In the six years since we launched these awards, we’ve witnessed a flowering of the New England food landscape that goes beyond the restaurant scene right to our own tables and pantries. More artisan foods are coming to market, finding a local audience, going national, and even earning international acclaim. At farmers’ markets and festivals, in gourmet shops and grocery stores, we’re always seeking out worthy picks from emerging producers and new gems from established brands. And every year as the holidays roll around, we like to bring our favorites to you. From rich handcrafted chocolate to honey-sweetened jams that taste like summer in a jar, we’re delighted to shine a light on the best foods for serving to your guests or giving as gifts.
In that spirit, we hope you’ll enjoy these New England treats. Order them online, or seek them out at your local market—we promise you’ll eat well. Happy holidays!
Talk about a hometown hero. Named after the Vermont village where it’s made, this gorgeous cheese gets its richness from the raw milk of Jersey cows raised on the sweet grasses of the Champlain Valley. The flavors are complex and layered, from the mushroom-and-walnut-scented rind down through the herbal-tangy-buttery center. It’s hard to imagine a more delicious base for a grilled cheese sandwich. According to owner Angela Miller, “it can also be a knockout on its own with a beer or glass of wine or cider, or a king’s ransom in your next mac and cheese.”
Suggested retail $29.99 per pound; available at considerbardwellfarm.com.
Tricia Smith’s cheeses are so creamy and delicate, we’d pit them against any Loire Valley crottin or Valencay. Made with milk from Smith’s own Oberhasli and Saanen goats, they carry a residual sweetness from the alfalfa and mixed grasses that make up the herd’s primary diet. Claire’s Mandel Hill, named for both a member of the herd and a hill at the southern edge of the farm, is a gorgeous cylinder accented with a faint midline of herbes de Provence (savory, thyme, lavender, and rosemary). “This was the first new cheese I developed after we moved to Hardwick,” Smith says. “It solved my sensory dilemma of how to introduce herbal flavors that would complement the cheese’s body and rind.” Serve it with local honey or a dollop of V Smiley’s raspberry and red currant preserves.
Suggested retail $16.95 per 10 oz.; to order, contact Formaggio Kitchen via email at email@example.com.
Curio’s brick-and-mortar shop is a heady cabinet of curiosities, stocked with spices from near (Massachusetts-grown paprika) and far (saffron from northern Greece). Owner Claire Cheney buys directly from small, sustainable farms—many run by women—and the proof of her meticulous sourcing is in the eating, especially with her unique spice blends. Our favorite: Fleur, a blend of rose petals, hibiscus, peppercorn, lavender, fennel, cardamom, spearmint, coriander, and ylang ylang. It brings to mind a brighter, springier za’atar. “Florals in food can quickly go in the direction of cloying, but this blend stays balanced,” Cheney says. We heartily agree. Sprinkle Fleur on yogurt dips, grilled fish, and roasted root vegetables; fold it into shortbread cookie dough; or add it to the rims of your holiday cocktails.
Suggested retail $9 per 1.7 oz.; available at curiospice.com.
Tandem Coffee cofounders Will and Kathleen Pratt have earned a devoted following in Portland for their café drinks and pastries, and a national reputation for their coffee beans, which they wholesale to cafés around the country. Their Stoker blend (the name is a play on the word for the back-seat rider of a tandem bicycle) is what Will calls “a comfort coffee … rich and warming.” It’s dark but not too dark, a perfect start to a winter’s morning. The Pratts mastered their roasting skills at top shops such as Blue Bottle in San Francisco before moving to Portland, where they now operate two cafés and a roastery. They also offer coffee subscriptions by mail.
Suggested retail $16 per 12 oz.; available at tandemcoffee.com.
After a family trip to a Costa Rican cacao farm, Eric Parkes, an architect by training, became obsessed with the idea of producing his own bean-to-bar chocolate. “Chocolate making appealed to my mechanical mind,” he says, “and the learning curve is fun because the good moments are truly sweet ones.” In 2012 he turned his hobby into a subscription-based “chocolate CSA,” and eventually he opened a commercial kitchen, where he roasts, grinds, tempers, and molds an expanding product line. We love the Dominican 65% bar, flavored with just a hint of applewood smoke—a natural duet with the chocolate’s coffee and berry notes. Ever the tinkerer, Parkes is exploring the nuances of beans from closely situated farms in Peru and Colombia, seeing how much of a difference it can make when beans are grown just a few miles apart. Keep an eye out for his holiday chocolates, inspired by vintage Santa Claus molds and other forms.
Suggested retail $10 per bar; available at somervillechocolate.com.
After one cross-country move, a recession, and the loss of his mother and his husband, André Kreft needed a change. So he traded a career in graphic arts for one in culinary arts, and he began baking. At Savor, he makes addictive sweet-savory shortbread cookies in unexpected flavor combinations: coconut-lime-chili, birch-maple-cranberry, chocolate-orange-spice. He finds inspiration everywhere: in his travels and own personal history as well as in the food landscape of Connecticut. “I can taste the flavor combinations before I ever bake them,” he says. Our favorite: Nicasia cookies, which are laced with lemon, rosemary, and a bit of crunchy salt. Named for the daughter of a friend who let Kreft use her restaurant’s kitchen when he was just starting out, Nicasia pairs perfectly with cheese, making it a great addition to a holiday platter.
Suggested retail $10 per 8 oz.; available at savorfinefoods.com.
Fans of French toast know that cinnamon and maple syrup are as cozy a pairing as cocoa and marshmallows. But cardamom and maple? It’s less familiar, but no less sublime. The floral notes of the spice dance a little waltz with the high, sweet notes of the syrup, giving it a warmer, brighter profile. Owners Eric and Laura Sorkin tried every form of cardamom to develop their recipe, “but this version blew us away,” Eric says. “It’s very forward and spicy and aromatic, but not overpowering.” The Sorkins love the syrup on ice cream, in seltzers, and in cocktails, but Eric says it’s “certainly approachable enough to use straight up on pancakes.”
Suggested retail $16.95 per 8.5 oz.; available at runamokmaple.com.
The red currants and raspberries in V Smiley’s preserves taste as fresh as an August morning—peak ripeness captured in a jar. Smiley honed her craft while working as a chef at top West Coast restaurants such as Seattle’s Sitka & Spruce, but she always knew she’d return to Vermont to run her family’s farm, which she did in 2015. Now, she uses the farm’s own fruit and herbs, plus fresh fruit from the surrounding area, and sweetens her preserves with local honey. “You read in preservation books that you can’t replace sugar, and it took me a lot to overcome that,” she says, “but I found you can actually do great work with honey.” Yes, she can. Enjoy the jam on biscuits with whipped cream, on shortbread, or with goat cheese.
Suggested retail $6.50 per 2 oz.; available at vsmileypreserves.com.
For their take on the classic French pâte des fruits, Ellen Byrne and Christopher Carlson stayed close to the classic recipe from Auvergne. “Our recipe uses only pure fruit, purées, and fruit zests,” Byrne says. “No flavorings or colorants.” Byrne learned her craft in France, and her hard work pays off in each silken square of concentrated fruit flavor in a crunchy sugar shell. Boxed together as an assortment, they make an edible jewel box perfect for gifting.
Suggested retail $16 per 9.5 oz./$8 per 4 oz.; available at byrneandcarlson.com.
It’s the mark of an elegant (and organized) host to set up a cocktail bar with a few mixers, tonics, and spirits. Your guests enjoy the mix-and-match variety, and you’re free to mingle. Paul Kubiski makes the sourcing even easier with his line of vibrant syrups that serve as a modern foundation for classic cocktails such as Moscow Mules, Old-Fashioneds, and G&Ts (and with a splash of seltzer they make delicious sodas, too). We especially love the cranberry-jalapeño-lime blend, a sweet-tart nectar with a kick, for a fresh take on the margarita.
Suggested retail $17.99 per 12 oz.; available at bootblackbrand.com.