Marcus has covered food for Newsday since 1998.
Where's a good place to buy inexpensive kitchen gifts?
You can't do better, or cheaper, than Ikea in Hicksville. I recently strolled through the store's self-serve Marketplace looking for great gifts for less than $25. But all I could find were great gifts for less than $20.
The costliest item I was drawn to was a beautiful glazed casserole dish, brown on the outside, jade green on the inside, that's safe for use in microwave, oven and dishwasher. A 16-by-11-inch Vitling baking dish is $19.99. A perfect gift for myself, I thought. I bought it and its smaller, deeper companion, 10 by 8inches, for $14.99.
The last time I bought someone a mortar and pestle, it cost about $40. Ädelsten, $14.99, is ingeniously designed: the 4-inch-high bowl is reversible, that there's a shallow depression and a deeper one. The pestle also is reversible.
If I had a Swedish grandmother, I would hope she'd leave me a heavy-duty stoneware bowl like Girig ($12.99) that I could use to whip up Swedish pastries and also to display clusters of fresh lingonberries.
A thrifty colleague of mine is also microwave averse, which narrows his lunch options: He won't buy a sandwich in the cafeteria, and he won't nuke something he brought from home. So I bought him this stylish 20-ounce Kullar thermos ($7.99) so he can feast on his own piping-hot soup.
Then, there's my English pal for whom I always buy pretty trays. (I don't know how this tradition got started.) I think she would love Bärbar ($6.99), a laminated tray, 13 inches square, decorated with colorful birds.
"Buy me some potholders," said a friend as I was leaving the office. How could she not love a set of two Omväxlande ($6.49), each of which bear the hallowed inscription "Älmhult Småland," the town and province where Ingvar Kamprad founded Ikea. (It's also the hometown of the great Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus.)
In my lifetime, I have given away dozens of 365+ Ihardig pepper mills. The grinding mechanism is on top, so it doesn't leave trails of pepper dust (you turn it over to grind), and the glass vessel lets you see just how much pepper you have left. The price of this item seems to fluctuate, but right now it's as low as I've ever seen it: $5.99.
I don't know how I could pass up any product named Sockerkaka, but this set of 6 nonstick baking cups ($4.99) will be perfect for my pal who loves silicone bakeware and making cupcakes.
Now, we come to the deal of deals: Six Svalka champagne flutes for $4.79. That's cheaper than renting champagne flutes.
Another colleague of mine has asked me a few times if I have a can opener, and even though I have a pretty well-equipped kitchen drawer here at the office, my can opener went missing a few years ago. For $1.99, I'll be giving her her very own Stäm and hope she'll share it with me should the need arise.