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Archive for Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Finding sweet deals for your valentine

January 31, 2007

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Our ratings can help you choose the best floral or chocolate gift for your money for your beloved on Valentine's Day.

We ordered long-stemmed red roses from four companies that claim to ship overnight from central warehouses: Hallmark.com, JungleRoses .com, OrganicBouquet.com and ProFlowers.com.

While all the roses were delivered by the promised time, quality varied. Scoring "very good" for overall consistency and longevity were shipments from ProFlowers.com (800-776-3569; $40 per dozen with a $10 fee for next-day delivery) and Hallmark.com (800-425-5627; $60 and $11). ProFlowers' bouquets usually included baby's breath, sometimes ferns and once a vase. Blooms opened within 24 hours and lasted about a week. Flowers from Hallmark included baby's breath, a card and a vase, but the blooms were so tight on arrival that they took two or three days to open.

Scoring lower overall were OrganicBouquet.com (877-899-2468; $50 and $13) and JungleRoses.com (800-736-3767; $128 and $29). Bloom life on JungleRoses' posies ranged from a few days to more than a week, but in two instances, the company sent us the wrong color. OrganicBouquet's roses arrived open and smelled nice, yet the orders lacked baby's breath, flower food and vases. Blooms faded in three to four days.

For the best value on roses, try ProFlowers for price or Hallmark if you want a vase. Or consider ordering from a florist near the recipient. Check the Web for locations.

Our tests revealed several excellent gift-boxed confections. Top-rated Candinas (candinas.com; 800-845-1554) offers dark and milk chocolate, with hazelnut, caramel and liqueur-flavored centers. At $41 (excluding shipping) for a 16-ounce box, it's a CR Best Buy.

For the daring, there's Norman Love Confections (normanloveconfections.com; 866-515-2121 or 239-561-7215). This top-scoring assortment contains many white-chocolate pieces, some hand-painted. Fillings include apple pie and passion fruit. Cost (excluding shipping) is $55 for a 12-ounce box.

Some very good choices in chocolates that won't break the bank include Godiva New Gold Ballotin (godiva.com; 800-946-3482) at $38 for a 15.25-ounce box; Leonidas Chocolate General Assortment (leonidas-chocolate .com; 800-900-2462) at $30 for a 16-ounce box; and See's Famous Old Time Assorted (sees.com; 800-347-7337) at $14 for a 16-ounce box. All are CR Best Buys, combining notable quality with comparatively low price.

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