You know how really fancy chocolates always cost more money than you think, but then again, even a taste of a really pretty, delicate, handmade one can make you feel happy, and like you've received a special treat? Yeah, that's pretty much the deal with CaryMo's sweets. If you're looking for gorgeous, delicious stocking stuffers, or Christmas party favors that taste terrific, or just a prettily wrapped confection that will put a smile on a friend's face for under 40 bucks, you can order Cary M. Becraft's seasonally flavored (think: spiced apple wine, sweet almond, peanut butter and honeycomb) chocolate wonders in sizes ranging from the two-piece box ($5) to the 24-piece box ($40), plus variously sized candy bars and fudge by the pound.
Outside of Baltimore, only a lucky few have ever heard of the wonder that is the Berger Cookie ($18.99 plus shipping and handling for a 2-pound tin). But they have an almost magical hold on Baltimoreans, who are practically weaned on them. The cookie works along the same principle as the cheesesteak. Mediocre ingredients -- in this case, a dangerously large amount of chocolate that resembles hardened frosting on top of a sort of crumbly shortbread cookie -- are made into something much greater than the sum of their parts, something surprisingly wonderful.
For a young person who's just moving into a new apartment and wants a kitchen furnished with useful cookbooks, introduce him or her to one of the culinary world's most colorful characters, Italian cooking doyenne Marcella Hazan. Hazan, whose tart, strict instructions for making animals and vegetables taste great through the judicious application of olive oil, wine and salt, may be a grumpy instructor, but she's an invaluable one, and every kitchen will benefit from the presence of her books: "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" ($19.80) (which combines her first two blockbusters, "The Classic Italian Cookbook" and "More Classic Italian Cooking"), "Marcella Says..." ($19.77) and "Marcella Cucina." To top it off, include a copy of this year's "Amarcord: Marcella Remembers" ($18.15), the chef's piquant memoir, as told to her English-speaking (and still translating) husband.