Before quarantine, swinging by four different grocery stores to find super-specific ingredients for a single recipe wasn’t unheard of, especially for avid home cooks. But now that we’re limiting how many places we go to (and how often we go to them), many of us are sourcing perishable goods and other comestibles online.
Some kitchen staples, like produce and meat, can be difficult to get through same-day (or even same-week) delivery from places like Instacart, FreshDirect, and Peapod. Fortunately, there are loads of specialty shops, farms, and butchers that have recently expanded their shipping options nationwide, so you can have a bag of just-caught mussels, a bottle of beautifully aged soy sauce, even a whole duck sent to you overnight. Those are just a handful of items that nine chefs told us they’ve been ordering online. Read on for all of their picks, from all-purpose spices to unsung cuts of meat you may not have considered.
For cheese, chocolate, and elevated pantry staples: Caputo’s Market & Deli
It’s easy to get lost on this Salt Lake City, Utah–based market’s website, which has seemingly endless tinned and canned goods, cheese, charcuterie, cocktail ingredients, and sweet treats. Alexa Norlin, pastry chef and owner of Normal Ice Cream in SLC, always has a mixed basket of goods when she stops by Caputo’s in person, and her online recommendations are no different. First up, she suggests Solstice Chocolate’s dark milk chocolate. She says it’s “the best chocolate I’ve had in my life,” and even though it’s almost 60 percent cacao, it’s “creamy in spite of its higher cacao percentage; a lot of chocolates can get crumbly.” In the savory category, she loves Caputo’s Barely Legal Raw Goat Tome cheese. It’s aged 60 days (the minimum aging required by law for raw-milk cheese) in Caputo’s own cheese caves and is “so creamy and milky — a completely different flavor profile than super-aged cheeses, like tasting a natural wine versus an old-world wine.” She also buys tins of Jose Gourmet smoked small sardines in olive oil, eating them on saltines with a little Salsa Espinaler hot sauce, which is “very vinegary and almost more acidic than it is spicy.” Lastly, something to sip: a bottle of Bar Daddy orgeat; she puts it in prosecco and gin-and-tonics, not just tiki cocktails. “The almond flavor really comes through, almost like a pure extract of almond milk mixed with simple syrup.”
For overnight shipping, you’ll pay $30. But for two to five business days, it’s free. If you’re SLC-based, you can also order Caputo’s on Postmates.
For high-quality meat and game straight from small farms: Nicky USA
This Portland, Oregon–based wholesale butcher specializes in high-quality Northwest meats and specialty game and was primarily a restaurant provider before COVID-19. “With restaurants closing, there’s a pretty big food-chain system that has fallen apart in terms of farmers, ranchers, and fishers. Nicky USA sources honestly and locally to help small farms that are in crisis right now, which is also sustainable,” explains Gregory Gourdet, culinary director for Portland restaurant Departure. He loves Nicky USA’s boar, a great “starter game,” he says, because it’s “pretty accessible, not expensive, and tastes like pork but a little meatier and darker in color.” He suggests boar collar cooked like pork shoulder, either grilled over high heat until medium or braised. He also likes the company’s whole ducks, which he breaks down into legs for confit and grilled breasts with char-siu-style sauce that is sticky and sweet for “flavors associated with summer with a Chinese twist.” Finally, he recommends Nicky USA’s short ribs. He likes braising them, but instead of using red wine, he says to try coconut milk and a Haitian spice blend called Epis (onion, Scotch-bonnet peppers, black pepper, thyme), plus yucca and plantains. “Serve them with something light, like pickled onions and greens, for a dinner that is hearty and light at the same time,” Gourdet adds. “Use extra chiles, and acid like citrus or vinegar, to brighten it up so it doesn’t feel like a winter dish.” All of these meats can be purchased using Nicky USA’s online ordering form.
$40 minimum for FedEx deliveries, and they’ll ship anywhere in the U.S. “within the week, depending on your location.”
For specialty Korean pantry staples: Gotham Grove
While you can’t take the experience of the tasting menu at Atomix home with you, there are key ingredients from the fine-dining modern Korean restaurant in Nomad that you can add to your pantry. Junghyun Park, owner and executive chef of Atomix and Atoboy, as well as the founder of new online shop Atonae, calls Gotham Grove his “recommended source for more rare, high-quality Korean ingredients to upgrade staple pantry items,” including aged soy sauces, vinegars, gochujang and other soybean pastes, oils, salts, seaweed, and more. “These artisan products are definitely in a different league from the more readily available counterparts in local markets or online,” he says. If he had to pick just one item, it’d be the perilla oil, which “has a distinctively aromatic, nutty fragrance and taste, similar to sesame oil, its sister oil.” He says it’s been used in Korea for hundreds of years, and he compares it to what olive oil is in Italian cooking. “It’s a great fat to add and balance out seasonal plates utilizing fresh ingredients, where vegetables and fresh, acidic flavors tend to come forward,” he adds. Park suggests buying smaller quantities and refrigerating perilla oil once opened, since it is more volatile than a lot of oils and spoils more quickly.
$5 shipping anywhere in the U.S. and free shipping over $99. Shipments will arrive in one to five business days.
For fresh pasta that freezes beautifully: Pastaio Via Corta
Chef Colin Lynch cooks fresh pasta every day at his Boston restaurant Bar Mezzana, but when he gets home, he turns to Gloucester, Massachusetts–based pasta shop Pastaio Via Corta for dinner. It specializes in extruded pasta shapes made with freshly milled organic flour (which you can also buy). Lynch says the pasta has “an al dente texture all the way through that is more satisfying and toothsome than dried pasta, and just the right balance of being firm yet tender enough without being mushy.” Lynch, who is also the chef and partner at Shore Leave and Black Lamb, loves all of the company’s shapes, but his two go-tos are campanelle, which he suggests eating with a meat-based ragù so the sauce can hide inside the folds of the pasta, and fusilli, a classic done perfectly that he likes to pair with olive oil, toasted garlic, pasta water, chile flakes, frozen peas, grated Parmesan cheese off the heat until the sauce tightens up, and a sprinkling of fresh basil or mint. You can feel comfortable buying pasta in bulk from Pastaio Via Corta because “it freezes beautifully,” Lynch promises. “The moment it hits the water, it’s basically defrosted, then cooks on its own. If you do keep it in the fridge, it will last a week or two. Just check for mold like you would do with bread. But freezing is best.”
Shipping cost varies by location; Pastaio Via Corta uses USPS Retail Ground, which delivers within two to eight days.
For restaurant-approved produce boxes: Girl & Dug Farm
Up until this summer, Girl & Dug Farm’s Sweet Jade Tomatoes were exclusive to Chef Mei Lin at her Los Angeles restaurant, Nightshade. Now, everyday consumers can try the fully ripe — and green in color — cherry tomatoes from the comfort of home. The San Diego farm is shipping produce boxes that include some of its best chef-loved and formerly restaurant-exclusive items nationwide, with à la carte produce ordering to come. Lin describes the Sweet Jades as “super-vegetal, very juicy, and all-around just a sweet tomato” and has used them in tomato water for a butternut-squash dish and a guaiwei vinaigrette. (“In Cantonese, the literal translation is ‘strange flavor,’ which refers to all the elements of flavors you’d find in the sauce: sweet, sour, salty, umami, and numbing.”) The boxes’ unique contents rotate every week like a CSA, but you’ll be sure to find Girl & Dug’s signature K-Cukes (Korean cucumbers). They’re “super-crunchy, with barely any water content, and hold up really well for pickles.” The K-Cukes and jelly melons, another type of cucumber, are her favorite cucumbers of all time, and she suggests using equal parts mirin and rice vinegar to pickle. Her other staples include rose chicories, which are ombre pink in color and have a “pleasant bitterness” that are great for salads or quick sautés, and chrysanthemum greens.
Shipping is free to 49 states and should arrive within a few days.