We are excited to offer something new at Artful Home: food!
Why food? We think that small-batch food artisans are more than just chefs or bakers—they are culinary artists. Just like other artists, they pair a profound mastery of their craft with the inspiration and creativity to make something extraordinary for you to enjoy.
Of course, offering food for sale means that we get to enjoy it, too. As one of Artful Home’s copywriters, I was happy to have the chance to sample the goodies in our gift boxes (strictly for research purposes, of course…how else could I describe the flavor of the chocolate?). To me, each creation stood out with memorable flavors that far exceeded those of any mass-produced variety.
Gourmet Food from the Heartland
Nearly all of our food artisans hail from our home state, Wisconsin (and one is from neighboring Minnesota). There’s good reason for this—it’s more than local pride! The Dairy State is home to an abundance of groundbreaking small-scale farmers, growers, and makers, from organic vegetable farmers and cranberry growers to heritage meat producers and beekeepers. Combine this with a variety of rich food traditions and a history of innovation and entrepreneurship, and it’s no wonder Wisconsin is such fertile ground for a thriving artisanal food scene.
About the Artisans
Our gift boxes are curated by Madison-based artisans Quince and Apple. I was curious to find out more about these renowned preserves-makers and the rest of the culinary artists behind the food. Learning more about each maker—and the incredible amount of creativity and care that they put into their offerings—helped me appreciate the food even more.
Quince and Apple
Left: Quince and Apple founders Matt and Clare. Right: A jar of Fig with Black Tea preserves. Photos from Quince and Apple
Matt and Clare, the husband-and-wife duo behind Quince and Apple, craft small-batch preserves and syrups with distinctive, nuanced flavors. They use local ingredients whenever possible, sweetening them only as much as needed. As they explain, “We focus on bringing out the natural fruit flavors, not covering them up or preserving them with lots of sugar.”
Every step of their process is done by hand, from peeling the fruit to filling the jars. “This artisan-centered approach allows us to always use the highest quality fresh produce, adjusting for the differences in season and variety,” Clare and Matt explain. “It’s not the easiest way, but it means that we touch and evaluate every single jar to ensure each one is up to our exacting quality standards.”
With flavors such as Fig and Black Tea or Pear with Honey and Ginger, their preserves are scrumptious paired with cheese and crackers or eaten straight from the jar with a spoon (don’t ask me how I know that). As the makers exclaim, “We only make flavors we truly love. We hope you love them too!”
Left: Marieke and Rolf Penterman and their five children with a wheel of cheese and the cows that make it possible. Right: Freshly sliced Marieke Gouda. Photos from Marieke Gouda.
Wisconsin is home to some of the top artisanal cheesemakers in the country. One such cheesemaker is Marieke Gouda, a family farm specializing in traditional Dutch-style gouda.
Marieke Penterman grew up on a dairy farm in the Netherlands. She and her husband, Rolf, emigrated to the USA in the early 2000s and started their own dairy farm in Thorp, Wisconsin. Missing the cheese from back home, Marieke decided to learn how to make it herself.
Today, the Marieke Gouda cheesemaking facility is located right across from the Penterman dairy farm. As the Pentermans explain, “Exceptional milk makes impressive cheese. We have our cows to thank for that…Early in the morning, our cows provide the cheesemakers with the best quality fresh milk. Cheese is made within five hours of the cows being milked.”
The cheesemaking process itself is complex and hands-on, from packing and brining the curd to flipping the wheels and brushing them with a breathable coating while they cure. The hard work is worth it: the Pentermans have won more than 100 awards. When I had the chance to taste the creamy young gouda included in our gift box, it became clear to me why it’s received so many awards and accolades!
Left: Potter’s Crackers co-founder, Nancy Potter. Right: Potter’s crackers pair well with cheese, fruit, and more. Photos from Potter’s Crackers.
What’s cheese without crackers? Though they’re a vital part of any snack tray, crackers are often considered little more than vehicles for other flavors. Yet the right cracker can make all the difference. And Potter’s organic artisanal crackers are delicious enough to make you consider having them as the focal point on your next cheese tray!
The company was started by Peter Potter Weber, a food science graduate, and his mother, Nancy Potter, a former bakery owner. They noticed that Wisconsin was full of remarkable artisanal cheeses, yet lacked exceptional, handcrafted crackers to accompany them. So Peter and Nancy teamed up to create what they describe as “a cracker that truly delivers the flavors of Wisconsin to you.”
Potter’s crackers are handmade in Madison, Wisconsin, using milled whole-wheat flour, local milk and butter, and a variety of seasonal flavors. “Our mission is to sustainably produce high quality, organic crackers for the great people of Wisconsin and beyond,” they explain. Tasty enough for straight-up snacking, these savory crackers also bring out the flavor of their toppings without overpowering—a balancing act that is no small feat to achieve.
Left: Brian Fredericksen, founder of Ames Farm. Right: A jar of single-source honey ready to be enjoyed. Photos from Ames Farm.
One day, Ames Farm founder Brian Fredericksen was standing in his kitchen eating fresh dandelion honey when he had a realization: every batch of honey produced by a hive was unique to a particular time, place, and floral source. Dandelions in the spring, basswood trees in summer, prairie flowers in fall: each resulted in honey with distinctive flavors, aromas, and colors. However, most honey on the market was a mixture of different batches, canceling out these nuances. Brian wanted others to experience honey’s rich variations, and so Ames Farm Single-Source Honey was born.
Brian explains, “Ames Farm is nationally recognized for producing single-source honey, which we define as raw honey from one location, one hive, and one time period…This level of micro-extracting and detailed traceability from hive to jar is unmatched.”
Today, Ames Farm maintains 18 bee yards throughout central and southern Minnesota. Each jar of single-source honey has the location, hive number, and floral source printed on the label. The exact honey included in each of our gift boxes will vary—a bit of surprise to add to the fun!
Left: Gail Ambrosius stands outside her shop in Madison, Wisconsin. Right: Gail Ambrosius’s cherry almond chocolate bar is rich and delicious. Photos by Gail Ambrosius.
“I suppose it was fate that my parents, Ray and Lucille Ambrosius, gave me the perfect name for a chocolatier,” says Gail Ambrosius. She developed a passion for chocolate over the course of her lifetime, sparked by her mother’s homemade pudding and deepened by the discovery of Parisian patisseries on a school trip to France. In 2004, she opened her own chocolate shop in Madison, Wisconsin, fulfilling a lifelong dream.
Having grown up on a farm, Gail continually finds herself drawn to the cacao farms that make her business possible. She has traveled to Ecuador, Columbia, Peru, and Costa Rica to get to know the farmers who grow cacao and learn the story behind the beans. In this way, Gail is able to thank the farmers and let them know how much her customers love their chocolate.
Gail explains her approach to chocolate: “In my opinion, good chocolate is its own food group. A little bit feeds the soul and fires the imagination. I want people to experience the real thing…Real chocolate is strong, earthy, fruity, floral…a whole world that unfolds on your palate.” Her cherry almond chocolate bar is a great way to experience real chocolate at its finest.
East Shore Specialty Foods
Left: Jeri Mesching, founder of East Shore Specialty Foods. Right: Jeri’s renowned Mustard for Cheese is a delicious and versatile spread. Photos by East Shore Specialty Foods.
East Shore Specialty Foods was started by Jeri Mesching, a teacher, homemaker, and innovative home cook from Hartland, Wisconsin. In 1986, once her children were raised, she decided to fill the void with her second love, cooking.
She created her signature Sweet and Tangy Mustard and founded her business, which was named for the lakeside location of her family home. She began to sell her mustard and hold tastings at gourmet food stores. She says, “Watching people eat and enjoy something I made was all the encouragement I needed to keep me moving forward.” Today, she offers a variety of gourmet mustards, specialty pretzels, and old-fashioned dessert sauces, all created in small batches by a small, dedicated staff—including her two grown children.
I tasted her Mustard for Cheese, and I must say, it truly is phenomenal with cheese—especially Marieke Gouda! But why stop there? Try it as a dip for pretzels, dolloped on a sandwich, spread on crackers…the options are endless for this delectable condiment.
Treat Bake Shop
Left: Sarah Marx Felder, owner and founder of Treat Bake Shop. Right: Sarah’s signature spiced pecans. Photos from Treat Bake Shop.
When Sarah Marx Felder opened Treat Bake Shop in 2011, she already had a published cookbook under her belt—not to mention years of experience in the food business, from working in restaurants to developing new recipes for culinary magazines.
Her signature spiced pecans were inspired by a favorite recipe from a childhood friend. She asked her friend to teach her how to make them, and once she did, Sarah discovered that they made great holiday gifts (it didn’t hurt that her future husband raved about them, too). When she took the plunge to open her own bakery, it was a natural fit to start selling her pecans.
Growing up, Sarah apprenticed with the nationally known spice family, the Penzeys—and she continues to use their spices in her creations. She explains that her Milwaukee, Wisconsin, bake shop is focused on “sourcing the highest-quality ingredients to produce unforgettable baked goods delivered with exceptional customer service.” She describes her signature creation as “a little bit spicy, a little bit salty, a little bit sweet…” A treat indeed!
Left: Infusion Chocolates owner Ann Culligan (left) and lead chocolatier Alyssa Haskins (right). Photo from Infusion Chocolates. Right: A box of handcrafted truffles in a tempting array of flavors and colors.
Infusion Chocolates owner Ann Culligan has spent the last 25 years working in the specialty food industry, developing an obsession for fine food and drink. As she puts it, she is passionate about “folding simple indulgences into everyday life.” And I can think of few indulgences better than handcrafted chocolate!
Along with lead chocolatier Alyssa Haskins and a small team of chocolate lovers, Ann crafts truffles that are renowned not only for their incredible flavor but also their sheer beauty. The company also offers a variety of other treats, including drinking chocolate.
Ann explains, “We start by using the highest quality and freshest ingredients available. From there, we aren’t afraid to have a little fun. So, while we will always have the classic truffles, we delight in creating unexpected flavor combinations.” Honey Lavender or Thai Peanut Butter, anyone?