2021 Top Food Discoveries

Chelsa B’s bubbly focaccia bread is made with homemade dough and topped with sea salt, olive oil and seasonal herbs. Photograph courtesy of Bread by Chelsa B.

Writer: Karla Walsh

One of the biggest pandemic pivots in the food industry has been the rapid growth of culinary businesses that are thinking outside the box. Or, more accurately, outside the brick-and-mortar. Here are four of my favorite food-related discoveries of last year, all of which are made in certified home or commercial kitchens and sold at popups, markets and retailers other than the typical storefront.


Upgrade Any Comfort Food Meal With … Bread by Chelsa B.
No. 1 must-buy: Seasonal Focaccia

Carbs have been getting a bad rap ever since the keto diet skyrocketed to popularity—and even long before that (remember Atkins?). But I would go to battle to defend bread, pizza and cookies as a worthy food group. Hey, science bears this out: Your brain needs carbohydrates to thrive! And Chelsea Smith (her name is pronounced “Chels-uh,” hence the different spelling of the business) makes the carbs I’ve craved the most lately, including pan loaves, doughnuts and, most notably, bubbly focaccia bread, made with homemade dough featuring a sourdough starter. Just before baking, Smith crowns the focaccia with sea salt and olive oil, plus locally sourced seasonal produce and herbs, such as delicata squash and fresh sage, potatoes and rosemary, or, come summer, peaches and goat cheese.
(Items and prices vary by season, breadbychelsab.com)


Start a Healthy Smoothie Habit With … Hanna Valley Protein
No. 1 must-buy: Cinnamon Protein

Emily Hanna launched her organic, plant-based protein powder brand in 2016 after she was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease lupus, and she found that nearly all of her symptoms disappeared after packing her diet with whole foods. Made with nuts and seeds, the cinnamon flavor (20 grams of protein per 1/3-cup serving) is perfect blended into my daily fruit and almond milk smoothie.
($19.99 for 1 pound, hannavalley.com)


Improve Your Gut Health With … Young Ferments
No. 1 must-buy: Tennessee Chow Chow

Fermented foods are among the best sources of gut-healthy probiotics. If kimchi and sauerkraut are too strong for you, consider this Tennessee Chow Chow made locally by husband-wife team Jessie and Spencer Young. A family recipe, Tennessee Chow Chow can be used as a condiment to spice up soups, grilled meats, greens and beans, Jessie says. I adore the fermented blend of organic tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions and ginger folded into eggs or spooned atop a slice of cheesy toast.
($9 for 8 ounces, youngferments.com)


Treat Yourself (Sans Wheat or Animal Products) With … Thistle’s Summit
No. 1 must-buy: Oatmeal Cream Pie

You won’t feel like you’re missing a thing when you devour one of Marti Payseur’s vegan and gluten-free desserts. Remarkably tender cookies surround a light and fluffy cream filling in her oatmeal cream pies that are even better—and bigger—than the kind my mom packed in my grade school lunch. “My inspiration comes from just about everywhere: memories of childhood favorites that I veganize, episodes of Martha Stewart’s show that inspired me as a kid, Instagram bites that I have to re-create,” Payseur says. “I want my food to be accessible but elevated.” Mission accomplished in these cream pies and all of her cookies, cakes, scones, pies and more.
($5, thistlessummit.com)

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