Barley wines.Photo: Zoe Singer
Fresh on gourmet shelves: Cara Cara navel oranges at their peak, mahogany-colored rice from the Camargue, and Crimson grapes from Chile.
What to Look For
Cara cara navel oranges are orange outside, pink in. They’re reaching their peak now, boasting sweet juice that has hints of raspberries and strawberries (widely available — look for the blue Cecelia packing sticker and choose fruit that feel heavy).
Among the most delectable of the many red rices proliferating on market shelves: mahogany-colored rice from the French Camargue, with a jasmine fragrance, caviar-like pop, and savory, buttery flavor; and wine-black Colusari rice from India, which is chewy and fruity with a whiff of cardamom (Colusari rice is $4.99 per pound and Camarguese rice is $6.99 per pound, both at Kalustyan’s).
Seedless red Crimson grapes are just in from Chile. Small, sweet, tart, and crisp, with a little spice, they’re a great snack for kids, and a nice fresh touch for rich winter cheese plates, as well as a perky addition to recipes like this Boston mackerel (widely available).
In January the past year’s barley wines are released. Technically beers, these brews are rich, sweet, and up to 15 percent alcohol. Aficionados age them upright at cellar temperature for years, but they’re quite drinkable immediately too. Smuttynose Wheat Wine Ale is a honey-colored wheat and barley mix with toasted hazelnut and floral flavors, a creamy texture, and a mocha finish. Below Decks, brewed by Heavy Seas, is a dark caramel brew with a deep, hoppy taste and notes of orange zest and syrupy malt. Both pair beautifully with blue cheese (Smuttynose is $6.95 for a 22-ounce bottle and Below Decks is $2.95 for a 12-ounce bottle, both available at Bierkraft).
Ripe for the Moment
Watermelon-red sour cherry stomp is cold-pressed, not stamped on, and tastes more like puckery-sweet sour cherries than most cherry pies. That’s because it’s 80 percent cherry juice, 20 percent apple juice. Red Jacket Orchards has been testing this vibrant juice for a couple of years and is just now bringing it to market year-round. Drink straight for a brain jolt, or cut with seltzer for a spritzer to brighten even the grayest day (a quart is $3.95 at Bierkraft, $5 at Marlow & Sons, $5.99 at Agata & Valentina; also available at the Greenmarket). — Zoe Singer