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Aug 22, 2008 09:45 AM

Really cheap prices for saffron, vanilla beans and porcini from Golden Gate -- is quality OK?

I was wondering if anybody has ordered saffron from them before. The prices are really good -- $73/ounce. I've noticed that this saffron is from Iran, and I usually purchase saffron from Kashmir or Spain. Is there a discernible difference in quality? I know I've read that saffron from Kashmir and Spain are superior, but I'd like to hear some firsthand responses from people who have tried Iranian saffron before.

And I've also noticed that they sell Tahitian vanilla beans at a great price as well -- about 110-130 beans for less than $30! And the cepes are really cheap as well at 1/2 lb for $16.

While I'm always up for a bargain, I'd like to know what the quality is like. I'd appreciate any input. Thanks!

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  1. A friend brought back saffron from Turkey (a small ziploc bag full!) about 10-12 years ago and gave it to me. I used it once, and didn't like it. WAY too harsh on the flavor - extremely bitter. I think she said she paid about $5.00 USD for it - this was enough saffron to cost maybe $3,000 or more if purchasing the higher quality saffron.

    I think I'd stick with the Spanish or Kashmiri saffron. Some info on Saffron grading:

    3 Replies
    1. re: LindaWhit

      Thanks for your input Linda. I guess that's why they say to use less than what's called for in recipes. Sigh -- I'll just shell out the big bucks for my saffron.

      I'm curious if anybody ordered the vanilla beans and dried porcini from them, though.

      1. re: LindaWhit

        Are you sure your friend brought back true saffron, not safflower petals?

        In the states, Indian grocers seem to have the best prices - around $30 for excellent quality Spanish saffron. Unfortunately I've only ever seen Kashmiri saffron from Penzey's and their prices may be lower than supermarkets, but they're still too high except as an occasonal conversation piece (I've tried it a couple of times and have not found the Kashmir superior to the Spanish I buy locally at a fraction of Penzey's price.) And now that Iranian saffron is legal again, you can find it at decent prices, at least in NYC.

        Just noticed this thread was a recent revival - oh well...

        1. re: MikeG

          No problem - always interesting with new information when a thread gets revived! And I don't know what she brought back - she was told it was saffron - and these were definitely bright orange stigma from flowers. Either way, it was awhile ago and I no longer have the bag she gave me.

      2. I just bought 4 ounces of vanilla beans and some dried porcinis from a couple of weeks ago. The vanilla beans are plump and amazingly fragrant, I used them in a cake and thought it turned out well. I haven't yet had a chance to use the mushrooms, but they have better color and are in larger pieces than the packs i buy from the local market at three times the cost.

        They also included a small bottle of vanilla extract and some vanilla soap in the package which was a nice surprise.

        If you live locally, you can call to arrange for pickup and avoid the UPS charges.

        1. I have ordered saffron and vanilla beans from them a couple times. I think the saffron is great, equally as good as any I have bought at specialty markets here in Atlanta. The price has gone up a lot in the last couple years, but its still reasonably priced.
          I have read (on their website and others) that a lot of Spanish Saffron is really Iranian that is packed in Spain, sometimes mixed with some Spanish.
          The Vanilla Beans are wonderful. Best I have ever bought, period. Soft, pliable, and so inexpensive that you can use them for anything that comes to mind. I gave some to friends who cook a lot and they agree.

          2 Replies
          1. re: BigEdAtl

            I'm in now way any kind of expert on vanilla so I really don't have anything to say there.

            What I can say is that Iranian saffron is the best there is. The only reason that spanish saffron is desired is because they have so little compared to Iran. It's considered more valuable by some for that reason. The best spanish saffron that I've had is subpar compared to common Iranian saffron. Iranian saffron does vary in quality, but judging from the pictures that they have on their site, it seems to be a high quality saffron. All of my saffron comes from Iran, I have my father bring it back when he goes. He gets the best saffron that comes from around Shiraz. Obviously much cheaper than anything here in the US. The same goes for the Indian saffron, not really a big deal. It's just rare, so they get to charge more. This website seems like the best source that I've ever seen. Judging by their photos at least. Saffron should not be all that expensive. The grocery store prices are atrocious.

            1. re: 24601

              If you purchase any, would you please post your impressions? As mentioned, I've had nothing but good experiences with these folks so I'd like a Hound's opinion on the saffron.
              Incidentally, Penzeys has saffron from Kashmir and if they say it's good, I'm sure it is but it's quite expensive. They're another company whose products, in my experience, have always been stellar.

          2. I haven't bought any saffron from them yet but based on my extract purchases, I wouldn't hesitate to do so. Their Tahitian vanilla is wonderful and their Mexican vanilla is sublime, a real speciality item with a sugarcane alcohol base. I stick with Penzeys double vanilla for Madagascar, but am thrilled with my purchases, which also included some fantastic coconut extract. Their prices are extremely fair, as are their shipping rates. The owner is a fanatic about quality, very proud of his wares, and enjoys communicating with customers and answering their questions.

            1. Interesting they currently list Afghan saffron. Mexican saffron is available at the local market and has the right color and appearance but is virtually tasteless. Give us a report, Ive always wanted to use more saffron.

              8 Replies
              1. re: dijon

                This is a very old topic. From what I know there is a US embargo on importing Saffron from Iran in effect at this time (2013).

                1. re: Midlife

                  According to another site that sells saffron, the area in which Afghan saffron is grown borders the area of Iran where saffron is grown so the quality is probably pretty similar given that the terroir is probably identical. I'd trust Golden Gate's quality any day of the week. I have some of their saffron (Iranian) but haven't used it yet. The color, however, is beautiful--VERY little yellow and the price was right.

                2. re: dijon

                  Most Mexican saffron that I've seen is actually safflower petals. Some will even have color bleeding from the threads--artificially colored.

                  I've had luck with Penzey's, but I also have family in India and get regular stashes of (real) Kashmiri saffron, which I treasure.

                  1. re: dijon

                    So-called "Mexican Saffron" isn't saffron at all. It's Safflower. No taste, no smell, not saffron.

                    1. re: dijon

                      I've been purchasing vanilla bean, dried mushrooms and saffron from this wholesaler for 12 years. Top notch, industry supplier and a very cool business owner.

                      I recall my first order, which was 100 vanilla beans for $20.00. I was wondering if quality could be had at this price given the quantity. There are dozens of v. bean sellers selling product much much higher. But, to my delight and long lasting customer experience you don't need to over pay for quality beans. At this price, I'm not hoarding a single bean in a test tube package. I'm USING them!!!

                      Now I make my own vanilla extract, v sugar and paste from these beans.

                      Which led me to purchase saffron and then dried mushrooms from this same very reliable source.

                      1. re: HillJ

                        The owner is a VERY cool guy. Try his Mexican vanilla extract if you've a mind. He's passionate about it. He steeps it in a sugar cane alcohol base and rounds out the flavor with a touch of piloncillo. Ambrosia, and very reasonable in price. He also has some wonderful flavor extracts--I love the coconut.

                        1. re: MacGuffin

                          hey MacG. Thanks for the reminder. Still making my way thru the last order!

                          1. re: HillJ

                            My pleasure! I always enjoy plugging vendors I like. I want to keep them available for ME and there's no better way to do that than to spread the word and keep them successful. :)