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Fancy bacon, Spanish spices beat out coal for stockings

In Season: Gifts
by: JIM CLARK, A basket of cured meats from Pastaworks could make a carnivore happy on Christmas morning.

Even the person who has everything needs food. But that doesn't have to mean unending boxes of pears and weirdly colored cheese balls.

Portland's specialty food stores are chock-full with inventive local treats sure to charm the taste buds off anyone on your last-minute list.

Here's a showcase of three such shops and their season's-greeting edible specials.

Pastaworks: Charcut-for-he or she or Fido?

Richard Recanzone of Pastaworks (3735 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd., 503-232-1010) has house-cured stocking stuffers in mind this year - just hang 'em high, so the dogs can't reach.

Pastaworks is known for its amazing selection of cheese, wine and, of course, fresh pasta, but its charcuterie is among the best in town, crafting everything from house-made bacon and guanciale to pâtés and confit.

Recanzone has one word for stocking stuffers: 'Bacon. It's always an appropriate gift in my mind. Just watch out for hungry dogs.'

For a Pastaworks all-things-bacon gift, start with a pound of house-made wild-boar bacon sliced to order, and some thick slabs of Nueske's applewood-smoked bacon.

Then if you're feeling generous add a couple bacon brethren to the basket - some house-made pancetta (like bacon but not smoked) and guanciale (similar to salt pork but made from pig jowl). These range from $7 to $15 a pound.

Pastaworks crafts plenty of other meaty treats, such as house-made duck gizzard confit, salami and a popular smoked andouille sausage that can be included in a custom gift basket if requested in advance.

Foster and Dobbs: Spanish delish

This season, the standouts at Foster and Dobbs (2518 N.E. 15th Ave., 503-284-1157) are the hard-to-find Spanish delicacies.

According to co-owner Luan Schooler, chocolates from Oriol Balaguer, a Barcelona-based confectioner and pastry chef, 'are gorgeous and offer really interesting flavor combinations. This little selection of six beautiful truffles is for somebody who is a real chocolate connoisseur.'

Another Balaguer chocolate box (a perfect hostess gift, according to Schooler) features three chocolate discs - one with toasted rice, another studded with macadamia nuts and a third with hazelnuts.

These chocolates (as well as a wide range of other around-the-world and local chocolates) are in the $10-$25 range.

Schooler has plenty of prepared gift baskets throughout the store for those in a hurry, but you also can order a custom gift basket or put one together yourself.

To round out a Spanish-themed gift, add tins of sardines, octopus or anchovies in olive oil as well as jars of marinated chickpeas, great white beans, romesco sauce and piquillo peppers.

For those who like it hot, don't forget a canister of spicy, smoked Spanish pimentón (aka paprika).

Limbo: Sugar and spice

For a more DIY (and, most likely, less expensive) food gift, stop by Limbo (4707 S.E. 39th Ave., 503-774-8008), in the same building as the Southeast Trader Joe's.

The north wall of the store is stocked floor to ceiling with 670 glass jars of spices, herbs and teas.

Pick and choose everything from pink peppercorns and five types of sage to Hawaiian sea salt and dried mushrooms.

If you're unsure about a certain herb or spice, consult the library of medicinal and culinary books at the front of the store. Then use the stainless-steel stations, in the front and in the back, to scoop your goods into bags and weigh them.

For a spicy gift put together a chili sampler. Limbo has 15 chilies and blends to choose from, ranging from ubiquitous cayenne and chipotle to a more obscure and spicier ground African birdseye chili.

Or put together a to-be-steeped gift of several loose-leaf teas. With more than 30 teas to choose from, give the gift of green, black or herbal teas and throw in a tea ball or teapot.