Champagne. When you can't think of what to give, buy a bottle of champagne. When you've been invited to a dinner and they ask you to bring wine: bring bubbly. See, champagne is an event of its own and it doesn't have to go with the food so your hosts will always be happy to receive it. The cooks could be making barbecue, stir-fry, cassoulet or tamales and you could still start the evening off with a bottle of Gruet. Speaking of Gruet, they've got a new pink sparkling wine that is absolutely beautiful and not anything like the sickly sweet pink champagne that you drank on New Year's Eve when you were 17. Gruet Rosé costs the same (about $13) as their Blanc de Noirs, but they only made a small batch of the stuff. You can still find it at Jubilation (Lomas and Carlisle), Cost Plus World Market (Menaul and Carlisle) and at the winery (8400 Pan American NE). The smart thing to do is to buy champagne by the case. It's not that expensive and you can keep it in your fridge, ready to go whenever you need something to take to a last-minute get together, birthday party, tree-trimming soirée or New Year's bash.
Filipino food! Albuquerque has Filipino food! Ooh, it's always so exciting when we get something new. Fil-Am Fastfood Mart is the name of a little café and market that has been open for a few weeks at 600 Louisiana SE (265-4064), the former home of Asian Palace. Fil-Am's name, including a hyphenation of Filipino-American, makes the place sound like a gas station that also sells beer and cigarettes, but it's nothing like that. The dining room is humble and spare; orders are taken at the counter and filled from a steam table holding trays of noodles, grilled meat skewers, egg rolls and veggies. Service is nonexistent, but who cares, right? The egg rolls, noodles and soup were perfectly fine, but we were most surprised by the pork skewer and adobo pork. (Yay pork!). Both were far more savory than they looked, the adobo benefiting greatly from a dunk in a little cup full of spicy vinegar. Next time I want to try the big rolls stuffed with meat and veggies. You should go! Try something new! Buy yourself a $1.50 jar of spicy vinegar, as Devin O'Leary did. You'll definitely have money left over from your very cheap lunch.
It's good to have friends who are goat farmers. Every Friday, for example, they brought me cheese. Last week: Swedish curds and fresh mozzarella. They also brought two pounds of freshly slaughtered goat. The kid and his milk, in one delivery.
You love to eat; your beloved loves to cook. And it's lucky, too, because you don't know a China cap from a coolie hat and you've never seen a mandolin that didn't have strings. So, how are you supposed to shop for someone who's already got more gadgets than Bond, James Bond. I asked a few local foodies what topped their holiday wish lists. Their best suggestion was books. If you're not sure, give the cook a cookbook.