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Products from Specialty/Fancy/Health food Stores that are Worth every Penny?

So I walk into a Fresh Market (the highest priced store, yet very good quality, in the area) everything is gorgeous, if money was no object I float around the store filling my cart with a rainbow assortment of everything; I would only shop here and buy whatever I felt like at the moment. But alas money is an object and my eyes bulge at the prices that I am just not accustomed to paying. I can't stop my penny pinching brain, "Sure this looks interesting, but is it worth 16.99 a lb. If I get only two how much of a lb would it be, I wonder how much this bag weighs"... my cart is empty. So I turn the question on to you, the more adventurous spenders what is really worth the the price tag, what can you just not live without? What items do you wish you could turn the jar inside out and lick the little bits left at the bottom? In what ways do you use these items?

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  1. Old Chatham sheeps milk yogurt -- $2.69 for (i think) 6 oz, but amazing!

    cheeses -- nothing like what you get in a grocery store

    if your place has good fresh granola, or hand cut smoked fish, that's worth it.

    Also boquerones (sp?) = white anchovies, often $20+ a lb and absolutely delicious.

    High quality chocolate bars, another worthy splurge! If you want flavored chocolate dagoba has some nice ones (i'm enjoying one with raspeberries and rosehips today)

    Dry scallops (not in the preservative goop like in the grocery store) -- so different!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Produce Addict

      grind-your-own peanut and almond butter. the difference is huuuuge (especially because you can add your own degree of salt and honey)

    2. I see cheese is mentioned already.

      I'll add bread. You can't beat a great bakery for bread.
      Sausages.
      Smoked meats (Bacon, sausages, hocks, etc.)

      DT

      1. Loose leaf teas
        NOT the coffees usually, since they mostly sit in large bins... no way it stays fresh

        1. Fage 0% yogurt
          artisanal bread
          organic sprouts (esp. sunflower sprouts)

          1. Thanks for the imput! I have always been able to splurge on some cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano because it lasts so long and is so flavorful you don't need to use a lot with each dish. Though I have tended to stick with the sale cheeses outside of the ones I know, which I am probably missing some of the best that way
            .
            Hmmm never tried white anchovies I have recently started putting regular anchovies in tomato pasta dishes how do you use the white ones?

            Dried scallops - I have had those in chinese dishes at restaurants, what do you do with them from the grocery store?

            Will have to try some of these yogurts, haven't had anything more fancy than Stoneybrook Farms...so I might be in for a treat, do you usually stick with plain or vanilla and put in your own fruit?

            5 Replies
            1. re: VBeatso

              White anchovies are delicious eaten by themselves, unlike the tinned ones which are way too salty on their own. If you've had Saba (mackerel) sushi, it tastes a little bit like that: vinegary with a nice briny note.

              1. re: VBeatso

                I think Trader Joes has Parmigiano Reggiano... some very good flaked parmesan in a tub, not terribly pricey.

                1. re: VBeatso

                  Depending on what cheeses are on sale, it can be a great way to learn about new cheeses. Just go with the most off beat one that's on sale. Try not to repeat and before long, you've tried a whole whack of different ones.
                  Oh yea, and remember to make note of which ones were the best.

                  DT

                  1. re: Davwud

                    As a cautionary note, I've had problems sometimes with cheeses that are on sale - even at reputable cheesemongers - often they are cheeses that are at or past their prime. I realize that otherwise reputable stores shouldn't do this, but sadly I've had this experience. So I'd make sure you taste the piece of cheese before buying it.

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      Good note -- I would also note that I would never buy cheese from a place that won't give me a taste. Don't know how Fresh Market works (again, I live in NYC, so I'm rather spoiled), but if I go to a cheesemonger here and they won't let me taste, I go elsewhere (but I always buy -- I'm not one of those sample people who don't buy anything).

                      Another note on cheese (I seem to be full of notes today): don't feel that you have to get only smelly or weird cheeses. A raw-milk manchego or a raw-milk camembert is a thing of beauty, if you haven't tried those. Everyone likes manchego, so that might be a nice place for you to start, just get the best one that you can.

                      And of course, if you find yourself really liking it, there are several great sources on the web for you to order from, and I know Murray's in NYC will ship for, I think, a $25 minimum.