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BARGAIN BITES

Delectable gifts under $25 that are guaranteed to impress your beach house host or hostess this summer

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Take friends with a house in the Hamptons, add a long weekend invitation, mix with an elegantly packaged treat you can eat, (remove the price tag; no one needs to know that you paid under $25) and you have the recipe for a successful visit to the beach house.

For those without a Hamptons connection, bestowing edible gifts works effectively on friends with cottages on the Jersey shore, lakefront property in Maine or hosts with nothing more than an entertaining spirit and a picnic blanket in Prospect Park.

Just desserts

Luscious would best describe Cranberry Fool ($10.95), a compote made of cranberries, cherries, currants and golden raisins. No thickeners or sugar are added so the mixture tastes light and not too sweet. A touch of vanilla intensifies the pure flavors of the fruit. As delicious on an English muffin as it is teamed with meat (think turkey sandwiches on the beach), Cranberry Fool is a gift that almost guarantees a second invitation. (Blame the wet towel you left on the bed if there’s no sequel to your weekend.)

After a long day of frying on the beach no one wants to think about shopping for dinner, never mind dessert. Your gift bag of Chukar Cherries ($6.95) to the rescue. Drop a few of these plump, bittersweet chocolate covered dried cherries over a bowl of vanilla ice cream and you have a simply delicious dessert in two-minutes flat.

Mincarelli’s lemon flavored amaretti cookies ($14.95) are the Tiffany of gourmet gifts. A stout yellow-lidded cardboard box, sporting a sunny lemon on its label, gets tied up with a big fluffy yellow bow. Inside, the cookies are moist and tart and each is twisted like taffy in yellow tissue paper. So chic!

All of the above are available at Garden of Eden [180 Montague St., between Court and Clinton streets (718) 222-1515].

Giving nature

Your city friends may subsist on a diet of takeout Chinese and pizza on weeknights, but for weekends away it’s only natural to want organic. Kris & Pete’s organic strawberry jam ($7.99), comes in a pretty glass jar with a hand-written label. Twist off the top and breath in the aroma of sunshine and wild strawberries. The jam is slightly sweetened and chunky with whole strawberries. Bring a jar or two with some freshly baked scones (no, they don’t have to come from your oven) and you’ll have a memorable light breakfast, snack or late night treat.

Pre-cooked, just add hot water, organic grains are a Mary Jane’s Farm specialty ($4.15). Each pouch serves one for lunch or two as a side dish. Try the spicy couscous and lentil curry combination. The 1940s looking housewives, who appear aproned and smiling on the bags’ labels, have a Norman Rockwell charm.

Brooklynites who crave a taste of the neighborhood will love Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie ($3.99, $12.99 and $16.99), which comes in individual and two multi-serving sizes. The pie looks deceptively humble, but don’t be fooled. Inside that crisp, crumbly, graham cracker crust is a filling so understated, so delicately lime-infused that it makes other lurid green, aftershavish, key lime pies seem, well, a little tarty.

Fresh greens from a farmer’s market call for a light, herby salad dressing. Patti and Ralph of Cheshire Garden’s grow herbs for their "gardens in a bottle" wine vinegars (small $5.29, large $8.99). Flavors like chili pepper, sweet basil, savory, oregano and garlic, or my favorite, herbs de Provence with rosemary, basil, savory, lavender and thyme, will lend a deep, herbal note to the simplest of salads. The slender bottles, adorned with a black and white Cheshire cat illustration, look charming in country kitchens.

Leave no dog unfed. Puppy Patch Bakery makes organic dog treats in cute white bags with red bows ($4.25). Flavors include carrot cake crisps, oatmeal crunchies and carob chip cookies. Feed your host’s pooch a couple of these natural "cookies," and he’ll beg to wear a bandana and walk along the beach.

All of the above are available at Pumpkins Organic Market [1302 Eighth Ave. between 13th and 14th streets in Park Slope, (718) 499-8539]. Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie is also available at Key Food on Montague Street between Hicks and Henry streets in Brooklyn Heights.

How sweet

Need a little pick-me-up after a long drive on the L.I.E.? Sweet Melissa Patisserie makes it’s own granola ($7.95). Sold in little cellophane bags tied with a bright ribbon, the mix of toasted oats, almonds, currants, pumpkin seeds and dried cherries, drizzled with honey and spiced with cinnamon, will boost your energy. Not a granola fan? This heavenly scented concoction could double as potpourri.

Ocean breezes and tea on the porch make for an idyllic weekend afternoon. Bring a box of Sweet Melissa’s petit fours: a dense chocolate fudge square gets a dusting of gold leaf or try the delicate nut cake covered with fragile pale pink icing. Each pink cake is crowned with a tiny violet. What could be sweeter? (Petit fours are three for $6.75 or five for $11.25.)

Martha would approve of Sweet Melissa’s biscotti. The cranberry almond biscotti are moister and chewier than most. Offer six of these crisp treats in a simple white box tied with a red ribbon ($4.50), and your reputation as a gift-giver with taste will be ensured.

Available at Sweet Melissa Patisserie [276 Court St. between Butler and Douglass streets in Cobble Hill, (718) 855-3410].

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