Use the old (coffee) bean for gift ideas

December 10, 2003|EMILY TOADVINE

From a mug filled with cookies and candy to a basket full of all the items needed to make an Italian dinner, Danville's coffee shops have lots of gift ideas.

Eclectic Coffee on Finn Hill Drive is filled with goodies for putting in baskets, but owner Monica Miller says it's not the size of the basket that counts, but how it looks.

"You can wrap anything and make it look good. I love presentation," says Miller, whose shop sells 68 varieties of coffee.

Her ideal basket would contain a couple of coffee mugs, coffee, cookies and candy. That could be scaled down to wrapping up just a cup with four or five items inside. Even a bowl of pralines could be wrapped.


"They can tell me how much they want to spend and I'll ask whether they want coffee, tea or cocoa," says Miller, who is assisted by her husband, Lonny, and co-worker Tisha Bristow.

Eclectic has many types of mugs to choose from, such as ones with black cats playing with balls, flying blue dogs, and green-and white-checked with gingerbread man handles.

Some of the tempting items are mixes packaged in containers that look like takeout coffee. The mixes are for expresso brownies, pumpkin muffins and apple pie scones.

"I try to keep everything in here coffee-oriented," she says.

An artist, Miller makes some of the items she sells. Her shop wraps wire around spoons and decorates them with beads. Miller thinks she got the idea from a magazine.

"I thought, 'Well, I can do that.'"

She also paints on jars that contain cocoa mix or coffee. For the holiday season, the store is offering several special coffee flavors, such as yule nog, roasted chestnut, pumpkin pie, winter's night blend and butter rum.

At Big Valley Coffee Co., which is located in Southland Plaza off Hustonville Road, owners Renee and Mike Roderiques not only have focused on fresh roasted coffee, but have many kitchen gadgets and food items.

The food-themed baskets cover cuisine from several countries. A "That's Italian - Real Italian Feast" basket contains Rao's Real Homemade Marinara Sauce and spaghetti, Mediterranean black olive and herb bread mix, Rao's Eight Start Balsamic dressing and Rao's cookbook, "100 Years of Real Italian Cooking." The cost is $50.

"Rao's has been in New York about 100 years and started marketing their pasta sauce in the last 10 years. It's in East Harlem," says Renee Roderiques.

Items can be switched in baskets in case a cook needs a colander included, she notes.

"You can put in a colander and a cheese grater. You've got your dinner in the basket," she says of the $95 basket.

Other basket ideas include: for the wine lover, for martini fans, "chocolate purists rejoice" and a sushi kit.

The sushi kit contains a sushi mat and rice paddle, chopsticks, "50 Best Sushi" instruction book, ingredients for making sushi including nori, wasabi, sushi rice, rice vinegar, soy sauce and pickled ginger. The cost is $30. Again, Roderiques says that anyone who wants to upgrade could include the sushi plates.

"These are neat. They are made out of bamboo," she says.

A Baker's Joy basket contains several no-stick items. Food does not stick to silicone baking mats or a Lekue cake pan or loaf pan. The Lekue pans are flexible, blue rubber and can be used for baking.

"These have been used in Europe for probably 30 years," Renee Roderiques says.

Because their primary focus is coffee, Big Valley also has several coffee-themed baskets. Many feature their biggest seller, Big Valley Blend, but they have 12 to 14 varieties on hand.

"We sell 3 pounds of Big Valley Blend to every pound of the other," Renee Roderiques says.

During the holidays, they will have a limited quantity of kona, which is grown in Hawaii.

Because of their attention to freshness, the Roderiqueses caution buyers to time deliveries.

"If you want to give it to somebody for Christmas Eve, then they should come by a couple of days before at the most," says Renee Roderiques.

She says fresh ground coffee should be used in 14 days. It should not be refrigerated, but should be kept airtight and dry.

"The same as you would your spices," she says.

Because of the popularity of fresh ground coffee, many people purchase Krups Grinders to add to the basket. The grinders cost about $20.

To help customers make selections, the couple are keeping a list of coffees people prefer. They call it a "Help Santa" list.

"We had someone come in and say, 'My mother-in-law drinks your coffee, but I don't know what kind. Can you put something together?'" says Renee Roderiques.

The holidays create many get togethers and many people are searching for a little something to take.

"I think a lot of people forget about the $5, $10 and $15 hostess gifts," says Renee Roderiques. Wine charms, spices and bottles of olive oil all fit the bill.

Several baskets are on display in the store and Renee Roderiques says she is flexible about what they contain. People may want to create something with a specific person or price range in mind.

"A lot of these baskets are idea generators," she says.

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