Gourmet food recs
November 26, 2008 5:03 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend some nice Gourmet and non-mass market Food finds: specialty producers that you know of that are really making something noteworthy and good as a possible small gift to friends and family; not along the lines of one of the ever present catalogues
posted by dougiedd to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
See: http://www.zingermans.com/
posted by paanta at 5:28 PM on November 26, 2008

Best answer: Not sure how large or small you're looking for, but Ariston makes a good 12-year-aged balsamic vinegar that is very good for its price: a little bit syrupy and with a more rounded flavor than a lot of the supermarket varieties that are watery and more acidic tasting. I don't see it everywhere, either; I did manage to find it online here.

Any interest in tea? I like all sorts of whole-leaf teas. I've ordered some from Specialteas and there are other sellers if you search for whole leaf teas. There's basics -- they have a version of Earl Gray with some blue mallow flowers in it that's really good -- as well as a bunch of Darjeelings, greens, blacks, etc. For something a little distinctive, I like genmaicha (Japanese green tea with rice puffs) or lapsang souchong (smoked tea, and you can smell/taste the smoke). Whole-leaf tea does require you to have, at minimum, a mesh strainer, and a tea kettle/teapot combination is best. If you want, get an artsy tin to put the tea in.

If they like to cook, Rancho Gordo for (dry) beans. Suggestions: flageolet (a light green, smallish French bean, very nice), runner cannellini (large, white, creamy).
posted by pengale at 5:30 PM on November 26, 2008

Mesquite Flour
posted by Xurando at 5:36 PM on November 26, 2008

I really like Boyajian citrus oils. These are oils pressed from citrus fruit rinds, not flavored olive oils, and they are intense. A few drops in whatever dish you're making with citrus juice will really enhance the flavor. Especially the lime oil - it totally kicks ass. They offer a cute little sampler box of 3 mini bottles, which the web site says is currently unavailable, but you might be able to find them in a specialty store. I haven't tried their baking extracts but they're probably pretty good too.

"Grilled" almond oil from Huileries de Lapalisse in France is the best almond oil I've ever had. It actually tastes like toasted almonds, rich and nutty. (I won't link to their website because it's annoyingly Flashful and plays music to boot.) They're apparently a very large French company although they don't have much presence in the US, as far as I can see, so they will hopefully fit your criteria. I didn't see a place to order online in a quick search, but maybe you can find their stuff locally.

I got both of these at Rainbow Foods here in SF. Dunno where you're located, though. (I also really like the Olivier flavored olive oils for dipping and drizzling from Williams-Sonoma, but you said no major catalogs, unfortunately.)
posted by Quietgal at 6:50 PM on November 26, 2008

If your friends and family like things spicy, I would highly recommend Mama Lil's Pickled Peppers.
posted by Gneisskate at 7:12 PM on November 26, 2008

Vosges Bacon Chocolate Bars are awesome. Found out about them on here last winter and they were a huge hit in my social circle. Worth the $7.50.

Not quite food, but Breath Palette flavoured toothpastes are good too. Just don't get the sweet-salt one, it's grody.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:26 PM on November 26, 2008

I haven't actually tasted either of these, but I've been eying the honey at both Bee Raw & Savannah Bee Company.
posted by katie at 8:54 PM on November 26, 2008

Disclosure: a friend of mine, but her stuff is fabulous: Kensington Marmalade.
posted by trip and a half at 11:30 PM on November 26, 2008

Basic, cheap and supermarket-y but TOTALLY DELICIOUS: Mexican hot chocolate. I get two major brands in California supermarkets but Mexican-speciality groceries may have more: one is made by Nestle, the other isn't.

I get it shipped to me by my Mom every Christmas and ration it out like GOLD.

Go for the nuggets in the octagonal box, too. Way more fun.
posted by mdonley at 1:08 AM on November 27, 2008

Murrays Cheeses in NYC
Any of the suppliers at the Ferry Building in SF - I like the burnt caramel sauce from recchiuti .They also have a cowgirl creamery there.
posted by lalochezia at 12:53 PM on November 27, 2008

Of many amazing cheeses at murrays and cowgirl, Pleasant ridge reserve and Midnight Moon are all uniquely spectacular american cheeses reflecting the milk from which they came. I'm partial to Purple Haze (not traditional w/lavender and fennel seed, but delicious), for a mnstrously sweet blue Gorgonzola Cremificato, and for a stinly but earthy pile of barnyard flavor, some Epoisses.
posted by lalochezia at 1:03 PM on November 27, 2008

Response by poster: Best answer impossible: so many good answers; thank you all!
posted by dougiedd at 7:20 PM on November 27, 2008

Penzey's Spices! They really are a wonderful, non-mass-market-y company, their spices are fabulous and legion, and their gift boxes are really well done. I love them.

Also, on the very off-chance that you are within driving distance of Princeton, NJ, I recommend the hot chocolate from The Bent Spoon with my entire being. I mean, everything they sell there is beyond fabulous (Bourbon vanilla sea salt caramel gelato, anyone?), but the hot chocolate is out of this world and makes a terrific gift. They're sold in these cute pint-sized paint cans, and when you open them you can see the big chunks of bittersweet chocolate mixed into the cocoa. They make fantastic gifts.
posted by shiu mai baby at 8:48 AM on November 28, 2008

Wow, Salon's idea of bargains is kind of skewed. If you're going to pay $5 for a box of two chocolates from CaryMo, may I suggest (also or instead) ponying up for nunu chocolate's salt caramels? The coffee shop I used to work at sold them, and they are amazing. Plus Justine, who makes them, is really nice, and the chocolate is sourced from a family farm instead of god-knows-where.

I don't know where you are, but if you're anywhere near Brooklyn know that they're cheaper in stores than on the website.
posted by felix grundy at 8:40 PM on November 28, 2008

Ginger People's Original Ginger Chews are terrific- thick, chewy, inch-long rectangles of caramel, strongly flavoured with warm, authentic-tasting ginger.
I don't like their "Gin-Gin" candies, and haven't tried any of the other flavours- but strongly recommend the Original Chews flavour.
They're great as a drug-free distraction for people who suffer from mild motion sickness, too- ginger is supposed to be anti-nausea.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:21 PM on November 29, 2008

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