Best Gourmet Grocer/Food Hall
The Readers Choice nominees for Best Gourmet Grocer/Food Hall include one that started out with a small store in Texas and today, has more than 270 stores in North America and the United Kingdom. An Ohio-based nominee is family-owned and operated that is recognized for its great food and service. Two nominees are New York institutions offering gourmet foods from around the world. Last, but not least, there's an opulent Food Hall in London that is known worldwide for the sheer volume and selection of its international goods all presented in breathtaking displays.
Dean & DeLuca
Dorothy Lane Market
Harrods Food Hall
Best Online Gourmet Food
The Readers' Choice nominees for the Best Online Gourmet Food include a New York institution with a staff that travel the world in search of great artisan-produced foods. A Seattle-based nominee was launched by a group of passionate food-lovers committed to the best artisan-produced, sustainable foods while another nominee is a family-owned operation that originated from three generations of cheese importers. A Michigan-based nominee is a collection of local businesses, each with its own food specialty. Finally, the Philadelphia-based nominee celebrates the European roots of its two founders with a wide array of gourmet meats, cheeses, oils, and other goods from around the world.
Dean & DeLuca
Di Bruno Brothers
Zingerman's Mail Order
Best Caviar Retailer
The Readers' Choice nominees for Best Caviar Retailer include award-winning brands from Europe and the United States with each offering the highest of quality. Several offer some of the finest Russian caviar to be found, while one is a proponent of sustainably harvested roe with its own tank-farming system.
Caviar House & Prunier
Tsar Nicoulai Caviar
Best Bread Bakery
The Readers' Choice nominees for Best Bread Bakery include companies that have been producing bread for decades. One opened more than 70 years ago and is now an institution in Paris, while another was launched in Belgium before expanding around the world. A Los Angeles-based nominee has developed more than 100 varieties of award-winning breads. The Philadelphia-based nominee features artisanal breads and the baked goods of the Ann Arbor-based nominee are known throughout the Midwest.
La Brea Bakery
Le Pain Quotidien
Best Cheese Shop
The Readers' Choice nominees are among the most respected shops in the world. These cheese shops, offer a full range of both international and domestic artisanal cheeses. They are the destinations for serious cheese lovers and chefs who are in search of the best.
Neal's Yard Dairy
Filed under: Dining
The bakery opened its doors with the goal of bringing to Philadelphia the amazing breads, its owners, Wendy Smith Born and James Barrett, had tasted in Europe. With a single rack of fresh bread and a shoebox for a cash register, Born and Barrett launched Metropolitan Bakery in 1993. Fifteen years later, what began as an "experiment" between two friends-one a restaurant manager, the other a pastry chef-has grown into a Philadelphia institution.
The partners met while working at Philadelphia's legendary The White Dog Café, which was one of the pioneering institutions of the "buy local" movement. During their time at White Dog, the two friends often lamented how difficult it was to find breads of the quality they'd tasted in Europe. Indeed, the artisan baking process is a slow one. It takes up to two weeks for the natural yeast (made from fermented grapes and figs) to mature, and then another 48 hours for the dough to be mixed, shaped, pounded, left to rise in rye-dusted willow baskets, and then baked in steam-injected, stone-deck ovens. It's this painstaking process that produces the intense, earthy flavors, crackling crusts, and complex textures of artisanal breads.
Barrett's culinary training at the Culinary Institute of America and the Ecole Francaise de Boulangerie d'Aurillac in France, helped him refine the techniques of old-world baking. These experiences and years of trial and error impressed upon him the importance of natural ingredients, traditional methods, and above all, patience, in producing great breads.
In Philadelphia, Metropolitan Bakery has become more than just a great bakery. It is also part of the community. Its owners believe that jobs are the best way out of poverty. As a result, the bakery employs and trains recent parolees, mentors at-risk high school students, and is a co-sponsor of the new H.O.M.E. Page Café in the Free Library, which employs formerly homeless Philadelphians and raises money for Project H.O.M.E. The bakery also donates bread to shelters every week. And because supporting local farmers and purveyors is so important, Metropolitan's five Philadelphia shops offer locally made jams, cheeses, spreads and other specialties. Indeed, most of the products in its stores are made by local farmers, cheesemakers and chefs also trying to preserve artisan traditions. The 19th street store is a pick-up location for community-supported agriculture.
The company has locations in Chestnut Hill, University City, Old City, Rittenhouse Square, and the Reading Terminal Market. It also offers its homemade whole grain granola, coffee chocolate chip granola, pomegranate cinnamon granola, French berry rolls and more for purchase on its website.
Vote now for what you believe is the best of breed in Gourmet Foods. Readers' Choice Awards for Food will be announced on November 30th.
Gallery: More from Metropolitan Bakery