From Landaff Cheese To Lavender Mustard: Some Award-Winning N.H. Specialty Foods

Nov 22, 2015

Each year Yankee Magazine chooses some of the finest foods of the region - as the magazine puts it, "just in time for holiday entertaining and gift giving."

Amy Traverso is Senior Editor for Lifestyle at Yankee, and one of the editors who selected 20 winners in this year's Yankee Editors' Choice Food Awards, three of which come from New Hampshire.

She joined Weekend Edition to tell us more about the winners.

These food awards started three years ago to highlight the growing number of unique foods in the reason, which sounds like a really good sign for the food scenes in the New England states.

It really is. We were seeing lots of exciting innovation happening on the restaurant scene, and lots of press coverage for that, but I was going around to farmers' markets and festivals and noticing all these products that were being made. And, of course, there's been this great explosion of artisan cheeses. We wanted to celebrate all these wonderful, handmade food products that are being made in New England.

Since you mentioned artisan cheese, let's start there, because there was a New Hampshire-based winner in that category: Landaff cheese from the Landaff Creamery...

...in Landaff, New Hampshire! It's tangy and buttery and slightly sharp, kind of like a cheddar, but it's a little bit softer. It melts really beautifully and it is based on this traditional Welsh cheese from the 1800s, which is itself based on cheddar - Welsh cheese in its origins was kind of a young cheddar. 

It's really rare to find it here, but Doug and Debby Erb, who are second-generation dairy farmers in New Hampshire, started experimenting, and boy, did they create something wonderful. It's great for grilled cheese, for melting in macaroni and cheese, for eating straight on the cheese platter - it's really terrific.

Another highly important category: sweets. The New Hampshire winner there is Dancing Lion Chocolates in Manchester, for its artisan chocolate bars. What makes these stand out?

Richard Tango-Lowy, who's the master chocolatier, really sees chocolate as an art form. And I have to say, I think he deserves to call it art, because he often will paint beautiful designs on it. If you look at a box of these chocolate bars, it's like a little box of jewels. It makes such a nice gift. 

The products we're finding from New Hampshire tends to be much more reasonably or gently prices, which is great. A box of his chocolates is $16.50, which is a really nice price point for gifts. They have ingredients like almonds and candied citrus, and Himalayan salt, and even a little bit of cayenne in one of the flavors to give it that Mexican chocolate spicy flavor.

Under sauces, one of the winners is Cheshire Garden of Winchester, New Hampshire, which won for something that I didn't know could even be a thing: lavender mustard.

Yeah. Combining lavender and mustard is something you might find in southern France, so it's not an unheard of combination. What we love about Cheshire Garden is that Ralph Legrand and Patti Powers, who are the owners, grow the ingredients they use to make their jams and sauces. They're growing the mustard seeds and adding the lavender they grow on their own hillside, [and] putting in a little bit of local wildflower honey to offset the tartness. It's just a beautiful mustard - you could certainly have it on a burger or alongside sausages, something where you really want to have the mustard highlighted on some really good grilled sausages, it's terrific.

You can level with us: traveling around New England finding these kinds of delicious foods must be an awesome way to make a living.

It's pretty great. Everyone can have grumpy days,and then I have to stop and say, wait a minute, my job is to taste food and develop recipes and explore New England, and I really have nothing to complain about.