North Carolina has a lot to love: mountains, beaches, the Duke Blue Devils (sorry, other schools). I was plenty excited to experience all these things when I moved to Durham for college. But if you’d told me I’d be entering my senior year addicted to tea-flavored peanut butter, crazy flavors of hummus and something called guayusa? I probably would have rolled my eyes in true un-enlightened teenager fashion, of course.
Three years later, I have seen the light. I now bring to you a list of 13 unique products made in North Carolina that have basically changed my life. If you’re looking for a reason to visit good ol’ “Cackalacky,” as we sometimes call it, a happily filled grocery basket is calling your name.
1. Big Spoon Roasters Nut Butters
It’s rare that such a perfectly delicate combination of freshness and flavor can be found in a little glass jar. Big Spoon makes their smooth, handcrafted butters from a variety of types of nuts. My personal favorite is Chai Spice – it’s so good that my family members all request jars of it when I come home for the holidays!
2. Brük’s Bars
Do you ever find yourself wanting a quick snack that’s free of gluten, dairy, soy and eggs? Not that picky? Then what about a healthful, whole-food nutrition bar that tastes amazing, too? Brük’s Bars have got everyone covered, regardless of dietary preferences. One of the company’s founders is a strength and conditioning coach for UNC Charlotte Athletics, so you can trust these bars to nourish your body through workouts and beyond!
#SpoonTip: The cherry espresso flavor is to die for.
Beans roasted by this Durham-based company are making their way into cafes across the country thanks to their quality, taste and sustainable production. Counter Culture takes great care to act responsibly in all steps of the coffee production chain, from buying directly from farmers, to supporting baristas with educational programs. Types of coffee sold will vary seasonally, but you can always count on Counter Culture to bring out the best of any given bean with their roasts.
4. MATI Healthy Energy Drink
Originally created by a Duke student right in her dorm room, MATI energy drinks are bubbly, fruity and powered by a tea leaf called “guayusa.” All three flavors – citrus, cherry, and tropical – will provide you with even more buzz than a cup of coffee (but without the crash).
5. Escazu Artisan Chocolates
This is chocolate-making at its finest. Escazu directly sources their cacao beans from farmers which are roasted, ground and crafted into this small-batch goodness. They have various beautiful creations from their anything-but-standard bars to precious truffles. When you try this chocolate, pay close attention to the ingredients they put on spotlight in each creation, including sea salt, roasted cacao nibs or goat’s milk.
6. Ello Raw Guilt-Free Dessert Bites
It’s always a beautiful moment when you find something healthy and sweet without the compromise. Ello Raw is here to feed both your mental and physical health with adorable raw truffles in three flavors: Cinnamon Sugar Donut, Goji Cacao Brownie and Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Warning: these little nuggets of perfection are highly addictive!
7. Goat Lady Dairy Cheeses
As a passionate cheese enthusiast, nothing gets me hype quite like a well-made chèvre. Goat Lady Dairy offers pearly goats’ milk logs rolled in a variety of seasonings, as well as a full range of cows’ and goats’ milk cheeses that express North Carolinian tradition with a wide range of aromatic fermentation techniques. I hear there’s one that tastes just like bacon…
8. Buchi Kombucha
It’s no shock that this craft-made kombucha, with its spectrum of crazy flavors, comes from the beautiful, crunchy-granola mountain town of Asheville. Whether you’re looking for a tonic to reset your digestive system, or just want a flavorful, bubbly refreshment, Buchi will bring your taste buds to life. My favorite flavor is “Avonlea” – made from orange, mango, and sea buckthorn!
When it comes to barbecue, it’s a well-known fact that the sauce makes the dish. If you’re feeling daring, try out Num Num Sauce next time you grill. The mustard-based sauce comes in mild and hotter breeds to suit every taste. If you’re not a big carnivore, try it on grilled sweet potatoes or veggie burgers!
10. Tonya’s Cookies
Tonya’s Cookies have more to them than meets the eye – bite into a crispy, chewy Pecan Crisp cookie and you’ll understand the glory of a Southern grandmother’s homemade pecan pie, conveniently available in resealable bags thanks to Tonya. Be sure to try all of the many flavors, and say goodbye to self control– the cookies will win.
11. Farmer’s Daughter Fruit Preserves
The colors are bright, but there’s nothing artificial here: with less sugar than most jams and all-local fruits inside, these small-batch preserves are made by a former highly acclaimed pastry chef. Farmer’s Daughter is a huge hit at farmers’ markets (makes sense, I suppose), where they sell their fruit preserves as well as a variety of pickled veggies.
12. Slingshot Coffee Company Cold Brews
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Slingshot Coffee Co. makes a mean cold brew. Whether you go for the ready-to-drink or the concentrate, you’re guaranteed to have a deeply intimate experience with whichever beans are brewed inside your bottle, thanks to this company’s spot-on extractions.
13. Roots Hummus
There is hummus, and then there is Roots Hummus. Asheville brings the heat again with these self-proclaimed “microbrews of hummus.” I mean, just feast your eyes on these flavors – Hot Chipotle, Thai Coconut Curry, Mango-Sriracha? Busting open a new container of Roots is often the highlight of my week. Never was there a better protein-and-flavor-filled substance for dunking baby carrots. Other hummuses (hummii?), bow down.
Most of these products can be found at local specialty stores or co-ops, Whole Foods stores in the area or online from Relay Foods.