One of the best things about any holiday is the extra attention we give to the food we cook and finding ways to make it special for family and guests. But we also want simple, easy timesavers. The thousands of handmade small-batch artisanal foods flooding the market from local communities across the country can make your search pretty daunting, especially if you don’t happen to have a specialty food shop or farmer’s market nearby. Now is a good time to start your search online so you can stock your pantry with new items to try or a few old favorites. Here’s our list of best shops to try, chosen for their product selection and focus on artisanal products:

1. Jacksonville Mercantile: If you’re an adventurous cook, here’s a way to travel and taste the local flavors from around the world….especially Italy…without the expense of a plane ticket. Owned by Chef Constance Jesser and husband David Jesser, the store’s products are curated with care and an eye on the home cook. What’s fun about this online marketplace is finding amazing flavor combinations, like Sundried Figs in Run and Chestnut Honey, Smoked Brown Sugar, and Mushroom and Truffle Spread. That’s just the tip of the iceberg! The focus on flavor extends to their line of branded products, many of which are sourced and produced in Oregon using local ingredients. If you have gluten-free or Kosher dietary needs, check out those special sections from the home page. Must try: Espresso Balsamic Vinegar ($13.95); Lemon Curd from Elizabethan Pantry ($7.95) Image: Jacksonville Mercantile Store, Jacksonville, OR

2. Many Kitchens: The good folks at this beautifully crafted online market take great care in selecting artisans who care about how their products are made and where they source ingredients. With small batch foods from across the country, including unique one-of-a-kind creations, the site is easy to navigate and features compelling, up close and personal stories about each maker. They also feature handmade items for household use, many which are made from wood, fabrics and metals that will complement the kitchen. Must try: Mole Trifecta from Bunches and Bunches, Ltd. ($36.00); Latke Pack from Linda’s Gourmet Latkes ($32)

3. Provisions: Launched in summer of 2013, this online store was developed especially for the growing community of home cooks searching for every expanding ways to make their meals shine. There’s a big focus on small batch independent producers of items for the pantry and for entertaining in general. Pair all that with a database of 30,000 home-tested recipes, stories, gorgeous food photos, a slick curated shop…and your search is complete experience.  The store has good search functionality by brand, price, and type…although I left wanting regional search capability. That said, there’s incredible abundance to keep you salivating for hours. Must try: Heritage Bread Flours by Hayden Flour Mills  ($22) Saigon Cinnamon Peanut Butter Cups ($14)

Do you have a favorite online store for artisanal or specialty food products?

Image: Barb Magee