This year, why not give a gift that always fits and is exactly the right color -- food. Or the next best thing, gift cards for food.
If you're skilled in the kitchen, make a batch of cookies, a coffee cake or a bean soup mix in a jar. If not, go shopping. But don't head for the mall. Instead, search out interesting, locally produced foods, beverages, condiments and even cheese.
Here are some places to check out:
-- The Northwest Regional Food Hub, 603 Goethals Drive, Richland, carries a wide variety of condiments, jams, cider and more gathered from throughout the Mid-Columbia. Go to http://nwfoodhub.com.
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-- AJ's Edible Arts, 313 S. Fourth Ave., Pasco, makes a variety of mustards, seasonings and sauces.
-- Ariel Gourmet & Gifts, 617 The Parkway, Richland.
-- Ice Harbor Brewing, 206 N. Benton St., Kennewick, sells bottled beers and a wide variety of homebrew supplies. Can't decide? They have gift cards too.
-- Country Mercantile, on Highway 395, a few miles north of Pasco, has pickled veggies and jams, spicy salsas, handmade chocolates and sweet and savory treats.
-- Templemen's Market, 6205 W. Clearwater Ave., Kennewick, has rubs and spices.
-- Pasco Specialty Kitchen, 110 S. 4th Ave., Pasco, has jams, spice mixes, honey, vanilla extract, relishes, soup mixes and pickled veggies.
-- Ranch & Home, especially at 845 Columbia Center Blvd., Kennewick, has barbecue rubs and sauces. And, surprisingly, Cougar Gold cheeses.
-- Most wineries have at least a corner devoted to various snacks.
If your Christmas celebration lacks a partridge in a pear tree, the Pear Bureau Northwest has a solution. Each year the commodity group, based in Milwaukie, Ore., offers a unique Christmas ornament. This year's version, a limited-edition collectible, is a silver antique-plated die cast design featuring a pair of partridges with decorative pears and delicate pear tree leaves accented with 24k gold plate.
The ornaments are $6.80 apiece. Order online at www.usapearsmarketplace.org.
The book: The New Southern-Latino Table: Recipes that Bring Together the Bold and Beloved Flavors of Latin America & the American South by Sandra Gutierrez.
Best for: The author, who grew up in Guatemala, has taken her native spices, peppers and other Latin flavors and married them with traditional Southern favorites. Inside you'll find 150 original recipes combining the best of both, including deviled eggs with a jalapeno bite, Macaroni con Queso and Chile Chocolate Brownies. Gutierrez has also included a handy glossary, a section on how to navigate a Latin market and a guide to ingredient sources.
*Loretto J. Hulse: firstname.lastname@example.org