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Online Shopping Guide: Food

Here is a very selective list of online shopping sites you might want to visit, compiled by Washington Post staff writers. Click on the links below to go to the other sections of the chart.

Clothing | Books & Music | Electronics | Food | Toys | Tickets | Beauty | Luxury

What they're selling: Caviar from Petrossian, foie gras from D'Artagnan and chocolates from Bernard Callebaut in addition to more familiar but equally fine products, running from barbecued baby back ribs to lemon drop cookies-more than 1,400 selections from 111 different companies. In conjunction with Amazon.com, a library's worth of cookbooks are also on the menu.
Shipping: Standard (5-10 business days), Express (3-4 business days) or Priority (2-3 days); costs are $6.95, $9.95 and $14.95, respectively.
Gift wrapping: Gift baskets available.
Return Policy: If not completely satisfied, the company will replace product or refund the amount of purchase, whichever you prefer.
Discounts: Look to the "Retail Shop" page for special offers (usually a single item at a 20 percent discount).
Critique: There's lots to choose from on this extensive and yupscale site, but it is also as busy as a mall on the day after Thanksgiving; an online visitors' forum features recipe exchanges and consumer critiques of products; click on the "meal occasion" tab for products suitable for fireside menus, lunch boxes, cocktail parties, and on, and on.
Holiday Foods
What they're selling: No time to whip up a hundred canapes for next week's cocktail party? Fear not. This site comes to the host's rescue with frozen hors d'ouevres, running from the expected (bite-size quiches, potato knishes) to the more chic (lobster strudel triangles). The No. 1 best-seller: mini Beef Wellingtons.
Shipping: Overnight delivery included in the cost of the product.
Gift wrapping: $5 to $20, depending upon size of order.
Return Policy: Unsatisfied customers can ask for credit or full refund.
Discounts: A 5 percent discount on purchases of $500 to $1,000, an 8 percent discount on orders between $1,000 to $2,000.
Critique: The writing is chatty and amateurish,but this single-minded site is easy to navigate. We ordered a 36-piece Royalty Pack-bite-size chicken Wellington, scallops wrapped in bacon, and spinach-filled phyllo triangles ($49)-which arrived the day after we ordered it, as promised, and packed in dry ice. Thumbs up for the well-seasoned chicken, the succulent scallops and the fresh-tasting spinach in the flaky spanikopita.
Dean & Deluca
What they're selling: Smoked fish, oils, vinegars, cakes, meats and much more. Wonderful selection of highquality products. Shipped and packed beautifully, the items are also high-priced.
Shipping: Shipping is based on the total of the merchandise ordered. Standard delivery is by UPS Ground and takes approximately 7-10 business days.
Gift wrapping: Items come packed in a gift box if practical.
Return Policy: Items sent in error or with damage are refunded or replaced.
Discounts: None.
Critique: Very easy to use. Recipients of the print catalogue will recognize the clean style and well-designed graphics.
What they're selling: All the food lover's bases are covered, from specialty items to kitchenware and "inspiration," as the site's mantra goes, including gift ideas, cookbooks, tableware and thousands of recipes and menu plans.
Shipping: Shipping: Priority (3-4 business days) or Express (1-2 business days); costs start at $4.95 and $14.95, respectively, and vary according to the amount purchased. Priority shipping free with purchases of $150 or more.
Gift wrapping: Free gift wrapping and boxes available throughout December.
Return Policy: Items sent in error or with damage are refunded or replaced within 14 days of notification with no shipping charge to the customer; if customers are unsatisfied for any other reason, they have 30 days to request a refund or replacement, but the buyer pays the shipping costs.
Discounts: Product sales and reduced shipping charges regularly are promoted online and via Tavolo's newsletter; frequent buyers are also rewarded with sales.
Critique: Attractive and well-organized; useful product descriptions; questions answered quickly and efficiently by live online service representatives.
Balducci Online
What they're selling: Fresh and packaged foods including Italian favorites, and all sorts of meats, cheeses, breads. Selection is almost overwhleming.
Shipping: Fresh foods: Less that five pounds, flat rate of $7.50; over five pounds, $1.50 a pound. Packaged foods: %6.95 for orders $30 or less; goes up to $12.95 for orders of $150.01 or more.
Gift wrapping: Not available, but gift baskets are.
Return Policy: Items sent in error or with damage are refunded or replaced.
Discounts: No special discounts.
Critique: Site is a pleasure to use. Especially helpful is the "questions" section, which clearly answers shipping, customer service and packaging questions.
Hometown Favorites
What they're selling: More than 400 hard-to-find, regional and sometimes seasonal condiments, candies, beverages, soups and other foodstuffs from around the United States. Hankering for Original Anchor Bar Buffalo Wing Sauce or Sioux City soda? You'll find them here, along with such top sellers as Chocolate Babies and Junket dessert mixes.
Shipping: Items are shipped via UPS ground; the typical cost to the D.C. area is about $7, depending on weight. A $20 minimum purchase is required.
Gift wrapping: Don't expect fancy packaging; this Florida-based company promotes recycling. Gift wrapping isn't encouraged, but if you ask nicely, the company will do so for extra (starting at $2 for boxes, $20 for gift baskets).
Return Policy: "It never happens!" a chirpy receptionist informs us. But anyone who is dissatisfied could expect a full refund, shipping included, she offered.
Discounts: Not available.
Critique: Easy to navigate, this site elicits as many smiles as you might get paging through your high school yearbook; a section titled "Boy They Were Good, But ..." reads like a graveyard for items that have been requested but are no longer produced; one nit is the lack of product descriptions.
What they're selling: Cookbooks (hundreds of titles), specialty cookware, utensils, gourmet foods and just about anything else a cook could ever want.
Shipping: Economy (3-8 business days), Expedited (2-3 business days), and Next Day (1 business day); prices depend on order amounts and begin at $3.95, $12.95 and $17.95, respectively, for sales $25 and under.
Gift wrapping: $3.50 for the first item and $1 for each additional purchase.
Return Policy: Items may be returned for a full refund within 30 days; use a return label, packed with each purchase, for free return shipping.
Discounts: Click on the "Clearance" button for reduced prices or subscribe to the site's e-mail newsletter, which also advertises deals.
Critique: One-stop shopping for the foodie; user-friendly layout; tasteful and extensive gift idea section; helpful and eye-catching cooking section.

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