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    Tuesday, 28 November 2006

    Two recipes for Reindeer Food for a kid's Christmas party! One for them, and one for Santa's helpers.

    lighted reindeer - Photo Credit: morguefile

    If you're throwing a children's Christmas party or holding one at their school, Reindeer Food is guaranteed to be a big hit with the little ones.

    Reindeer Food is something for the young at heart who love the magical Christmas season - especially those who still somehow - just a little bit - believe in Santa and his reindeer. Holiday parties for kids are so much fun, whether you have one at home or just send in treats for a school party. Get the kids involved with both of these recipes and start a new holiday tradition!

    The first recipe for Reindeer Food is meant for Santa's furry friends. Sprinkle it on the lawn, driveway, or apartment patio to entice the reindeer and give them something to munch on while Santa delivers his goodies. Traditional recipes call for glitter, but unless you purchase the pricey edible glitter from specialty shops, it won't be safe for birds and squirrels. Substituting colored sugar will still give a sparkly appearanc, without being harmful to the actual animals who will end up eating it.

    Layer your Reindeer food in small glass jars such as baby food jars for a pretty appearance, or mix it all up together and scoop it into zippered plastic bags. Tie it up with pretty ribbon and add a gift tag with instructions for scattering it outside on Christmas Eve. I haven't yet tried this with my own kids, but the idea was sparked by a reply in the Holiday Food discussions thread. We're looking forward to making up enough jars for the kids to take to school and hand out to their classmates this year!

    Reindeer Food

    For each small baby food jar, you'll need:

    • 1/4 cup dry oatmeal
    • 1/8 cup granulated sugar
    • 1-2 tablespoons colored sugar

    Layer half of the oatmeal, followed by half of the colored sugar, the white granulated sugar, the rest of the colored sugar, and topped with the reast of the oatmeal. Alternatively, combine ingredients in a mixing bowl and scoop into zippered plastic bags.

    For the kids to munch on, here's a recipe for Reindeer Food that is sweet and crunchy. You can get the children involved in preparing this snack too, since it's ridiculously easy to make. It goes very quickly once they get over the appearance - it looks rather like dry pet food!

    Reindeer Food for Kids

    • 12 cups Crispix cereal
    • 1 bag (12 oz) semi-sweet chocolate or butterscotch chips
    • 3/4 cup peanut butter
    • 1 cup powdered sugar

    In a very large pot over low heat, melt peanut butter and chocolate chips, stirring frequently.

    Remove from heat and add cereal, stirring gently to coat well. Add the powdered sugar, a bit at a time, and continue stirring until mixture is completely combined.

    Spread pieces on a cookie sheet or other clean, flat surface, separating them so they don't stick together. Allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

    Makes about 12 1-cup servings.

    © Carrie Grosvenor

    Posted by: AT 02:23 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Wednesday, 22 November 2006

    Chef Douglas Rodriguez talks about roast pig and other Cuban delicacies

    Douglas Rodriguez is arguably the most influential Latin chef on the planet. At his pioneering New York City restaurant Patria, he invented Nuevo Latino cuisine — pan-Latin dishes updated with lighter sauces and colorful presentation. Although he has since ceded Patria to a successor, his influence lives on at the multitude of establishments that cater to the mohito and ceviche craze that has swept the dining world. His empire now includes Philadelphia's Alma de Cuba, Miami's Ola, and Scottsdale, Arizona's, Deseo.

    Cuban Christmas Eve is called Nochebuena, and it is, above all else, a party. Rodriguez's family would gather in a Miami backyard to celebrate. The pig (lechon in Spanish) had been marinated overnight in mojo, a tangy sauce of citrus, garlic, and herbs. In the morning it was loaded into a specially made wire box and set over hot coals. As the day progressed, the hungry guests would listen to salsa music and down beer after beer as they monitored the progress of the roast with great anticipation. This was a family that took its food seriously. Rodriguez remembers: "I had one uncle who was nicknamed 'the pig doctor' because he never wanted to talk about anything but the lechon. He claimed to have perfected the process and would explain his system in great detail to anyone who would listen."

    The rewards were abundant: Guests enjoyed crispy-skinned, succulent pork; yuca with garlicky mojo sauce; hearty beans and rice; sweet glazed plantains; and silky flan. Then they trotted off to Midnight Mass, where you knew it had been a good party when, according to Rodriguez, "the church was filled with the smell of the alcohol on everyone's breath."

    To create this feast in your own home this Christmas, follow Rodriguez's recipes and helpful tips.


    • Tamals Also called tamales, these treats, consisting of meat or vegetables mixed with a corn dough and steamed in corn husks, are eaten for the holidays throughout much of Latin America. According to Rodriguez, however, the art of making tamals is dying out, because "you need a grandmother to supervise the process." Luckily, in his recipe, Rodriguez plays grandmother to us with detailed, easy-to-follow instructions.

    • Roast suckling pig with lime-oregano mojo This recipe takes its cue from Cubans living in colder climes, trading the traditional 100-pound roast for a 12-pound suckling pig that can be cooked in the oven. Rodriguez compares this process to roasting a turkey, and advises home cooks, "Don't be afraid to give this recipe a try."

    • Beans This is Rodriguez's mother's recipe and can be served either as a soup or over white rice.

    • Yuca with sour orange mojo This mojo calls for sour, or Seville, oranges, which are available in some gourmet supermarkets. In a pinch, Rodriguez recommends substituting a mixture of five parts lime juice and two parts regular orange juice. Yuca, a starchy root vegetable (also called manioc or cassava root), is traditionally served with this sauce in Cuba. It is available in gourmet or Spanish grocery stores. To cook yuca, peel off the bark and the underskin using a paring knife and then cut the yuca into sections. Steam until soft, then remove the central fibrous cord and toss the sections with the mojo.

    • Plantains "Only Cubans could have three starches at the same meal," says Rodriguez. "We call them all vegetables." They may not meet with Dr. Atkins's approval, but these traditional accompaniments are delicious. For this recipe, Rodriguez recommends plantains that are yellow and sweet but still firm.

    • Flan Rodriguez has added a crispy cookie-crumb crust to this traditional Cuban dessert.

    — Sarah Kagan

    Posted by: AT 12:32 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Friday, 10 November 2006

    They’re back–those plastic bags of fresh cranberries. If you’ve never made fresh cranberry sauce before, do it.

    The recipe on the package is good, but I add citrus juice and zest for zip. You’ll know what I mean when you cook it. Try this on your next turkey sandwich!

    Cranberry Sauce
    Makes 2 1/2 Cups
    Total Time 30 Minutes

    Simmer Until Sugar Dissolves:
    1 cup sugar
    3/4 cup water
    1/4 cup fresh orange juice
    1 T. fresh lemon juice

    Add, Simmer Until Thick:
    1 12-oz. bag fresh cranberries
    1/8 t. kosher salt

    Off Heat, Stir in:
    Zest of one orange
    Zest of one lemon

    Simmer sugar, water, orange juice, and lemon juice over high heat for 5 minutes. Stir constantly until sugar dissolves.

    Add berries and salt. Reduce heat to medium and simmer. Foam will form as the berries pop.

    Simmer until the sauce reaches a thickness and texture you like. (I prefer mine with a few whole berries). Sauce will thicken as it cools. Off heat, stir in the orange and lemon zests.

    Posted by: AT 11:03 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Tuesday, 07 November 2006

    There are two basic components to carving a turkey: Removing the legs and removing and slicing the breast meat.


    Video provided by Cuisine at Home. 

    Posted by: AT 10:53 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Monday, 06 November 2006

    No sooner is Halloween over that you begin to think about the next wonderful holiday on the calendar, Thanksgiving. Whether you’re having guests for a big celebration or spending a quiet time of gratitude with your family, you’ll enjoy the holiday more if you do some preparations ahead of time.

    If you follow the timeline here, you’ll have everything done in plenty of time and be able to spend time with your family and friends. Not only will Thanksgiving go smoothly, but you’ll have a great start on Christmas, too.

    Before you start, consider these special tips. You’ll be happy you did!

    Keep copies of menus, lists, schedules, tablesettings, and centerpieces that work well in your home. Set up a file folder titled “Thanksgiving” that you can use as a resource in years to come.

    Begin a file titled “Christmas” or “Hannukah”, since you’ll find lots of great ideas along the way that can get you off on a good start to the December holidays, as well.

    Do as much ahead of time as you can. You’ll be more relaxed when the special day arrives.

    During the first week of November, you're at four weeks and counting.

    Order tickets for holiday productions. It may seem like it’s way too early, but special shows sell out fast, and you don’t want to be disappointed!

    If you’re planning to be away for the December holidays, you should book your travel arrangements now!

    Decorate the outside of your home so that any guests coming will feel welcome and get into the spirit of the season.

    Start thinking about decorating the inside of your home for Thanksgiving. Get wonderful ideas for fall centerpieces, mantle decorations, and beautiful fall wreaths.

    Make preliminary menu plans and a guest list for your Thanksgiving dinner.

    Decide on your perfect centerpiece and start to collect the things you’ll need.

    Prepare your list and invite houseguests to enjoy Thanksgiving with you.

    From Coral Nafie

    Posted by: AT 12:07 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Friday, 03 November 2006

    Giving or going to give a Thanksgiving dinner party? You'll give thanks for these tips from the pros.

    A few weeks ago, the first Thanksgiving e-mail of 2006 went out from one of my friends: "What's everybody doing this year? Want to do our usual potluck?" The responses started flying, with most of the negative ones centering around family obligation: "I was pointedly told that my niece 'misses her aunt,' which I highly doubt, since she's only one year old, so I'll be at home, though I'd rather be here," wrote back one friend.

    For the past 11 years, I and a group of friends — our ranks expanding and contracting from four to a few dozen — have held our own potluck because hauling turkeys, mashed potatoes, and pies back and forth via mass transit is actually easier and a lot more fun than schlepping across the country for an annual dose of crowded airports, clogged highways, and the worst kind of journey: the guilt trip. My gang's first New York potluck Thanksgiving came about because none of us new city transplants had enough money to go home. Plus, I had grown up going to an annual Thanksgiving potluck hosted by family friends, so the concept seemed normal; indeed, the holiday for me meant sampling the exotic handiwork of other people's parents, like hard-boiled eggs in the stuffing — a far cry from the oyster rice dressing my Southern Louisianan mother makes.

    The first year away from the familiarity of home proved to be a little difficult for some — no matter how good your friend's herbed root-vegetable foam is, it doesn't fill the hole where Mom's green bean casserole should go. Still, by the time we were kicking back with our shoes off, our favorite music playing, and yet another glass of wine — hey, there were no parents making snide remarks about our level of alcohol consumption — even the sickest of the homesick were thinking this was the way to go every year.

    For these annual parties, I have prepared vegan sides for vegans who didn't show up, and spent hours making vegetarian gravy only to watch the so-called vegetarians wolf down the giblet gravy. When I've hosted, I've received too much help or not enough. The battle for oven space has brought friends to near blows. Well-timed dishes have gotten cold, and I've become near faint and somewhat drunk while waiting for a blackened smoked turkey to make its way from one part of Brooklyn to another. And I've subjected others to the same woozy fate while basting, basting, basting before loading a questionably done turkey into the hatchback of a gracious friend's car. Seats for the feast have included the floor, at a card table, and a couch.

    Disasters have been averted or happened, and yet every one of these Thanksgivings has turned out wonderfully in the end (plus, the wine has gotten better over the years). The tips offered in the subsequent sections of this story for hosts and guests, as well as the potluck-perfect menu suggestions, draw on my years of successes and mistakes. I also turned to several seasoned potluckers who have triumphed over all kinds of Turkey Day challenges, from cooking a full meal on hot plates and in a miniature "Easy Bake" oven, to having to serve tuna sandwiches instead of turkey because one of the kids thought the oven "seemed too hot" and turned it off while the turkey was inside. Though they have differing views on everything from decoration to delegation, they all agreed that the best potlucks are the ones where you relax, go with the flow, enjoy your guests and — sometimes — your tuna sandwiches. If you follow our advice, hopefully nary a bite of tuna will you encounter on the big day.

    By Megan O. Steintrager

    Posted by: AT 01:57 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Wednesday, 01 November 2006
    Just how did the Pilgrims give thanks? Joanne Camas gives us the story behind the story.

    By Joanne Camas
    Photo courtesy of Plimoth Plantation

    For most people, enjoying turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin for Thanksgiving is as traditional and American as, well, apple pie. But how did the Pilgrims really celebrate on what we now regard as the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1621? Is our celebration — and traditional menu — truly akin to that enjoyed by the Pilgrims and their Wampanoag Indian guests?

    In a word, no. The only written record of the famous meal tells us that the harvest celebration lasted three days and included deer and wildfowl. Beyond that, culinary historians such as Kathleen Curtin at Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts rely on period cookbooks and journals, Wampanoag oral histories, paintings from the time, and archaeological evidence.

    "Most of today's classic Thanksgiving dishes weren't served in 1621," says Curtin. "These traditional holiday dishes became part of the menu after 1700. When you're trying to figure out just what was served, you need to do some educated guesswork. Ironically, it's far easier to discern what wasn't on the menu during those three days of feasting than what was!"

    "All real historians need to be detectives," Curtin says, talking about her job as food historian for Plimoth Plantation. "Like a good mystery, new pieces sometime pop up that give you a fresh angle on an old story. I feel very passionate about the history of Thanksgiving because the real story is so much more interesting than the popular myth."

    On and Off the Menu

    So, popular myths aside, what can be ruled out of the equation from the English transplants' table? Potatoes — white or sweet — would not have been featured on the 1621 table, and neither would sweet corn. Bread-based stuffing was also not made, though the Pilgrims may have used herbs or nuts to stuff birds.

    Instead, the table was loaded with native fruits like plums, melons, grapes, and cranberries, plus local vegetables such as leeks, wild onions, beans, Jerusalem artichokes, and squash. (English crops such as turnips, cabbage, parsnips, onions, carrots, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme might have also been on hand.) And for the starring dishes, there were undoubtedly native birds and game as well as the Wampanoag gift of five deer. Fish and shellfish were also likely on the groaning board.

    There is no concrete way to know if they had any roast turkey that day, but we do know there were plenty of wild turkeys in the region then, "and both the native Wampanoag Indians and English colonists ate them," writes Curtin in Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving Recipes and History from the Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie. That doesn't explain why the big, ungainly bird has become the de facto traditional centerpiece around which the entire meal is built, but at least it gives us a feeling of authenticity to imagine that America's forefathers might have been gnawing on a crispy turkey leg, just like we do nearly four centuries later.

    As for beverages to wash down the feast, Curtin says the Pilgrims likely drank just water. "In their first year, the English colonists had grown a few acres of barley, so it is possible that some beer or ale may have been brewed by the end of harvest time — but given how long it takes to brew and ferment beer, this seems unlikely.

    "Wine, considered a finer beverage than beer, may have been brought across by some travelers on the Mayflower. It was frequently mentioned in later accounts of supplies to the colonies. By the mid-1600s, cider would become the main beverage of New Englanders, but in 1621 Plymouth, there were not any apples yet."

    Cooking Techniques of the 17th Century

    While modern Thanksgiving meals involve a lot of planning and work, at least we have efficient ovens and kitchen utensils to make our lives easier. Curtin says the Pilgrims probably roasted and boiled their food. "Pieces of venison and whole wildfowl were placed on spits and roasted before glowing coals, while other cooking took place in the household hearth," she notes, and speculates that large brass pots for cooking corn, meat pottages (stews), or simple boiled vegetables were in constant use.

    "The meaty carcasses from one meal no doubt were simmered to yield broth for use in the next. In the English tradition, the meats may have had sauces accompanying them — perhaps something as simple as mustard (a very popular English 'sauce'). And contrary to conventional wisdom, 17th-century English cuisine revealed through cookbooks of the time was anything but bland, making skillful use of a variety of ingredients including spices, herbs, dried fruits, and wine or beer."

    Appetite whetted? You can replicate the first Thanksgiving by making the Seethed Mussels with Parsley and Vinegar, Stewed Turkey with Herbs and Onions, Stewed Pumpkin, and Sweet Pudding of Indian Corn, or take a trip to Plimoth Plantation for special 1621-themed dinners in October and November. There, you can feast on food of the time with residents from the Pilgrim Village and give thanks that a few dozen English stragglers stuck it out in the wilds of the New World.

    Inspired to make more dishes from the first meal? Order Plimoth Plantation's Giving Thanks cookbook. To find out more about Plimoth Plantation or to attend one of its authentic themed dinners, visit
    Posted by: AT 05:28 am   |  Permalink   |  Email


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