The Big Deals
Pickles :: Root Cellar Preserve, $6.49
A pickle fan, I am not. I remove them from sandwiches (unless it’s a Cubano). They annoy me on burgers (a distraction from that sacred formula: meat + cheese + tomato). So why am I willing to pony up $6.49 for a jar of Root Cellar Preserves pickles? That’s easy: Because these are no mass-produced affair (the tiny company is based in Wellesley) — a fact made obvious by the intense, soaring flavors. A mishmash of thickly sliced, nearly translucent cukes, cauliflower, banana peppers, and red bells swims in a hot-sweet brine loaded with garlic, salt, and enough sugar to make it just a tad sticky — plus dashes of turmeric and an infusion of heat from the peppers. They’re a revelation on cheese plates — almost chutneylike — and on salads. But even plain, they’ve been known to improve my mood. And for that, I’d pay double — again and again. rootcellarpreserves.com. — A. H.
Locavore Dish :: T. W. Food, $26
I like to know where my tomatoes were grown, my eggs were laid, and my pork chop once grazed. But I don’t like how much I have to throw down for these locally acquired treats, because rarely does it actually fit my budget. So for a dish sourced almost entirely from the Bay State — for less than what I’d pay for the ingredients at the market — I make my way to T. W. Food. The pastas, especially, put me at ease, specifically the cannelloni, which chef Tim Wiechmann kneads with flour made from wheat cultivated in Massachusetts and wraps around Maine lobster; the whole thing then gets topped with mussels from the South Shore or Concord-grown squash. It’s a rich, satisfying, and practically carbon-footprint-free plate. 377 Walden St., Cambridge, 617-864-4745, twfoodrestaurant.com. — E. B. M.
Winsor Dim Sum Café :: Dim Sum Feast, $2.75 and up
When my football-playing 18-year-old godson (who fancies himself a gourmet) is hungry and in my charge, we make a beeline to Chinatown. Finding an inexpensive, delicious meal there is like shooting carp in a tank. He doesn’t mind the servers rolling up their metal hot boxes and interrupting conversations to entice us with their offerings. I do. That’s why when it’s my choice, we go to Winsor Dim Sum Café, where the feast is civil and I find culinary artistry for a low price. This small, second-floor restaurant has loads of options, so you can get what you want at your leisure, and the food is — get this — made to order. Winsor’s version of the trendy, hot-broth-filled dumpling xiao long bao is always good (some days stellar), and the shrimp-and-chive dumplings are things of beauty. And I make sure to save room for the pan-fried rice noodles with XO sauce, an umami-sublime dish of seared gnocchi-like threads tossed with a heap of ground pork, scallions, and bean sprouts. 10 Tyler St., Boston, 617-338-1688. — A. B. C.