I used to be a honey purist--until the new fusion flavors came along. Jansal Valley fresh licorice anise honey ($10) is a sensational blend; try it with Champagne vinegar to make a great marinade for fish. Branches wild blackberry honey ($9) has a more subtle flavor. Didier Goubet lavender honey ($10), from Provence, is temptingly creamy and delicate.
Lavender was last year's darling; this year the rage is sage. A Provençal proverb, "He who has sage in his garden needs no doctor," stems from the belief that the herb can help one digest fatty foods. To test the theory out, serve Rosebud Preserves sage jelly ($12) with pork, duck or sausage. Or try Bella Cucina walnut sage pesto ($9) layered in lasagna or spread on bread.
It's no longer just for sipping. Vinaigrerie DeLouis Bouquet de Pommes ($12), a sweet balsamic-style vinegar, is perfect for topping a salad or deglazing veal or scallops. Willis & Tina Wood's cider jelly ($7), from Vermont, transforms a sandwich; the cinnamon cider syrup and boiled cider ($6 each) do the same for pancakes. Chist'R Ma Bro Perry from Brittany ($4) is a splendidly refreshing pear drink.
The fruit flavor comes through as never before in the new berry syrups and super-chunky preserves. From Oregon, Christine & Rob's marionberry and raspberry syrups ($11 each) are based on fresh purees. From Denmark, Scandinavian Delights cloudberry and mixed-fruit spreads ($6 and $7, respectively) are loaded with big, bold fruit.
European figs are becoming an American obsession. Spanish Paiarrop fig cake with almonds ($4) brought F&W editors to their knees. Italian Fondo di Toscana essence of fig puree ($20), which is made with superlative Calabrian fruit, is delicious when eaten with cheese or used as a baking ingredient. Balducci's fig jam ($5) works its magic served all by itself on bread.