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THE RIGHT SELECTION MAY BE A MATTER OF TASTE

One way to give a successful food-related present is to think about the recipient's tastes.

If your friend is a pasta fanatic, for example, he'd probably be pleased with a Pronto Parmesan cordless rechargeable cheese grater. Actually it takes longer to say than it does to operate. Set the grater on the table or kitchen counter, push the button and have freshly grated Parmesan cheese in seconds -- what fun! And any real food lover knows what a difference really freshly grated cheese makes. At Premier Gourmet, the thing looks like a rocket and costs $49.99. (If you're a real sport, you'll include a hunk of the cheese.)

On the more modest side, if your recipient likes a quiet cup of tea now and then, he'd probably go for a Villa Ware china tea mug that's both pretty and useful. The mug contains an infuser so loose tea can be utilized. And it has a lid so that the tea stays warm. A booming $5.99, also at Premier.

If your friend is a wine lover on the other hand, all sorts of ideas present themselves. How about, for starters, a good-looking wine rack? Case in point: the sleek silver plated rack at Williams-Sonoma that sits on bar or tabletop, holds eight bottles most attractively. It even folds. Cost is $69.

Less expensive, but also sure to make a hit are gel-filled wine coolers. They really work. Keep these gel-filled plastic sleeves in the freezer for at least six hours and then put unchilled bottles of wine inside. The wine will reach desired temperature in a matter of minutes and, what's more, it will stay cold for three hours. Two attractively decorated wine coolers cost under $25 and are available in many housewares departments.

Lever Screwpull corkscrews are easy to find, too. And they are wonderful to use. Drop the lever, the Teflon coated "worm" goes right into the cork. Lift up the lever and out the cork comes. With its own foil cutter, around $139.

The person who likes to give parties would be pleased by a new set of salad/dessert plates, especially plates that are tuned into the season. Williams Sonoma has a new series featuring lighthearted skating chefs, each one carefully balancing his specialite. Six porcelain plates sell for $59. If you prefer, there's also an amusing 16-inch platter featuring the same chefs plus Santa. Same price.

For Buffalo boosters who like to eat: (are there any who don't?): Investigate the sweet and savory baskets packed by the Clarkson Center for Human Services. There are many types.

Each basket is colorfully assembled by Clarkson students and is impressive. The baskets include many Western New York creations; proceeds go to the Center's clients.

Some samples:

The Ultimate Coffee Mug: packed in a Clarkson Center cup you'll find two flavors of fancy coffee, a Clarence-made Lady McDuffie pound cake and Health Mix from Buffalo's Sunbird Snacks. $15. Or the Buffalo Lover's Smorgasbord containing Sauce from Chef's and Ilio DiPaolo, assorted pastas, dip from Sir Reginald's of Clarence, Chiavetta's salad dressing, Weber's mustard, Anchor Bar Buffalo Wing Sauce, Sunbird Snacks Cajun Oriental Mix. Also a Taste of Buffalo cookbook and a specially decorated chef's apron. $75. (Call the Market Arcade Cafe and Gift Shop, 842-6512 for more information.)

Another idea for people who like to eat: Restaurant gift certificates. Just about every restaurant in Western New York makes them available. Simply call ahead of time and arrange for a certificate for dinner for two, or maybe even just a bottle of wine to be served at the table. Always an appreciated gift. Prices vary, of course.

For those who have a sweet tooth -- a box of Quaker Bonnet Snow Banks, random pieces of meringue, drizzled with chocolate and studded with pecans. "They resemble what the side streets of Buffalo look like in the winter," owner Liz Kolken explains. Ah yes. Send 'em to your friends in Florida. A six-ounce box costs $7.

And finally a gift for anyone with a sense of humor: A Menu Pig. The porker statuette stands some 25 inches tall is adorned in chef's clothing and a silly smile. He carries a slate.

All the better to write the evening's menu on. Or a grocery list. Maids, pastry chefs and Beef Eaters also available. At Pitt Petri. Priced from $85.

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