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Affordable Gourmet Store in Baltimore

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I'm looking for an affordable place to buy specialty items that cost an arm and a leg from "regular" stores. Specifically, vanilla beans and fleur de sel.

Somewhat related, but maybe not warranting a second post, I am having a hard time locating vanilla paste and Aleppo pepper. I could not find vanilla paste at Trader Joe's in Towson. I heard on Food Network that the paste does not contain alcohol (dietary restriction) like vanilla extract does, which is why I am interested. I have also heard of Vanilla Powders that do not contain alcohol, but looking online the ingredients in those has funny sounding chemicals. Even the TJ Vanilla Paste ingredients have "vanilla extract" listed, which contains alcohol, so the TJ brand might not work out for me. Any help is much appreciated. Thanks.

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  1. I don't know of a store in Baltimore that sells aleppo pepper, but if you get to where you're willing to do mail-order you can get it from Penzey's. Or drive to Rockville, which is the nearest Penzey's store that I'm aware of.

    1. For the aleppo pepper, try one of the Hispanic groceries on S. Broadway (upper Fells Point) or Eastern (west of Broadway).

      As for the vanilla paste, I swear I saw some last time I was at Whole Foods on Fleet St (Harbor East).

      1. If you buy in bulk, Penzey's is probably your best bet for vanilla beans and fleur de sel. But Penzey's is far away - although if you haven't been to one, it's worth the drive the Rockville, it's super fun. You might be better off online. I haven't found any cheap vanilla beans in Baltimore.

        1. The Aleppo Pepper I have is from Vanns Spices - in Baltimore. They have the Fleur de Sel as well.
          http://www.vannsspices.com/

          I would also check out the following, which I have gone to in the past to source hard to find or cheaper than WF's spices/seasonings/products:

          Parker Vanilla - baltimore based, they might/not have the vanilla paste but probably could point you in the right direction.
          http://www.parkervanilla.com

          Baltimore Spice Company
          http://www.fuchsnorthamerica.com/

          Prima Foods
          http://www.primafoodsinc.com/index.asp

          5 Replies
          1. re: aussiewonder

            Thank you so much. I always want to support local businesses before resorting to mail-order or travel.

            1. re: bmorecupcake

              Yep, they're all locally based businesses. Ko1, the Vann's spices I have were a gift - I have a custom selection of about 20 different spices, herbs, rubs, salts etc...in jars with personalized labels, so not sure how to buy them individually or retail, but i'm sure if you call, they'll be able to assist.

            2. re: aussiewonder

              Wow! Vann's sounds great. I'd never heard of them. Do they have a company store, or do you just go to Eddie's, etc.?

              1. re: ko1

                Is Vann's any better than McCormick's (also local)?

                1. re: pigtowner

                  i don't know about 'better' - are you judging by the number of different products offered or freshness? not sure. but i feel better about supporting a small local family business than a big corporate giant - local or not.

            3. I do not know if you are a member or not, but approximately 1 week ago I was in Costco in Glen Burnie and they are now carrying Vanilla Beans along with their spices.