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Gifts Good Enough To Eat

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If you're looking for an easy, last-minute holiday gift, you can't go wrong with a gift certificate to a great restaurant. Because even the most persnickety, hard-to-buy-for "person who has everything" has to eat, right? And don't forget, New Year's Eve is just days away, so be sure to reserve a table before it's too late.

Are you a sushi addict? Do you know someone who is? If they're jonesing for a Jones Roll -- white tuna, green onion, avocado chili sauce and sprouts with ponzu sauce on top -- from Kyoto (4920 Prytania St., 891-3644), a gift certificate should do the trick. Or invite a whole gang of sushi lovers for a party in Kyoto's back room, which seats up to 20 people.

It's a great time to treat someone to a gift certificate from Lilette (3637 Magazine St., 895-1636; www.liletterestaurant.com), as Chef John Harris recently added some tempting new dishes to the menu: a succulent appetizer of sweet and sticky beef short ribs with hearts of palm, cucumber and lime-ginger vinaigrette and an entree of braised veal osso buco served with spinach-ricotta gnudi, San Marzano tomatoes and veal jus. Call now to make reservations for a special New Year's Eve dinner.

Introduce a friend to the exotic textures and flavors of a grilled baby octopus salad -- with arugula, sunflower shoots, grape tomatoes, shaved fennel and citrus vinaigrette -- or veal cheek ravioli with wild mushrooms and light cream at Iris (8115 Jeannette St., 862-5848; www.irisneworleans.com). Gift certificates are available, and they will be open on New Year's Eve with a five-course menu for $75.

Bayona (430 Dauphine St., 525-4455; www.bayona.com) will accept payment for gift certificates in person or over the phone. Among the treats from Chef Susan Spicer's kitchen are an appetizer of grilled shrimp with black bean cake and coriander sauce and an entree of grilled duck breast with pepper jelly glaze.

When you purchase a $100 gift certificate at Thai Style (4001 Lapalco Blvd., Harvey, 328-4988), you'll get a complimentary $20 gift certificate. And for a limited time, get a free glass of wine with the purchase of any entree priced $11.95 and up.

At Longbranch (21516 Hwy. 36, Abita Springs, 985-871-8171; www.longbranchrestaurant.com), Sundays bring a special treat: a champagne brunch with live jazz from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Among the seasonal menu's stars right now is the Maine lobster and spinach omelette with satsuma hollandaise and Mesclun salad. Gift certificates are available, and be sure to ask about wine-tasting menus and other options for private parties and special events.

Abita Bar-B-Q (69399 Hwy. 59, Abita Springs, 985-892-0205) knows the secret to great barbecue -- it's the sauce! Abita's is a special recipe that is the perfect complement to its ribs, chicken and brisket -- all slow-smoked and served with your choice of housemade sides. Abita Bar-B-Q also caters year round.

Celebrating its 20th year in business in 2007, Christina's Empress of China (429 Wall Blvd., Gretna, 392-3939) invites you to enjoy traditional Chinese dishes accented by sauces made fresh daily. Gift certificates are available, and there is a private room that can accommodate up to 30 people.

Help a loved one jumpstart their New Year's resolution to live a healthier lifestyle with a gift card from Vitality Juice, Java & Smoothie Bar (1205 St. Charles Ave., 561-1148; 2309 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 828-3488; 1915 Hickory Ave., Harahan, 737-1901; 322 Dalwill Drive, Mandeville, 985-674-6898; www.vitalityjuice.com). Or choose an aromatherapy gift basket, an organic gourmet coffee and tea basket, or create a custom basket.

Know someone who craves wraps? Wrap up a gift certificate to Roly Poly (5409 Tchoupitoulas St., 891-8373; One Shell Square, 701 Poydras St., 561-9800; www.rolypoly.com), where the most popular menu item is the Santa Fe chicken wrap with sliced chicken breast, melted jalapeno jack cheese, onions, tomatoes and ranch dressing -- grilled golden brown and served with side of salsa. Catering and delivery are available.

Treat a friend to a meal that's free and hassle free -- meaning, you treat your friend (with a gift certificate), and August Moon (3635 Prytania St., 899-5129) delivers it to their door. One of the few restaurants with delivery service in the Uptown area, August Moon's menu features an extensive array of Chinese and Vietnamese offerings.

A gift certificate to Sapporo (3544 W. Esplanade Ave., Metairie, 779-9288) is perfect for sushi lovers and meat lovers alike. In addition to a full range of popular sushi choices (raw and cooked), the restaurant features barbecue grills at the table that you can use to cook your own meats. Sapporo also has a party area that can seat 25 to 30 people, and it offers party trays for off-site catering.

You can enjoy the fine French fare at Flaming Torch (737 Octavia St., 895-0900) seven days a week, which makes it a great gift certificate to get. For special occasions, ask about one of the restaurant's private rooms, which can hold 15 to 100 people. Flaming Torch will be open on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, with special a la carte menus.

For the vegetarian on your list, Nirvana Indian Cuisine (4308 Magazine St., 894-9797) has lots of menu options, such as Bhindhi, sauteed okra with spices, tomatoes and onions, and many more. Known for curries that burst with flavor, Nirvana has a lunch buffet that makes for a very satisfying midday meal, especially when you pay with a gift card. Nirvana will be open for lunch and dinner on Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

Boasting an impressive selection of artisanal and farmhouse cheeses, the newly opened St. James Cheese Company (5004 Prytania St., 899-4737; www.stjamescheese.com) also stocks gourmet specialty foods and great gifts for the food lover, such as cheese gift boxes, Laguiole cheese knives and fondue sets as well as cheese plates, boards and graters

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