NY Daily News

Dec 11, 2002

 WE GIVE THESE MAIL-ORDER FOOD GIFTS OUR STAMP OF APPROVAL

Wednesday, December 11th 2002, 9:52AM

If your Christmas spirit is running on empty thanks to crowded stores, long lines and a serious time crunch, Santa offers a great alternative: shopping for that perfect gift online or by phone.

For the person on your list who likes to eat (and who doesn't?), everything from buffalo steaks and wild salmon to the choicest chocolates and the finest preserves may be ordered to arrive well in advance of the big day. We've combed the catalogues and tasted scores of products this year to come up with our top 20 mail-order food gifts. Here, our recommendations, with prices and ordering info.

SWEETS

truffles & flourishes Chocolates galore may be found at Chocolate Bar, which offers old-fashioned candies, truffles, pastries, teas and coffees. The new "Triple C" is made of chocolate caramel and popcorn ($6.25), the peanut butter melt is like a super-size peanut butter cup ($3) and there's a 12-piece box of truffles in winter flavors like caramel apple and cappuccino for $15. Order from www.chocolatebarnyc.com

ginger's the star Dark, moist and spicy, the gingerbread cake from Dancing Deer is truly addictive. It's redolent of spices, and tastes like a confection your grandmother might have made. The cake comes with an 18-pack of molasses-clove cookies for $25.95 and may be ordered from www.dancingdeer.com or by calling (617) 442-7300.

southern swirl Extra-rich, creamy cheesecake in flavors like Mississippi Mud, caramel crunch, raspberry swirl and pumpkin is available from Martha Frances Mississippi Cheesecake. It's an indulgent gift you may want to treat yourself to one as well. A 9-inch cheesecake serving 16 is $42. Order from (212) 360-0900. The cakes can be mailed anywhere in the country and come with a personal greeting.

pop on over Stonewall Kitchen's popover set has a popover mix with a recipe, plus two 13-ounce jars of jam: apricot-cherry and strawberry-apple-rhubarb. Send this to someone who loves a leisurely weekend breakfast in bed. It's $19.95 from www.epicurious.com

decadent decade Remember Fun Dip, Gobstoppers, candy necklaces, bubblegum cigars and Pixy Stix? Treat someone on your list to a selection of Happy Candies From the '70s, which comes with an assortment of sweets that'll make you wax nostalgic for the good ol' days. Do you have fond memories of those candy buttons you licked off a piece of paper? They're in the brightly colored box, along with hot dog gum, candy cigarettes, Dork taffy and Sweet Tarts. Order from www.groovycandies.com or from www.epicurious.com or call 1-888-729-1960. The box, which weighs close to 2 pounds, costs $15.95.

tasty real estate Delight children of all ages with the Williams-Sonoma gingerbread house, made with a molasses and brown-sugar cookie dough and decorated with sweet details, including a peppermint doormat. Order for $36 from www.williams-sonoma.com or call 1-800-541-2233.

helping hand You're supporting a good cause when you buy Greyston Bakery's moist, delicious Venetian wine cake (from a recipe developed by Rozanne Gold) and their wonderful cookies made with Brazil nuts. The nuts are bought from Brazilian cooperative farmers who are working to preserve the rainforest. Proceeds from sales support the Greyston Foundation's work in Yonkers, where it offers job training, low-income housing and adult day-care for AIDS patients. The cake is $19 for a 31/2-pounder serving 16 to 20, and the cookies cost $28 for a large bag. Order by calling 1-800-BUYCAKE or visit www.greystonbakery.com

petit luxury A Heartland Christmas keepsake tin of Swiss Colony's petit fours costs $20.50. The box of 40 minicakes filled with butter creme and topped in Swiss blend chocolate may be ordered by calling 1-800-804-5188 or visiting www.swisscolony.com

GOURMET SPECIALTIES

TAKE A DIP Crate & Barrel's selection of three dipping oils from the Napa Valley may be used to sauce pasta, as a marinade or in sautes, as well as for dipping crusty bread or focaccia. Produced by Tulocay & Co., the set has three flavors: classic with balsamic vinegar, garden herb and Parmesan garlic. It's $19.95 at www.crateandbarrel.com

spice, the final frontier Spices from chef Daniel Orr come in seductive blends such as sweet seasons (pomegranate, fennel, star anise, ginger and annatto) and Mediterranean (parsley, shallots, rosemary, thyme and garlic). The spices cost $5 apiece and may be ordered from www.kitchendorr.com

big cheese Murray's Cheese, which just opened a second outlet in the market in Grand Central Terminal, has a thriving mail-order business, too, so you can order fine, handcrafted cheeses that are produced on a small scale. Among the excellent offerings: Parmesan vacca rosa ($23.99 a pound), which is excellent grated over salads and pastas, a creamy, tangy Colston Bassett Stilton ($18.99 per pound) and a fine-flavored, aromatic pecorino tartufello ($21.99 per pound.) Order by calling 1-888-MYCHEEZ or visit www.murrayscheese.com

santa's preserves Tart, tangy huckleberries go into the exquisite preserves from NapaStyle, which also makes a sophisticated strawberry balsamic preserves. The California-based company also offers a savory Zinfandel vinegar that's wonderful in vinaigrettes or to deglaze a pan when you cook poultry or meat. The vinegar is $14 and the preserves costs $12. Order from www.napastyle.com or by calling 1-866-776-6272.

the best beans Specialty coffees from the Gillies Coffee Co. are exceptional: the Jamaica Blue Mountain (certified genuine by the Jamaica Coffee Industry Board, $27 for a 12-ounce gift pack) and USA Hawaiian Kona (certified genuine by the Hawaii State Agriculture Department, $22.50 for a 12-ounce gift pack) may be ordered by calling 1-800-344-5526 or E-mailing gilliescoffee@aol.com (there is free shipping on the first order).

pesto, change-o A selection of pestos, olives, crackers and preserves is available from Bella Cucina. Pestos, priced at around $4 per 6-ounce container, come in flavors like roasted eggplant, fresh basil, artichoke lemon and walnut sage. The bag of Bella's dipping crackers is $1 and a jar of antipasti olives is $8.95. You also may order a gift basket including the artichoke antipasti hamper (with all you need to create an antipasti party) for $30. Order from www.bellacucinaartfulfood.com or call 1-800-580-5674.

best pancake makeup A gift pack of Vermont maple syrups infused with everything from ginger to habanero peppers enhance everything from stir-fries to pancakes to salsas. Made by Moosewood Hollow, they come in flavors such as sweet chai (with flavors of ginger and cardamom), sweet heat (habanero peppers) and sweet ginger (made with Chinese ginger). The three-bottle gift pack is $30. Call 1-866-INFUSED.

tri-color rice Lotus Foods' gift pack of three different kinds of rice contains some truly exotic varieties: forbidden rice (a black rice from China that has a superior flavor and texture), Bhutanese red rice (a beautiful red russet color with a nutty, earthy flavor) and kalijira (a premium long-grain white rice grown in Bangladesh that is reminiscent of basmati). Order the trio for $15.95 from www.lotusfoods.com

you've got game Exotic game, including ostrich and alligator, arrives ready to cook and with a selection of great recipes. For $149.95, you can order the sampler pack, which consists of a 16-ounce Cajun alligator fillet, two 8-ounce ostrich fillets, two 10-ounce Rocky Mountain elk chops, two 16-ounce free-range baby pheasants, two four-rib venison French racks and two 10-ounce Great Plains buffalo steaks. The meat is rich, flavorful and especially festive for holiday dinners. Order from www.eatgame.com or 1-888-EATGAME. Or you may E-mail eatgame@earthlink.net

FROM THE SEA

roe is me A trio of American caviars (golden whitefish, salmon and North American paddlefish) is available from Paramount Caviar. The package (which comes with a container of creme fraiche and blini) is $125, which includes shipping and handling. Contact Paramount at 1-800-992-2842 or visit www.paramountcaviar.com

if you know sushi A sushi lover would be thrilled to get Sushi Chef, a kit with all the basic ingredients and utensils, along with a user-friendly recipe book. All that's needed are the fresh ingredients for the fillings, such as shrimp or cucumber. It's $39.99 from www.epicurious.com

slammin' salmon For a heart-healthy holiday gift, the Healthy Hearts Wild Salmon Dinner Club from SeaBear is a great choice. The variety pack ($59.95) contains eight 6-ounce wild salmon fillets from Alaska, two each of sockeye, king, coho and keta, along with four sauces or rubs so that it's easy to prepare a succulent feast rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Order from 1-800-645-FISH or visit www.seabear