DECEMBER 20, 2016

A balsalmic vinegar star is born, along with a weapon for attacking cheese, both great gifts for people who spend time in kitchens by choice (as is the retro towel, pictured below).

By Wini Moranville
Whether you're looking for a hostess gift, a stocking stuffer or just one more sweet little something to add to a larger gift, here are three choice items. All are available at locally owned stores, and each is something I either own (and cherish!) or have personally given as a gift:
  • Aceto Balsamico di Modena di Famiglia from Vom Fass: Like wines, balsamic vinegars vary greatly in quality. Give your favorite foodie a bottle of this dense, velvety elixir as a reminder of everything a true-to-Modena balsamic vinegar can be. This isn't for vinaigrettes; rather, it's meant as an opulent finishing touch to drizzle over roasted meats and veggies or swirl (sparingly!) into pan sauces, pastas, risottos and more. $19.99 per 100-ml bottle at Vom Fass (833 42nd St.; 515-244-5020).
  • The Original Cheese Knife: This knife was created in the 1940s specifically to cut through -- of all things -- Velveeta. Turns out, what worked well for Velveeta works splendidly for cutting today's popular semisoft cheeses, from Brie to havarti. The secret is in the FDA-approved resin blade, which keeps the cheese from clinging to the knife when you cut it. $19.99 at Kitchen Collage (430 E. Locust St.; 515-270-8202). 
  • Cat Studio Geography Collection Dishtowels: Remind someone of home -- or of somewhere else they might rather be! These colorful, beautifully embroidered towels come in all kinds of geographically themed designs. Choices include nearby states and favorite international destinations, like Paris or London. $18.50 at Accents and Interiors (Westmark Plaza, 2701 86th St., Urbandale; 515-276-7201).
Wini Moranville covers food and dining for dsm. Follow her at All Things Food - DSM Wini Moranville.     
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Fashion pros will do the shopping for you through a new West Des Moines service.

If you're like us -- and we suspect many of you are -- you don't have a lot of time to shop for that perfect look. Or ... maybe you just don't want to.
Fusion Boutique offers a solution: The West Des Moines store has launched "Wrapped Up," a service that's meant to take the hassle out of shopping. Here's how it works: You choose one of three "package" options: "Have An Event," if you need an outfit for a specific occasion; "My Perfect Outfit," which includes five pieces; or "Fill My Closet," which is focused on a wardrobe makeover. You also choose how often you want the service, whether just one time, monthly or quarterly. You then complete an online profile, after which a stylist chooses items that fit your budget and style. The package is then delivered to your doorstep.
The concept is similar to the popular national service Stitch Fix, but Wrapped Up "allows customers to completely support local and receive personalized service and selection," says owner Sara McConnell.
Fusion Boutique recently moved to 4100 University Ave., Suite 107. Find out more about Wrapped Up on the store's website
Three musicians, two shows, one day: That's "the Bad Plus" in Des Moines tomorrow.

An innovative instrumental trio from New York City, the Bad Plus, performs two shows tomorrow evening ( Wednesday, Dec. 21, 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.) at the Des Moines Social Club.
With a piano, drums and upright bass, the Bad Plus brings a deft jazz sensibility to its arrangements of popular music. The trio's sound is uniquely their own, as they continue their search for musical rules to break and boundaries to cross, bridging genres and techniques.

If you've heard enough holiday fluff from retailers' in-store sound systems, this group promises a refreshing reprieve -- live, lively and cool. From here, they move on to extended engagements in Minneapolis and New York. Tickets are $14 if ordered today, $17 tomorrow. Get tickets and more information here
Home for the holidays: Habitat for Humanity representatives join happy members of a family on the front steps of their new home, dedicated over this past snowy weekend.

Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity completed its 300th home this month, one of two dedicated on Saturday. In each case, new owners complete a pre-purchase course and spend hundreds of hours helping in the construction work. Since 1997, Habitat locally has worked closely with Wells Fargo, which has donated some $2.8 million and nearly 80,000 volunteer hours to the local program. Just this year, Habitat has created 27 opportunities for affordable homeownership and assisted nearly 200 families through its repair program.  
These guys, those jackets, this look has become an iconic image of Des Moines, like the Crusoe and Travelers umbrellas. 

The long-running "Triple Espresso" sailed past show No. 750 recently without even slowing down. In the beginning, the show landed at the then-new Temple Theater in 2002, scheduled for eight weeks. It ran for more than a year. Repeat runs have kept it a staple of comedy in Des Moines, where two of the cast have married and become local residents.
Remarkably, the three cast members have never had an understudy and never missed a curtain call. One did have to leave one night when he became ill, but the remaining pair got the audience engaged, ad-libbed some bits, and pulled off a memorable evening of theater on-the-fly.
With so much local history, Triple Espresso has its own micro-culture. Actor John Bush recalls noticing a brother and sister at one show, both in their 20s. "They sat right at the front table and laughed hard through every moment," as if anticipating the next line, he observed. "We later found out that they came to the show in past years with their now-deceased father who loved the show. They said that this experience was like being with him again."
That's not uncommon with this production, which brings audience members onstage as part of the fun, says actor Patrick Albanese. " I brought a guy up onstage once, and after the show a woman approached me crying. I had brought up her dad. She told me that he and her mother were married for 63 years, and that her mom passed away six months earlier. He hadn't smiled or laughed since -- until that show."
To make your own connection, click here for tickets and info on upcoming shows, including New Year's Eve at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., and a matinee at 3 p.m. New Year's Day. The last show will be Jan. 7... or so they claim.

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