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As we all prepare for a long winter of at-home meals, it’s more important than ever to find ways to keep your plate exciting and joyful. Luckily for you, we’ve identified some of the internet’s best pantry must-haves. Dig into these DTC staples and see how you can add some drama and flair to your dinner table this winter.
BONUS: It’s never too early to start scoping out holiday treats for the home-chefs in your life, and this round-up has something for everyone!
If your parents are anything like mine, then you’ve probably been told to “invest in quality basics!” a million times. Nowhere have I found this to be more true than in the kitchen. From luscious salad dressings to crispy fried eggs to tender cakes, and everything in between, top-notch olive oil has become the oft-sung hero of my kitchen. I love Brightland for their commitment to delivering high-quality ingredients sourced sustainably and expertly blended to create some truly unique flavor profiles. I gravitate towards the aromatic and vegetal Awake oil to give roasted veg a robust earthiness and to lend pastries a hint of savoriness. But you simply can’t go wrong -- any of Brightland’s offerings will elevate even the most modest meals (and yes, I’m counting bread as a meal!).
I’m a newly-converted vinegar believer. I used to be afraid of the pungent, watery eye-inducing bottles collecting dust in the back of my cupboard. But over the long months at home, I grew tired of rich, one-note meals. I craved acidic, zippy, mouth-puckering foods, and apparently, I wasn’t alone. Brands like Acid League and Ramp Up Vinegars have sprung up just in time to satisfy the needs of dulled palettes everywhere. Acid League’s elixirs bring inventive flavor combos to everything from breakfast to the bar cart (read: pear-honey-vanilla and strawberry rosé), while Ramp Up offers umami-rich vinegars (aka black garlic and red miso) to brighten up every dish, no matter how dark it gets at 4pm.
When Mel B said “spice up your life,” I’m pretty sure she was talking about Loisa. Founded by two New Yorkers seeking traditional Latin flavors -- without all the usual artificial fillers and substitutes -- Loisa’s organic, small-batch spice mixes bring tired meals back to life. Their adobo and sazón (pantry essentials in any Latin kitchen) are bold, balanced, and deeply savory while remaining versatile enough to use every day. The sazón brings a fresher, more nuanced heat to my black beans and rice, and the adobo’s umami-like seasoning gives an added depth to everything from grilled chicken to roasted squash. Whether you’re marinating, simmering, toasting, or grilling, you can depend on Loisa to deliver that warm and fuzzy feeling with every bite.
Throughout their adulthood, powerhouse sister-duo Vanessa and Kim Pham craved the vibrant Vietnamese food of their youth. But between hard-to-find ingredients, harder-to-learn recipes, and supermarket aisles that left out the very people they’re meant to serve, the sisters decided to take matters into their own hands. Armed with business backgrounds, a crew of talented chefs, and a taste for unapologetically powerful flavors, Omsom was born. Omsom’s umami-rich sauces take the guesswork out of your favorite meals — they even provide suggested protein and vegetable combos, though these sauces are so good you’ll be happy to eat them with whatever you have on hand. Their tried and true recipes showcase the endless diversity of Asian cuisines (check out the brand new East Asian line!) and are packed with so much complexity and boldness that you won’t believe these dishes come together in just 30 minutes.
Behold the condiment of champions: chili crisp. Fly By Jing’s take on the Chinese classic brings together the holy trinity of topping necessities — textural intrigue, explosive aromatics, and a generous kick that will leave you buzzing. Come for the crunch, which is tasty enough to eat by the spoonful, but stay for the garlicky, tingly leftover oil that’s perfect for stir-frying veg or bringing some heat to a crunchy salad. Inspired by Sichuan culinary traditions, but versatile enough to go on everything from ramen noodles to grilled cheese to ice cream (seriously), Fly By Jing is sure to secure a permanent spot in your pantry.
Fair warning: Truff is not for the faint of heart. Founded on a mission to explore unexplored flavors and redefine indulgence, Truff takes sauce seriously. From the moment you unscrew the onyx-colored crystalline cap, you’re hit with a mouthwatering tangle of pungent truffles and vinegary heat. Fiery chiles are blended with agave to provide a savory-sweet foundation for this truffle-forward topping. You have your choice of black or white truffles, as well as regular and on-the-go sizes. And for those who like to crank up the heat, Truff offers an “even hotter” version of their classic black truffle-infused liquid lava.
I know we’re all doing a fantastic job of staying at home right now, but even in today’s age, I still find myself in need of last-second nutrition on the go! But I’ve always struggled to find portable snacks that keep me full without feeling like I have a brick sitting in my stomach. Enter Lupii. Packed with plant-based protein, fiber, and amino acids, thanks to the whimsically-named lupini bean, Lupii bars get you through the day without feeling like you’re just getting by. Lupii’s four flavor offerings are sophisticated, satisfying, and subtly sweet, leaving you with a treat you can feel good about. Plus have you seen their packaging? Make Lupii your pantry’s chicest new accessory.
We all know someone who would put Nutella on literally anything. I happen to be that someone. However, adulthood has brought on a desire to find more natural and sustainable ways to satisfy my seemingly insatiable sweet tooth. So when I found Hella, you can believe that my inner ten-year-old was, well, hella excited. The dark chocolate, hazelnutty spread was born when the experts at online grocer, Bubble, couldn’t find a healthier, more flavorful, and more sustainable alternative to the supermarket classics. Made from only three ingredients (hazelnuts, coconut sugar, and cacao nibs), Hella is not only vegan and paleo -- it’s also richer, nuttier, and just slightly less sweet than its counterparts… a childhood favorite all grown up.
From the kitchen of Kiwi pastry queen Jordan Rondel comes The Caker. To put it bluntly, The Caker is not your mother’s boxed cake mix. With flavors like strawberry lemon poppyseed, matcha cherry, and gluten-free flourless chocolate cake (with gold leaf!), The Caker gives you all of the elements of a true showstopper -- dramatic visuals and intense flavors -- without all of the work. Their dry mixes are sourced from high-end ingredients and Jordan’s instructions are simple and clear, leaving a foolproof path to delicious desserts every time. Never again will you toil away over a smoking oven -- once your fellow cakers finish ooh-ing and aah-ing over your creation you’ll say, “Oh this? I just whipped this up…,” and that will be the truth!
Between high-vibrational seltzers and low-ABV spirits, the internet is redefining the way people drink. But as it turns out, some things don’t need to be redefined, they simply need to be made better. Take the humble lemonade: a drink I associate with sidewalk stands, 99-cent cans, and for too often floundering between sickeningly sweet and mouth-puckeringly sour. Imagine if you could combine the whimsy of those summertime lemonade sales with all the canned convenience of your local bodega’s mini-fridge. Well I recently found out that with Swoon, you can. Created in an effort to reduce sugar consumption and improve health outcomes, Swoon products rely on monkfruit rather than artificial sugars. Their new line of lemonades (which includes my favorite, the half-and-half) are floral, tart, and refreshing, but still retain that lingering back-of-the-mouth sweetness. So since the days of the 5-cent paper cups are likely gone, the next time you’re looking for a better way to brighten up your day, be prepared to Swoon.
Whether you’re stocking up for the winter or searching for the perfect gift for your foodie friends, TQE has you covered. Each of these products is made with top-of-the-line ingredients and packed with flavors that are sure to impress.