You already know the big specialty food players, like Dean & Deluca and Williams-Sonoma. But what if you're looking for a special selection of gourmet specialty foods that you haven't seen before, and can't get just anywhere? Check out this round-up of under-the-radar online shops. Each is a highly-browsable, well-curated wonderland of fantastic specialty food finds.
The Marin Store is like a travelogue tribute to great, design-oriented shopping in Northern California. The virtual storefront houses a collection of art, fashion, jewelry, wine, housewares, and kids' stuff. The "Edibles" section is especially exciting, with its fantastic selection of artisanally produced foodstuffs. You'll find organic herbal sugars, custom hot chocolate, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheeses, and the fab 479º Popcorn, among lots of other goodies. Shop online at themarinstore.com.
In terms of product distribution, small-scale artisan food producers tend to have a more local reach. Enter Foodzie, an online market fueled by the driving mission to connect small producers with the food lovers who crave their wares. You'll find everything from dried wild mushrooms and handmade sausages to chutneys, jams, coffees, chocolates, and condiments. There are intriguing ethnic selections too, like the stuffed Afghani flatbread known as bolani, or pão de queijo, a Brazilian cheese bread. The Foodzie blog includes profiles of many of its producers, so you can learn more about who's making all that great food, and what makes them tick. Shop online at foodzie.com.
Started by a couple with complementary passions for food and nutrition education, The Shop Agora is devoted to Mediterranean delicacies. You'll find a carefully edited selection of extra virgin olive oils, truffle oils, artisanal vinegars, farro, several varieties of risotto rice, sauces, honeys, jams, and other sweets. The Shop Agora also offers a selection of stunning — and rare — pastas, including Barolo tagliolini, stringozzi flavored with orange, and orecchiette made with farina arsa, or toasted wheat flour. There are beautiful gift baskets, too, including a gluten-free, vegan basket that makes a perfect wedding present for a food-loving couple. Shop online at theshopagora.com.
4. Abe's Market
Abe's Market was designed as an online marketplace for natural products. You'll find everything from eco-friendly pet supplies to linens. The food and drink section skews toward snacks and condiments — there are chutneys and biscotti, teas and lots of chocolate. There are categories for gluten-free and kosher products, so it's easy to find products that fit those special dietary needs. If you're especiallty enthused about a food find on Abe's Market, let a few friends know, and you'll score an instant 10% rebate on your order. Shop online at abesmarket.com.
Cube evolved from a little Los Angeles pasta factory once known as the Divine Pasta Company into a café, cheese bar, and marketplace. The space remains small, but Cube still offers over 1,000 specialty food items, and they're available online. You can buy the fresh pasta that started it all, along with Cube's Artisan Foods line, or frozen pizzas imported from Italy (all ship overnight due to perishability). There's also an incredible selection of exotic, mostly Italian artisan foodstuffs, including colatura (salted anchovy sauce), an organic rose petal jam, and all manner of antipasti. Shop online at cubemarketplace.com.
6. Formaggio Kitchen
Don't let the name fool you. Formaggio Kitchen, a Cambridge, Massachusetts fixture for over three decades, trades in far more than an unparalleled cheese selection. It's very possible to spend hours browsing the extensive stock of fancy food. And very easy to convince yourself that your pantry has been woefully incomplete without chesnut flour, crema di rucola (arugula puree), and smoked Viking sea salt. Shop online at formaggiokitchen.com.