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Great Tasting Ingredients (evoo, wine vins) Low $$

Hey, wondering where I can get some great tasting "special occasion" type olive oil and wine vinegars, without going to ridiculously expensive high-markup posh stores?

I used to like a Cheese store near Bloor West Village (ahem) until I saw they had a bottle of $1.99 Sriracha sauce selling for.... $11.99. Makes me wonder how much they're marking up everything else.. I feel dirty going there now. :)

So what are some great ingredients to stock my shelves with, good enough for a Chef, but cheap enough for me to actually buy some? I don't mind paying the money for a good product, but not if it's 50% cheaper somewhere else!

Looking forward to your recommendations, I could definitely use some better oils and vinegars. What else would go into this category? Can't think... I guess Balsamic too.

For the record, I have a big can of "Gallo" olive oil that I bought from Dominion for like $13 I think, and I have a plastic bottle of Red Wine Vinegar from Unico, and white wine vinegars: Maille, Four Monks.

I think I dislike them all equally. The oil is fine to cook with.

Anyways I'm looking for: Brands, Stores, and rough Prices!

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  1. You might find this thread interesting -

    I am actually fond of a PC evoo, the one from Tuscany, for salads, veggies and cooking, can't remember how much it costs. I love to dribble it on a salad of chopped tomatoes, crumbled feta (actually not crumbles -- big chunks!) and fresh garlic chives from my garden plus salt/pepper and then sop up all the juice/oil with some lightly toasted Ace baguette slices. Plus a chilled pinot grigio.

    1. It's not fancy, but my favourite grocery store (ie. inexpensive) olive oil is Colavita. I discovered it a few years back when one of the papers (the Star, I think) rated a whole bunch of olive oils and it came in second (number one was a really expensive brand and I can't recall the name of it). I think that you can get it at most grocery stores (eg. Dominion, Loblaws).

      1. Kirkland evoo from Tuscany (Costco) is a benchmark, at $13/l. Reggiano is $25/kg there, and Danish blue about $17/kg. Mussels, $7 for 5lb., maple syrup $10/l., sushi rice $1/lb. but probably rising. Their balsamic is good for the price, but not thick and syrupy.
        Lately I have used Pagoda Shao Xing sherry for a lot of sauces, and it has much the same flavour and aroma as dry Spanish sherry. It is $3-$4 in Asian stores.
        Utopia organic canned tomatoes from Chatham ON are $1.70 at Loblaws, right beside the $4 Eden, also from Canada, via MI.
        Good Japanese miso is well priced at P.A.T., $5-$6/kg. Seaweed is also reasonable, $4/ quarter lb. And I've been looking for Golden Boy fish sauce, one of the best, without success.
        In mid summer, fresh frozen cherries are a bargain at Highland Farms, $18/pail, and they have good supplies of canning tomatoes in season, plus dried Greek oregano, Argentine anchovies, and Bulgarian Feta.
        Unfortunately I can't come up with a really intense vinegar, such as sherry, at a bargain price, but I'm looking.

        2 Replies
        1. re: jayt90

          I bought a bottle of this Costco olive oil, and it's pretty nice! Bit more spicy than I'm used to. I only tried it with some wholegrain regular bread I have, will have to get a proper french bread or something soon.

          I didn't see where they sell their Reggiano, forgot to ask.. Do you have to ask at a special area for it?

          Great info, if you can think of any more great ingredients at decent prices please let me know!! Thank you for your post.

          1. re: SocksManly

            I've always found the Reggiano in the regular cheese section, definitely a bargain! All the Best has a few of their oils and vinegars (mostly vinegars) as well as some condiments on half price right now. They're in a smaller store, so they're getting rid of some overstock. They had a few products from the "O" line of vinegars and a few Stonewall Kitchen products. There were a few good buys.

        2. Good quality and reasonable prices...

          Grande Cheese - All things Italian
          Pasquale Bros - Spanish, Portuguese, etc

          4 Replies
          1. re: Mila

            Also Maselli Supermarket on Danforth. And try some of their fantastic house proscuitto.

            Agreed on extortion at Cheese Boutique, Kagemusha.

            Pasquale Bros
            16 Goodrich Rd, Toronto, ON M8Z, CA

            Masellis Supermarket
            906 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4J, CA

            Grande Cheese Co Ltd
            22 Orfus Road North York ON

            1. re: Mila

              I love Maselli Brothers for their great pasta selection and other italian items but I have to say I have not enjoyed their proscuitto. Both the texture and taste is different than I'm accustomed to. Somewhat off putting for me and I feel bad cuz I really wanted to like it. Kinda of neat that they are hanging it themselves in the basement.

              1. re: millygirl

                They just finished a new batch which I tried last week. Now, being new or young is not necessarily a good thing for proscuitto but I liked the flavour and fat / meat ratio.

                I'd rate it better than the Canadian, almost par with the 6 month Italian and not close to the 2 year Italian or Serrano - all usually gotten from Scheffler's at SLM.

                Try a sample of the new stuff when you're in.

          2. Try Boncheff on Olivewood in Etobicoke. Much lower prices on most vinegars/oils, etc. than the extortionate Cheese Ball. Nose around the "food zone" east of Kipling in the same area.

            1. Well, if you want a special occasion (ie. great tasting) olive oil and balsamic.... keep in mind these things. First, no really great olive oil is found in 1L sized bottles and they shouldnt be in transparent bottles either. They should be in dark coloured bottles - thus choices such as Colavita are not the right way to go... plus Colavita and the likes are all industrial extra virgin olive oils... I would use them for cooking only. For a good quality extra virgin olive oil you will be paying upwards of $15 or more per 750ml. bottle. For a balsamic vinegar... look for ones that do not contain caramel colour or sweetners. It should only contain 2 ingredients: wine vinegar and grape must...nothing else !!!(other than naturally occuring sulphites) (you could buy one made of just grape must... but those get seriously expensive) I am most happy with balsamic vinegar quality when I pay about $24 and up per 250ml. There are many great places that offer great choices: If you shop in Bloor West Village and the surrounding area... try Grande cheese, Mikes Fish Market, Max's Market and Whitehouse Meats. Cumbrae's and Shefflers have a good selection as well.

              3 Replies
              1. re: whattodo

                Salumeria on Yonge at Davisville carries a good selection of reasonably price oils and vinegars.

                1. re: whattodo

                  Sulfites or sulphites (sic) are not naturally occurring but in fact an additive to grape must. If present in balsamic musts, they are actually concentrated by the reduction in the process.

                  1. re: whattodo

                    Sorry but the old "pay more, get more" thing isn't as axiomatic as you suggest. The high price emporia known and loathed by many posters here trade on the conceit and insecurity of their clientele. The point of this thread is to skip these sharks in favor of places offering comparable quality and value at better prices. Many low-end oils are Turkish and many are acceptable if not stellar products. I have seen hi-end shops selling Italian brands at premium prices with no declaration of origin on the labeling--what's certain is that they're not Italian oils.

                  2. The Alex Farm house olive oil is quite good. I have been finding though that they don't always carry it.

                    1. While Pusateri's is NOT the place to go for bargain prices, it IS the place to go to try multiple olive oils and vinegars. At the Avenue/Lawrence store (don't know about the Yorkville store), there is usually a person staffed at the tasting counter of the oil/vinegar section. She is extremely friendly and very knowledgeable and will happily offer tastings of whatever you want. There is usually bread to use for dipping if you want and she usually has a salad made with a featured oil and featured vinegar.

                      You could go and find out what you like, then try and source it at another store. If nothing else, it's really educational and and a great way to compare multiple oils or vinegars side by side.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: TorontoJo

                        I have to admit I used to frequent the Bay/Bloor location of Pusateri's before I realized I should be shopping around a bit more. I can't believe the prices on some of the cooked food, but I haven't minded so much buying a roast, steaks, or their marinated whole chickens. Their "barbarian" sized prime rib steaks are delicious. :)