There’s no shortage of great options for sourcing provisions and specialty items online these days. So many farmers and producers that previously sold only to restaurants are now selling directly to consumers, and companies that at one time specialized in certain goods are selling new items in response to demand. If you know where to look, there’s a lot to choose from. So we tapped the experts to see where they are buying food right now. Here’s where Christopher Kimball and some of our most trusted chefs and cookbook authors recommend.
Coffee: Tandem Coffee Roasters
We love this Portland, Maine, coffee roaster and bakery for its baked goods, created by baker Briana Holt, and also for its beans. Though the cafe has temporarily closed, you can still order coffee, roasted to order.
Flour: Maine Grains, One Mighty Mill
If you’re having trouble finding flour in your local supermarket, small-scale mills are a great place to shop. Christopher Kimball recommends Maine Grains, which sells everything from organic stone-ground whole-wheat and pastry flours to organic heritage red fife wheat flour. They also sell oats, farro and other grains.
Boston chef Ana Sortun of Sarma and Sofra—both currently doing takeout, including some pantry staples—recommends Lynn, Massachusetts-based One Mighty Mill—though you currently have to pick up from them. “I am one of their biggest fans,” she says.
Another good option for scoring flour is to contact your local bakery, who may have excess on hand or know where to go.
Yeast: La Boîte
For the same reason that flour is hard to come by, yeast is, too. That’s why chef and spice master Lior Lev Sercarz recently added dry instant yeast to his New York City-based store La Boîte, where he specializes in spice blends. It’s part of a new online pantry section, which also includes cookie mixes, date syrup, tahini and more.
Rice, Polenta and Other Grains: La Boîte, Anson Mills, Yolélé Foods
Sercarz also just started selling spiced rice, which is exactly what it sounds like: rice mixed with salt and a spice blend. Pre-seasoned, high-quality rice, ready in 15 minutes.
Another good option for rice and a favorite among chefs is South Carolina-based Anson Mills, which sells heritage grains like Carolina Gold Rice, as well as handmade coarse polenta, corn grits, hominy corn and more.
For a grain you might not yet have tried, Yolélé Foods, owned by chef Pierre Thiam, sells fonio: a gluten-free ancient grain from West Africa that’s as good in grain bowls as it is for hot cereal.
Beans, Lentils and More Legumes: Rancho Gordo, Laura Soybeans
Christopher Kimball and cookbook author Nik Sharma agree that a great source for beans and lentils is Napa Valley-based Rancho Gordo, which specializes in heirloom bean varieties. (They’ve also just recently published a book, described as “part gardening manual, part field guide, part cookbook.”)
Cookbook author and culinary instructor Andrea Nguyen describes Laura Soybeans from the Chambers family in Iowa, as “the best for tofu, soy milk and or just eating as a cooked bean. The potlikker is tasty,” she says.
Meat: Happy Valley Meat, The J&E General
New York City chefs Sohui Kim of The Good Fork and Insa, and Sam Yoo of Golden Diner both recommend Brooklyn-based Happy Valley Meat, which just opened its wholesale business to sell direct to consumer.
Though for now Kim is simply spreading the word, she hopes to use The Good Fork to help distribute cuts from Happy Valley Meat, in addition to produce and other provisions. “I think it is a duty of the restaurants so long as we are shuttered to make sure the foodways stay open and that our customers can still get the high quality meat that we use at our restaurants direct to their house,” she says.
In upstate New York, butchers Erika Nakamura and Jocelyn Guest launched The J&E General last week. It’s a subscription service for ethically raised meat from farmers who previously sold to restaurants and don’t have direct access to consumers. If you’re not within their delivery parameters—which covers all of New York City, Westchester, Northern New Jersey and Long Island—they say, “Get together a group of five and we'll make it work. No one is left out!”
Seafood: Sea to Table, New England Seafood Cooperative
There are also a number of good places to order ethically raised seafood. Longtime leader in sustainable seafood Sea to Table ships nationally and carries a wide variety of domestic, wild-caught fish.
Produce: Hudson Valley Harvest, Frog Hollow Farm
As for produce, “It’s spring,” chef Kim reminds us. “We’re going to be coming across so much great produce in the coming weeks. It’s time to celebrate it. Pandemic be damned.”
Kim says that Hudson Valley Harvest, which provided produce for her Brooklyn restaurant, is now selling straight to customers with a “buyer’s club” option, meant to be shared among neighbors.
Sortun says “the investment in Frog Hollow Farm fruit [which ships nationwide] is always a good idea, especially in the summer and fall. It is beyond delicious in every way.”
Some of Everything: Baldor Foods, Chef’s Warehouse
Sercarz points out that longtime food distributor for restaurants Baldor Foods has added home delivery, selling everything from meat and produce to dairy and pantry items. Chef’s Warehouse has done the same and is donating 10 percent of retail sales profits to restaurant workers in need.
Mexican Staples: MexGrocer, Guelaguetza
For Mexican food, Nguyen recently used San Diego-based MexGrocer. “The inventory is pretty standard, but you can glean cool info from their item write-ups,” she says. For mole specifically, she loves Los Angeles-based restaurant Guelaguetza, which sells jars of its artisanal mole on its website (cooking instructions included).
Southeast Asian Staples: ImportFood Thai Supermarket
For Southeast Asian condiments and even some fresh produce, Nguyen is a longtime fan of Idaho-based, family-run ImportFood. Uses and recipes are also listed on their website.
Hand Pies: B&G Handmade Fried Pies
If you don’t consider hand pies an essential, the ones from 70-year-old, North Carolina-based B&G may change your mind. They come recommended by chef Vivian Howard, who visits B&G on her new TV show, “Somewhere South.”
Bitters: Boston Shaker
Finally, if you’re mixing your own drinks these days, cocktail supply store Boston Shaker delivers bitters, as well as cocktail kits and all the tools you’ll need for at-home bartending.
For more ideas, Food & Wine has a nice list of small-scale mills for sourcing flour, and Eater recently put together a comprehensive list of international pantry items, from condiments and olive oils to dried fruit. Eater also has compiled long, city-specific lists of restaurant wholesalers selling directly to consumers now. New businesses are opening or pivoting every day, so keep your eye out and reach out to your local restaurants for suggestions, too. As chef Kim puts it, “There’s still a great amount of meats and produce and delicious things to be had out there. The foodways have not stopped because restaurants are closed.”