When the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer, it’s time to eat, drink and be merry.
In winter, we indulge our primitive instincts. We gather in front of the fire. We share fine foods, responding to an inner call that urges us to fortify ourselves through the colder months. We nip spirits to enhance the glow.
Centuries ago, folks made do with whatever game was bagged on that morning’s hunt, along with a side of turnips and potatoes from the root cellar. Today, a gloriously abundant food supply widens our options, from Chester County’s sublimely silken cheeses to the emerald elixir of Italy’s finest olive oil. The table beckons with maple syrup that shimmers like amber, humble pretzels crowned with bits of candy, and chocolates that melt beneath the warmth of our gaze. Let’s celebrate gourmet goodies, the treats that separate man from beast.
In medieval Italy, Laudemio was the term used to denote the choicest fruits of the harvest reserved for the feudal lord. Frescobaldi Laudemio Extra Virgin Olive Oil is an elixir made from olives plucked out of a proprietary 300-hectare grove in October and pressed within 24 hours. The maker reports that the 2017 blend is slightly less spicy than previous years due to an exceptionally cold winter and sweltering summer. The result is a sublimely intense oil with the aroma of mown grass and artichoke. $47 for a 16-ounce bottle. en.frescobaldi.com.
Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey comes in a flask-like bottle ergonomically designed to fit snugly around your calf in boots. Made from Texas corn and rainwater from its Hill Country, it’s aged three years in slow-growth Northern American oak. Master distiller Donnis Todd’s tasting notes: “Sparkling tawny burnt orange appearance. A clever sparkling effervescence. Beguiling nose of gun smoke and leather. Captivating malted milk balls and white chocolate taste, and an astonishing finish, rich with marzipan, dried cherries and apricot.” $35. www.garrisonbros.com.
Located on High Street in downtown West Chester, Éclat Chocolate is a destination for seekers of celestial caramels, blissful bars and rhapsody-inducing truffles. Master chocolatier Christopher Curtin travels to South America to buy beans from cacao farmers and has collaborated with such foodie icons as Anthony Bordain and Eric Ripert. Expect such flights of fancy as mondiants, Éclat’s riff on the mendicant, a chocolate disk studded with nuts and dried fruits representing the four monastic orders. This mondiant enrobes Shiraz ganache with dark chocolate. $41 for 16-piece signature assortment. eclatchocolate.com.
Runamok Maple is the Vermont-based producer of infused, smoked and barrel-aged maple syrups that are as compatible with cheeses and cocktails as they are with pancakes. Flavors include jasmine tea, cinnamon and vanilla, and ginger root. The smoked and Sugarmaker’s Cut syrups are fan favorites. Available at Country Butcher in Kennett Square and Wild Birds Unlimited in Glen Mills. $16.95. runamokmaple.com.
Dry-aged beef is the caviar of cow, known for its enhanced flavor and extreme tenderness. The Omaha Steaks Dry-Aged Steakhouse Special pairs two 24-ounce bone-in ribeyes and four 14-ounce bone-in New York strips—each naturally aged for 60 days and artfully hand carved by master butchers. $349. www.omahasteaks.com.
Emanuele Bizzarri is the third-generation Italian coffee roaster who founded Caffè Umbria … in Seattle. The beans come from Brazil, Columbia and Guatemala, and you can have them delivered to your home. Caffè Umbria’s signature Gusto Crema offers creamy body and sweet finish, with notes of milk chocolate and dried figs. $12 for a 12-ounce bag. caffeumbria.com.
Though Connacht is celebrated for its whiskey, the inaugural Conncullin Irish Gin is quite a sophisticated sip for this collaboration between Irish and Philadelphia distillers. Its blend of citrus and elderberry balances the juniper that’s a hallmark of British gins. The result is a rounder, softer gin that is more floral, less herbal. It’s named for the dual source of its water, Lough Conn and Lough Cullin. $30. connachtwhiskey.com.
Posh Pretzels elevates this humble snack, offering hand-crafted, chocolate covered versions from Belgium and France, beautifully embellished with assorted toppings. Sweet treats like Spoonful of Cookie Dough and Poshmallows are staples among a devoted clientele. Each miniature is elegantly packaged for a chic impression.
$22 and up. poshpretzels.com.
The Farm at Doe Run in Chester County sells breathtaking cheeses that have taken the gold medal four years running at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. Doe Run’s heavenly Hummingbird cheese is made from pasteurized Jersey cow’s milk, blended with sheep’s milk in spring and summer. Available at select locations around the region, including Talula’s Table and Janssen’s Market. About $14 a pound and up.
What’s more lavish than lobster? How about having it delivered to your door? Legal Sea Foods, the iconic Boston restaurant, started its mail-order business years ago, when Broadway star Carol Channing arranged to have swordfish mailed to her on the road. Options include a pair of 1.25-pound lobsters, live or steamed, delivered with a quart of New England clam chowder, the soup that’s been served at every presidential inauguration since 1981. $125. shoplegalseafoods.com.