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The gift of choice from elderly relations who don't know what to give young'uns these days and small time operators stuck for a low-cost, but impressive-looking End of Year bonus/gift for business associates, Swiss Colony meat, cheese and sweet packs are the lineal descendant of the lavish hampers pioneered by Fortnum & Mason's, back in the days when the Sun never set on the British Empire. Then, as now, you can buy (for an appropriate fee) any of a several dozen wicker baskets filled with such dainties as whole hams, smoked game and turkey, wheels of cheese, bottles of vintage wine, cakes, pies, biscuits, jars of preserves, oils, mustards, tea, coffee, and of course, the finest of bonbons in every size from a mere whim to a full Christmas banquet (and beyond!) ready to send to a friend down the street, or a loved one fighting Afghan insurgents (either on horses or with drones).

The Swiss Colony does the same for Middle America in a characteristically American fashion, subbing processed artificially flavored cheese food for artisanal Stilton, various hermetically sealed cold cuts for ham and turkey and shrinking sizes down to airline single-serves. (The Voice of Experience...) These, in turn, are photographed in such a manner as to look full-sized, so that it's only when you look at a "smoked sausage log" as long as two petits fours or a wedge of cheese a little smaller than the coffee cup in the foreground that you realize that you're not getting quite the treasure chest you envisioned from the copy. About the most honest assessment of their sizes is a review of their $129.00 "ultimate assortment" where a nice couple buys one to tide them over while moving, both on the road and on their first day in the new house. Although this may look like a scam, especially since they allow for $20 a month financing for their purchases, but apparently have enough satisfied customers to have been doing what they do since the 1930's.

Their other main claim to fame is their "Dobos torte". I put this in scare quotes because, according to my Austrian cookbook, a torte is supposed to be round. These are loaf-shaped cakes, made with nine layers of thin sponge, gummed together with chocolate and topped with caramel. This, too, is smaller than it looks, though sizes range up to two pounds.

My verdict? Unless it's a firmly cemented custom of your kind, give Swiss Colony a pass.

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