At the end of each year, staff members at all three of our shops fill out a staff survey, reflecting on our year in food. We pick our favorites, reminisce about revelatory food moments and about new discoveries. Like clockwork, some products can be counted on to appear each year. Other foodstuffs disappear and/or reappear, depending on staff members’ palates. Here we share our top ten picks culled from this year’s survey results – we hope you enjoy these delicious goodies as much as we do!
– 2011 Staff Top 10 –
Marcel Petite Comté – Year in and year out, this is the headline cheese of the survey! A raw, cows’ milk cheese from the Jura mountains, it is a classic French AOC cheese. What did staffers have to say? One wrote, “I feel this is the backbone of our cheese collection. Hand crafted and hand selected.” Another wrote, “aging cheese does matter and the care taken from start to finish with these cheeses makes for an amazing product at any age.”
Cellars at Jasper Hill Cheeses – So many of their cheeses cropped up in this year’s survey results, we couldn’t pick one. Cabot Clothbound Cheddar is a perennial favorite – one person wrote of the cheese, “[it] is such a consistently perfect product. It can be put on any cheese plate. It’s affordable and very versatile.” Newcomer Harbison was much lauded with one staffer writing, “[Harbison] has an amazing, creamy, bodacious texture with a rich woodsy flavor. The first time I had it, I ate half in one sitting and I kept going back to it even after I put it away.” Among the other cheeses from the Cellars that got mentions were Moses Sleeper, Bayley Hazen Blue and Landaff.
Seaver Brook from Bonnieview Farm – Seaver Brook was the wild card cheese of 2011. Across all the years of conducting this survey, it is the blue cheese that accumulated the most votes in one year (Stilton runs a close second). One staff member wrote, “the new blue cheese from Bonnieview is one of the best cheeses I have ever tasted. It is perfect! I could eat this cheese everyday at any hour.” Another wrote, “it still amazes me that our producers can eke such an incredible variety of flavors out of a simple bucket of milk, and this sheep’s milk blue is a prime example. It’s super savory, with notes of bacon and wood smoke, and it’s got just the right amount of sheep-y funk going on.”
EH Chocolatier Chocolates – EH Chocolatier, brainchild of Elaine Hsieh and Catharine Sweeney, crushed all comers in the sweets category. One person wrote, “amazing stuff, beautifully executed and local!” Another wrote, “Elaine loves her craft and takes it very seriously. She took a month off from production in August just to focus and experiment with new flavors! Elaine is a perfectionist and the products show this. She NEVER sends out a product if it isn’t fit to sell. Her flavors are distinct and incredible. Her technique is perfect. YUM.”
Pio Tosini Prosciutto – We had a visit from Giovanni Bianchi of Pio Tosini this summer and it was probably the most well-attended staff tasting we have ever had. Giovanni’s family has been curing prosciutto in Parma since 1905 – their commitment to quality and attention to detail means their prosciutto is second to none. One staff member wrote of Pio Tosini prosciutto, “the flavor is mild, not too salty, with a smooth texture. It’s one of the best types of prosciutto I’ve ever had, and I only get that brand when I buy prosciutto.”
Julie’s Pâtés – Julie’s charcuterie is another perennial favorite. This year, the Good Food Awards and Bon Appétit joined us in our admiration – her Rabbit Pâté is a finalist in the former and was featured in the latter. One staffer wrote of that same pâté, “simply the best” and another added, “I have always thought that this was the most unique and interesting of our housemade items.” Her Pâté Campagne was noted for its “great flavor” by one person and by another deemed to be a, “fresh, delicious, porky pâté” with the person adding, “it’s awesome.” Her Pâté Grand-mère was cited as “rich and rustic.” And one person wrote of her Duck Pâté, “this pâté is sweet and savory perfection.” A colleague of hers took a moment to really reflect on Julie’s work, “her pâté is so consistent and delicious! Each one has a distinct place in our pâté “line up” with different flavors and textures. I think that sometimes people also overlook the ingredients she uses. All of the meat is regional and humanely raised which is really hard to find anywhere, let alone in charcuterie. Additionally, her care and technique in making the pâté is unmatched by any other charcutière I’ve ever seen at Formaggio Kitchen. It is not rare for me to take home a chunk of pâté after a long day of working and just eat that with some cornichons for dinner!”
Gioie di Fattoria Pasta – On the dry goods front, Gioie di Fattoria pasta garnered much applause. Lauded for its “texture and flavor,” one person pointed out that these pastas, “match a lot of criteria for what we look for in a product – organic, small production, traditional ingredients and methods, exclusive, healthy and really good.” Of the saragolla line, one staffer wrote, “the texture and flavor of these pastas are spectacular. And yummy. Mostly yummy. But also spectacular, too.” Still another individual specified that they love the farro pastas “with any of Julie’s sausages” adding that this makes a, “simple, easy, delicious meal with pantry and freezer staples.”
Lo Brusc Honey – One staff member simply wrote of Lo Brusc that it is, “amazing what a honey can be!” Another mouthwateringly wrote of their Bruyère honey: “the amber color is beautiful. The richness of the heather is clear but does not overwhelm the palate. The mouthfeel is not too sticky but viscous enough to incite thoughts of warm taffy. The end notes are not sharp as some honeys can be. Makes everything taste better.”
Arraya Jams – These jams from the Aquitaine region of France got top marks from staff members for their versatility. The cherry preserves got special mention with one staff member observing that it was, “a great addition to our offerings – sweet and rich without overdoing it. Awesome on ice cream.” Someone else wrote of Arraya jams in general, “they’re so awesome with cheese.”
d’Allauch Potato Chips – 2011 could have been called “the year of the potato chip.” That title would be largely thanks to d’Allauch potato chips which we import directly from Aix-en-Provence in France. One person exclaimed of them, “so light and crisp! I love the unsalted.” Another person simply wrote, “nom nom nom,” adding later, “talk about a well-executed potato chip.”
– Honorary Mentions –
Rancho Gordo Beans – Rancho Gordo beans retained their great popularity this year. One person chose the Rio Zape bean variety as their favorite item of 2011, writing, “they are so versatile to make into a salad and extremely forgiving while on the stove. Buttery and creamy, flaky and meaty and oh so tasty!”
Manigodine – Manigodine, a delicious Reblochon-esque cheese from the Savoie, came in just behind Seaver Brook Blue in the cheese tally. It’s all delicious and squidgy right now and if you haven’t tried it, you should. One staff member wrote, “I love selling this cheese. Wonderful balance of sweetness of milk, animal and earth. Makes one imagine walking and wanting to be where it’s made — one of the highest compliments I can conceive.” If you are interested in taking a virtual walk with the cheesemakers, and staying with us for a little while longer on the blog, check out our blog post about Kurt, David and Mary’s visit with Manigodine cheesemakers, Murielle and Guillaume Burgat.