Best mini shelf-stable foods
November 8, 2020 11:40 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to make an advent calendar of tiny, luxurious shelf-stable foods. They need to be small enough to fit into an advent calendar. They should be things a person could gobble down ecstatically right then and there (so not ingredients, no fancy sea salts, no jams unless you also have a suggestion for a tiny fancy shelf-stable bread to go in with the jam). I have candy/chocolate pretty well covered and am especially interested in non sweets.

Available on Amazon Prime is a plus; I don't want to spend the budget on shipping. So: give me your fancy shelf-stable cookies, cheeses, mini sausages, and other such luxuries. The more luxe the better.
posted by shadygrove to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
posted by penguin pie at 12:34 PM on November 8, 2020 [3 favorites]

Smashmallows! Little gourmet marshmallows in lots of flavors, available individually-wrapped (just read carefully, since they're also available in non-individually-wrapped form). You might still be able to find the Halloween versions, which are definitely individually-wrapped, at Whole Foods or other fancy groceries.

Dubliner, which you may know better as a semi-fancy Irish cheddar, also has spreadable cheese in individually-foil-wrapped wedges (similar to Laughing Cow). It's way better than Laughing Cow, I personally would eat it plain, and it's a processed cheese food product that I'd personally be comfortable leaving in an advent calendar for up to three days. I don't see it available on Prime, but it is available via Amazon Fresh in my area, and I frequently see it at Safeway and other grocery stores.

Mini toasts are a thing, and are wonderful. You'd have to repackage, but I could see wrapping up 2-3 in a bit of cellophane with a shiny twist tie and it being perfect in an advent calendar.

If you are willing to do some light repackaging, that opens you up to all sorts of tiny delightful things that don't come individually-wrapped, like cheese crisps and little chocolate chip cookies.

If you have a Cost Plus World Market in your area, they have a whole section of gourmet miniatures like tiny sausages, cheeses, and other snacks, intended for gift baskets, but available for individual purchase. They vary in quality and in alignment with what you're looking for (lots of jams and hot sauces), but I have found some real gems there, too. You can order online, too, but an in-person visit may be better for making sure you're getting things that are the right size for your calendar.
posted by rhiannonstone at 12:36 PM on November 8, 2020 [5 favorites]

Whatever your favorite kind of in-shell nuts are! Brazil nuts, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts...
posted by theatro at 12:37 PM on November 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

A very good fancy tinned fish (your taste may vary):

Similarly my family used to consider canned oysters a real luxury. ymmv, not to my taste personally.

I like those little seaweed snacks - not exactly luxury but unusual and tasty and shelf stable.

Maple candy.
posted by february at 12:54 PM on November 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

Cost Plus World Market is where I've always found savory advent calendar items, if you'd be able to go to one of those stores. They usually have mini caviar, mini olives, mini cheeses, etc. but it depends on the store... worth calling before so you don't end up going out unnecessarily.
posted by belau at 12:58 PM on November 8, 2020 [4 favorites]

I love mini jars of honey, but most people don't just eat honey straight (unless you have a sore throat?). I have seen mini packages of macadamia nuts, but nothing fancy looking. If you are willing to include beverages (just add hot water), then mini tea tins are good. Basically I think looking for foodie gift sets that already have miniaturized the items would be a good strategy. Oh! World Market has mini gourmet food as a category.
posted by spamandkimchi at 2:00 PM on November 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

French patês. I have several of these little tins in my storage cabinet for unexpected guests or sudden celebrations. Foie gras is an option, but there are many others if you have worries about geese being force-fed. (I'm not impressed by the amazon selection, apart from foie gras)
Olives stuffed with anchovies
Ventresca di tonno (tuna belly) look for the sustainable brands
canned squid

Some of these need some bread/crackers, so maybe you should have some as well. I don't know what those little Dutch toasts are called in English, but they are a good thing. Or even better: water biscuits. I feel they go well with everything.
posted by mumimor at 2:05 PM on November 8, 2020 [5 favorites]

Dried Hokkaido scallops.
posted by paperback version at 2:21 PM on November 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

You should be able to find mini packages of shortbread (example), which would go with stuff like honey or jam. Also fancy bagged teas that are individually wrapped (examples) just need hot water.
posted by gudrun at 4:32 PM on November 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

Stonewall Kitchen has a good selection; I've gotten samples in small jars. Lemon curd or pesto are delicious alone. I mean, so I've heard.
posted by theora55 at 5:13 PM on November 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

YMMV on luxury but I always get a burst of glee when I open a fresh packet of mixed arare rice crackers. Think Japanese bridge mix or a Gardetto's mix where the good bits have seaweed instead of rye chips.
posted by VelveteenBabbitt at 5:56 PM on November 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

They have tiny bags of Beer Nuts which are very tasty
posted by wowenthusiast at 7:02 PM on November 8, 2020

Whisps parmesan crisps are delicious.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 9:00 PM on November 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

Are you willing to make yourself or do they all need to be pre-packaged? You could always vaccum seal small morsels; then it opens a great many possibilites. Some of these will be finable pre-packed, some not.

I think very fine pickled goods might be out for most western cuisine as we tend to not eat them alone, there is a great wonderful diversity out there but can get funky to the uninitiate; olives/capers or stuffed/marinated olives might be the exception. Candied and smoked nuts. Jerkies & salted fishes. Extraordinary sundried tomatoes in oil can pack flavor slowly relished, along with other dried veggies & fruits (oranges & watermelon are exotic, cherries & persimmon more festive). Exotic honeys can be obtained or packaged into small individual sizes, but there are decadent things as simple as bee pollen which are unexpected - the fresher the better (it shifts from sweet & light to bitter & astringent, both are to be experienced). Candied citrus rinds. Germans like woodruff sweets. Thai like Pandan. Russians and other's have their vodka chocolates (I like the caviar suggestion above too). Japanese have too many small packaged things to begin to list. I have green walnut apertifs or limoncello or brandy extracted boysenberry syrup that are incredible with only a spoon (i.e. serve over ice or seal in a ketchup size package and suck, respectively) - things too intense to consume in large amounts. East asian cuisines has its sweet sesame treats, ube, green tea, etc. Turks have their delight. Pink chocolate claimed to add itself to the exclusive list of dark, milk, and white a few years ago. Savory drinking chocolates instead of sweet edible chocolates would be unexpected by most. Chocolate covered espresso beans. Perfectly medium boiled (solid but only barely yolk) quail eggs for one of the first days of advent, not super shelf stable. Or quail "tea eggs". Are those tiny booze bottles too big?

I'm sorry for the stream of consciousness but I am just thinking of anything epicurian that is enjoyed more if they time is just taken to appreaciate it (i.e. Heston Blumenthal's best raisin you'll ever eat). Perhaps tiny instructions to just remind them of that. A raisin explained to be enjoyed for several minutes could outshine a great chocolate greedily devoured.

I'm wondering if you couldnt incorporate unexpected experience into it: there are tingly sensations out there like sichuan pepper peanuts (those are not small bags) which woudl be an experience for the uninitiate, even a tea bag of double bergamot early gray can be an experience. I'd still attempt a theme or coherence in there somewhere; or at least a transition onwards, rather than "shadygrove's wild rollercoaster." Other bizarre ligands: miracle fruit extract.

Also not your question: but I've questioned having what I've titled "Ligand Party 2: Bitterness." Basically I've assembled a list of the most specific chemicals I could for each of the 38 human bitter receptors. Every human has their own unique combination of the 38. Then let everyone work out which bitter they can and can't taste. Since there are not specific ligands for each receptor its approximately the number of days in advent! Coincidence? Either way, you've given me a great idea.
posted by rubatan at 9:01 PM on November 8, 2020

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