Thanks to everyone who offered suggestions for my panettone search (see link)! I decided this would be the year I would finally try panettone, and not wanting to overindulge or spend too much $, I bought little mini loafs from Acme at the Ferry Bldg. and AG Ferrari in Sunnyvale.
Photo of both is below. The Acme one was about 5-6" tall, maybe a little over a pound and cost just over $3. Fraccaro brand sold at AG Ferrari was less than half the size and cost about $2.50.
Being a newbie, I don't know much about how panettone is traditionally made and am bad about identifying liqueur flavors, but here are my quick impressions FWIW:
Acme: looked traditional and had the classic brown wrapping that I see everywhere. Smelled lovely w/ subtle nut, fruit, and anise scents. Fresh as Acme always is! Flavor of the dough itself isn't very sweet, but sweetness comes from candied and dried fruit. Surprised to see bright green candied fruit, but looked pretty and festive. Liked the pine nuts studded throughout and on top. Texture was light and airy, but not dry. Overall: bright and balanced flavor, not cloying, very fresh. Good value. I would buy this again. Great excuse to get some more pain epi and olive bread (both fantastic!!).
Fraccaro: Quite diminutive when it's unearthed from the box. Looked unattractively burnt on top, and I usually like things "well done." Best part of this is probably the deep intense aroma. Has to be some liqueur, but nothing listed in ingredient list on package. Malt is listed, so perhaps it's the malt. Whatever it is, it's really intoxicating and inviting. This one is more brioche-like than Acme's...rich and eggy. Denser texture. Flavor is sweeter. Ingredients didn't taste as fresh as Acme's locally made product and it was sorta dried out. Glad I tried it, but wouldn't buy again.
I saw the $40 panettone that nooodle's mentioned, but abstained. There were a few other imported brands too. The clerks at AG Ferrari were very generous w/ samples...they were practically opening up anything that I even looked at. I also bought a torrone there that I wasn't crazy about...almonds didn't taste so fresh and texture was overstabilized. Now I'm on the hunt for some good torrone...