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(Photo: à la card)


Christmas is right around the corner, and you've been pulling out your hair over what you're going to get your favorite foodie friend or family member.

Since gift cards seem so impersonal (though they're good for those who don't dine often at home), here are some pretty cool items to consider:

900 Shops: 312DD teamed up with other local tastemakers to choose some awesome gifts from the Mag Mile shopping mall. My contributions to the Must Give Gift Guide include Rick Bayless's Fiesta at Rick's cookbook and Lava Molcajete Guacamole Set from Williams-Sonoma; Berningot knives from Genevieve Lethu; and Michael Aram cheese platter and knife set from Crosell & Co.

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Rare Tea Cellars' Moonlight Litchi Blossom (with red blossom in middle), rare Litchi-scented green tea hand-tied with a single silk thread and rare Jasmine-scented green tea. (Photos: Rare Tea Cellars)


à la card chicago: They'll have 52 independently owned, chef-driven restos at their fingertips with this nifty set of cards, which each gives a vivid description of each spot and $10 off your dinner. À la card creator Natasha Liberman--who's known to be one of the most finicky foodies in town--has personally dined at 98 percent of the restaurants listed. The 2011 set is her fourth annual, and new to the list are Arami, Balsan, Ceres' Table, Longman & Eagle and Vincent. One dollar per deck sold benefits Common Threads. $30 per deck.

Drinks Over Dearborn: The specialty spirits shop alas closes Dec. 31, so you have more than enough time to stock up on rare finds before they do the final countdown. From beer and wine to spirits and stemware, you can do all your shopping right here.

Joshua Tree Spice Studio: The signature spices from chef Josh Linton reflect his passion for more exotic cultures, but they also go well sprinkled over good ol' American cuisine. Burgers, roast chicken or even eggs will soar to the next level with Hickory Smoked Chinese 5 Spice, Hickory Smoked Brazilian Sea Salt or the Hickory Smoked Tellicherry Black Peppercorns. Prices range from $7.95-$15.50.

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Hickory Smoked Tellicherry Black Peppercorns is one of the signature spices from Joshua Tree Spice Studio. (Photo: Joshua Tree Spice Studio)


Hum Botanical Spirit: Master mixologist Adam Seger's going strong in his second year with this powerful spirit that's great in cocktail as well as food recipes. For a little guidance, you'll find more than 20 cocktails listed, including the seasonally appropriate Hot Buttered hum, Cider Rojo and hum Party in a Bowl. Retails at $36.

Rare Tea Cellars: It's nice to know that you can have the same tea in the comfort of your own home that's served in fine restos like Avenues, Blackbird, Bristol, Girl & The Goat, L20, Naha, NoMi, Publican and Spiaggia. Most tea fanatics would be thrilled to get South of France Rooibos, Moonlight Litchi Blossom or First Flush Darjeeling as stocking stuffers. Prices start at $15 and go all the way into the thousands.

 

Follow Audarshia Townsend on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Audarshia