F&W’s editors try hundreds of products each year while researching stories. Here, they name 20 cheeses, spreads and other top finds for food lovers.
F&W’s Editors Picks
Kristin Donnelly’s 5 Best Food & Drink Finds of the Year
Farmhouse Kitchens Butter
Mary Bess Michaletz discovered this hand-formed butter, made by third-generation Wisconsin farmers, in an unlabeled wrapper at a local shop. Loving its lush creaminess and sweet flavor, she partnered with the farmers to launch the butter as a brand. It’s currently not for sale online, but email her to find it. From $6 per lb; farmhousekitchens.coop.
Made with organic ingredients, including bark from the cinchona tree (the original source of quinine), this pleasantly bitter, woodsy tonic syrup is great for mixing with its classic gin partner or even just with soda water. $13.50 for 200 ml; amazon.com.
Feudo delle Ginestre Amarena Mosto Cotto
Blended with Italian Amarena cherry juice, this stellar mosto cotto (a syrupy, reduced unfermented grape juice) is fantastic mixed in cocktails, drizzled on salty cheeses or served over desserts, like this brandy semifreddo. $20 for 7 ounces; ditalia.com.
Tcho Milk Chocolates
Chocolate snobs often think milk chocolate is inferior to the superdark, intellectually challenging stuff. San Francisco–based Tcho, however, took a brainy approach to two new bars they call SeriousMilk. "Cacao" is rich and fudgy, while "Classic" is a bit sweeter and creamier. Both redefine how good milk chocolate can be. $10.95 for two 2-ounce bars; tcho.com.
Anything from MarxFoods.com
Whether I’m looking for soft, fragrant Tahitian vanilla beans; gorgeous, obscure dried chiles; or fantastic meat and game birds, I find them at marxfoods.com. Prices might seem high, but what you see is what you pay—shipping is included. marxfoods.com.
Marcia Kiesel’s 5 Favorite Condiments of the Year
Khazana Hot Lime Pickle
This fiery, super-limey paste is complex and compellingly tangy. It’s great on meats, fish and sandwiches, and with fried foods and warm dosas. $4 for 11 oz; ranisworldfoods.com.
Busha Browne’s Authentic Jerk Seasoning
This brand captures real jerk flavors and delivers an authentic, scorching Scotch-bonnet kick. It’s the real deal. $5 for 4 oz; caribbeanonlinegoods.com.
A salsa that’s got it all: mild tartness from tomatillos, serrano heat and a great background of cilantro and garlic. For when you need a change from traditional red salsas. $7 for 16 oz; stonewallkitchen.com.
Grey Poupon Dijon mustard
It’s my go-to Dijon mustard. I rated this #1 in a blind tasting and have never looked back. It has a good strong mustard taste, it’s creamy and perfectly seasoned and it makes the best vinaigrettes. $5 for 8 oz; amazon.com.
Belmont Aji Amarillo pepper paste
The amarillo pepper is prized in its native Peru. It has a pretty yellow color and a sweet heat that lingers. Great for spreading on grilled shrimp or fish, or for marinating chicken breasts. $4 for 7.5 oz; amigofoods.com.
Chelsea Morse’s 5 Favorite Food-Lover’s Beauty Products of the Year
Whole Truth Healthy Beauty Bath Bars
The new line of bath bars from Whole Truth Solutions is crafted from herbs, tea leaves, fruits, veggies and organic oils. My favorite is the Cinnamon Girl, scented with fiery and warming fall spices. I also love the thyme-inflected Pomodoro Sapone soap, which is like an aromatic tomato sauce in a bar. Yum. $6.50 per bar; wholetruthsolutions.com.
The organic, fair-trade rooibos tea leaves in this new South African exfoliant buff and smooth the skin. It’s also got a fabulous and uplifting orange-peel scent, and it’s gentle enough on skin to use twice a week. $44; savaneskin.co.za.
Lush Toothy Tabs
I was nervous about trying the new solid toothpaste from Lush, which comes in flavors like Atomic and Ultrablast—ingredients like wasabi made it seem potentially painful—but the pellets are actually incredibly fresh tasting, not spicy. They’re fantastic for travel. $3.95; lushusa.com.
Kiss My Face Cranberry Orange Lip Balm
Sticky, flavored lip products are my personal pet peeve, but this new lip treatment from the popular natural-body-care line delivers a bright, citrusy scent without syrupy flavor or yucky texture. $3.49; kissmyface.com.
O.N.E. Olive Oil Nourishing Treatment
I’m obsessed with this new skincare product and have been using it as part of a luxurious post-bath ritual. Geranium and lavender oils combined with organic olive oil nourish skin, hair and face, and it smells clean and natural. $30; one-skincare.com.
Kristin Donnelly’s 5 Favorite Cheeses of the Year
Bellweather Farms Basket Ricotta; Sonoma, California
This ricotta cheese is made traditionally, using the farm’s leftover whey from its cow and sheep cheeses. The ricotta drains in Italian-style baskets, and it’s so thick that it tastes almost buttery. From $8 for 12 oz; bellweatherfarms.com.
With its liquid center of fresh cream and stracciatella (shreds of mozzarella), burrata is like the molten chocolate cake of cheese. It’s best when it’s fresh, fresh, fresh—and this Vermont version, made by a Puglian cheesemaker, is as good as it gets. $13 each; murrayscheese.com.
Carr Valley Cheese Casa Bola Mellage; Wisconsin
This 100-year-old Wisconsin cheese company ages its new, nutty cheese—made with sheep, goat and cow milks—for two years, so it’s super-complex. More than one F&W taster called it "phenomenal." $15.70 per pound; carrvalleycheese.com.
Andante & Noble Ballad; Petaluma, California
The partnership between cult cheesemaker Soyoung Scanlan of Andante Dairy (whose fans include Thomas Keller and Daniel Humm) and Noble Handcrafted (makers of bourbon-barrel-aged syrups and vinegars) yielded a delicious, semi-firm aged goat cheese. Its rind is washed with Noble’s maple syrup, so the cheese is less tangy than many goat cheeses. $27 per lb; mikuni.com.
Kapiti Kikorangi; New Zealand
This New Zealand cow-milk cheese is not as pungent as most blues, most likely because it’s a triple cream, meaning that it has more than 72 percent butterfat. It’s richly creamy and slightly nutty, with just enough barnyardy blue-cheese funk. kapiticollection.co.nz.
Gina Mungiovi’s 5 Favorite Ingredients of the Year
Kaffir Lime Leaf
This uniquely aromatic leaf is a staple ingredient in Southeast Asia. Recipe to try: Curry Lobster Rolls. OpahThe Test Kitchen team and I fell in love with this fish in 2011. With a clean flavor and tender texture, it’s like no other species of tuna. A bonus: It’s also sustainable. Recipe to try: Grilled Opah with Olives
Quinoa—an increasingly popular specialty grain—can now be found in flake form. Recipe to try: Incan Super Power Bars.
This whole wheat berry is said to be an ancient relative to durum wheat. Recipe to try: Warm Shrimp Salad with Kamut, Red Chile and Tarragon.
This interesting-looking mushroom has a meaty texture and mild flavor. Recipe to try: Grilled Hen-of-the-Woods Mushrooms with Sesame