Shopping & Reviews

Mexican Artisanal Foods

Artisanal Mexican foods have become increasingly available in the United States in recent years. Here are some of the finest Mexican (and Mexican-style) products you can order straight to your home, with recommendations from some of the top authorities of the country's cuisine. —Gabriella Gershenson

Mexican vanilla is subtle and floral, yet rich. More than 400 families throughout Veracruz grow beans for Gaya–the largest pods are sold whole, the mid-sized are made into beautiful aromatherapy trinkets, and the smallest are used for extract. We add it to many things, like pastel des tres leches, flans, and smoothies. It’s humans who do the pollination. Some say it’s a spice of passion. Mexico’s a pretty passionate place. -Susana Trilling, chef, director, Seasons of My Heart, Aurora, Mexico Mexican Vanilla Extract, $9.95 for 4 ounces at

Usually, you have to add a lot to the water you cook beans in to make them actually taste like something. But these heirloom beans are so tasty that you only need to add a little flavor. The water gets a nice, thick consistency, like a sauce, and when cooked properly, the beans become like a puree with skin embracing it. I eat them with a little crema and some tortillas. This food is the base of our culture. -Enrique Olvera, chef-owner, Pujol, Mexico City Lila Beans, $5.50 for 1 pound at
People don't realize that parts of Mexico are perfect for growing olives. This olive oil is pressed in Baja, which is the desert. It's really clean and straightforward, and the minerals in the soil give it a distinct, mellow flavor. We've been using it in ceviches, Caesar salad, and anything that needs finishing oil. It's great stuff. -Ruben Ortega, pastry chef, Hugo's, Houston, Texas Extra Virgin Olive Oil, $9.99 for a 750ml bottle at
Delicia Jerezana Chocolate de Metate

I often hear the words “artisan” and “handmade” and take them lightly, but when I eat this chocolate, I can almost visualize the women who make it. They roast cacao beans over coal or wood, peel them, grind them in a metate, and mix in toasted canela (Mexican cinnamon) and sugar. I haven’t tasted something this real since I was a child in Mexico. -Fany Gerson, author, My Sweet Mexico (Ten Speed Press, 2010) Chocolate de Metate, $12 for a 500-gram bar. Email for more info.

Frozen Cuitlacoche

This Mexican corn fungus is as special as caviar, as special as truffles. It’s complex and addictive. Cuitlacoche is a seasonal product, but it doesn’t suffer from freezing–the particular, pungent aroma is still there. I love the affinity it has with cheese. I love to cook it with epazote–it has a musky flavor that goes well with cuitlacoche’s earthiness. -Maricel E. Presilla, author of Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America (W.W. Norton & Company, 2012) Frozen Cuitlacoche, $42 for 2 pounds at

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