Published Sunday, Dec. 3, 2000 in The Miami Herald

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$84.99 plus shipping and handling from Cabela's, One Cabela Dr., Sidney, Neb. 69160, phone 800-237-4444, fax 800-496-6329, Internet: www.cabelas.com

Suggested by Roy Myers and Cheryl Hoffman of Electric City, Wash.

Nothing beats the Reptile Sampler for a quick, outdoor snack. Its piéce de résistance? The handy batter.

Here is the ultimate gift for the gourmet individual on your list who, when he or she gets hungry, exclaims: ''I sure could go for a piece of snake!''

Aside from eight ounces of rattlesnake fillets, this Reptile Sampler includes one pound of frog legs, one pound of alligator fillets and eight ounces of turtle fillets. It also comes with a Special Recipe Reptile Batter and a detailed recipe, which, we are pleased to report, involves beer.

We scientifically tested this item by inviting some knowledgeable individuals to the Gift Guide Command Center on the pretext of giving them a regular dinner. We then confronted them with the reptile meats, which were prepared by an associate of ours named Gene Singletary. Gene is a top catering professional, and although he does not get a lot of requests for rattlesnake-based hors d'oeuvres, he did an extremely professional job of battering these meats and then frying the heck (or, as French chefs say, ''fryant la heque'') out of them.

The verdict of our taste-testing panel was that the best part of the Reptile Sampler was the fried batter. The least-appealing part was the actual reptile meats per se, which tended to feel, when you tried to chew them, as though they were still resisting capture. Fortunately, our taste-testers had been fortified by adult beverages, so they ''gamely'' sampled all the reptiles, and even had a spirited intellectual gourmet debate, which included the following actual exchange:

PERSON ONE: The snake is chewier than the turtle.

PERSON TWO: No, the turtle is chewier than the snake.

PERSON ONE: Yes, but a snake can EAT a turtle.

In conclusion, we think this is as an excellent gift to send to somebody who lives extremely far away and thus cannot possibly invite you to dinner.

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