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New website Gilt Taste: high-end food for foodies

The website features the recipes and writings of Ruth Reichl, former editor in chief of Gourmet magazine, as well as chefs, photographers and others.

The website features the recipes and writings of Ruth Reichl, former editor in chief of Gourmet magazine, as well as chefs, photographers and others.

Heads up, foodies: There's a new culinary kid online promising nothing short of died-and-gone-to-heaven.

If you're on the hunt for a fascinating way to cook asparagus (cure it in salt and sugar), or a product so exclusive only top chefs were previously deemed worthy, then should have you drooling. Oh, and you also get a dash of Ruth Reichl for a saucy blend of high-profile editorial content and high-end commerce.

The idea, Reichl said, is to make Gilt Taste the whole delicious package.

"The onus is on us to make sure that it's all great, that what we're selling is really great in addition to the content that we're putting up around it," said the former editor in chief of Gourmet magazine. "For somebody like me, who comes from a traditional print background, that's really new."

The site had nearly 350,000 page views the first day it went live. Was it the high-def photos of water-kissed tomatoes, the fiddlehead fern and spicy-sweet wild ramp set for $35.95? How about the recipes from Melissa Clark, or Barry Estabrook's expose on fracking and the food supply?

Success, said Food & Wine magazine editor in chief Dana Cowin, will be in the mix.

"Gilt Taste has put together a group of some of the smartest people in the foodie intelligentsia," she said. "I expect high quality, tremendous thoughtfulness and extreme deliciousness from them."

Critical, she said, will be offering "really special things that nobody else has. Hopefully they can teach people about those products and how to cook and the world of food in general. That's a great opportunity to have."

The no-membership site from the typically members-only luxury marketplace Gilt Groupe was conceived by company programmers tossing around ideas for new ventures and deciding "let's do food," Reichl said.

Exclusives include gold label Wagyu grass-fed beef from Snake River Farm, a dozen cheeses from Murray's Cheese Shop and cookies from Cake Monkey, along with fancy kitchen equipment and cans of black winter truffle oil for $112. And it's all splashed alongside stories like the one by Dirt Candy's vegetarian visionary Amanda Cohen on cooking from the compost bin.

The site's lead buyer, James Nickerson, promises "Six Things We'll Never Sell," including fancy hand-carved ice, spiky durian fruit and bananas, because, "for the most part, a banana is a banana."

Gilt Taste, said Reichl, isn't looking to take on the crowded field of food magazines and breathless bloggers. Neither is it looking to compete with Omaha Steaks or Costco.

"This is a different animal," said the former restaurant critic for the New York Times, "but if we don't sell good product, we're dead, no matter how great our editorial is. It's important to me that these products be extraordinary."

That, she said, makes Gilt Taste a new breed, currently without a handy label.

The site is still growing. Soon to come are chickens raised by a 16-year-old in the Midwest and pork from curly-haired Mangalitsa pigs.

"They were these wonderful pigs from Hungary and they were a dying breed. There were only 50 left in the world when somebody in Hungary brought them back," Reichl said. "They're prized for their fat, which is an amazing fat. It's a very sweet, clean-tasting pork."

The selections are mostly American, from farmers, cheesemakers, bakers and other producers with a newfound respect for fresh, organic food, sustainability and craftsmanship.

New website Gilt Taste: high-end food for foodies 05/31/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 4:30am]
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