2016 Food Awards

Over the past year, our editors have canvassed the South, from Atlanta to Austin, sipping and sampling hundreds of artisan-made products; we've finally narrowed it down to one delicious list. Here are our favorites.

By Hannah Hayes
Best Spreads, Dips, and Condiments
Robbie Caponetto

New, improved, surprising spins on Southern pantry staples

Sweet Dixie Bar-B-Que Sauce
Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
Nashville, TN
$6.95 for 14 oz.; martinsbbqjoint.com
Not too thick, not too thin, and just the right balance of tart vinegar to sweet brown sugar.

Orange Chile de Arbol Marmalade
Austin, TX
$10 for 6 oz.; confituras.net
Texas oranges and dried chiles add sweet heat to biscuits. Try stirring it into a cocktail or vinaigrette.

Original Hot Sauce
Southern Art
Baton Rouge, LA
$6.99 for 8.5 fl. oz.; southernartco.com
Korean Southerner Kelly Woo bottled up the best of both cultures in this slow-burning sauce.

Korean Gochujang Original Sesame
Born with Seoul
Kansas City, MO
$8 for 9.5 oz.; bornwithseoul.com
Use this Korean pepper sauce for a hot-salty sweet combo in marinades.

Louisiana Molasses Mustard
Jay D’s
Baton Rouge, LA
$9 for 12.7 oz.; jayducote.com
Tailgating king Jay Ducote’s mustard swaps honey for tangy molasses and cayenne.

Original Lil' Moo
Sweet Grass Dairy
Thomasville, GA
$8.50 for 8 oz.; sweetgrassdairy.com
Smooth, grass-fed milk cream cheese that spreads better than butter on a bagel.

Cocktail Sauce
Valine’s Famous
Mount Pleasant, SC
$15.90 for 9.6 oz.; valinesfamous.com
Pleasantly zippy, this seafood dipping sauce has a crisp balance of horseradish, lime juice, and tomato.

Red Pepper Jam
Jammy Yummy
Miami, FL
$8 for 8 oz.; jammyyummy.com
We’ve traded our typical pepper jelly for this, made with fresh red bell peppers.

Vanilla Peanut Sorghum Butter
Big Spoon Roasters
Durham, NC
$13.95 for 10 oz.; bigspoonroasters.com
Coarsely ground with rum-like sorghum syrup, this is grown-up peanut butter.

Shrimp Dip
Big T Coastal Provisions
Mount Pleasant, SC
$8 for 8 oz.; bigtcoastalprovisions.com
Rich, creamy, and loaded with chunks of fresh South Carolina shrimp.

Best Summer Beer
Robbie Caponetto

Some of the South's hottest breweries have given us 10 refreshing ways to beat the heat

Creature Comforts Brewing Co. Tropicália
Athens, GA
Style: IPA
Like pineapples, mangos, peaches, and oranges squeezed into a can. This IPA is juicy, not bitter.

Prairie Artisan Ales Americana
Krebs, OK
Style: Saison
The latest from this beloved Oklahoma brewery: a fruity, funky farmhouse ale with melon, apricot, and grapefruit notes.

Good People Brewing Company Bearded Lady
Birmingham, AL
Style: Wheat
A soft wheat beer with a sunny disposition that comes from its mellow Meyer lemon-like tartness. Pair it with a tomato salad.

Fullsteam Summer Basil
Durham, NC
Style: Herbal Saison
Locally harvested basil lends a refreshing peppery flourish.

Blackberry Farm Classic Saison
Walland, TN
Style: Saison
Crisp and complex, this versatile saison can dress up for a multi-course dinner party or down for a backyard cookout.

Bayou Teche Brewing Ragin' Cajuns Ale
Arnaudville, LA
Style: Kölsch
Brewed with Louisiana-grown rice that keeps it snappy and slightly sweet, it’s a must-serve at your next crawfish boil.

Wiseacre Brewing Co. Tiny Bomb
Memphis, TN
Style: Pilsner
Champagne-style frothiness with a touch of Tennessee wildflower honey.

Cigar City Brewing Tampa-Style Lager
Tampa, FL
Style: Lager
A dry, citrus blossom-scented lager brewed for Florida humidity.

Big Bend Brewing Hefeweizen
Alpine, TX
Style: Hefeweizen
An easy drinker from remote West Texas that’s light yet deep with spices, such as cloves.

Westbrook Brewing Co. Gose
Mount Pleasant, SC
Style: Gose
Limeade-like sourness meets sea breeze saltiness in this margarita-like brew.

Best Spirits and Mixers
Robbie Caponetto

Make room next to the bourbon for these blue ribbon bottles

Balcones Distilling
Waco, TX
Not a rum, nor a brandy, this uncategorized spirit will deliver deep honey and fig-fueled sweetness to sangria.

Rose Cordial
El Guapo Bitters
New Orleans, LA
$15 for 8.5 oz.; elguapobitters.com
This Greek-style, naturally pink syrup tastes like a breezy walk through a rose garden. Mix it with gin and lemon juice.

100 First Taste
Chattanooga Whiskey Co.
Chattanooga, TN
While most unaged whiskeys are harsh, this one has malted grains for a mild and slightly sweet finish.

Banyan Reserve Vodka
St. Petersburg Distillery
St. Petersburg, FL
Sophisticated not saccharine, sip it straight or choose it when making your next Moscow Mule or dirty martini.

New World Gin
St. Augustine Distillery
St. Augustine, FL
Herbs and lemon peel, ground with a vintage burr hand grinder, give this gin megawatt brightness that elevates the classic gin and tonic or Tom Collins.

Alabama Single Malt Whiskey
John Emerald Distilling
Opelika, AL
The taste of smoked peach and pecan woods takes you back to a nostalgic place, like an old family summer cabin.

Lindsay Bitters
Crude Bitters and Sodas
Raleigh, NC
$12 for 2 oz.; crudebitters.com
These dynamic drops with toasty pecan, floral magnolia, and hot habanero will add easy complexity to any cocktail.

Sweet Tea Syrup
Jack Rudy Cocktail Co.
Charleston, SC
$16 for 17 oz.; jackrudycocktailco.com
Brooks Reitz has succeeded in capturing sweet tea’s true taste. Try a splash of this instead of sugar in an old fashioned.

Best Ice Cream
Robbie Caponetto

Unique flavors, local ingredients, and small-batch scoops that you can get by the pint

Fresh Mint Chip
High Road Craft Creamery
Atlanta, GA
$8 for 1 pint; highroadcraft.com
A fresh minty base speckled with chunks of dark chocolate.

Roasted Banana with Salted Peanuts
Southern Craft Creamery
Marianna, FL
$8 for 1 pint; southerncraftcreamery.com
Think of this as a pint of bananas foster peppered with salty peanuts.

Watermelon Sorbet
Honeysuckle Gelato
Atlanta, GA
$7 for 1 pint; honeysucklegelato.com
As close as you’ll get to sinking your teeth into a juicy slice—this refreshing sorbet captures watermelon’s real taste.

Delta Gravel Road
Sweet Magnolia Gelato Co.
Clarksdale, MS
$8 for 1 pint; sweetmagnoliagelato.com
Meet Mississippi’s Rocky Road: smooth, thick, and studded with Delta pecans.

Best Coffee
Robbie Caponetto

The Southern-roasted bean scene is on the rise and tastier than ever

Sugar Skull Blend
Onyx Coffee Lab
Fayetteville, AR
$14.50 for 12 oz.; onyxcoffeelab.com
Chocolate, candied walnuts, and orange zest create a blend inspired by Mexican candy.

Single Origin Beans
Velo Coffee Roasters
Chattanooga, TN
$14 for 12 oz.; velocoffee.com
Velo rotates a carefully curated selection of fresh, in-season flavors.

White Lightning Espresso
Octane Coffee, Atlanta, GA
$13 for 12 oz.; octanecoffee.com
This espresso blend takes well to cold brewing for hot summer mornings.

Petunias Blend
Revelator Coffee Company
Birmingham, AL
$16 for 12 oz.; revelatorcoffee.com
From the South’s newest coffee shop chain, sip this sumptuous blend of red cherry, toasted nuts, and cocoa at home.

Strawberry Fields
King Bean Coffee Roasters
Charleston, SC
$17.99 for 12 oz.; kingbean.com
King Bean’s lightly roasted, velvety blend made with sundried beans is coffee’s version of strawberry milk.

Even More Winners
Robbie Caponetto

From pimiento to pickles, a few flavorful twists on Southern classics that won us over

Best Cane Syrup: Poirier's Pure Cane Syrup
Poirier's Cane Syrup
Youngsville, LA
$10 for 8 oz.; realcanesyrup.com
Straight from bayou country, drizzle Charles Poirier’s small batch, liquid bronze syrup on cornbread.

Best Honey: Gold Reserve Sourwood Honey
Savannah Bee Company
Savannah, GA
$112 for 20 oz.; savannahbee.com
With hints of maple, think of this pristine, Appalachian-harvested honey like a rare, decades-aged bourbon.

Best Oil: Pecan Oil
Pecan Ridge Plantation
Bainbridge, GA
$15 for 8.5 oz.; pecanridgeplantation.com
Brothers Rob and Eric Cohen’s pecan oil has an almost browned butter flavor, making everything from vinaigrettes to pesto taste richer.

Best Tea: Green Yaupon Tea
Cat Spring Tea, Cat Spring, TX
$9.95 for 1 oz. loose leaf; catspringtea.com
Texan sisters Abianne Falla and JennaDee Detro harvest leaves from the native yaupon holly trees growing on their family’s farm to produce this earthy, tart green tea. Enjoy it iced or hot.

Best Cookie: Nashville Original Cookies
Christie Cookie Co., Nashville, TN
$26.99 for tin of 12; christiecookies.com
These softies in assorted flavors—chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, white chocolate macadamia nut—stacked in a tall tin are worth the splurge.

Best Pimiento Cheese: Spicy White Cheddar Pimento Cheese
MyThreeSons Gourmet, Greensboro, NC
$6 for 10 oz.; mtsgourmet.com
Thick with a kick: extra-sharp white Cheddar cheese paired with generous chunks of jalapeños and pimientos.

Best Tomato Sauce: Piedmont Pomodoro Sauce
Nello's Sauce, Raleigh, NC
$29.99 for 3 (14-oz.) jars; nellositaly.com
An herb-infused tomato sauce that's just as delicious served over pasta as broiled fish.

Best Product: Bread & Butter Deluxe
Austin, TX
$10 for 6 oz.; poguemahonepickles.com
We're picky about pickles, but Pogue Mahone's sweet and sour bread-and-butter-style slices satisfied our sensibilities.

Best Rice: Long Grain White Rice
Delta Blues Rice
Ruleville, MS
$4.50 for 1 lb.; deltabluesrice.com
Fourth-generation farmer David Arant, Jr.'s nutty, Mississippi white rice has become a staple side dish for our weeknight meals.

Best Confection: Smoked Nib Brittle
Olive & Sinclair Chocolate Co.
Nashville, TN
$14.99 for 6 oz.; oliveandsinclair.com
Cocoa nibs—bathed in the haze of country ham legend Allan Benton's smokehouse—add an extra layer of depth to this buttery, sweet brittle.

Best Charcuterie: Tartufo Salami
Olli Salumeria, Mechanicsville, VA
$44.49 for 15 oz.; olli.com
Your meat-and-cheese board just got an impressive upgrade: This salami is made with meat from pasture-raised pigs plus intense black truffles.

Best Grits: Stoned Happy Grits!
Barkley's Mill, Weaverville, NC
$21 for 2-lb. bag; barkleysmill.com
Made from Appalachian-grown Hickory King Dent white corn, these grits soak up sauces like a sponge.

Best Caramel: True Ewe Caramel Spread
Dayspring Dairy, Gallant, AL
$14 for 10 oz.; dayspringdairy.com
Drizzle this decadent caramel spread over vanilla ice cream with a sprinkle of sea salt, or on fried tortillas with cinnamon.

Best Seasoning: Red Mash Sea Salt
Bulls Bay Saltworks
McClellanville, SC
$10 for 2.5-oz. grinder; bullsbaysaltworks.com
Bulls Bay Lowcountry sea salt mashes up with Red Clay Hot Sauce's leftover Fresno peppers for the ultimate seasoning soulmate to sweet corn.

Best Snack: Texas Kick Beef Jerky
44 Farms, Cameron, TX
$29.95 for 4 (2-oz.) boxes; 44steaks.com
Made from sustainably raised Texas cattle, this small-batch jerky is thick, chewy, and lightly smoked—and it ends with a fiery finish.

Best Soda: Grapefruit Elderflower Soda
Cannonborough Beverage Company, North Charleston, SC
$10 for 750 ml.; cannonbevco.com
Fresh-pressed ruby red grapefruit juice with berry-like elderflower makes for an elegant take on a citrus soda, minus the sugar high.