Leave it to Murray's Cheese Shop owner Rob Kaufelt to come up with a cheese that is both global and local at the same time. Kaufelt's crew discovered cheesemaker Walter Rass's extraordinary Annelies cheese in a small village in Switzerland. Kaufelt has wheels of the stuff shipped to his New York shop, where he ages them for nine months in the Murray's cheese cave before selling them to the public. The result is a nutty, caramelly, toasty cheese that needs no cracker for completion.
Slow-smoked brisket is Texas's best-known contribution to barbecue culture, and, though you can now get it in just about every major city, you still need to go to the source to get brisket so good it will make you cry. But if you can't make it to Texas, ordering Louie Mueller's brisket is the next best thing—they ship the whole brisket, which means you get plenty of the critically important fatty half.
Louie Mueller's beef ribs are so good, we feel comfortable comparing them to Aaron Franklin's brisket. These gargantuan specimens of flesh and bone give new meaning to fall-off-the-bone-tender, and they have such a concentrated beefy flavor, you'll think you're eating beef confit (which, in a way, you are). How big are they? One rib feeds two people, easily.
There are a lot of artisanal jams out there, some good and some grossly overpriced. Though we've tasted hundreds of them, we still haven't had any as good as those made by Oakland's June Taylor, who has been making what she calls "conserves" out of superb Northern California produce for more than 25 years now. The Dapple Dandy pluot conserve tastes like you're taking a bite out of the juiciest pluot in the world, with just enough acidity to offset the sweetness.
Everyone talks about New York bagels and their Montreal counterparts in quasi-religious tones, but our prayers get answered every time we eat a Hot Bread Kitchen bialy. Bialys are an endangered species (think of them as a toasted Jewish English muffin with caramelized onions in the center), but Hot Bread Kitchen is doing its best to make them fashionable again. Now, if only Taylor Swift would put an HBK bialy on her Instagram feed.
It's hard to find a better-curated food catalog than Zingerman's. They are righteous folks, they know seriously delicious food when they come across it, and they sell it at a fair price. Nothing in the catalog is cheap, but then again, good food rarely is.