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On Our Radar: Culinary Subscription Boxes

Laura Siciliano-Rosen May 3, 2014

Carnivore Club subscription box contents

A new trend in the culinary world is making it a lot easier to taste local delicacies from far-flung  places: food-filled subscription boxes that show up at your doorstep every month or so. While we’ll always be proponents of going out and tracking food down, we have to admit it’s super fun to get a box of food in the mail. Here are two that we recently tried.

CARNIVORE CLUB 
https://carnivoreclub.co; ; $50/month for members

Toronto-based Carnivore Club bills itself as “the ultimate meat of the month club for discerning individuals,” which is to say people who are interested in receiving handsomely boxed monthly shipments of high-quality, artisanal charcuterie from purveyors around the world. We received two boxes from Carnivore Club: one built around biltong, a centuries-old South African cured-beef snack, and the other around handcrafted European-style salamis. Both were sourced from the U.S., in New Jersey (where a South African opened Braaitime, a biltong shop) and Oregon (where Olympic Provisions crafts locally sourced charcuterie) respectively, but aimed to transport its taster elsewhere.

Biltong, dried cured beef from South Africa
Biltong peri-peri, from Carnivore Club

We’d never tried biltong before, so that box was especially intriguing to us. Consisting of a slab of slow-cured biltong, a bag of biltong chili bites, two droëwors (a dried beef sausage with nutmeg, clove, and coriander), and sliced biltong peri peri (seasoned dried beef pieces), the meat was unlike anything we’d had before. We especially loved the spicy stuff—the salty chili bites and the milder, drier, wonderfully soft biltong peri peri—and appreciated Carnivore Club’s enclosed descriptions of each meat, which also included suggested cheese and drink pairings. A crisp pale ale hit the spot for us.

Our salami box was an eclectic mix of four—well, technically three—salamis with components as varied as orange peel-fennel (inspired by the Greeks) and cayenne-pimenton (an excellent chorizo, from northern Spain). The third was a simple French-style sausage, just pork and salt. The fourth? Chocolate “salami,” made of ganache, candied fruits, nuts, spices, and spirits, with powdered sugar acting as casing. Unbelievably rich and delicious, and this one gets bonus points for creativity.

Carnivore Club salami box
The salami box (chocolate salami at right)

We didn’t love every piece of meat the Carnivore Club sent us—we wouldn’t exactly call ourselves carnivores either, to be fair—but we did love that these boxes provide a great excuse to get friends together for a picnic: Just add wine and cheese and you’re all set. Unless, of course, you’re not one for sharing. Then you should eat it all yourself within about two weeks.


TRY THE WORLD
http://www.trytheworld.com; $45 per box, delivered every two months

This subscription-box startup, based in New York, aims to bring “the best gourmet food and cultural finds from across the globe,” right to your home. Currently the company offers a box from Paris, Tokyo, and Rio de Janeiro—they’re delivered in that order if you sign up—with more on the way. The founders employ a team of travelers and local experts to hand-pick the contents of each box, promising that while all items are USFDA-approved, they are all difficult to find in the United States.

We received the Paris box, pretty and wax-sealed. The packaging is quite nice, as are the beautifully designed, laminated notecards describing each enclosed item. There are also cards for Paris tips—a few recommendations for cultural and dining stops—classic French films, a “Parisian playlist” of songs, and a French poem, all intended to supplement the foods in the box in evoking the spirit of Paris.

Try the World Paris box
A few of the items in Try the World's Paris box

As for the gourmet finds themselves, they include nougat bars and small jars of jam, salted caramel lollipops, chestnut spread, hot chocolate powder, fine teas, and a bag of fleur de sel. We couldn’t help but be a little underwhelmed by this spread, likely because we were expecting more savory items—foodstuffs we could open a bottle of wine and go picnic with, more like Carnivore Club above. These items were mostly sweet and quite dainty (the fleur de sel was by far our favorite, and most used, item). Additionally, they seemed more broadly French, rather than distinctly Parisian—the lollipops come from Normandy; the nougat bars from Montelimar.

We loved the idea of this, as we tend to bring home culinary souvenirs in droves from places we visit, whether pimiento cheese from Charleston, stroopwafel from Amsterdam, or, uh, roasted ants from Colombia. But to us these snacks weren’t as transportive as we would have hoped. To a person thinking of these boxes solely as exotic treats from a faraway land, however—or looking for a cool, unexpected Mother’s Day gift—it would probably be a lot of fun. For $45, anyway.

Boxes were sent to us courtesy of Carnivore Club and Try the World; all opinions are our own.

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