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NewCityNet Holiday In

Mail-order treats for you and yours

By Jennifer Min

DECEMBER 7, 1998:  The completion of the railroad system at the beginning of the nineteenth century spread goods across the country, delivering items to many rural residents who did not have access to urban department stores. This development was encouraged by a combination of low postal rates and the delivery of parcels by mail. These days, for must of us, locating a strip mall isn't any more difficult than finding our noses, but the mail-order business now offers the advantage of reversing the trend of holiday bombardment. You can stay in your cozy bungalow and avoid the crowded parking lots and weary salespeople; add to the list of perks the fact that nearly everyone likes receiving a package in the mail. If you're shopping for foodie friends, you might want to consider sending them some of the Midwest's hidden culinary treasures.

Traditionalists will love Dinkel's Bakery, on Lincoln Avenue. Baking has been going on at this location for over seventy-five years, and they're still using the recipes founder Joseph Dinkel brought with him from Bavaria at the turn of the century. They recently added a full-color catalog, so you can ship cakes to your friends across the country for under $30. The pictures of moist cakes, cheese tarts, cookies and tea breads will remind you of afternoons spent sipping coffee and nibbling baked goods next to a roaring fire. One of their Old World specialties is Stollen, a yeast bread studded with raisins, dates and nuts, and covered in powdered sugar - sort of like fruit cake, but lighter. Dinkel's bundt cakes come in an assortment of liqueur-enhanced flavors, like Royal Chocolate Rum, Classic Amaretto, Sip 'N' Whiskey and Chocolate Walnut Brandy. Teetotalers can dig into crunch cakes, caramel apple cake, chocolate espresso cake and a simple butter cake.

To recapture summer's fruity delights in the dead of winter, try American Spoon Foods. The Petoskey, Michigan, company specializes in preserving fruits as jams, jellies and fruit butters. The best flavors of Northern Michigan can be found in their extensive catalog, featuring tart Montmorency cherries, delicate apricots and New Haven peaches. The mango butter, though not native to the region, is a taste sensation not to be missed. In addition, these folks will send you a selection of savory sauces, relishes and spicy salsas - the perfect complements to your holiday cooking, these treats are also great as appetizers. Other temptations include tangy ginger and chili-lime grilling sauces and a mango barbecue sauce, as well as spreads made from either roasted eggplants and cumin or Greek olives and roasted red peppers. These mouthwatering selections come packaged in either handmade birch bark baskets or folk-art-decorated gift boxes.

Another holiday favorite is available from the Maytag Dairy Farms in Newton, Iowa. The descendants of the man who revolutionized washers and dryers have patented a method to make creamy blue cheese in the heartland of America. The hand-made, slowly-aged blue can be ordered in two- and four-pound wheels, or as individually wrapped wedges. The company also produces sharp white cheddar, delicate edam, mild brick cheese and two varieties of Swiss. Unquestionably their flagship product, the blue cheese is sharp without being overpowering, and would make a tangy accent to any salad or provide a luxurious accompaniment melted on a juicy steak.

One of the best, and possibly most indulgent, food gifts you can receive through the mail is a selection of tender, corn-fed beef from Omaha Steaks. The company will send you vacuum-packed cuts of meat to make your mouth water, along with a helpful guidebook of recipes organized by type of steak. Their informative catalog walks the uninitiated through the distinction between filet mignon, boneless strip steaks, sirloins, prime rib and T-bones - all of which they offer, of course. Steaks are not the end of the story, though; the curious gourmet will also find legs of lamb, boneless pork chops, chicken breasts and seafood. Don't be put off - there are recipes for all of this, but you may have to sell your belongings to try them all.


  • Dinkel's Bakery, (800)822-8817
  • American Spoon Foods, (800)647-2512
  • Maytag Dairy Farms, (800)247-2458
  • Omaha Steaks, (800)228-9872


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