I love good food. Oh…correct that…GREAT food.
I like to eat at great restaurants or great holes in the wall, give food presents and cook with ingredients that bring out the best and convey what I’m trying to say – that special love – with every bite.
And people remember great food gifts!
With the demise of two of my favorite food catalogues, Balducci and Haute At Home, giving food gifts is no longer a no brainer. Nope, I no longer have the luxury of that one stop shop.
And boy do I miss it.
I’ve had to look long and hard to find replacements. Unfortunately, where Balducci’s variety (and presentation) made it easy for me to find the gift that never failed to impress, I have yet to find a vendor that has the breadth and selection they did.
Over the years, I’ve uncovered a few others that have stepped up and given me goods that meet my standards for palatal delight. So, for the epicurean in me (and possibly you), I’ll share a few of them with you.
By the way, I am big on brand (flavor) loyalty. When something is of the quality I demand, I continue buying it. Unfortunately, today’s trend is to start with high quality, then after you get a following, to cheapen it, while still expecting a premium price. An example of this is Omaha Steaks.
I don’t mind paying for high quality. However if the quality is diminished from what I expect, you won’t find me paying for it at all. So charge me more if you need to maintain your profit margin. I might buy less often, but I’ll still buy (and recommend you).
So on with the list…
1) Petrossian – it’s no surprise that this vendor has made it to the top of the list. Their presentation rivals Balducci’s, for that ‘open the box WOW’ factor. This vendor’s name is synonymous with caviar, and they stock the world’s best. So, when I know caviar is the gift of the day, Petrossian is a no brainer. I look no where else.
However they do much more than caviar. I not so recently sent a breakfast gift basket that received a WOW review. Plus they have all sorts of unusual candies, Babas au Rhum, cream fraiche, foie gras, condiments and even meats. This is one of the first places I now go for confections that make a lasting impression.
2) Dean and Deluca – well, another great catalogue for condiments that pack an eye popping WOW factor. I always feel like I’m looking for treasure at their site. There is so much that is good here.
3) Saltworks – this is THE store for salt…and not just table confections. They store a large assortment of the world’s greatest table, bath and therapeutic salts. Looking for Dead Sea Salts? They got them. The Original Himalayan salt? Yep, here too…and… in many different grinds and chunk sizes, perfect for rubs, sprinkles, baths and to make lamps.
Celtic salts, black salt, fleur de sel, smoked salt, hawaiian red salt – they’re all here. And you can get them in bulk to save big. These salts have the minerals that put the ZIP back into food. Try ’em, you’ll like ’em…
4) MacKenzie’s – for a ton of unusual items not seen elsewhere. And example of this is their fresh mushroom basket that contains a mix of cultivated and wild mushrooms, depending on the season, and contain Brown Clamshell, Forest Nameko, Hedgehog and Trumpet Royale. They also feature aged balsamic vinegars, some aged for as long as 75 years. Their cheese tortas are excellent. There’s a lot to love and taste at MacKenzies.
5) D’Artagnan – looking for the best meat and fowl the world has to offer? Go no further than D’Artagnan. I love the buffalo tenderloins I get here. I’m having some tonight! It’s delicious, extremely tender, and with no gamey taste. They have and specialize in organic meats, fed the appropriate diet (no meat byproducts) and just simply delicious. You can also find Argentina pastured beef, huge duck breasts, wild game and truffles mousse.
Go ahead…browse their site. You know you’ve stumbled on something good at D’Artagnan.
6) Grassfed Traditions – here you will find, amongst other things, game birds and red meats that are raised using a special coconut fiber feed (cocofeed). They have set their own standard which is more than just a cut above organic. So you know they are open pasture, grassfed and without steroids, soy or antibiotics. And their beef is a breed from Scotland, know for its thick pelt and leanness. This is Wisconsin grown. Try it, you’ll like it.
7) Coleman’s Natural Beef – now Coleman’s was a major surprise to me. I found it in PA at my local Wegman’s and tried their skirt steak (yeah, I didn’t even know what that cut was). I used it in a dish I call, Beef Creole.
It was fantastic!
I wasn’t able to find this brand anywhere else. And when I returned to PA, that store had replaced the Coleman brand with their own; definitely no comparison. They also make a chicken with spinach and feta cheese sausage that is awesome! I would boil these, then lightly fry them with butter before putting them over noodles or just wrap them in bread for a sandwich. If you see them in your area, give them a try.
8 ) Allen Brothers – looking for a premiere steak or beef tenderloin? Take a taste of Allen Brothers. Their beef tenderloins beg you to eat them. And Allen Brothers specializes in PRIME. You can choose whether you want your beef wet or dry aged. I LOVE that I can get it with the special trim I desire – close…no fat. One look through their catalogue and you will become a raving fan too.
Allen Brothers stocks much more than just prime beef or specialty beef (like Wagyu). You can get duck, venison, lamb and assorted game. You can also get gourmet sausages, guinea hens, veal, buffalo, soup, seafood, side dishes and appetizers. And…you can get my favorite…Beef Wellington.
One stop at Allen Brothers and your party with be an epicurean delight.
Give them a taste!
9) the Original Amish Noodle -Essenhaus – if you’ve become home sick for the noodles your grandma used to use/make, the ones that didn’t wimp out in soups, there’s good news – these are the noodles that will make you forsake all others. Lucky for me, there is a store close by that stocks these. They come in a variety of thickness and sizes. They even come in a yolk-free variety. Once you try them, your palate will be ruined for any other.
When you visit their online store, scroll down to the bottom of the page to enter their online store and feast your palate on the 10 pages of Amish jams, jellies, fruit cakes, maple syrup, canned meats, soup stocks, Yoder popcorn and much, much more. You KNOW they’re good for you because they are made by the Amish. Enjoy!
10) Manar Mediterranean – Garlic Pita Chips to die for . Yes, I love garlic. I haven’t been able to get the red garlic I like so much in years and many of the ones in the stores are a bit tame for me. But these garlic pita chips have a zip and zest that have led me to recommend them widely. They come in several other varieties, but I cannot get myself to try any other than this one.
11) By the way, if you can’t find them and need a substitute, open a bag of garlic bagel chips of the New York Style brand and you won’t be disappointed. These are light, crunchy, buttery and garlicky. If you don’t watch it, you can finish off a bag at one sitting.
12) Dried Tomatoes You’ll Eat Outta the Jar – there is only one brand that I buy over any other, and that is Cal Sun Dry. The julienned version is my favorite. Their mixture of spices and oil is just perfect – just what the palate desires. And it is the secret ingredient in many of my tomato dishes, like Beef Creole. Since you cannot easily duplicate this, just go ahead and buy some; you’ll become a raving fan too.
13) For incredibly smooth and sensational Italian ice cream truffles, look no further than Pfaelzer Brothers. Pfaelzer Brothers also have a line of ice cream cakes, spumoni and natural fruit sorbets. But this is just the beginning of the confections they offer.
And their hors d’oeuvres selection is enviable and sure to have something to make your next party memorable. There’s much more in their gourmet line. I’m sure you’ll find something to rave about…
14) The Winery (Omaha, NE) – OK…I couldn’t help myself. A great meal deserves a great wine. And the staff at the Winery is par excellent bar none. I got hooked on this place when it was run by the original owners, Dave and Dave, an enterprising set of dudes who set the Omaha wine scene on fire, and started the yearly charity event, Vin Omaha.
I was a member of their wine club, and met some celebrated vineyard owners, including the grandson of the Hills Brother coffee magnates and one of the representative of the Drouhin, of legendary reds.
What I really loved about this store and these guys is that they remembered the type of wine experience I loved…and recommended accordingly. They were always spot on. The last time I checked, they ship outside of Nebraska. But please excuse their website. It darn right sucks!
15) And while we’re talking about wine, I thought I’d mention THE place for tasting the best California vitners have to offer by the glass. When you get to Napa, head over to River City. I’m told they’re still open. River City in Napa, CA
16) And if you’re looking for the best New Zealand has to offer (and more) Scenic Cellars IS the place to be (Taupo, NZ). I’ve had quite memorable moments with them – and the fun-est wine tasting party I ever remember being at.
The New Zealand whites are innovative, legendary and memorable. I even drank their chardonnay – a wine I usually can’t stand unless I want to pray to the porcelain bowl for hours on end. The NZ chardonnays are the ONLY chardonnay’s I’ll happily drink.
I also find a variety of rare and unusual wines at Scenic Cellars. So might you. And yes…they ship!
17) Lobster Stew Delivered by The Lobster Guy – now I have to give them 2 thumbs up for this innovations – I can send a gift of surf and turf with all the fixins’ AND the pot! It’ll have you sayin’, lob-sta…
This site is for all things lobster. They ship clams, chowder, shrimp, scallops, lobster bisque and swordfish. My friends that shop here like the service and the food..
18) Williams Sonoma – I know you don’t usually THINK of them as a food place but…have you LOOKED in their catalogue? Usually you’ll find something unusual in there to taste. Yes, I love the furniture and things, but I FIRST look for the food.
I can always find demi-glace and lemon curd here. Today, I found the Irish Stout Braising Base and the Recchiuri desert sauces (burnt caramel and bittersweet chocolate). Where else do you get a description of truffles like this:
"Michael Recchiuti creates these exquisite truffles exclusively for Williams-Sonoma. Made in the French style, the truffles are individually hand rolled, with silken ganache centers made from the finest bittersweet chocolate, premium butter and extra-rich cream. Each truffle is enrobed in a blend of premium bittersweet El Rey Venezuelan and Guittard Madagascar chocolates and tossed in Pernigotti cocoa powder."
Makes me want to eat them already…
19) Napa Style – I found a surprise in this catalogue. Aside from the interesting home accessories and furniture, there are a bunch of unusual great salts, rubs and spices, tasty oils and vinegars, nuts and snacks.
Pick it up…your taste buds will love you for it.
20) White Lion Tea Company – this was my most recent gift to several people at the office. Room service at my suite was bringing this to me all the time. I couldn’t get enough of it. There is one flavor that is, well, a tastebud orgasm.
The Scottsdale Fairmont (nice place) called it Sonoran Sunset. White Lion calls it Cranberry Hibiscus. I was hooked…and took a BUNCH of it home with me. This stuff is da bomb! Everyone I’ve given it to had the same reaction I had.
And by the way, IF you ever get to the Phoenix area, do yourself a MASSIVE favor and head over to the Biltmore for high tea. You’ll need a reservation and it’s well worth it. PLUS, you’ll get to see THEIR tea menu. The last time I was there, they weren’t selling their teas. But that might have changed. The food, the ambiance and the tea makes this a ‘must do’ for me again.
21) Foods For Living – this store is sorta like an organic coop, but is now employee owned. There are a lot of good things here. But the one thing I cannot find anywhere else is their dry roasted, salted, organic macadamia nuts. Yes, I’ve had mac nuts from other places. But none keep me coming back like these. I’ll warn you – they’re nearly 13 bucks a pound…but you get what you pay for. And right now, they’re the best!
In fact, I’m off to get some more tonight – I just polished off my last nut last night.
Well, I hope you get to try out some of these vendors for the food freak in you. I’m still looking for a place to get the type of Georgia peaches I recall from childhood. When I find it, I’ll let you know where you can get some.