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Best gourmet gift baskets

If your recipient isn't a fruit fan, or if you want something with a bit more variety, countless companies sell gourmet gift baskets. Because of the large number of companies and the large variety of items that companies put in their baskets, we didn't find much consensus. Still, a couple of companies stand out in reviews. If you're looking specifically for chocolate, see our companion report that covers boxed gift chocolate.

Critics say that iGourmet.com offers a vast array of gift baskets, filled with everything from specialty cured meats to fruit preserves. iGourmet's Italian Gift Basket (*est. $80; shipping starts at $18.99) earns raves from several consumers at Amazon.com. The basket contains balsamic vinegar, olive oil, crackers, cured olives and an array of cheeses, all nestling in a wood-trimmed copper basket. Most reviewers say the basket offers a true taste of Italy, but some consider it overpriced. iGourmet's cheese samplers, which include a 4-Cheese Favorites basket (*est. $31 plus shipping), an English assortment (*est. $33 plus shipping) and Cheddars of the World (*est. $29 plus shipping) also earn high marks in consumer reviews. We read a small number of complaints about thawed ice packs and other shipping problems, but most customers are satisfied with the quality and variety of cheeses in each sampler.

Journalist Ed Levine, who's known in food circles as the "Missionary of the Delicious" recommends Zingerman's Granola and Scones Breakfast Gift Box (*est. $70; shipping costs $17.50). He says that, in addition to Devon cream and strawberry preserves, it's packed with "high-quality baked goods" including currant scones, cinnamon-raisin bread and granola. The Wall Street Journal calls the cookies, brownies and scones in the Better Than Grandma's Gift basket (est. $75; shipping costs $17.50) "moist and tasty" but editors wish the cookies didn't have provocative names like "Big" and were wrapped in something other than individual plastic pouches. In addition to baskets of baked goods, Zingerman's company offers theme gift boxes, which include an assortment of bacon (*est. $90; shipping costs $20), a brunch box (*est. $250; shipping costs an *est. $37.50) and a tapas box (*est. $75; shipping costs $17.50) filled with ready-to-serve foods.

We also read some good mentions of Wine Country Gift Baskets. Despite the name, this company sells more than wine (which can't be shipped to every state). We found good customer reviews for the Thinking of You basket (*est. $25 plus $8 shipping) which contains cheese, chocolates, cookies, candy and tea. Since it doesn't need to be shipped overnight, the shipping charges are lower, and the basket itself is a good value. A larger basket, the Office Party (*est. $50) adds salami and smoked salmon, plus more cookies and chocolates in a nice-looking basket. While reviewers say none of the items are sensational standouts, all were of crowd-pleasing quality.

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