THE CLINK OF milk bottles being deposited on your back step in the wee hours is just a memory, but the milkman may soon be making his rounds again if the Palm Beach Milk Company has its way.

The Florida-based service began morning delivery of bottled milk, along with other dairy products and gourmet items to homes in Palm Beach County, Fla., last month. Already the customer list has reached about 2,600. The company hopes to begin service in the District next year.

Customers must commit to regular delivery once a week, with a minimum purchase of $5 a week. Washington was targeted because of the large number of two-income homes with "professionals who want the convenience and luxury" of milk, cheese, eggs, juices, tea and coffee, breads, pastries and bagels and cream cheese delivered to their doorstep, says Kathryn Vaughn, corporate relations director.

The sleepy-eyed yuppies should be cheered by the sight of milkmen wearing the traditional white uniform with a black bow tie, shiny black shoes and cap. And the thought of the re-usable glass bottles should appeal to environmentalists.

Items are left at the door in a cooler that will keep things chilly at 38 degrees for up to 12 hours. And on the next delivery day, customers leave the cooler and empty bottles out on the step.

Anyone interested in making inquiries now can call the company at 407-478-MILK.

"AFTER 80 YEARS of making kisses, we finally went nuts," says the Hershey Co., which will be taking a major departure this summer when it rolls out new Hershey Kisses with almonds. According to Linda Bingaman of Hershey, nutty additions always do better than the parent item. Kind of reminds us of some people we know ...

DINNER TONIGHT

MIDDLE-EASTERN LAMB PATTIES

(4 to 6 servings)

Tasting these savory lamb patties will likely make you agree with the Romans that "mint stirs up the mind and appetite to a greedy desire for food." Steamed zucchini and couscous are tasty accompaniments.

2 pounds ground lamb, lean beef or veal

1/2 cup minced onion

4 teaspoons cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons lime juice

2 teaspoons dried mint leaves, crushed

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Mix lamb, onion, cumin, cayenne, salt, pepper, lime juice and mint; form into 8 patties.

Preheat broiler for 5 minutes and broil lamb 3 inches from broiler for 8 to 10 minutes, turning twice. Serve warm with a sauce of yogurt and mint.

Instead of broiling, grill lamb for same amount of time, if desired.

Per patty: 329 calories, 19 gm protein, 2 gm carbohydrates, 27 gm fat, 12 gm saturated fat, 84 mg cholesterol, 138 mg sodium. -- Leslie Bloom

Q. How come the labels of Kraft's Fat-Free salad dressings say the dressings contain "0" fat when the ingredient panel lists "soybean oil?"

A. Nutritional data may be rounded to the nearest gram, according to the Food and Drug Administration, and Kraft chose to round down; the soybean oil in its dressings contributes between .3 and .4 grams of fat per tablespoon, depending on the flavor, said Kathy Knuth, spokeswoman for the company.

"Technically they're right," said Raymond Newberry, an FDA regulatory guidance officer. But Newberry said he has a problem with a product being called "fat-free" when fat has been deliberately added.

And even if the amount of fat per tablespoon is negligible, keep in mind that as you pour more and more dressing on your salad, it becomes less and less fat free.

Sunday: Maryland Beef Festival, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Back Acres Farm, Twin Arch Road, Mt. Airy, beef cook-off and sandwiches, grilled foods for sale, entertainment and crafts, admission free, parking $3, call 301-831-7991 for information and directions.

THE TINKLING BELLS you hear may not be who you think. Oh, it's the ice cream man all right, but it just might be Gordon Hoffman pedaling and peddling Ben & Jerry's ice cream around the busy streets of downtown Washington.

Hoffman, a 25-year-old former bicycle messenger, finds that Washingtonians are generally reluctant to scream for ice cream. "I went from riding around to sitting during lunchtime," says Hoffman, "mainly at 17th and L {streets NW}. I found that people feel uncomfortable whistling for ice cream, so it's better for me to sit."

Nevertheless, when "they see an ice cream man on a bicycle it conjures up a childhood association that makes people happy," he says. "You see that happy look; during the summit I was riding up Connecticut, and I'd seen Kissinger and I'd seen Gorbachev, and then standing there on the corner was Marla Maples and I got the same look from her. It was really goofy."

He says he works almost every day, riding around the Mall area on weekends to get the tourist and protest marcher business. The "Peace Pops" he sells include Heath Bar Crunch, New York Super Fudge Chunk and Cherry Garcia chocolate-dipped ice creams and ice cream sandwiches called Brownie Bars.

So, if you hear bells, don't automatically look for a Good Humor truck.