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Authentic Boston Food as Christmas Gifts?

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  • figg Dec 10, 2007 12:23 PM
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This is my first year in Boston and I wanted to send my family on the west coast Boston related gift baskets. I looked into cannolis from Mike's Pastry- they charge 25$ for 10 but then tack on an extra $45 to ship it ($70 for 10 cannolis is a bit ridiculous). Legal Seafoods online ordering is similarly overpriced.

I am looking for something around $20-35 and that is unique to Boston or somehow Boston related. I also want a place that will do all the shipping for me. Any ideas?

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  1. Captain Marden's (Wellesley/Newton), website captainmardens.com, says that they ship any of their products cooked and uncooked anywhere in the U.S., and if you check their website the prices aren't bad (shipping is another issue). You could ship them some clam or seafood chowder and/or cooked shrimp cocktail...I think Lobsters would go way over your budget.

    1. Out of curiosity, does Mike's charge the same to ship less delicate goods than cannoli? (I think part of the problem here may be the aforementioned fragility of the shells; you'd have to package strategically to keep them from cracking en route, I should think.) They make killer pistachio and walnut macaroons, which I imagine would ship more readily.

      Cranberries and wild blueberries also strike me as two things that are characteristic of the Boston area. Not sure what you can make out of those that would ship well, but that would be one avenue worth exploring. Much "authentic Boston food" would serve well as a doorstop, and I'm having a hard time coming up with something that would be peculiar to Boston (e.g. the Deluxe Town Diner's sweet potato pancakes remind me of Boston, but I'm not sure that's a Boston-specific dish) and would ship well.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Dr.Jimbob

        I like the idea of tying cranberries in somehow. A couple years back I made sugared cranberries that I packaged up and gave as gifts to my non-New England relatives. they were a huge hit, and their beautiful color spruces up any table. Unfortunately the recipe escapes me at the moment, but perhaps another Hound could provide one, or you could check on the Internets...

        1. re: italyinmind

          Dark chocolate covered cranberries are decadently delicious. You could pick them up yourself from Dairy Fresh Candies in the Northend, put them in a decorative tin & mail/ship them yourself: http://dairyfreshcandy.stores.yahoo.n...

          1. re: Taralli

            Good idea. Plus, there's a company up in Salem that makes all kinds of cranberry relishes and jams...

      2. Hmm, Boston-specific? In our globalized world, it's not very hard to find things like Maine lobster on the West Coast anymore. "New England specific" might be an easier brief to fulfill. A few thoughts:

        Grade B pure maple syrup. This is the good stuff the farmers keep for themselves, selling the inferior, misleadingly named Grade A to everyone else.

        Local cheeses. Massachusetts in particular produces some great artisanal cheeses. Formaggio would probably help you choose and ship them for you.

        Local wine and beer. I'm not sure how welcome our local wines would be on the West Coast, but there are some worthy whites produced in CT, RI and southeastern MA.

        1. I think that one problem with authentic Boston food is that it needs to be fresh and so doesn't transport well (lobsters - well maybe, fresh oysters and fried or steamed clams - definitely not!). Why not send some Legal's chowder on your own (after reading this thread I'm thinking of doing this myself) - it's justly famous. Sam Adams beers are also often widely and highly regarded in the beer world. I'm also tempted to recommend local cheeses... and even Vt maple syrup.

          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/380884

          Porterhouse steak was an invention of the Porter House hotel at Porter Square, perhaps this would be a good gift? Would Ziggy's bread transport well? Probably not. :-)

          1. I agree with other posters that if the item requires freshness it requires expensive packing and shipping costs. I'd buy an inexpensive tin with a cover and fill it with cookies and biscotti from the North End. I'd look for locally produced jams and jellies (cranberry, bluberry, rose hip), and some good maple syrup....a small jar goes a long way. I'd take it all to a UPS or FedEx store or the USPS and ship it yourself.

            1. I am thinking of two NE and Boston specfic food items, Indian pudding and stone ground flint cornmeal to make Jonny cakes.

              items like cannolis and lobster are available all over and expensive to ship as local.

              But some corm meal and the recipe for Indian pudding is great and the stone ground flint corn meal (especially if it still comes in paper sacks with a string tie) is pretty unique. ANd not expensive; tho' I am thinking you make up and ship presents yourself.

              After years away from MA, I still have no found many who even know of indian pudding and the flint corn meal is hard to find. I am only in NJ.

              Hope this helps.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Quine

                Quine-
                I'm from NY (now living in Boston for the year), and my first experience with Indian Pudding was at a Howard Johnson's restaurant- a zillion years ago! I believe that every Howard Johnson's restaurant had Indian Pudding on their menu, so it is interesting that people outside of New England have not heard of it. BTW, ever since I tasted warm Indian Pudding with Howard Johnson's vanilla ice cream melting on top, I had looked for receipes which "duplicated" the taste and texture. I found many, doctored most of them, and have been making a baked Indian Pudding like this for about 25 years. I think I'll make some tonight!

                1. re: rockpile

                  WOw I had no idea! I have not been to a HoJo's in ages, literally and myself do not eat sweets. I saw the Indian pudding at Durgan Park in Boston and read a bunch of recipes, all from NE. It is an interesting pudding, Long slow even heat, makes the best I have tried (I had lots of volunteers for taste testers, thank goodness). Once I had a airtight cast iron stove at Home in MA...the best pudding was one that I started on Sunday AM. and it sat under the stove all day until dinner, WOWZER!

                  1. re: Quine

                    The last time I ate at a HoJo's was in Times Square and I had heard, subsequently, that they were closing. I don't know if their restaurants even exist anymore.

                  2. re: rockpile

                    Howard Johnson's originated in Quincy/Wollaston, so it wouldn't be that much of a surprise that they had Indian Pudding on the menu. Not a bad idea, as that definitely is a New England peculiar taste. I also like the maple syrup idea, though I think Sam Adams is not a good idea -- you can get Sam anywhere in the country and shipping it strikes me as a little redundant. However, there are plenty of local brews that don't necessarily have nationwide distribution (Ipswich springs immediately to mind, Harpoon might have better nationwide distribution than they used to).

                    Had also forgotten about chocolate, which is an excellent idea. I'd move for Taza Chocolate, which is an unadorned and rather pricey bar, but far and away the most interestingly dense and complex unflavored chocolate I've ever had. I like the original 70% bars as being not quite as astringent as the 80% hard-core dark and more interesting than the somewhat sweetened 60%. A batch of those bars ought to make you popular among chocoholics.

                    1. re: Dr.Jimbob

                      I didn't know about HoJo's origins. Do they still have restaurants in existence?

                2. Google a recipe for Parker House Rolls, make 'em yourself, and send those. Yum.

                  1. The shipping kills you. I had a freind who used to work for Fedex so he shipped nearly free. I ship live lobs from James Hook yearly. Their rates are far less than Fedex. ^ 2-pounders all inclusive for $220. And, they'll appreciate it more than a Bing Crosby CD.

                    1. $45 to pack and ship something as fragile and perishable as cannoli to the west coast is not ureasonable. It doesn't matter if you're sending 10 cannoli or 50, there are substantial baseline costs. If you want to order from someplace that will do all the packing and shipping for you, you're going to have to suck it up and pay the price, both for the shipping and for the labor and materials needed to do the job and get your gift delivered intact and safe to eat.

                      That said, you might do better to think of less perishable goods to ship. Some people have suggested cranberry-related items (though, to me, those say "New England" but not specifically "Boston.") One of my favorites is Harbor Sweets' Harbor Lights candies, which are a dark chocolate cranberry-raspberry truffle coated in dark and white chocolate. Their Sweet Sloops are also justly famous.
                      http://www.harborsweets.com/

                      I like the idea of having Legal Seafoods ship chowder, as well, although again you will run into the fact that it's just not cheap to ship perishable food!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Allstonian

                        Good call on the Harbor Sweets! Their chocolate is not only locally-made and delicious, all of the item names are New England specific. The one drawback is that the Harbor Lights (my favorite of their items) are not available in any of their assortments. I asked about that once at their booth at the New England Spring Flower Show and was told that the cranberry-raspberry truffle filling in the Harbor Lights is so aromatic that its smell overpowers the taste of all the other chocolates. Many candy companies won't put mint creams in their assortments for the same reason.

                        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                          Huh - they told *me* that it's because the truffle filling is more perishable than their other items.

                          As a matter of fact, they have started putting Harbor Lights in a few of the seasonal assortments such as Christmas or Valentine's Day (presumably those automatically have a shorter selling season) and I noticed a couple of small assortments that combined four Harbor Lights with four Sweet Sloops and so on in their latest catalog.

                      2. Burdick's mice are awfully nice.

                        Seriously, they have some lovely gifts and everyone that I have introduced to the chocolate mice are enchanted. You can even order online.

                        http://www.burdickchocolate.com/item-...

                        And, we also have Taza Chocolate in Somerville.

                        http://www.tazachocolate.com/shop.php

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: BostonZest

                          Thanks for reminding me of Burdick's as an option for sending gifts out of town. Just sent a gift basket (with mice) to a friend who always loves stopping there when she visits here.

                          1. re: sifsw

                            You are most welcome. I can't count the times Chowhounds have given me reason to be grateful. Happy to return the favor.

                          2. re: BostonZest

                            I think they do penguins for the holidays too- As cute as the mice and seasonal!

                          3. What ever you send, be sure to include some Marshmallow Fluff made in Lynn, MA.

                            1. I noticed that Sel de la Terre in Natick was selling gift baskets, I think they're 120 bucks or so. Everything in it is made at Sel de la Terre. They might ship them too. They look gorgeous, I'm buying one for my parents. I'm sure their other location sells them too.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: msgcook

                                Thanks everyone for the ideas! I want to mention that I realize the $45 to ship connolis is reasonable given that they are perishable. It just doesn't make sense to spend that much money on them, especially since you can find those anywhere. I am hoping to find something unique to Boston/ New England.

                              2. Well, cookies aren't exactly unique to Boston, but these are sort of charming and certainly Boston-related:

                                http://www.adozeneggs.com/beantown.htm

                                EDIT: Whoops, evidentally sold out for Christmas.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: Bostonbob3

                                  Bummer! Those looked perfect.

                                  1. re: Bostonbob3

                                    How about the cookie and cake from Dancing Deer. I just learned it from Boston Globe. It is sure that their products aren't unique to Boston, but they are produced locally, Roxbury I guess.

                                    Their shipping is extremely reasonable, like $6.95 for ground shipping.

                                    I think I will try them.

                                    1. re: sheila

                                      I used to really love Dancing Deer -- especially the molasses cookies and the lime ones. Over the past several years as they've gotten bigger and bigger, every time I had one the cookies were stale. Still better than somebody else's commercially packaged cookie, but not really fresh and special. Anybody else know what I'm talking about?

                                      1. re: Dizzied

                                        Yeah, I honestly don't even bother with Dancing Deer anymore. The quality no longer is up to the price tag.

                                      2. re: sheila

                                        OTOH, these Salty Oats cookies have gotten raves here, are baked down on the south shore by one woman, and are reasonable to ship...
                                        http://www.kayakcookies.com/cart/cart...

                                        1. re: galleygirl

                                          Those ARE lovely...just salty enough, and really tender and nice.

                                          1. re: galleygirl

                                            I adore them. We are all doing a good job of supporting small businesses. There is a Massachusetts Specialty Food Association that works with the farmer's markets and the Public Market Association.

                                            Here's a link to their Membership page with lots more ideas for local food suppliers we can support.

                                            http://www.msfa.net/directory.html

                                      3. So much of the best of what this area has to offer is perishable, and expensive to ship. How about a Boston/New England themed cookbook, perhaps with a few local ingredients thrown in?

                                        Beach plum jelly was a great recommendation, and perhaps the dry ingredients for Indian Pudding.

                                        1. While not gourmet, your family might get a kick out of brown bread. Non-perishable and easy to ship.

                                          1. The first place I thought of when I saw your request was the gift shop at Union Oyster House. They have the best pkg. of corn bread which is indigenous to this area. Also, lots of other kinds of NE food ideas.
                                            Yes, definitely Marshmallow Fluff. Not the flavored strawberry or raspberry - just the plain white sugar-laden stuff with Skippy peanut butter!
                                            Try the Durgin Park web site for items they might sell as they have NE food.
                                            Oh, another thing that my MOL craved while living outside NE was coffee syrup to drench on ice cream. She always brought some back home with her.
                                            Make the package yourself and get light things. They have boxes right at the PO.
                                            Happy Holidays. Let us know what your family enjoyed.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: taxi

                                              Maybe Teddy Peanut Butter, to go with that Fluff, would be more Bostonish? Or at least Everettish.

                                              1. re: maryv

                                                I just sent 2 big plastic jars of Fluff off to by friend in CA 'cause he had a fluffernutter craving. They fit nicely in a post office flat rate box ($8.95) with plenty of room for a pkg of split top hot dog rolls and some maple sugar candy.

                                                1. re: maryv

                                                  maryv,
                                                  That is a riot. I remember the smell going around that rotary in Everett. Skippy is still my fav, though. Guess 'cause I had it as a kid.

                                                2. re: taxi

                                                  Teddy's Peanut Butter! Made right in Medford.

                                                3. I know that whenever we have guests to New England/Boston they all want lobster. I have bought quite a few gifts from Hancock Gourmet Lobster Company and all my receipients RAVE about them all - esp. the Lobster Pot Pies.

                                                  http://www.hancockgourmetlobster.com/

                                                  -----
                                                  Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co
                                                  46 Park Dr, Topsham, ME

                                                  1. Ron's Ice Cream in Hyde Park(it's in a bowling alley of all places) was named by National Geographic on their list of the top 10 ice cream places in THE WORLD!!!!! They just came out with a book...The Best 10 of Everything. It's always been one of my favorite ice cream places, and I'm having some ice cream shipped from there for a relative's birthday in Jan. The Clintons use to have it shipped back in the 90's when they were in the White House. I work much too close to it. It's great stuff! I think it's responsible for at least a few of my Weight Watcher's memberships. :-) Here's a link from an issue of Food and Wine as well...
                                                    http://travel.discovery.com/ideas/foo...

                                                    1. I used to live in the Boston area, and now live in California. Here are my suggestions for stuff that I miss and have shipped to me, or bring back in my suitcase!

                                                      New England Hot Dog Rolls
                                                      Cans of chowder (lobster, fish)
                                                      Fluff
                                                      Drakes Cakes - (Yodels are my favorites)
                                                      Dunkin Donuts coffee beans (yea, they have the ground stuff in grocery stores in CA now, but its not as good.)

                                                      Thats all I can think of right now, if I
                                                      Salt Water Taffy
                                                      Boston baked beans candy!
                                                      Fanny's salad dressing (see it here http://www.gofannys.com/)

                                                      1. There is a very tasty canned Indian pudding that I've seen in grocery/gourmet shops. I think I've also seen it some of the Boston tourist shops (the ones run by the trolley tour companies). I would send that.

                                                        1. These sites seem to have the exact gift packs your looking for
                                                          http://www.massbaytrading.com/mm5/mer...
                                                          http://www.myfavoritecity.com/boston-...

                                                          Sometimes in your local grocery store you can find most of the items in these gift packs and put together your own. They key is shelf stable so you can just ship it via USPS priority mail. My list would involve:
                                                          1. A can of Indian Pudding
                                                          2. A Jar of Fluff
                                                          3. A bag of Craisins or Chocolate covered Cranberries
                                                          4. A can of lobster bisque / chowder (NOT Snow, skip if only national brands
                                                          )5. A pack of Necco Wafers
                                                          6. Wild Blueberry Jam
                                                          7. Cranberry Jam
                                                          8. Maple Syrup
                                                          9. Lobster lollipop

                                                          1. The Salem Street True Value hardware packs and ships just about anything they sell. I think they might ship other (maybe not cannoli) items, if you also bought stuff from them too (perhaps a tin to put cranberry candies as someone suggested), not ask. Dairy Fresh you can also order online and have their items shipped.

                                                            The Decordova Museum store has nice local crafts this time of year (a bit pricey) and the nearby Concord Cheese Shop has a lot of local food products like the johnny cake meal, etc. They do ship (including some perishables), but I swear having seen some other shipping outlet in downtown Concord.

                                                            There are a lot of locally made Portuguese products -- from baked goods, to cured and smoked meats some of which don't necessarily need refrigeration. Even fried/salted fava beans. Plus plenty of imported goods. You can find a lot of these in East Cambridge on Cambridge St between Courthouse Seafood, Central Bakery, Casal Bakery, and Fernandez Meat Market. If you need to keep perishables cold, Acme Ice company on Kirkland St can certainly provide dry ice and I think Styrofoam shippers, but I don't know if you can just drop those off at a UPS store? For shelf-stable ingredients the UPS store at Kendall.

                                                            Savenor's certainly ships and can provide all sorts of local ingredients, although at that price range you might get more variety at Formaggio.

                                                            I don't think the original poster will be interested, but something unique to Boston is gray corned brisket and ribs, which the Boston Brisket company will ship. We also have local sources for cured boiling bacon when you want a more traditional st patricks day....