This is the final installment of our 2007 guide, but you can revisit our suggestions from past weeks—on home decor, personal care and services, and green giving—at chicagoreader.com. —Heather Kenny
Cantuccini, or hard Italian almond cookies, dipped in sweet, strong vin santo are a traditional Tuscan dessert that's especially comforting in cold weather. aSan Felice Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2000, $26.99 at Sam's Wines & Spirits, samswine.com; Sapori Cantuccini, $6.99 at L'Appetito, 875 N. Michigan, 312-337-0691, 30 E. Huron, 312-787-9881.
Caviar from Tsar Nicoulai is harvested from sustainably farmed white sturgeon. A one-ounce jar of its Select California Estate Osetra—endorsed by the French Laundry's Thomas Keller—serves two. a$89 at tsarnicoulai.com.
Grass-fed beef is lower in saturated fat and higher in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than conventional corn-fed beef, and it's better for the environment too. Bill Kurtis's Tallgrass Beef, which supplies picky restaurants like Lula Cafe and Bistro Campagne, offers several gift packages for the home cook, including the Steak Sampler and the Connoisseur Grill Pack. a$69.49 and $110.99 at tallgrassbeef.com.
Provenance Food and Wine's gift baskets are filled with the sort of gourmet delights you'll find in the store, including wines from small producers, artisan chocolate, sea salt, boutique pasta sauce, and top-shelf olive oil. You can select your own assortment (empty baskets start at $6) or let the staff pick for you along certain themes (locally produced, beer and mustard, etc). Pictured is La Grande Dame, the top of the line. a$50-$250 at Provenance Food and Wine, 2528 N. California, 773-384-0699, and 2312 W. Leland, 773-784-2314, provenancefoodandwine.com.
Just chocolate, hold the wine and olive oil? Evanston's Belgian Chocolatier Piron offers handmade goodies inside a festively decorated chocolate sabot, or traditional Belgian wooden shoe. a$40.95, 509-A Main, Evanston, 847-864-5504, belgchocpiron.com.
Local institutions Fannie May and Eli's Cheesecakes have teamed up to offer cheesecakes inspired by (and including bits of) the candymaker's best sellers, including Mint Meltaways and Pixies. a$24.99 at Fannie May locations or fanniemay.com.
See what Charlie Trotter, Lidia Bastianich, Ferran Adrià, and practically every other chef you've ever heard of would choose for their final meal on earth in My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals, by magazine photographer Melanie Dunea. a$39.95, area bookstores or amazon.com.
For the griller on your list, combine a jar of spice rub from Reader contributor and BBQ expert Gary Wiviott with a gift certificate from the venerable Paulina Meat Market. aOne-cup jar, $5.99 at the Spice House, 1512 N. Wells, 312-274-0378, thespicehouse.com; Paulina Meat Market, 3501 N. Lincoln, 773-248-6272, paulinameatmarket.com.
On December 22 the Great American Cheese Collection, a local company that distributes products from artisanal cheesemakers in 28 states, is opening its warehouse to the public; prices per pound range from $8.50 to $35. Olive oil from a small family estate in Sicily will also be available; a 250-milliliter bottle, normally $21, will sell for just $10. aSat 12/22, 8 AM-1 PM, 4727 S. Talman, 773-519-5055, greatamericancheese.com.
A selection of loose tea from venerable French tea importer Mariage Freres could include Earl Grey French Blue, with bergamot and cornflowers; Japanese Genmaicha, with toasted rice and popped corn; or the vanilla-infused red Bourbon. a$12 per 100 grams at Porte Rouge, 1911 W. Division, 773-269-2800, porterouge.biz.v