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Holiday Gift Guide o' Mine

I know, I know. It's a bit late in the game for a holiday gift guide, but hey -- you can always save it for next year.

- If you are in NYC and haven't been to Hearth or Terroir, you should. If you live elsewhere, make sure they are on your list for when you come to town.  Marco Canora, Paul Greico and their amazing team have created a mini-empire of high caliber but not high falutin' wine bars with food that's as high quality as the dishes they create at their mother ship restaurant. Whomever is the recipient of one of their gift certificates will be a happy camper. I guarantee it.

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- I am not a big fan of heavily peated Scotches. I continue to taste them as I'm learning about Scotch generally, and I appreciate why others may like them, but they are not for me. My kind of Scotch is the Bowmore 15 Years Old "Darkest", balanced with a hint of smoke and prominent rich chocolate notes. It's finished in Oloroso sherry casks -- probably another reason I like it. It retails for approximately $70.

- On the complete opposite end of the booze spectrum, Lillet's newest iteration,  Lillet Rosé, is a perfect apéritif on it's own or serves as a lively fruity, floral and bright addition to a cocktail recipe. It retails for about $17.

- Avuá Cachaça Amburana: This newly launched, small-batch cachaça is made by one of Brazil's few female distillers and is aged in Amburana wood (hence the name). The end result is a smooth spirit with sugarcane and vegetal notes, with a touch of spice, suitable for cocktails or sipping neat. It won't be available for a few more months, but it will retail for about $45.

- And while you're shopping for cocktail ingredients, make sure you visit The Liquid Chef Junior Merino's newly launched online store, which is chock-full of bitters, aromatics, syrups, tools, and more. Having had the opportunity to test them out in the Liquid Lab, I'm a huge fan of his salts/sugars designed to rim cocktail glasses, adding a level of unique flavor to your personal libation creations -- pasilla chile & cinnamon, hibiscus & rose, Hawaiian salt & saffron and more.

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- For those more food-driven, I'd suggest two new books from bloggers that I've known for years: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook & The Amateur Gourmet's Secrets of the Best Chefs. Trust these people. I do.

- For the pinot noir drinkers on your list, check out the David Family Wine Black List. This exclusive club gives you access to their  limited-release Black Label pinot noirs a full six to twelve months before anyone else (at a 20-30% discount, no less) plus a discount code that you can use for their full portfolio. Sounds like my kind of club.  There are limited slots available, and although there's no cost for membership, you must purchase three bottles per year to keep your place.

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- Last, but by no means least, for your friends of the canine persuasion, Bocce's Bakery Biscuits uses organic local ingredients to create dog treats that sound so tempting you might try to steal them. Who wouldn't drool over truffle mac & cheese, beef bourignon, or the Elvis (peanut butter, bananas & bacon)? I know Moxie would. Although sometimes I feel like she deserves some lumps of coal (they've got those, too).

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