In last year’s roundup, I suggested 8 types of gifts to please your foodie friends and relatives. That list is still a good guideline- in fact, everything on this year’s list fits into one of those categories. So, without further ado, here are eight of my favorite products from 2011:
1. Salted Caramel Bar from Xocolatl de David
To my knowledge, Xocolatl de David is still a one-man operation helmed by David Briggs, a CIA grad based in Portland, Oregon. I happened upon his Salted Caramel Bar at DeLaurenti, an Italian market in Seattle. It’s one of the best dark chocolate bars i’ve had in a while- in mirror-bright perfect temper and filled with a toothsome salted caramel (there are some great pictures on www.ourfoodshed.com.) If you want something savory, try the Almond & Pimenton bar (but be warned, the smoked paprika flavor is strong).
2. Bahlsen Contessa Minis
www.germandeli.com, $3.39 [currently out of stock]
I’m a long-time fan of Bahlsen’s Contessas, a seasonal sugar-crusted, chocolate-bottomed Lebkuchen. I used to think these gingerbread cookies were obscure, until I realized for three years running i’ve only been able to make one purchase before my usual sources run out of stock. Lately I prefer the mini Contessas to the full-sized. They’re great alongside a cup of coffee.
3. Chocolate Marshmallows from Zingerman’s
The chocolate marshmallows are the star of this half-chocolate, half-vanilla gift box. Made with Scharffen Berger cocoa and studded with chocolate chunks, they are hard to resist (I went through an entire bag in about two days). With a peppermint hot cocoa? Heaven. Looking for more flavors? Try Little Flower Candy Co. or Pittsburgh Marshmallow Factory.
4. Preserves from Blue Chair Fruit
Sometimes, cookbooks lead me to a food product. In this case, the unique flavors in Rachel Saunders’ massive The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook piqued my interest in her company, and i’m pleased to report that these preserves are as tasty as they look. If you’re looking to impress a preserves-lover, spring for a Jam Club subscription.
5. Ice Cream from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home was one of my top cookbook picks of the year. After working my way, pint by pint, through the Jeni’s selection at Plum Market and The Produce Station, I made a 3 hour pilgrimage to the scoop shop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio to try her holiday flavors. My personal favorite flavors? Black Forest, Brown Butter Almond Brittle, Brambleberry Crisp, and Lemon Blueberry Frozen Yogurt.
6. Delice de Pommard
I have no experience buying cheese online, but I am tempted to try it to get ahold of this mustard-coated, soft cow’s milk cheese from Burgundy. It was an October special at Zingerman’s which they’ve told me they’ll have again after the holidays.
7. Sour Cherry Spoon Fruit from American Spoon Foods
Since many jams, jellies, and preserves are too sweet for my tastes, I was happy to find this tart cherry ‘spoon fruit.’ Made in Northern Michigan, this cherry-studded spread holds its own on strong flavored breads like rye and pumpernickel. I really want to try it on pancakes!
8. Pralus Barre Infernale Lait
When I asked a Zingerman’s staff member if I could try this chocolate bar, he said “are you sure? It’s dangerous.” He was right- one bite and I knew I couldn’t leave without one. The price tag is steep, but it’s a big bar- a 6.4oz brick of hazelnut-studded praline, coated in the same milk chocolate they use for their fantastic Melissa bars. If you like gianduja and want a slightly cheaper alternative, try Sperlari’s Zanzibar Gianduja Classico (pictured in this post from Serious Eats).