In order to follow CDC advice and curtail large holiday gatherings, many people are becoming resigned to scaled down celebrations. But that doesn’t have to mean deprivation. Even if they aren’t inviting others over to share festive culinary offerings, they can order them as treats for themselves. After the year we’ve all had, a few splurges, financial or caloric, are definitely in order.
Stone crabs from the Florida Keys have a limited season, October to May, and they can vary in quality especially if they’re frozen. The stone crabs gathered daily by Miami-based Fresh Stone Crabs in the middle Keys are never frozen and it would be hard to find any that are sweeter or more tender. The claws are available in different sizes, medium to colossal, and arrive cooked, cracked so you don’t have to hack at them yourself and with a mustard sauce for dipping. Free delivery is offered in the Miami area and overnight shipping is available elsewhere in the continental U.S. (prices vary by size: three pounds of colossal size, enough to feed two for dinner: $225)
Another famous Florida Keys product, key lime pie is one of the offerings in the extensive cakes/pies/pastries section of Goldbelly, the online gourmet/regional food marketplace that ships nationwide; among the choices Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe has one of the best, if not the best, in town. Favorites from other regions include South Carolina based Caroline’s Cakes for irresistible layer cakes such as its signature seven layer caramel cake (also available in gluten free form), red velvet traditional and seven layer chocolate bliss cake composed of chocolate cake lined with chocolate ganache and topped with chocolate fudge frosting.
Among New York representatives, Junior’s in Brooklyn offers classic dense/rich/heavy New York cheesecake either plain, with various toppings or a sampler of quarter cakes: plain, raspberry swirl, brownie marble swirl and apple crumb cheesecake, Ferrara Bakery in Little Italy dips cannoli in Belgian chocolate and the outpost of the Swedish bakery Fabrique offers flaky, spicy cardamom buns, cinnamon buns and other handcrafted pastries. Another outpost of a famous international cafe/bakery, the recently opened Angelina Paris NYC, also lists on Goldbelly with a limited menu but one of its most famous offerings, supremely rich hot chocolate, is currently sold out (that should change, post-holiday.) It is available for pick up locally as are the shop’s sumptuous pastries such as the Mont-Blanc composed of vermicelli strands of chestnut arranged to resemble a Parisian woman’s early 20th century bob.
On the healthier side, strawberries are one of the typical accompaniments to champagne for toasting the arrival of a new year. That requires a special strawberry this year and Oishii’s Omakase Berry is it. Grown in a New Jersey vertical farm created by company co-founder and CEO Hiroki Koga, the large, perfect berries, a replication of the uniformly sweet berries he knew as a special occasion treat growing up in Japan, these artisan berries are more expensive (8 for $50) than others on the market but infinitely more flavorful. After moving to the U.S., his disappointment with the flavor of the berries available, even living close to farms in California, prompted him to recreate at the indoor farm the cool, breezy, rainy conditions of the Japanese Alps in winter, the prime conditions and growing season for this type of berry known as a short day cultivar. (In contrast, most strawberries on the market are long day cultivars which have a firmer texture to withstand transport across the U.S.) The pesticide free Omakase berries are picked at peak ripeness and sold within hours in New York and through an arrangement with Eli’s Market can be delivered to Westchester and the Hamptons. According to Oishii Director of Strategy John Reed, plans are underway to expand vertical farms to other U.S. cities and internationally.
Long considered a luxury food for their rarity and resulting high price ($120 for a small ½ ounce truffle to $2,080 for a large one weighing eight ounces) and prized by chefs for their earthiness and richness, white truffles are nearing the last two weeks of their season. The worldwide supplier Urbani Truffles has deliveries of this tuber freshly discovered by their truffle hunting dogs in the white truffle mecca Alba in Italy’s Piedmont region and the region of Emilia Romagna. Shave one over a steaming plate of pasta and be overwhelmed by the fragrance. (As a second choice, or if the white truffles sell out, a larger selection of milder black winter truffles is also available.)
When you go into the curing cellars of Cinco Jotas, the premier producers of the artisan ham Jamon Iberico, you see a section of hams hanging from the ceiling that belong to the royal family of Spain. Such is the reputation of this company in Jabugo, Spain that has been producing ham in the same exacting manner since 1879 starting with a special breed of pigs given a diet of acorns and acres to roam. After a five year maturation process, the ham that results is refined with a complex flavor and a touch of sweetness that makes it positively addictive. Unlike most other hams, it’s also surprisingly healthy since the acorn diet translates to a high content of oleic acid, the mono-unsaturated omega-9 fatty acid found in olive oil. That means it’s actually good for you if you eat the fat. (prices vary by amount and type; 3 ounces of sliced ham from the shoulder: $32.50)