|Less expensive than the jewels it mimics but just as lovely is a ruby cordial set that includes six glasses and a gold tray, $25.99 at Maggie's Treasures (2212 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 832-6239; www.aromaticalternatives.com).|
|Let New Orleans institutions help carry the load in a K&B, McKenzie's or Schwegmann messenger bag perfect for men or women. Each has three inside compartments and is large enough to carry a laptop computer, $55 each at Ichabods (www.ichabods.com).|
|She'll look and feel like a million no matter what the denomination of bills she has to go inside this gold clutch wallet, $16 at Sweet Pea & Tulip Boutique (802 Nashville Ave.,899-4044 & 618 Chartres St., 523-4119; firstname.lastname@example.org). Photo by Carlton Mickle|
|You'll be the toast of the town when you bear delicious gifts like a La Crema 2006 Pinot Noir, $19.99, or J. Lohr 2006 Chardonnay, $9.99 at Langensteins (1330 Arabella St., 899-9283 & 800 Metairie Road., Metairie, 831-6682). Photo by Carlton Mickle|
|You won't have to prompt them to "smile and say cheese" when they open up this set of four vintage-style cheese plates, $27.95 at St. James Cheese Company (5004 Prytania St., 899-4737;www.stjamescheese.com). Photo by Carlton Mickle|
|Renew someone's faith in your decorating tastes with a small turquoise beaded barbwire cross, $80 (also available in garnet, blue and olive green as well as larger sizes; $120 for medium, $160 for large) at Renaissance & Romance (1827 Hickory Ave., Harahan, 737-7630).|
|Help someone go "Green" with a bamboo lamp topped with a classic white shade, $75.50 at Lighting Inc. (Pontchartrain Square, 3574 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, 985-727-9368; 8180 Earhart Blvd. Ste. B-E, 486-5761; www.lightinginconline.com).|
|Appeal to their love of natural beauty with a festive arrangement of large Gerber daisies and carnations in the season's colors, $45; or bright red carnations with holiday dressing, $25 at Villere's Florist (1107 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie; 800-845-5373 & 835-8565; www.villeresflorist.com).|
|It doesn't get much more New Orleans than Vic and Nat'ly mugs by Bunny Matthews, $39.95 for set of four at Harkins, the Florist, Inc. (1601 Magazine St., 529-1638; www.harkinsneworleans.com). Photo by Carlton Mickle|
|Rise to the top of his favorite gift-giver list with this plaid hat by Gorin, $32 at Funky Monkey (3127 Magazine St., 899-5587).|
|You'll have it made in the shade when she unwraps Whitney sunglasses by Tom Ford, $320 at Blue Roof Denim (3406 Seymour Meyers Blvd., Suite 11, Covington, 985-893-8003).|
|She'll go wild for comfortable and stylish python Hollywood pants by Carushka, $90, topped with a Carushka tie-dye Floppy Joe tunic, $62 from Priorities (8128 Hampson St., 861-8780). Always in Good Taste While fashions, jewelry and gadgets from a favorite store are always fine gifts, others on your holiday gift list might appreciate something gratifying to the senses, specifically their taste buds. When you give a gift certificate to one of New Orleans' countless great restaurants, you're wrapping up a pleasurable experience, and you can be sure your gift won't gather dust like those solar-powered nail clippers.|
|Show her how beautiful you think she is with gold-tone earrings with green gems and pearls, $82 at Ah-ha (3129 Magazine St., 269-2442). Photo by Carlton Mickle|
While fashions, jewelry and gadgets from a favorite store are always fins gifts, others on your holiday list might appreciate something gratifying to the senses, specifically their taste buds. When you give a gift certificate to one of New Orleans' countless great restaurants, you're wrapping up a pleasurable experience, and you can be sure your gift won't gather dust like those solar-powered nail clippers.
For the adventurous barbecue and beer lover on your list, Zea Rotisserie and Grill (The Esplanade, 1401 W. Esplande Ave., Kenner, 468-7733; 1525 St. Charles Ave., 520-8100; 1655 Hickory Ave., Harahan, 738-0799; Clearview Shopping Center, 4450 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 780-9090; www.zearestaurants.com) offers several gift options. There are gift cards, Zea's specialty sauces like Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette or Thai Rib Sauce, and handcrafted beers, all available at any Zea location or on the Web site.
A good neighborhood restaurant can be as comfortable as a warm pair of slippers, and it will always fit perfectly when it's a gift certificate from Moonlight Café (1921 Sophie Wright Place, 561-1255). The restaurant, which features Louisiana and Southern-style dishes, is open for lunch, dinner and late-night daily, and has breakfast items on the weekends.
For every $25 you spend on a gift certificate to burger emporium Phil's Grill (3020 Severn Ave., Metairie, 324-9080; www.phils-grill.com), you get an extra $5 free.
Stop by Jung's Golden Dragon (4417 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 887-6081) and pick up gift certificates for your favorite connoisseurs of Chinese cuisine. They can use it for lunch, dinner or the new Chinese breakfast from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Send someone on a gastronomic trip to France with classic continental dishes like escargot and ratatouille or more exotic entrees such as grilled tuna topped with peach, mango and papaya chutney. The Flaming Torch (737 Octavia St., 895-0900; www.flamingtorchnola.com) serves up a perfect gift for any culinary Francophile, with gift certificates available in $25, $50, $75, $100 and $200 amounts. The Flaming Torch offers lunch and dinner daily and brunch Sunday.
The holidays are a time for excess and indulgence, and what better way to act on those vices than with a trip to The Buffet at Harrah's (Harrah's New Orleans Casino, 365 Canal St., 533-6000; www.harrahs.com/our_casinos/nor). The Sweet Treats dessert bar, featuring more than 40 different items, is a delicious way to pack all your holiday weight gain into one sitting.
Give a gift that will stretch someone's pasta horizons, taking them from traditional meatballs and marinara to pasta Jambalaya with andouille sausage. Semolina (100 Tyler Square, Covington, 985-898-0040; 1121 Manhattan Blvd., Harvey, 361-8293; 2999 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, 985-626-8923; 3501 Chateau Blvd., Kenner, 468-1047; Clearview Shopping Center, 4436 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 454-7930; www.semolina.com) sells gift cards that can be used at any Semolina or Semolina's Bistro Italia location.
Buying gift certificates from Salvatore Ristorante (3226 N. Arnoult Road, Metairie, 455-2433; www.salvatorerestaurant.com) gives you more bang for your holiday buck. If you spend $25, you get a $30 gift certificate; $50 gets you a $60 certificate, and it goes up from there. Check the Web site for full details and other specials and coupons. The restaurant is hosting a Christmas party on Thursday, Dec. 20, featuring Vince Vance and The Valiants.
For a dramatic departure from the usual holiday fare, send friends to West Indies Café (1600 St. Charles Ave., 571-2015), where they can experience flavorful Caribbean and Latin American cuisine such as ceviche, Argentine grilled skirt steak and a bounty of seafood offerings. Gift certificates are available.
It's not unusual to have a friend who claims they can eat at Felipe's Taqueria (6215 S. Miro St., 309-2776; www.felipesneworleans.com) every day of the week. A gift card is a great way to help them indulge their single-minded love of burritos, tacos, tostadas and quesadillas stuffed with fresh ingredients.
To throw a holiday party that everyone can enjoy, even your vegetarian and vegan friends, look no further than Mona's Café (504 Frenchmen St., 949-4115; 1120 S. Carrollton Ave., 861-8175; 2820 E. Causeway Approach, Mandeville, 985-625-2977; 3901 Banks St., 482-7743; 4126 Magazine St., 894-9800). This Middle Eastern dining institution offers a catering menu with something for everyone on your guest list.
Parkway Bakery and Tavern (538 N. Hagen Ave., 482-3047) is doing its part to keep the Thanksgiving holiday spirit alive with a special turkey dish including cranberries and dressing every Wednesday night for the rest of the year. Parkway also has gift certificates.
If you're planning to end 2007 with the most stylish, extravagant meal possible, you'd better make your reservations now at The Besh Steakhouse at Harrah's (Harrah's New Orleans Casino, 512 S. Peters St., 533-6111; www.harrahs.com). Treat yourself or a loved one to a memorable meal with entrees like the epic 38-oz. Cowboy Steak or the rich, savory double-cut Berkshire pork chop with crabmeat and orzo risotto.
For a truly impressive holiday party, you could rent Chef John Harris' acclaimed restaurant Lilette (3637 Magazine St., 895-1636; www.liletterestaurant.com) for an evening. Or pamper your friends and family on a more restrained scale with Lilette gift certificates they can use for lunch or dinner specials like braised Kurobuta pork belly, roasted Muscovy duck breast and grilled yellowfin tuna.
Worried your holiday party has grown to proportions beyond what your already overextended self can handle? Ernst Café (600 S. Peters St., 525-8544; www.ernstcafe.net) wants to help you with your party whether it's for 50 people or 500 people. You can choose from the six standard menus, or a special events coordinator will help to create a customized menu. Or forget the planning altogether, and head to Ernst Café's New Year's Eve Bash featuring Rockin' Dopsie.
For a present that's filling and flavorful, wrap up gift certificates from Nirvana Indian Cuisine (4308 Magazine St., 894-9797). Your loved one will think kind thoughts about you when he converts it into a meal like the Nirvana Special, with chicken, lamb and shrimp, or the Flag of India, a dish with two styles of chicken and spinach.
Let your friends pick out their favorite sushi treats by giving gift certificates from Kyoto (4920 Prytania St., 891-3644). And when you stop in to pick them up, try out Kyoto's two new rolls, the Who Dat? and the Ceviche.
With Nola Belle Personal Chef Service (723-7234; www.nolabelle.com) you can give that special someone a truly rare gift: a delicious, home-cooked meal with no hassles or messes. Chef Erin plans a menu tailored to the diners' tastes, does all the grocery shopping, cooks in their home kitchen, packs up and labels all the leftovers and cleans up everything.
A gift certificate to The Savvy Gourmet (4519 Magazine St., 895-2665; www.savvygourmet.com) can be redeemed for classes, cookware, catering services, brunch or lunch. Purchase a $50 gift card for a friend and receive a complimentary $5 gift card for yourself.
It's easy to see that our city has more than its fair share of great dining options, but sometimes it's good to get out and sample the fare of restaurants in other cities. Why not surprise someone you love with a trip booked through AAA Travel (3445 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 838-7500)?