2012 Taste Test Awards: Artisanal Category Winners
The pickling craze of 2010 simmered down, leaving room for a burst of intricate preserves, as well as a noisy party of superb small-batch liquor and beer. Most of these items can be ordered online. Shipping can be expensive, so we favored products that deliver a uniquely regional experience or make special gifts.
We did not focus on low-fat foods: When the quality is this high, you can enjoy a little less and truly savor.
April McGreger is the one-woman operation behind this richly textured treat. Lemon lifts the flavor of Brown Turkey figs; bourbon and vanilla add richness.
Rebecca Kawanami learned international flavor profiles while tasting her way around the globe as a flight attendant. This tapenade is a fantastically unique sweet-salty blend of figs with meaty bits of olive and a hint of pucker from pomegranate molasses.
The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians makes regionally specific products, like this tart, bright spread made from wild Minnesota chokecherries. Similar to cranberries, the fruit is sweet and astringent, with a trace of port-soaked cherry flavor.
Great fresh-fruit flavor and zip—courtesy of Michigan-grown Montmorency cherries—make this taste like fresh, homemade jam. Bright, light, and bursting with fruity goodness.
Former Los Angeles pastry chef Christine Moore started this business to spend more time with her children, and these soft, chewy delights are one of the payoffs. Gray sea salt from Brittany makes these briny-buttery and perfect.
Friends Carol Chanin and Loretta Webb of Macon collaborate on these cookies, which are irresistibly crumbly with a fantastic pecan crunch.
A buttery crust encases what seems like an entire truckload of Michigan-grown cherries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Amazing.
Pleasantly musty, deeply earthy flavors from Marcia Barinaga's Marin County farm, which has only been churning out cheese since 2009. Chef Thomas Keller is a big fan.
Similar to cream cheese in texture, but in a mind-blowingly upgraded form. Velvety soft, cow's-milk cheese with a lingering hint of grassy tang—all wrapped up in a thin, delicate rind.
Like an aquavit that grew up in Bombay, with an intense cardamom zip and black pepper--fueled bite. Very sweet but not cloying. Stir into milk for an Indian spin on a White Russian—and feel all worldly.
Diane Flynt blends Arkansas Black and Newtown Pippin apples with apple brandy to create an ode to the apple in liquid form. It has notes of honey, butterscotch, and caramel, yet it's neither too sweet nor hidden by too much fizz.
This Sarasota distillery produces its rums in a copper-pot still. The silver variety is dangerously drinkable with hints of sweet butterscotch. We also loved the spiced version with its warm punch of nutmeg.
A 3-hops, 5-malt, bottle-conditioned brew that tastes of citrus and flowers. It has the hoppy authority of an IPA while the yeasty malt rounds out the architecture. Fine, Champagne-like bubbles pop on the tongue.
Derek and Sonja Kassebaum's Lake Bluff craft distillery is the first in Illinois since Prohibition. This infused vodka is delicious, smooth, and citrus-fragrant, and has none of the fakey-fruit sweetness that derails many flavored vodkas.
You've never tasted buffalo so tender, buttery, and juicy, with just enough grassiness to pay homage to the South Dakota plains. It's the very definition of healthy indulgence for a meat lover. A 1-pound steak serves four.
With cardamom and orange zest for aromatic effect, and a slightly firm, not too fatty texture. Producer Gina Batali does credit to the family tradition started by her father, Salumist Armandino Batali, and her brother, Chef Mario Batali.
Central Florida isn't the first place that comes to mind when barbecue is mentioned, but this is exceptionally fork-tender, masterfully smoked Angus brisket. Nuanced levels of smokiness could placate even the pickiest Texan.
Greg Skufca looks back to his Austrian-American grandmother's pickles for recipe inspiration in these sweet (but not syrupy) rounds with a spicy kick on the finish.
A non alcoholic grape juice made from pinot noir and chardonnay grapes grown in Mendocino's Anderson Valley. Tangy but not too tart, with a dry, crisp finish.