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December 20, 2010

Christmas gifts of the last-minute kind

celmeNext year, Christmas falls on a Sunday, which will make things a whole lot easier.

But there's still time this year. Here are a few more ideas that either landed in my mailbox or that I scouted out on my own.

BIC food-enthusiast classes -- take a look a the spring semester catalog of Baltimore International College cooking classes. The institute launched these open-to-the-public, single-night classes last Fall. $80 Gift certificates are available here, and there's still time.

Botanical "foodie" soaps from Baltimore Soap and More -- I really meant to have posted this before the weekend because the soap-maker sells her perfume-free natural  soaps at the Baltimore Farmers' Market & Bazaar. And now the market is done for the season. But here's a link to the Etsy shop for Baltimore Soap and More. Pictured is the Clementine Coconut Cake soap, inspired by the real-life coconut cake at Clementine.

Rheb's Chocolates -- I received this email this morning. The subject line was "Sweet Baltimore Story

Hi, Richard- I just got back from Rheb’s where every square inch of floor space was taken up with people waiting to order their “special” chocolates.(outside the air smelled like pure sugar- production in the basement) It was quite an experience and made me think of your column because people were all telling each other when they had their first Rheb’s, who gave it to them, and what their candy traditions are now.  I thought if you had a spare minute in this busy week you might enjoy standing

Hot Squeeze -- Colleague Michael Sragow saw Hot Squeeze on my desk and said, "Oh, that stuff is good."

"Sweet, smoky, and sassy," Hot Squeeze (you can buy it at Whole Foods Market) is garnish, condiment, dressing, sauce, marinade, and glaze all in one little bottle. Do not taunt Hot Squeeze.

For the Sricracha lover -- The Ocean City, MD-based blogger Brian Meagher recently ran a guest post last Friday by Randy Clemens, the author of The Sriracha Cookbook. Ah, turns out the book is still in pre-order. But take a look at the post anyway.

Restaurant gift card/certificate -- Easy enough. Or is it? Some you can buy online, some you have to call for. But I can't find any website that tells me this: what does the thing look like? Is it a plastic card, or a pretty thing? If you have the card/certificate mailed, is it presented well, with the option of a personal message. Sometimes it's ambiguous whether you can have a certificate mailed to a recipient or only to a shipping address that's different than a mailing address.

I could go on. But if you're a restaurateur, take a look at how you're selling gift cards & certificates on and off your website. Think of everything someone buying one would want to know and go from there. Then, make sure your entire front-of-house staff knows how to process a gift certificate or at least knows who does.



Posted by Richard Gorelick at 3:43 PM | | Comments (5)


Thanks for mentioning us in the article. I wanted to point out The Sriracha Cookbook will be released Jan 18th 2011.

However, you CAN order the book and send The Sriracha Cookbook eCard to let 'em know the book is on its way! :-)

Thanks for the shout out! Viva la Sriracha!

RE: Hot Squeeze. Their website does not indicate that Whole Foods sells this but nearly every Food Lion in MD VA and PA does. Works for me.

Love it! Do not taunt Hot Squeeze or the owner/creator! You can buy Hot Squeeze at Whole Foods and Giants as well as Food Lion!

In regards to the last item (gift certs) I have a soapbox that I'd like to stand on.

Yesterday I purchased a gift certificate to B&O American Brassiere to be given to my Mom for Christmas.

She and three of her girl friends have a subscription to the Sunday matinees at the Hippodrome, and I thought a pre-show fancy brunch for the group would be a nice gift. I estimated the bill, including food and a drink or two, then added %20 or so to cover tax and tip. I asked for the dollar amount I wanted, and paid cash for the gift card (incidentally, a high quality paper certificate, for those that may be concerned about that).

However, once I got home, I noticed that there is a note on the certificate saying that it cannot be used towards gratuity.

I called the restaurant today to inquire what possible reason they had for not accepting it towards gratuity. I informed them that I purchased the certificate as a GIFT, and I thought it was rather silly to give someone a gift that was going to require them to spend their own money. I specifically mentioned that I had figured the tip into the amount of the certificate when I purchased it.

My response was that, yes, that was their policy, and the reason for it was that the computer was set up that way. there is nothing they can do about it.

I replied that I thought that was a very stupid policy, and it guaranteed that I would never ever purchase another gift certificate there, and it would probably effect my future patronage of their establishment.

The reply I got was, "Well, no one says you have to tip." Lovely.

I didn't see that ending coming

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About this blog

You are reading the archives. For updated blog posts about the Maryland food scene, see Richard Gorelick's new Baltimore Diner blog.
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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