Anyone who has lived away from loved ones for even a few years has undoubtly experienced the hassle of packing and mailing holiday gifts. It doesn't take long for most of us to discover that there's a better way--sending gifts that someone else wraps and ships. There's only one hitch: How many years can you send even the most tried-and-true gifts to the same people?
A search for ways of sending a taste of California to relatives and friends resulted in an astonishing array of choices, due in part to our state's vast agricultural resources. (Because of restrictions on mailing alcohol out-of-state, we have not included gift-order wines.) By no means is the list complete, but we've tried to include both common and more unusual items. No doubt it will provide ideas for just about everyone on your list.
Due to the large number of listings, it was impossible for The Times Food section to order and taste every item. Consequently, these listings are not endorsed by The Times; information is provided only as a courtesy to readers.
Although the descriptions are brief, they provide a basic idea of what the company offers and a general price range. Contact the companies directly for brochures with more complete information on products and exact costs.
Some things to keep in mind when shopping by mail:
--When time permits, test-ordering is a good way to check quality. If this isn't practical, make certain the company guarantees a full refund or exchange if you're dissatisfied. Remember that a lost or damaged shipment is the responsibility of the shipper.
--Find out how long it will take your orders to reach their destination and if delivery dates are guaranteed. For perishable items, ask if the package will be marked to ensure proper handling once it reaches its destination.
--Fill out order forms clearly and carefully. Keep a copy for your records. When ordering by telephone, obtain the name of the person taking the order. Many companies accept credit card payment, providing some leverage in the event of a dispute.
If you hurry, the gifts selected can still arrive in plenty of time for the holidays.
Almond Plaza, California Almond Growers Exchange, P.O. Box 500, Sacramento, Calif. 95803-9988; (916) 446-2500--natural and flavored almonds, other nuts, fruitcakes and candies, available singly or in gift packs--$8.50 to $125, credit card holders may order by phone from (800) 225-6887.
Andrizzi Distributing Co., 1186 Yulupa Ave., Suite 109, Santa Rosa, Calif. 95405; (707) 579-2595--potato pancake, Belgian waffle and premium crepe mixes, available singly or in gift packs--$5.50 to $19.95.
Boudin Sourdough French Bread, Fisherman's Wharf Bakery, 156 Jefferson St., San Francisco, Calif. 94133; (415) 928-1849--gift packs of six (1-pound) round loaves, six (1-pound) long loaves, or a 49er gift assortment of bread, salami, cheese and wine or sparkling cider, $17 to $30.
Bobbi's Sweet Surrender, 7863 Girard Ave., No. 106, La Jolla, Calif. 92037; (800) 338-3202--brownies, cookies, candy and fruitcakes--$6.95 to $28.95.
Brown Kiwi Ranch, 1273 W. Crescent Ave., Redlands, Calif. 92373; (714) 792-2218--cardboard boxes of kiwi in mixed sizes and shapes; wooden gift boxes of uniformly shaped and colored fruit--$18 to $19.50.
Cafe Beaujolais Bakery, P.O. Box 730, Mendocino, Calif. 95460; (707) 964-0292--almond, hazelnut, walnut and macadamia nut panforte, original and chocolate fruitcake--$18.50 to $24.
California Soleil Vineyards, P.O. Box 3150, Yountville, Calif. 94599; (707) 944-8585--vintage-dated varietal wine preserves and syrups, available in gift packs--$5.50 to $15, plus shipping and handling.
Casa De Fruta, 6680 Pacheco Pass Highway, Hollister, Calif. 95023; (408) 637-0051--dried fruit, nuts and candy, available singly and in gift packs--$1.95 to $22.50, plus shipping and handling.
Cowboy Caviar, P.O. Box 1178, San Juan Capistrano, Calif. 92693; (714) 493-3318--vegetable pate, available in jars and drinking mugs--$5 to $19.50.
Crinklaw Farms, P.O. Box 706, King City, Calif. 93930; (408) 385-3261--herb, garlic and bay leaf wreaths, garlic and Indian corn braids, chile pepper strings and wreaths, sweet bell pepper jam--$5.95 to $24.50, plus shipping.
Cuisine Perel, P.O. Box 1064, Tiburon, Calif. 94920; (415) 435-1282--wine-based salad dressings and sauces--available only in cases of twelve bottles, single or mixed varieties--$28 to $42 ($28 for 8-ounce bottles, $42 for 12.7-ounce bottles).
Culinary Products Group, Goldrush Enterprises, 153 Utah Ave., South San Francisco, Calif. 94080; (415) 871-0340--sourdough starters and accessories, sourdough mixes--$2.25 to $18.95.
Culpepper's Popcorn, 14000 Dinard Ave., Santa Fe Springs, Calif. 90670; (213) 921-7961--assorted flavored popcorn available in decorative containers--$6.95 to $99.95, plus shipping.
Deer Creek Wild Rice Co., 680 Jones St., Yuba City, Calif. 95991; (916) 673-8053--bags and gift packs of wild rice--$6.50 to $40, plus shipping and handling.