.
"Mr. Hambone, the pig, is the most popular one, believe it or not, followed by the whale," said Charlotte Carter, owner of Kitchen Kitchen in Rancho Mirage. Carter added that cutting boards, particularly the newer ones, are a big item for them these days.
Aside from offering a 100% guarantee, the company will also custom-etch logos on Corian or burn them into the wood.
With the coming of Easter, baskets often come to mind. There are baskets for decorative eggs, baskets for spring flowers, baskets for food. Baskets not just for holding breads but made of bread are young Dominic Palazzolo's translation of his rare culinary art.
Since 1985, the professional pastry chef and president of Bread Effects Co. of Cincinnati, has been hand-weaving and baking golden bread baskets for restaurant and hotel dining rooms, including the White House. He now offers these centerpieces by mail order to retail consumers.
At a recent catering trade show, Palazzolo unveiled the newest addition to his glazed bread masterpieces, a 30-pound bread truck with windows and removable spoked wheels that actually spin.
Other Bread Effects baskets come in oval, round or heart-shaped trays, long French bread baskets, cornucopias and braided wreaths (prices range from $14.95 for the 9-inch oval to $349 for the bread truck). Some of the round baskets have removable handles that are great for storing.
Eschewing salt doughs that crack or melt in extreme climates, the chef uses a durable formula of high protein and high fiber flours, which he perfected after 2 1/2 years. "Their strength can be compared to that of a thick ceramic container. They are made to withstand the rough handling common in food service establishments, where they have been known to last as long as two years," Palazzolo said. "In the home environment, it is estimated that these products will endure indefinitely."
A small gift that is novel and useful is the Butter Kutter ($7.50) from Prodyne in Montclair, Calif. Also a storage tool, it'll be appreciated by people who love to get that stick of butter or margarine out of the refrigerator for a little dab of fat calories here and there--to melt it for popcorn, spread it on hot toast or corn, for tortillas or whatever. It was designed by Santa Cruz architect Gregory Cole, who one day realized how much time it took to obtain just a single slice of butter from the refrigerator, not to mention removing and replacing the butter cover, getting a knife, and cleaning up.
The Butter Kutter dispenses butter by advancing the stick out with a thumb pusher; when the lever is pushed down, a stainless wire cutter slices off the desired amount needed (as little as a thin shave). A spring door is then closed over the open end for storage. Made of durable plastic in light cream and deep yellow trim, the unit is top-rack dishwasher safe. The bottom can be easily removed to facilitate cleaning.
Family of Friends cutting boards are available at Kitchen Kitchen (Rancho Mirage), Cookin' Stuff (La Habra and Torrance), Hinshaw's (Arcadia and Whittier), Cook's Corner (Glendale).
Bread Effects woven centerpieces are available by calling (800) 333-5678 or by writing the Bread Effects Company, 5677 Rapid Run Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45238 .
Butter Kutter from Prodyne is available at Fred Segal's Zero Minus Plus (Santa Monica), Cook's Corner (Glendale), Kitchen Kitchen (Rancho Mirage), Organizer's Paradise (West Los Angeles) and Kitchen Aware (Diamond Bar and Montclair).