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These club memberships perfect gifts

Goldberg: Cheesecake, fruit, chip of month offerings cater to every taste
/ Source: contributor

When Groucho Marx said, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member,” I don’t think he was talking about “of the month” clubs, associations where members automatically receive a specialty item each month for a set fee. I’m sure Marx wouldn’t reject a cigar on a monthly basis. And I know few people who would turn down a creamy cheesecake if it arrived at their door, even if they are on one of those trendy diets.

Fruit growers Harry and David were the first to offer a fruit club when they launched the “Royal Riviera Rare Fruit Club” in 1936. The extra large and juicy Royal Riviera pear is the Bedford, Ore.-based company’s signature fruit. At Christmas time, the company ships out bright red Bing cherries, peaches grown in the Andes and an organic apple medley. (To learn more about fruit clubs, read “Reaping benefits of rich fall harvest” by you-know-who.)

These days, companies that offer monthly deliveries of select products abound online. Search hard enough and you’ll find a club that suits someone-on-your-list’s fancy, from beer, wine, coffee and tea clubs to chocolate, cookies, popcorn and pizza clubs.

There are even one-stop shops or mini-conglomerates of clubs, such as Clubs of America. The Lakemoor, Ill.-based business, founded in 1994, started as a beer of the month club and now has eight food subscriptions. Here’s where you’ll find your beer, wine, fruit, flower, coffee, cigar, chocolate and pizza clubs. Memberships range from $23.95 a month for the coffee tasters club to $39.95 a month for the gourmet Chicago-style pizza club.

One of the most practical — and reasonably priced — clubs is the pasta-of-the-month club. “Fifteen years ago, people ate spaghetti and it was an ethnic dish,” says Raymond Lemire, president, a.k.a. the ‘big parmesan’ of Today, despite the low-carbohydrate diet craze, the majority of Americans have pasta in their pantry, he says.

Although fun shapes and cool colors are fashionable these days, when it comes to pasta and sauces, it’s really about “marrying the pasta to the sauce,” says Lemire, whose company makes its own brand of pasta and sauces.

Each month, Lemire marries two pastas with two sauces. Monthly packages contain 17 ounces of Italian pasta, 12 ounces of Flying Noodle pasta, one 16-ounce jar of Flying Noodle marinara sauce and a 24-ounce jar of another sauce or flavored olive oil. Membership costs $25 plus $4.50 shipping. Club prices are about the same as buying the pasta and sauce individually.

And Lemire sure knows his noodles. “Different pastas work better with different sauces,” he says from his home in Florida where he runs the Hanover, Mass.-based business. “In general, the rule is: the heavier the pasta, the heavier the sauce,” he explains. For example, fat, tubular macaroni works well with a hearty putanessca sauce, rich in olives and capers. Thin angel hair pasta is best suited to a flavored olive oil or a light marinara sauce.

The pasta club sticks to classical flavors and shapes but offers the best quality. All club selections are made with natural ingredients.

Now about that cheesecake-since 1999, Clackamas, Ore-based has had a monthly cheesecake club.

This year’s club selections include a New York-style cheesecake, a key-lime cheesecake — topped with lime-flavored sour cream — and a turtle cheesecake, a plain cheesecake that rests on a chocolate, cookie-crumb crust and is sprinkled with chocolate chips, pecans and caramel.

“The flavors are continually evolving,” says Nick Watson, the company’s founder, who just introduced a “no sugar added” line to appease those on a low carbohydrate/no sugar diet. Maltitol substitutes for the sugar, explains Watson.

Members also can opt out of or add in other flavors. Just send a note by e-mail or call. An eight-slice cheesecake membership costs $26.95 a month and a 16-slice membership runs $36.95. Club members receive a slight discount on the cake. Shipping remains the same at $14.

In my book, though, the bottom-line for any cheesecake, is how does it compare to New York’s finest cheesecake, Junior’s of Brooklyn? A sample of the New York-style cheesecake from surprisingly rich and creamy, and very much welcome on my doorstep on a cold, cloudy November day.

But did it pass the test? Putting a slice of each side-by-side on the same plate, you can even see a difference. The slice of sayitwithcheesecake was rigid (like any other piece of pie) and a darker yellow in color than Junior’s, which was nearly off-white and had the texture of cream cheese. Junior’s, certainly the creamier choice, was almost the consistency of a thick pudding.

Another club that attracts fans of crunchy and salty snacks — rather than sweet and creamy ones — is the Each month, members receive one “standard” chip and one flavored chip from three companies, or a total of six 5- to 8-ounce bags of chips.

Standard means “cooked in oil with salt on it,” says Therese Coyle, the spokesperson for the company and the wife of co-founder Ned Coyle. Flavors range from slightly sweet honey Dijon hand-cooked, all-natural Kettle Chips from Salem, Ore. to Zapp’s extra spicy Cajun “crawtators,” a product of Gramercy, La.

Customers can opt for a one-month sampler for $27.50 or a three-, six- or 12-month membership, which runs $73.20, $146.40 and $292.80 respectively.

The Toledo, Ohio-based club offers chip fans a “taste of the United States,” says Coyle. Tim’s cascade-style chips from the great state of Washington come coated with cracked peppercorn. Mister Bee’s of Parkersburg, West Va. offers a ketchup-flavored chip. Uncle Ray’s of Detroit, Mich. makes “Coney” potato chips, flavored with mustard and onions. Just add the hot dog.

Some other interesting clubs include San Francisco, Calif.-based bread of the month club, Danish kringle club and San Marcos, Calif.-based salsa of the month club.

Teri Goldberg is’s shopping writer. Write to her at