Food & Wine's editors try hundreds of products each year while researching stories. Here, F&W's senior food editor Kristin Donnelly name her 10 best food and drink finds of the year including cheeses, chocolate and other top finds for food lovers.
Maplebrook Farm Burrata
1. Farmhouse Kitchens Butter. Mary Bess Michaletz discovered this hand-formed butter, made by third-generation Wisconsin farmers, in an unlabeled wrapper at a local shop. Loving its lush creaminess and sweet flavor, she partnered with the farmers to launch the butter as a brand. It's currently not for sale online, but email her to find it. From $6 per lb; farmhousekitchens.coop.
2. Tomr's Tonic. Made with organic ingredients, including bark from the cinchona tree (the original source of quinine), this pleasantly bitter, woodsy tonic syrup is great for mixing with its classic gin partner or even just with soda water. $13.50 for 200 ml; amazon.com.
3. Feudo delle Ginestre Amarena Mosto Cotto. Blended with Italian Amarena cherry juice, this stellar mosto cotto (a syrupy, reduced unfermented grape juice) is fantastic mixed in cocktails, drizzled on salty cheeses or served over desserts, like this brandy semifreddo. $20 for 7 ounces; ditalia.com.
4. Tcho Milk Chocolates. Chocolate snobs often think milk chocolate is inferior to the superdark, intellectually challenging stuff. San Francisco-based Tcho, however, took a brainy approach to two new bars they call SeriousMilk. "Cacao" is rich and fudgy, while "Classic" is a bit sweeter and creamier. Both redefine how good milk chocolate can be. $10.95 for two 2-ounce bars; tcho.com.
5. Anything from MarxFoods.com. Whether I'm looking for soft, fragrant Tahitian vanilla beans; gorgeous, obscure dried chiles; or fantastic meat and game birds, I find them at marxfoods.com. Prices might seem high, but what you see is what you pay-shipping is included. marxfoods.com.
6. Bellweather Farms Basket Ricotta; Sonoma, California
This ricotta cheese is made traditionally, using the farm's leftover whey from its cow and sheep cheeses. The ricotta drains in Italian-style baskets, and it's so thick that it tastes almost buttery. From $8 for 12 oz; bellweatherfarms.com.
7. Maplebrook Farm Burrata; Vermont
With its liquid center of fresh cream and stracciatella (shreds of mozzarella), burrata is like the molten chocolate cake of cheese. It's best when it's fresh, fresh, fresh-and this Vermont version, made by a Puglian cheesemaker, is as good as it gets. $13 each; murrayscheese.com. (pictured)
8. Carr Valley Cheese Casa Bola Mellage; Wisconsin. This 100-year-old Wisconsin cheese company ages its new, nutty cheese-made with sheep, goat and cow milks-for two years, so it's super-complex. More than one F&W taster called it "phenomenal." $15.70 per pound; carrvalleycheese.com.
9. Andante & Noble Ballad; Petaluma, California. The partnership between cult cheesemaker Soyoung Scanlan of Andante Dairy (whose fans include Thomas Keller and Daniel Humm) and Noble Handcrafted (makers of bourbon-barrel-aged syrups and vinegars) yielded a delicious, semi-firm aged goat cheese. Its rind is washed with Noble's maple syrup, so the cheese is less tangy than many goat cheeses. $27 per lb; mikuni.com.
10. Kapiti Kikorangi; New Zealand. This New Zealand cow-milk cheese is not as pungent as most blues, most likely because it's a triple cream, meaning that it has more than 72 percent butterfat. It's richly creamy and slightly nutty, with just enough barnyardy blue-cheese funk. kapiticollection.co.nz.
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