I’m a terrible, terrible sucker for foods I’ve never seen before. I creep around grocery stores in search of unfamiliar labels, I memorize the names of produce varietals online, and I try all the weird new flavors of chips when they come out (no, wait—I refuse to acknowledge cappuccino-flavored Lay’s as an acceptable food). Sometimes I get burned. Luckily, sometimes I strike ripe, delicious gold, and that’s what you’ll find on this list. —Bird Cox
Cotton candy grapes. When I was little, I would sit around dreaming up new and improved fruits (I’m an only child, lay off). I feel like I might have imported these into the world via my imagination, because they don’t taste like anything I’ve ever eaten before. They taste like healthy, juicy cotton candy. They might be a miracle. Where: Fresh Market.
White Whale ‘Your Older Brother’ cocktail mixer. Organic lemon, Siberian fir and sweet orange. One of these things is not like the others… but boy, is it good with vodka. This is a date-impresser or anniversary-celebrator because it’s a bit pricey, but the completely unique flavor profile is so worth it. Where: Southern Season.
Jasper Hill Harbison. Alright, this is less of an oddity and more of a dangerous cheese obsession, but I realized that I haven’t yet written about it and that has to happen now. It’s insanely creamy and funky and salty and sweet, all at once; it pairs beautifully with juicy fruits and hearty breads. The Harbison wheels are wrapped in spruce cambium (a tender inner bark layer) cut from the Vermont farm’s woodlot, which says a lot about the painstaking care they take with their cheeses. Where: Whole Foods.
Crunch Dynasty. This is one of those products that makes you sound like a proselyte when you talk about it. “I put it on everything! It makes everything better! It rescued my dog!” It’s a perfect food, all crunch (obviously) and spice, with pops of garlic and sesame layered in. It inspired me to invent “summer green bean casserole”: blanched French beans tossed in creamy horseradish dressing with a thick layer of Crunch Dynasty on top. Where: Saison Market.
Einkorn berries. One nod to health food, since even the grapes I put on the list are borderline carnival food. Einkorn! It’s an ancient grain with a much simpler, more digestible genetic structure than wheat—but still still gluten-y enough to make a robust, nutty loaf of bread. Or a risotto that won’t make you feel miserable post-meal. Where: Good Foods Stony Point, in bulk. (Note: if you haven’t indulged in Good Foods’ HUGE bulk section, go immediately.)
Epicurean Caramel Sea Salt Butter. Ah! Look at that, an immediate answer to the question, “But how do I make my einkorn bread way less healthy?” Epicurean makes a whole line of special butters, and they all elicit the occasional straight-from-the-tub taste test. More dignified persons might put it on bagels, pancakes, muffins, etc. Where: Kroger.
Mast Brothers Vanilla & Smoke Chocolate. The basic makeup of Mast Brothers chocolate is cacao and sugar. No cocoa butter, no lecithin. It’s the divine truth of chocolate. Of course, even the truth can be shaped into a more transcendent form (they smoke the cacao and add bourbon vanilla bean). IMAGINE THE S’MORES POSSIBILITIES. Where: For the Love of Chocolate.
(Photo credit: frenchbroadchocolates.com)