I've been ordering food by mail long before the internet existed. That doesn't mean I don't appreciate how easy the web has made ordering food. I like to order things I can't easily get near my house. I have taste-tested everything on this list, so there shouldn't be any surprises. I think you or somebody you care about will be very happy with any or everything on this list. Prices don't include shipping unless otherwise noted.
Callie White is a caterer based in Charleston, South Carolina, when she decided to make, freeze, and ship her extraordinary biscuits. All four varieties, buttermilk, cheese, ham, and cinnamon, are light, fluffy, moist, and slightly crunchy outside and tender on the inside, like great pizza. 2 dozen biscuits, $41.90
Traditional Red Seal Balsamic Vinegar, from DiPalo Fine Foods
Forget all those nondescript bottles of cheap balsamic vinegar you see in supermarkets everywhere, and also forget about all the old, expensive balsamic vinegars you see in gourmet stores. Louis DiPalo sells the real stuff from Reggio-Emilia with the red wax seal at very, very reasonable prices. Once you taste the real thing on some vanilla ice cream, a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano, or some strawberries, there's no going back. No website, so you'll use that traditional ancient instrument, the telephone. Ask for Louis and make sure you're not in a hurry. The man knows his stuff and wants to share it all with you. $70 for 3 ounces. No website; call 212-226-1033
La Quercia Prosciutto
Herb and Kathy Eckhouse are making prosciutto in Iowa that's in the same class as the best Italian stuff coming out of Parma, Italy. The La Quercia Deluxe Sampler is a great introduction to what these two do. There's enough for an antipasto for eight, plus ingredients to cook fun and interesting meals. You get two 3-ounce packages of sliced prosciutto Americano, two 3-ounce packages of sliced speck Americano, and a half-pound chunk of prosciutto piccante. For cooking you get a 1-pound piece of organic pancetta Americana, a half pound of organic La Quercia guanciale, and a half pound each of prosciutto Americano and speck Americano "crumble." $119, 2-day shipping included in the continental U.S.
Salumi Variety Pack, from Armandino Batali
Armandino Batali (yes, he's Mario's dad) is charming as all get out and makes a mean salami in his tiny storefront in Seattle. He's currently selling a trio of gift salamis that will be delivered in time for three different holidays in 2008. The mole salami, flavored with chocolate, cinnamon, and chipotle and ancho chiles, arrives for Valentine's Day. The Finocchiona, made with cracked fennel, black pepper, and some curry, gets to your gift recipient for Easter, and the ginger-flecked Salumi salami, arrives for Father's Day. It's the gift of salami that keeps on giving. La Tripletta, $96, shipping included
Willy Ray's Brisket
Many of my favorite smoked brisket purveyors, like Black's in Lockhart, Texas, stopped shipping when the federales came down on them for not having federally inspected plants, so I was thrilled to discover Willy Ray's tender, just smoky enough brisket. It arrives in perfect condition, and the instructions make reheating a snap. 8-pound brisket, $85
Zingerman's 'Mixed Tape'
The cool thing about Zingerman's is that not only do they gather delicious things from around the world for us all to enjoy, they also make great stuff. Like handmade, artisanal cheese and rustic breads. The Zingerman's "Mixed Tape" package features a sourcream coffeecake and hearth-baked farm bread from Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Zingerman's Zzang Chocolate Bar, Little Dragon tarragon-spiked goat cheese from Zingerman’s Creamery, a bag of freshly roasted whole bean coffee from Zingerman’s Coffee Company, a Pecan Blondie, and a Magic Brownie. In other words, all the stuff you or someone you love would like to have around the house at the holidays. Zingerman's "Mixed Tape," $79