Countdown to Christmas 

Giving thanks for Christmas shopping made simple.

Yeah, the turkey was moist, the dressing was fluffy, and the pumpkin pie was great. Now, on to the important stuff -- Christmas shopping! You can forget about the tacky ties and argyle socks: What your trendinista friends want most this year is gourmet foods and wines. Plenty of places offer upscale gift baskets, but if you really want to impress folks, you can't go wrong with something from West Point Market (1711 West Market Street, 1-800-838-2156). The Akron landmark is one of the nation's top gourmet food shops, with a world-class selection of wines, imported cheeses, and an in-store bakery famous for its Killer Brownies -- layers of fudgy chocolate batter interspersed with caramel, chocolate chips, and chopped walnuts. This year's gift basket selection includes dozens of choices, ranging from the Classic Fruit & Snack Box ($44.95) -- a wooden cheese box crammed with Killer Brownies, mixed nuts, Shelburne Farms Farmhouse Cheddar, Stonewall Kitchen's Orange-Cranberry Marmalade, crackers, hard candies, and fresh fruits -- to the Rustic Retreat #22 ($56.95), complete with a bottle of red, a bottle of white, brie, cheddar, crackers, and seasonal fruits, packed up on a wooden tray. All gifts can be readied for pickup, some can be shipped, and the store offers delivery within the Akron area. Orders can be placed by phone, fax (330-869-8666), or -- best of all -- in person, maybe when you check out the store's annual Holiday Open House, this Sunday, November 26, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Go fish . . . Staffers at the newly remodeled and reconceived Metropolitan Café; (1352 West Sixth Street, 216-241-1300) are aiming for an early December opening. The Warehouse District dining room (formerly Piccolo Mondo) is the second of the Hyde Park Group's new seafood restaurants, following in the wake of the successful Blake's Seafood Grill in Chagrin Falls. As at Blake's, Metropolitan Café's moderately priced, contemporary American menu will offer lots of wood-grilled goodies, with a few Mediterranean accents tossed in for good measure. Initially, the restaurant will be open for dinner only, going to lunchtime service once the crew gets its sea legs. Mark Shary is the executive chef; Michael Yih, formerly of nearby Blue Point Grille and Century at the Ritz-Carlton, will be GM.

Wine online . . . Todd Thompson, assistant manager at Pier W (12700 Lake Avenue, Lakewood) and wine guru to the masses, has taken his expertise online at www.ttwine.com. The website is a companion to the wine classes Thompson leads at the lakeside restaurant and provides pithy reviews, based on student input, of dozens of featured wines, as well as prices and sensible notes on food and wine pairings. The down-to-earth Thompson is dedicated to the notion that fine wine is meant to be enjoyed, not financed, so much of his site is devoted to viniferous bargains. Another section, "The Retail Report," profiles local wine merchants who provide exceptional service, style, and an inventory of thoughtfully selected merchandise. Thompson's next series of wine classes is scheduled to begin after the holidays; call 216-228-2250 to get on the mailing list.

Asleep at the keyboard . . . We gave you the wrong info on the new late-night hours for Mise in last week's column. The correct hours are weeknights until midnight, and Friday and Saturday until 2 a.m. We obviously need to get more rest . . .


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