The most talented chefs take this point as fact: any great meal requires quality ingredients. Yes, this means spending a little more money on your chicken or upgrading your pantry’s olive oil. But it’s worth it. And while you may not live next door to a fancy specialty food store, in our modern world that’s no excuse. Take for example these 10 online food purveyors — each with a unique specialty you can enjoy. All you need is an internet connection and a bank account. The web is full of magical things, and your next meal is one of them.
Heritage Foods USA
Best for Meat: If you care about the meat on your table, you’d be remiss not to try Heritage Foods. They are committed — almost annoyingly so — to sourcing the best cows, goats, sheep, ducks, pigs and chickens to be had in North America and to buying directly from trustworthy farmers who adhere to a very rigid set of standards. And they practice what they preach (though they do a lot of preaching): Heritage Foods will only sell meat that’s in season (that leaves only beef, pig and chicken available year-round), and every October the shop celebrates No Goat Left Behind, an awareness campaign to get North American diners interested and educated in goat meat and to ensure that goat is sustainably produced in the American Northeast.
Best for Grains: Glenn Robertson loves rice. He spent his early career developing the perfect strain of Carolina Gold (along with a few varietals of corn) and then staked his life on it, living out of his car while he built Anson Mills from scratch. His company now sells organic heritage grains — that is, redeveloped strains of rice that once proliferated in the Antebellum South and that are unlike anything else you’ll find in the supermarket today — to some of the best Southern kitchens in America. They’ll ship them to you, too, provided you’re willing to put in some work, learn about their products, and cook from their recipes. And if you don’t love rice as much as Glenn Robertson, well, you’ll learn.
Best for Ham: The Benton family has been churning out smoked hams in Madisonville, Tennessee since 1947, and they’ve gotten pretty good at it by now. The hams are cured with salt, brown sugar and sodium nitrate, and are aged for about 10 months, sometimes longer — a slow, smoky process that produces some of the best hams in the country.
Dean and DeLuca
Best for the Small Stuff: Dean and DeLuca is a New York City institution, despite having locations across the country and parts of the Middle East and Asia. While a trip to a brick-and-mortar location can yield many paper bags full of overpriced organic produce and mouth-watering prepared foods, the best reason to shop D&D online is the vast array of specialty condiments and packaged goods. Here’s where you’ll find otherwise rare stuff like Canadian secret Kozlik’s Horseradish Mustard, small-batch Brooklyn-made Sriracha mayonnaise and more.
Best for Paella Night: 2014 was the year of Spanish cooking, with many of the best new restaurants, from Toronto to Los Angeles, serving up culinary odes to the Basque country. To try Spanish food at home, Virginia-based La Tienda is your best bet. They source products directly from Spain where possible, locally otherwise. Look for mouthwatering jamón or spicy chorizo, or try one of their paella kits, which come with everything you need — including one of those big round pans.
Best for Cheese: Sure, you can buy things that aren’t cheese at Murray’s Cheese. You can buy imported Portuguese olive oil or English crackers, and even charcuterie. But the real reason — if not the only reason — to log in to murrayscheese.com is obvious. They have hundreds of varieties from all over the world on sale, from all different kinds of milk-giving animals. They have unpasteurized cheese and microbial cheese. They have goat’s cheese and water buffalo cheese. They have blue cheese and cheese curds. For zealots, they have a Cheese of the Month Club. If you’re looking for cheese, this is the alpha and the omega.
Best for Small Batches: Mouth.com bills itself as a purveyor of “Indie Food”, which is to say it’s essentially a Brooklyn farmers market online. The company prides itself on selling only products that are Made in the USA, and also on providing all the information a buyer could need about every supplier. Every item on the website comes with some backstory, so you know exactly who conceived and constructed those tortilla chips you just put in your cart, or who originally owned the barn where that bottle of bourbon was distilled.
Oliviers & Co.
Best for Vinaigrette: Yes, you can buy cheap supermarket olive oil, and it will be the workhorse of your kitchen pantry. But sometimes you might want to up your olive oil game. That’s when you call in the French. Founded by a bunch of gastronomically inclined photographers in the south of France almost 20 years ago, Oliviers & Co. aims to offer the world a taste of the Mediterranean. It began with a boutique in Paris, then boutiques elsewhere (including Boston and New York), and then an online shop — one that, it should be said, has some of the best selections of olive oils, vinegars, truffles and other seasonings anywhere on the Internet.
Russ & Daughters
Best for a Schmear: Russ & Daughters opened on New York City’s Lower East Side in 1914, selling salt-cured herring and salmon among other Eastern European Jewish fare, and has remained essentially unchanged since. If you find yourself in New York, there is most often a line out the door for smoked salmon, bagels and cream cheese. This is partly due to quality ingredients: salmon sourced from Nova Scotia, Norway, Scotland or Denmark and cold smoked in-house; caviar from Siberia; a family whitefish recipe that dates back longer than the 100 years the store’s been open. And it’s partly just tradition. Where else would one go for bagels? If you find yourself online, you’ll be happy to know Russ & Daughters delivers anywhere in the United States.
Best for Dummies: Blue Apron and Plated are two startups that operate on the same basic principle: grocery shopping is hard if you don’t have a plan. To that end, they deliver the ingredients you’ll need to cook a full meal and include recipes to help you do it. Blue Apron offers a slightly more by-the-numbers approach, with diagrammed recipe cards and flexible meal plans based on your dietary restrictions or preferences; Plated focuses a bit more heavily on sourcing fresh and sustainable meat, fish and produce from as close to your home as possible. Sure, this approach leaves little room for choice, substitution or experimentation, which can be half the fun of cooking. Still, we can’t help but agree with the premise: cooking your own food is always a good idea.