Thursday, November 29, 2007

Giving the Gift of Food!

I don't know about your family, but at the holidays, mine spends a lot of time sending each other food. At Christmas nothing says "Happy Holidays" like a case of grapefruit or a tin of those glazed apricots from Nieman Marcus. While there are lots of delicious options locally, if your family is spread across the United States, you'll need a specialist. Everyone has their favorites, but here are a few recommended standbys with links. A few tips:

*Order by phone or online but have names and addresses ready.

*Look for specials online. Often websites feature additional gifts/specials and bigger discounts.

*By the month clubs are great -- look for fruit, baked goods, meat, flowers, plants, and more.

*Don't forget to check your dates -- most catalogs and sites are pretty clear about the deadline cutoff for delivery.

Play your cards right and all your shopping is done pretty quickly!

Harry and David: These venerable purveyors of holiday fruits, nuts, cookies and cheese are responsible for at least one Tower of Treats at my house every year. Their packages are great snacking for families with lots of people to please. But for foodies, pick and choose some signature items such as the Pepper and Onion Relish (wonderful mixed with cream cheese for a party) and the Cheesecake Petit Fours (which look to only be available in a package.)

LL Bean: Sure, it's not food, but some years, when I'm feeling particularly Christmas-y, I'll send fresh evergreen wreaths to friends and family. Most years, LL Bean has the best wreath for the money (and sometimes free shipping). I like the 24-inch fresh Maine Balsam wreath which comes with a bow and is suitable for indoor or outdoor hanging. (Some years, they've come with a complimentary wreath hanger in the package.) $29.75. Check the website for deadlines and shipping.

Hale Groves: For most of my life, Christmases have featured cases of oranges and grapefruit from Hale. Even when I wasn't at home during the season, my mother shipped me a case of oranges. That's a lot of oranges but they made for great eating, cooking, and even juicing. A case of Florida naval oranges, grapefruit or tangerines will only set you back about $25 dollars. Great for people who live in snow!

Omaha Steaks: Ahhh, the blessed Omaha Steaks. As one recipient once told me, nothing says "Thanks" (or "I love you" or "Merry Christmas") like the gift of raw meat. While Omaha has a reputation for being pricey, they also run more web specials and give more free gifts than any company I know. Buy for someone else and get the bonus for yourself! The steaks are shipped in an elaborate container keeping them fresh until they arrive. My favorites? The filets. And the strip steaks. Oh, and the prime rib. Oh, just try them all. (And budget about $100 a person.)

Wolferman's: At first glance, Wolferman's seems to be just another gourmet mail order catalog company until...well, until you actually try their English muffins, scones, and crumpets. They're really good! I know it seems weird to send breakfast in the mail, but pair some of their premium jams and curds (and throw in a batch of those cinnamon rolls), and voila!, you just made Christmas morning breakfast! A real treat for big family get togethers.

Zingerman's: Want something for Hanukah? Zingerman's is your answer. This company with the quirky newsprint style catalog is perfect for shipping cured meats, specialty items (like their Italian figs), and easy noshes for the holidays. Their gingerbread is fantastic, and I'm tempted to order their Chanukah box myself for the rugulah alone. Updated: Most of their items are not certified Kosher. Check the descriptions as they note if they are.


Anonymous said...

Just a note - most of the items at Zingerman's are not kosher, and for sure not the baked goods! Anything that is, such as olive oil, is marked as such on the website. For kosher baked goods, try Dancing Deer or

braingirl said...

Oh! Thanks so much for the correction. I'm fixing the post now.

TeamReed said...

If you haven't yet discovered, then consider this my gift to you.

We discovered it a few years ago and I don't think I've missed a Christmas. Last year, I ordered bacon-of-the month. It's been amazing.

The guy who runs the place is besotted with all things bacon, but he has a great selection of things you'd never think of. His hard copy catalogue is hilarious.

We won't use any soy sauce but the stuff he imports from China. The first year I ordered it, I had it shipped to my in-laws where we spend the holidays. My father-in-law called to ask me if it needed to be refrigerated until we got there and I said, "I don't know, what does the label say?"

He said, "I don't know: it's in Chinese."

You'll never believe soy sauce matters until you have this soy sauce. It sounds pricy but it's sooooo much better than anything else I've ever had.


Donald said...

I'm sending everyone packages from Salumi Cured Meats. This is Mario Batali's father's shop in Seattle, and you won't find a better salumeria anywhere in America!

Anonymous said...

teamreed, It's Japan and the label is in Japanese....however, I am interested in trying it and appreciate you mentioning it.

Donald said...

I'll also add that I used to send Omaha Steaks to friends, but then I found Niman Ranch ( THey have all natural meats that are light years beyond anything Omaha sells.

braingirl said...

Actually, they don't, but that's a whole other post. Be very careful of big "natural" beef operations like Niman Ranch. You're not always getting that much better meat. I have a real thing against Niman Ranch beef. If eating natural beef is important, then go local or go to a better source. (I could go on but I really don't want to get into a whole Niman Ranch thrash right now.)

KC said...

What great ideas -- thanks for this topic! FYI that i just went to Salumi Cured Meats, and they're sold out of everything through early Jan except their holiday trio (delivered on Valentine's, Easter, Father's Day). So I'll be checking back at this site early in 2008.

Donald Owens said...


That's too bad about Salumi - I didn't realize they were sold out for internet orders. My wife goes to Seattle once per quarter and she visits the store in person to pick up my "fix", so I guess I'm lucky.

Try Sur La Table's web site. They have a 3-pack of meats and also prosciutto that are still showing as available.

Donald Owens said...


What's your "beef" (ha ha, get it?) with Niman Ranch? I've had their steaks a handful of times and I've found them to be excellent (although pricey). I've tried local places but I haven't found anything close for steaks. Any suggestions?