I know a place to get aged, fresh, cut-to-order meats -- a place to get a single serving of a gourmet entree such as Oriental black bean chili with pork loin, or a Thai seafood serviche.

I know a place to get a whole meal prepared for six people, ready to put on your table in attractive serving dishes -- a place to get your entire Thanksgiving dinner prepared with gourmet flair for you to serve in your own dining room.


For me, a trip to The Butcher Shoppe & Gourmet Emporium was akin to sending a kid to the candy store. Located in Clock Tower Place, 1410 Forest Drive, Annapolis, The Butcher Shoppe is under new ownership and management.

Functioning as a butcher shop for three years, the store was purchased in April by Bob Libson, president of Sylmar Corp., owners of the Clock Tower Place. Libson has installed a wonderful catering-sized kitchen, hired a manager experienced in gourmet catering, and acquired the services of gourmet chef Claire Owens, formerly of The Buttercup Tea Room.


Why would an "experienced eater" want to shop at The Butcher Shoppe? Let me count the ways -- starting with a clue in the shop's name, "butcher."

The meats are top quality, purchased from Pointer, foremost meat distributor on the East Coast.

The Butcher Shoppe then ages the meat in its own cooler for four to six weeks. You can then buy single meat portions or quantities up to the size of a hind quarter. The hind quarter will be cut to your order, shrink-wrapped and wrapped in freezer paper.

Look to the shop's name again for the second reason to shop at The Butcher Shoppe & Gourmet Emporium -- it's gourmet as in "Gourmet To Go." Working people, male and female, with entertaining social obligations and not enough time can purchase an entire gourmet meal to serve to guests.

Think of it, an intimate dinner for two or a dinner party of six is possible without opening the oven door.

Claire Owens is the gourmet chef, preparing all the culinary delights in the "Gourmet To Go" service. She is a graduate of La Varenne Grand Diplome in Paris. She prepares innovative soups, stews, salads and entrees for on-the-go people each day of the week. She also will prepare your favorite dish with advance notice.

The true gourmet does not live by food alone. That's why The Butcher Shoppe has a small, but superb wine selection. The wines include California and imported varieties. Among the imported stock are German wines, the wines for the 1990s. Owner Libson consults with wine experts from Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration for advice on wines.

Remember that intimate dinner for two I mentioned earlier? Think of it, a roasted whole chicken stuffed with Basmati rice with apples and raisins, a bottle of Holbtrocken Saptlese, and closing with a peach and blueberry tart; all in the privacy of your own home. A dinner of this quality can be yours for a price in the $30 to $40 range at The Butcher Shoppe.


Want to do your own gourmet cooking? Try those imported cheeses, aged meats and homemade sausages at The Butcher Shoppe. Browse the shelves and purchase Brazos Fajitas Sop, a marinade for meats and vegetables.

On my trip to the store, I purchased a vanilla bean. Sound silly?

Several months ago I read that for great tasting homemade cakes, insert a whole vanilla bean in your sugar canister to subtly flavor the sugar. I have been looking for a vanilla bean ever since. I finally found it for $1.39 at The Butcher Shoppe.

I also found Lemon Curd with Sherry, a wonderful lemon custard to top my homemade scones. Packaged in a picture-perfect jar by Elsenham Preserves, the preserves and conserves would make a lovely gift. Speaking of which, The Butcher Shoppe makes up food baskets and trays.

Wonderful food baskets can be created with New York strips, a bottle of wine, chutney's, shortbreads, and eve Maverick Sugarbush Pure Vermont Maple Syrup -- whatever your heart desires. If you can't make up your mind, they can create gift baskets for you and the recipients can exchange any items they don't want.

Much of the innovation coming out of the expanded Butcher Shoppe & Gourmet Emporium is due to the manager, Gene Hoffman. Mr. Hoffman is young but experienced in gourmet catering. The former manager of Gourmet in Pikesville, Gene is expanding the gourmet product line and initiating wine tasting and food sampling.


His influence includes enticing displays and attractive merchandising of gourmet products. Response to a recent wine tasting encouraged Gene to start having regular wine tastings.

I told you I was like a kid in a candy store when I visited The Butcher Shoppe. If food is a consuming passion for you, take a trip before you make up a Christmas shopping list. I know you will get food gift ideas for those difficult people on your list.

Coffee -- did I mention coffee? And smoked fish. And freshly prepared Gravlox, salmon marinated in kosher salt and herbs. Gene also said to watch for the expanded line of cheese -- 30 to 40 imported cheeses, and expansion of the gourmet products to include 700 to 800 items. And a wine of the week will be featured at a special price.

The Butcher Shoppe & Gourmet Emporium is a great place for gourmets and gourmands. Call 263-0793 to order gift baskets or to place your catering order for a tailgate party.

Joan Whitson Wallace, a free-lance writer, lives in Severn. She has written about food for a number of publications, and is working on a cookbook, "Mom Taught Me How to Cook."