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 Eat @ Joe's

FOOD THAT
FOLLOWS YOU HOME


BY JOEL ANN REA

November 20, 2003 -- Food obviously gives you a taste of the locale you're visiting and, when it follows you home after a business trip, food becomes an ideal holiday gift.

Here's my highly selective list of regional fare for unique and delicious road warrior gift-giving. I guarantee there is absolutely no fruitcake on this list, but, 'tis the season, so there are no apologies for the preponderance of smoked meats, sugar or carbohydrates.

ANN ARBOR Can't make it back to the world's best deli? Zingerman's will send its delicious deli fare to you. Gift selections are original and packed with care. Consider the Rockin' Reuben Sandwich Kit or Better Than Grandma's Gift Basket. It's worth visiting the site just to read their collective food wisdom. No wonder Inc. magazine named them the coolest small company in America.

BOSTON Enjoy a New England seafood feast in your own home. Better yet, give a feast to friends or family--and get yourself invited. Lobsters, oysters, steamer clams and clam chowder are shipped fresh from Legal Sea Foods, complete with bibs, claw-crackers and cooking instructions.

CHICAGO Savor the melt-in-your-mouth flavors of Frango mints, the signature sweet of Marshall Field's department stores. You can order a wide selection of these chocolate mint and dark chocolate mint candies. For a zesty slice of the city, head straight to Frontera Kitchens. It sells a range of gift sets featuring authentic Mexican grilling sauces, salsas and recipes by Rick Bayless, chef-owner of Chicago's popular Frontera Grill and Tompolobampo restaurants.

DETROIT Located in a corner of the country's largest and oldest Middle Eastern community, Mid-East Pastry Delight features the sweet creations of owner and perfectionist baker Malek Maatouk. More than two million pastries, including luscious baklava, will be baked and shipped worldwide this holiday season. You can order from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily at 800-643-3278.

HAWAII For authentic Hawaiian food, including delicious kalua pork, kalua turkey, lau lau, lomi salmon and fresh ahi poke, look no further than Luau King. The brainchild of Big Island entrepreneur Kimo Miller, the site also offers a festive "luau in a box," complete with fun accessories. There are other, more mainstream tastes of Hawaii, too, including macadamia nuts, fresh pineapple and Kona coffee.

MEMPHIS Robert Moye, chief pitmaster, oversees the smoking of choice meats over hickory chips and wood charcoal at the legendary Corky's BBQ. The food--juicy ribs, hand-pulled pork, smoked brisket, turkey or chicken--is the real deal. A combination pack with bottled sauce will feed a crowd of 18 or 20 people.

MIAMI Enjoy succulent stone crabs, key lime pie and more from Joe's Stone Crab, founded in 1913. Complete gift packages include signature mustard sauce, clam chowder, coleslaw, creamed spinach, claw mallet and bibs. You can even earn "crab points" in Joe's frequent-buyer program.

NEW ORLEANS The award-winning Creole cuisine of the Gumbo Shop can be delivered direct to your loved ones. Choices include File Gumbo with Chicken and Sausage, Seafood Okra Gumbo or vegetarian Gumbo Z'Herbes. There is also a slew of traditional side dishes that have been served since the 1920s at this French Quarter classic.

NEW YORK New York bagels really are the best and it may really be the water. After all, a proper bagel is "kettled" in a vat of water prior to baking. The king of the New York nosh, H&H Bagels will ship two dozen bagels, two coffee mugs, cream cheese and Nova Scotia salmon almost anywhere. Choices include more than 10 types of bagels, bialys and mini-bagels. Prefer cheesecake, that other famous New York product? The best cheesecake has been made since 1950 by Junior's in Brooklyn. The online shop will ship several varieties, including apple crumb, cherry crumb, brownie marble swirl, raspberry swirl, chocolate mountain, chocolate mousse, pumpkin or the classic plain cheesecake.

PHILADELPHIA Did you know that Philadelphians consume 12 times more pretzels than the rest of us? The local favorite is the big, soft pretzel, served warm with mustard. Pretzels, as well as other foods that made Philly famous, are available from Philly Food. The shippable menu includes cheese steaks, hoagies, scrapple, TastyKakes, Herr's potato chips and Goldenberg's peanut chews. There's even an office crowd-pleaser, entitled Lunch Is on the Boss, that feeds up to 24 hearty appetites.

PHOENIX Sylvia Menchaca grew up in her family's restaurant, La Canasta and learned her unique style of Sonoran Southwestern cuisine at an early age. Now Sylvia's customers can order salsa, traditional red and green enchilada sauces, fresh tortillas and even ingredients for a festive tamale party right off the Web site.

SAN ANTONIO Give the taste of Texas Hill Country by sending hickory-smoked meats from the New Braunfels Smokehouse. Produced by smokemaster Rocky Tays according to German tradition, the company's delicious offerings include beef brisket, smoked pork chops, Hill Country ham and smoked applewurst sausage.

SAN FRANCISCO Got a hankering for the taste of sourdough bread by the Bay? Boudin Bakery, the company that's been baking San Francisco's favorite sour-dough since 1850, ships nationwide. You can order freshly baked breads--sculpted loaves, holiday shapes and individual soup bowl rounds--join a bread club or choose a gift basket. Or perhaps you want a tasty reminder of the dim sum served by Yank Sing, one of the city's best. The Web site offers a sampler of their spicy dipping sauces or you can treat yourself or a friend to a stylish, museum-quality teapot.

SEATTLE I happened upon Fran's Chocolates more than 15 years ago and have been a fan of these spectacular handmade chocolates ever since. Treat someone you love to the luscious dark chocolate truffles, available in an indulgent gift set. Or try the "best confection of 2003," gray sea salt caramels. They are hand-dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt harvested off the coast of Brittany.

VERMONT Owned by dairy farmers since 1919, Cabot Creamery makes some of the world's best cheddar cheese. Great as holiday gifts or for holiday parties, the cheddars come in a wide variety of waxed, waxless and flavored varieties. Or order the Vermont gift pack, which includes a three-pound brick of Private Stock cheddar and a quart of locally produced pure maple syrup.

This column originally appeared at joesentme.com.

Copyright 1993-2004 by Joel Ann Rea. All rights reserved.