The healthy vegetarian gift: What vegetarians like to give and receive

I needed to bring a hostess gift and I wanted to bring something nice to eat and it got me thinking: What makes a good gift if you're a vegetarian or if the person you are giving it to is a vegetarian?

So, off to the Web I went where I scoured many a gift-giving site. And, boy, are there a lot of sites out there. And, boy, do a lot of them sell a lot of useless junk.

But I did trip across one really good find. Good because the food is incredible. And good because they deliver and you just can't beat anyone who does the work for you!

Cheese, please
igourmet
is an online gourmet food food site. It is not vegetarian. But they do sell the most incredible cheeses.

Now, t
here is a mind-boggling number of cheeses on the site, so I'm just going to tell you about a few we've tried and loved and hope to try again (good tip: If you have a decent cheese shop in your neighborhood, you can always drop by and ask for some samples; it's a great way to try before you buy).

Gift me up
The first, obvious, place to look is the gift baskets. Sure, you can search for vegetarian basketsand they do have a small selection — but let's be more interesting and see what else fits the bill. Such as New England Classic Gift Basket ($69.99).

I just loved this combination of foods. On one hand you had some really great cheeses such as Berkshire Blue which is incredible with a salad, the Boggy Meadow Farmstead Baby Swiss (don't you love that name?) which is creamy and amazingly good melted, and the Chevre which was polished off in just two days.

The basket also came with all sorts of extra goodies including Vermont Maple Syrup, which we loved.

Another one we really liked was the pretty Spring Cheese Sampler Gift ($59.99, pictured, above). From Vermont, we have an aged cheddar (and, let's face, you can never go wrong with a good cheddar), a Canadian Cranberry Chevre with Cinnamon, a tangy goat cheese, and a
Dutch Gouda, Marygold, which gets its name from the embedded marigold petals. Best of the basket is the Spanish Malagon which is infused with rosemary which I just adore and most interesting is a semi-sweet Chocolate Capri Goat Log which reminds me of chocolate cheesecake, sorta.

Italian, mild and sharp
Now, gift baskets are nice, but they can get expensive. So you can always select individual cheeses and put them in a pretty gift bag.

For example, on the mild side, we were quite fond of Trugole. A semi-soft artisan cheese from the Italian Alps, it has a wonderful, almost fruity taste. And, on the sharp side, we have the Italian Provolone Piccante. Forget everything you know about bland American provolone. This unpasteurized (most of the European cheeses are) cheese is rich and gorgeous and a revelation melted in an omelet. It also may be our newest favorite find.

But what if cheese is just not your thing?
If you don't like cheese, or if you are giving a gift to a vegan (as in, no dairy products), then they have all sorts of other options, such as the Edmond Fallot Dijon Mustard Gift Pail ($19.99) which contains a 16 ounce jar of this especially wonderful Dijon mustard. Trés chic! Of course, you could always play it super safe and just avoid food altogether and opt for a treat such as the Vegetable Therapy Soap Bar ($14.99) which comes packaged on a cute wooden soap tray.

Fido, too?
Anyone who knows me knows I never forget the wee beasties. So, if you're like me and want to give a gift to a dog (whether they are a vegetarian or not!), then one fun idea is the Gourmet Doggy Gift Basket ($39.99) which is jam-packed with everything from a five-inch tall gingerbread-shaped Peanut Butter Madness Buddy Biscuit to Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil which is nice for their coat, a half pound each of Australian Dairy Vale Cheddar and Parmesan for a yummy treat both for you and for them, and a rawhide bone (which you have to be careful about giving to your dog - some people believe they are a choke hazard), and a stainless steel paw print bowl. Because everyone deserves a treat.