The perfect gift?
This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on November 17, 2000
Forget the horror stories about Christmas shopping: Buying the perfect gift for adults is actually fairly easy: If the recipient is a man, get him beer, Scotch or bourbon. If it's a woman you're shopping for, go with chocolates.
Now, unfortunately, it's illegal to sell beer and liquor mail-order (wine is still legal, but most guys won't admit to enjoying wine we need to bring Hemingway back so a nice Merlot is once again seen as being just as manly as Maker's Mark or Heineken); chocolates, however, are the perfect gift to order via the web.
See, it turns out that chocolates are a lot like cheese, wine or olives: Each region has its own local favorite, a brand that defines that area. And the Web makes it possible to order from just about anywhere (although in some cases, the shipping costs will be more than the product price!) The following sites all offer secure online ordering and shipping anywhere in the continental United States.
Based in Brussels, Beglium, Godiva's line of chocolates is now available in most major U.S. cities. (Modern transportation is taking a lot of the fun out traveling and finding the local treats in each region.) Godivas are one of the better brand-name chocolates you can find, and you gotta love any product named after a woman who rode naked through town in a weird bet to get her husband to lower the villagers' taxes (you listening, Laura?).
The real San Francisco treat, Ghirardelli's are now, like Godiva's, available in most big grocery stores, at least in the Western U.S. Still, if you have relatives or a sweetheart on the East Coast, a shipment of Ghirardelli's chocolates will be more appreciated than a dozen roses.
Based in Los Angeles, See's Candies is a Southern California tradition, with stores sprinkled throughout the Southland. And their chocolates are pretty good, if a spot pricey. For some families in SoCal, though, See's is a tradition at the holidays, and one not to be trifled with.
Brussels, San Francisco and Los Angeles world-class cities all, and home to the above chocolatiers. Still, the best chocolates in the world just may come from the supposedly unsophisticated Midwest, where Esther Price Chocolates is based in Dayton, Ohio. Now, they only ship their chocolates in cold-ice and/or artificial ice packaging so they won't melt if you buy one of their small boxes, the shipping is more than the chocolates. But their chocolates are absolutely entrancing; try any of the dark variety boxes and you'll be hooked for life.
If none of the above appeal, or if you have a favorite confection of a different brand, try Chocolate.com. This is a portal site, with links to dozens of other outfits selling chocolate. From here, you can find New England's Hauser Chocolates, plus links to other chocolate search engines.
This is more of an information site than a portal, but in addition to the scientific explanations of why we like chocolate (bunch of fancy words that basically say because it makes us feel good) there are links to places to buy chocolate.
Does it really need to be repeated that if you can name a topic (chocolate, in this case), then Yahoo probably has a Web directory for it? From here, you can find the basics Hershey, M&Ms, Nestle, Kit-Kat and also less-well-known but far better brands like the Swiss chocolate houses of Lindt and Toblerone. They even have a subcategory devoted strictly to fudge.
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