Smoked salmon is a year-round party staple, but during December it works overtime, doubling as a popular holiday gift. We canvassed the market for the best North American cold-smoked salmon available in stores or by mail-order. The F&W staff couldn't get enough of these four.

Max & Me Atlantic Smoked Salmon

staff comment "Silky, with well-balanced smokiness."
interesting bite To deepen the flavor, co-owner Max Hansen smokes the salmon over a mixture of hardwood and fruitwood.
215-766-3439; $24 per pound.

Perona Farms Smoked Atlantic Salmon

staff comment "Buttery, fatty and lush."
interesting bite Perona Farms gets its fish from Canada's Bay of Fundy, where the enormous tides act as a natural water purifier.
800-750-6190; $22 per pound.

Durham's Tracklements Classic Highland Style Salmon

staff comment "Creamy texture and full, rounded taste."
interesting bite The word tracklements is a regional British colloquialism that refers to festive side dishes and condiments.
800-844-7853; $45 per 1 1/4-pound piece.

Acme Nova Pacific King Salmon

staff comment "Sweet, salty and not too fishy."
interesting bite Acme is one of the last few companies to offer wild Pacific King Salmon caught with hooks and lines instead of nets.
800-221-0795; $16 per pound.