There’s a time to push the envelope, to get adventurous, to try that foamed anchovy amuse bouche, to brave the twenty-course wild-foraged tasting menu. But when you dream about food, what dishes dance through your slumbering head? Tomato soup and grilled cheese. Mom’s Sunday roast. Cookies. Bacon. Mmmm… There’s food for the mind — and the Instagram account — and then there’s food for the heart. And this month, we’re putting the brain on autopilot and indulging. Comfort food often does its comforting in a blanket of butter. But for us, the beauty of these foods is their nostalgic simplicity (OK, a little bacon doesn’t hurt). In other words, comfort today needn’t come with regrets and bellyaches tomorrow. It might taste like mom’s, but it’s better for you — so your heart’s happy, and healthy too. Tuck in, and eat up.
Bacon Spread // The Bacon Jams // Philadelphia, PA
Leave it to this Philly-based team of food scientists, chefs, and engineers to crack one of life’s eternal quests: spreadable bacon. OK, we admit, this is one of those food “inventions” that, well, gilds the lily. Or rather, butters the pork. A fatty strip of crispy pig is pretty damn close to perfection. Still, this spread moves it one step closer. It’s simple: bacon — a half pound in each jar — sugar, onions and vinegar. And it’s best used simply, spread on a burger or the morning’s toast.
Mint Julep Cocktail Mixer // Eli Mason // Nashville, TN
A creaking porch swing, the twang of an acoustic guitar, the only blinking lights are fireflies, the only tweets from nesting birds. Cell phone’s long forgotten, the digital world’s at bay — in your hand instead, a frosty glass of ice, mint, and bourbon. The easy life just got easier. No muddler? No mint? No problem. One part mixer; two parts bourbon. Most commercial mixers just over-sweeten your booze, but this Nashville-made syrup highlights, not hides. Made from pounds of fresh mint, cane sugar, and real gomme syrup — that’s the old-school granddaddy of simple syrup, made with gum Arabic to make your drink as silky smooth as a southern breeze.
Victorious B.I.G Jerky // Righteous Felon // Philadelphia, PA
Snack time is the meal most ruled by the gut, not the conscience, in which we unthinkingly reach for the quickest, and often worst for us comforts. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, they say, and the same’s true for rumbling bellies. That’s why we love jerky: Soulful and satisfying, but morally righteous too: just quality protein. Despite its gangster-tinged aesthetic, this is wholesome stuff: pasture-raised black angus, dry aged for 21 days, then cured with Victory Brewing’s Storm King stout for a satisfying roast-coffee kick.
Burnt Sugar & Fennel Shortbread // Lark Fine Foods // Essex, MA
Homesick at summer camp, lovelorn in college, Mom’s cookie-filled care packages could make any cloudy day brighter. But stocking the cookie jar yourself is another story. Ending a stressful day with a dough mixer and a hot oven is salting the wound; ending it with a bag of cookies as good as mom’s is a kiss and a band-aid. As good as mom’s? Damn right — these crispy bites, studded with big chewy sugar pieces and spiced with savory fennel were made by a mother-daughter team and guaranteed to satisfy your sweet tooth and raise your spirit. But if your cloudy day was downright thunderous, blend them with ice cream and milk for a cookie shake.
Espresso Cocomels // JJ’s Sweets // Boulder, CO
Candy. CANDY. Yes, fine — go nuts, kid. But let’s trojan horse this a bit. Here we have a delicious chocolate caramel, and if that’s all you need, then stop reading right here, and bliss out in coco-land. But inside that chocolate coating, a good-for-you surprise. In case the locavore gym-rat on your other shoulder pipes up, dig this: These aren’t corn-syrup-ed Wonka bars. Cocomels are all natural, made with sustainably sourced, non-GMO cocoa and smooth vegan coconut milk. Candy even a mother could love.
Maine Blueberry Granola // Naked Granola // State College, PA
On busy weekday mornings, nothing’s as rare, or as relished, as a breakfast as hearty and warming as the blanket you reluctantly slithered out from under. A banana, a ‘spro, and a muffin to go? That’s a flimsy foundation for a go-get-‘em day. Instead, tuck into a bowl of almonds, blueberries, cranberries, and pomegranates. Yeah, we haven’t seen any pomegranates growing in Maine either, but you won’t care about provenance after a bite or two. High in fiber and all organic, it beats anything you’ll find on the super-store shelves. The breakfast of champions just took silver; granola steals the gold.