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$2500 worth of gourmet pleasure (Help needed!)

Received the bonus and salary increase recently and was (more than) pleasantly surprised (I am fortunate to work for one of the few companies that are doing well in the current economic condition.) So I've decided to allocate a small percentage of my hard-earned bonus to indulge myself in gourmet pleasure - and I would appreciate any suggestions from all of you gourmet aficionado out there to help me come up with a list of gourmet food that is sure to make my investment worthwhile.

Here's my criteria:

- edible (no culinary gadgets or appliances!)
- can be enjoyed in the comfort of my own kitchen (no restaurant recommendations!) and I don't mind food/ingredients that requires some preparation at home, such as steak, lobster, etc.
- can be mail-ordered and delivered to my door-step (foreign food is fine as long as it can be shipped to IL, USA)
- I am interested in food that is either extraordinary or ordinary food that is extraordinarily delicious


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  1. Lucky you! Get the croissants and other goodies from Williams-Sonoma. Take a look at la Cense beef and other prime beef, plus lobster delivered from Maine! An entire wheel of Maytag cheese, pate de foie gras! Truffles white and black. Fresh oysters and other seafood. Frenched lamb chops, prime veal shanks....ooohh! Wish I were you!

    4 Replies
    1. re: bayoucook

      Thanks for the suggestions, bayoucook! Do you recommend any specific vendors from whom I can order Maine lobster/oysters/seafood and truffles respectively?

      1. re: smilyfoodcritic

        Yes! Had lobsters sent to me from mainelobsterdirect.com - LIVE - we cooked 'em and swooned (about 2 lbs. each). Williamssonoma.com of course. nimanranch.com, igourmet.com, lacensebeef.com and peterluger.com for the BEST steaks.

      2. re: bayoucook

        I second bayoucook on the croissant suggestion from WS, even though I haven't had them. But I'm comfortable recommending them due to my family's experience. My mom visited me while I was living in Europe and had a true French croissant, which she proceeded to rave about to my dad when she got home. Which led him on a particularly obsessive search for similar croissants in the US. Local bakeries didn't cut it, but they eventually found the WS options, which my mom deemed to be exactly like her experience, and my dad absolutely loves, and thus further cemented his opinion that there's no reason for him to ever get on a plane again.

        BTW- conrats smily, it's nice to hear of people doing well these days, very encouraging! Enjoy your splurge!

        1. re: mjhals

          Thanks mjhals, I am feeling lucky too!

          I've heard so much about WS' croissant and it is on my list of "Must-try".

      3. Sometimes Costco's website has some culinary offerings that might suit your whims:


        1. Allen Brothers.
          Claim they're the largest supplier of USDA Prime beef to the nations largest steakhouses and restaurants. Besides beef they have all kinds of food.


          1 Reply
          1. re: monku

            Definitely - seriously look at their wagyu selection. Another great place for wagyu is Snake River Farms (also Kurobuta pork):


          2. are there any particular dairies that have cheese you would enjoy?
            personally, i would order wheels of different cheeses i love.

            also, some jarred things (pricey preserves, chutneys, caviar!, etc.)
            jamon iberico
            truffles: there is a thread on this board about sources, where people weigh in their opinions.

            do you have a local whole foods near you?
            you could do a recon mission and tally up all the things you are interested in trying/having, and then go from there.

            in my home computer, i have a bookmark of a mail order place which is basically like an etsy for food (local, handmade stuff) and will post back.

            8 Replies
            1. re: dinaofdoom

              Wish WE had a whole foods, but we do have Epicure, which is a divine gourmet specialty store - I could spend 2500.00 there easily. Cheeses from around the world, pate de fois gras and others (but that is my fave at 26.00 lb.!), imported olives and olive oils and vinegars, hard to find spices and condiments, artisan bread......you get the picture....oh - and real proscuitto and Italian bacon, salami....

              1. re: bayoucook

                yes, i think my cabinets would be bursting with all sorts of canned and jarred goodness.
                hopefully the OP has a really big freezer!

              2. re: dinaofdoom

                here is the website i was talking about: http://foodzie.com/

                also, i would buy the sh*t outta this dairy: http://www.cypressgrovechevre.com/

                1. re: dinaofdoom

                  Curious as to why you say that about Cypress Grove chevre? I've only had great experiences with their award-winning cheeses, some favorites being Purple Haze, Fog Lights and of course Humboldt Fog, and Truffle Tremor (which was also a Chow pick):


                  1. re: Rubee

                    I think dinaofdoom was using a colloquialism meaning "quite a lot." I believe it was meant to be favorable. ;)

                    1. re: evewitch

                      yes, i meant i would buy an inordinate amount of goaty goodness to shove in my face...

                      1. re: dinaofdoom

                        HA! I'm such a dufus. I think I read it as a "wouldn't". At least we're all in agreement, although I want to plagiarize the statement "I would buy an inordinate amount of goaty goodness to shove in my face". heh heh. Perfect.

                        1. re: Rubee

                          i've never had anything from there that i didn't love!

              3. Try Zingermans.com they have wonderful cheese, meats, house made breads, oils, and vinegars that are wonderful. It's fun just reading all of the descriptions in the catalog of where they went to purchase, etc. I always thought if I had some money to splurge I would head to Ann Arbor for a big purchase. Their pecan-raisin bread is out-of-this-world!
                We've had good luck with Legalseafood.com for lobster and clam chowder.

                  1. Morels dried
                    Truffles fresh
                    Jamon iberico
                    Blue fin tuna -sushi grade
                    Maytag blue
                    Red cow parm reg
                    Manchego - hand made
                    Cheddar - well aged
                    Humbolt blue
                    Gold seal balsamic
                    Ile de Re salt
                    Beluga caviar
                    One each of a great olive oil from North and Southern Italy, Spain, California and Australia

                    Not all are particularlly earth friendly (eg the tuna and caviar) but oh so tasty. Wander through igourmet.com for more ideas.

                    1. A├žai frozen dessert if you can get it. http://www.belizza.com/ Some TJ's have carried it but I haven't seen it at any of the ones we visit lately.

                      1. Praline Pecan Pie from Marys of Puddin Hill - OMG!
                        Referred to by one taster as "Christmas Crack"; I've had this and I say, why wait until a holiday!

                        Mardi Gras may be over, but Live Crawfish are in season!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: mcsheridan

                          mcsheridan, thanks for reminding me of the crawfish season! Do you have a favorite mail-order source for live crawfish?

                          1. re: smilyfoodcritic

                            Yup...the link I provided is to Fruges, which ships live crawfish, tailmeat, whatever.
                            Here it is again.

                        2. I've bookmarked this previous topic for when I have money to splurge like this. Lots of good ideas for the "best of" across the country:

                          Chow-worthy Mail-Order / On-Line Food

                          Some of my personal favorites - Graeter's ice cream, Jamon Iberico de Bellota (and anything Spanish) from Latienda.com, mushrooms from Earthy Delights, meat/game/duck/foie/truffles/pates from D'Artagnan, cheese from Artisanal (a new favorite is "Barely Buzzed" with an espresso and lavender washed rind), Batali's salumi, heirloom dried beans from Rancho Gordo.


                          Out of season now, but when in season - Fresh Florida stone crab, and satsuma mandarin oranges.

                          11 Replies
                          1. re: Rubee

                            IIRC, Florida Stone Crab is in season from mid-October through May 1st and there is nothing like it. I would say that it's much better fresh and don't bother with the frozen.

                            1. re: Rubee

                              Rubee, thanks for sharing the links!!

                              1. re: Rubee

                                How about adding spices from Penzey's to that list?

                                1. re: Rubee

                                  thanks for the links, saved them to sources file!

                                  1. re: Rubee

                                    The Jamon Iberico from Tienda.com was the first thing I thought of. Have never tried it, but would love to do so, and with a bonus like that, it would definitely be on my shopping list! Or maybe the trio of Serrano, Iberico, and Iberico de Bellota?


                                    And it looks like the USDA has struck again - tienda.com has the last of the Pata Negra Bone-in/Hoof-on Jamon Iberico - anyone know why?

                                    "Because of new USDA regulations, the famous black hoof, or PATA NEGRA, will be removed on all future shipments of Iberico hams. We were able to purchase the final shipment, and there are no more in the U.S.!"

                                    Also, for the OP, igourmet.com ( http://www.igourmet.com ) has some WONDERFUL cheeses and olive oils and other gourmet products from around the world.

                                    Another exceptional shop is Formaggio Kitchen based in Cambridge/Boston. http://www.formaggiokitchen.com or Salumeria Italiana in the North End in Boston - http://salumeriaitaliana.com/ . Some aged balsamic from either would be heavenly (and because you use so little of it, it lasts so long!)

                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                      as a former bostonian, i can attest to both formaggio kitchen and salumeria italiana...*drool*

                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                        LindaWhit, as a matter of fact, I just ordered the cured meat sampler from LaTienda right before this past Christmas for hubby's best friend's visit. This sampler include 8 oz of Serrano, 4 oz each of Iberico and Bellota. While Bellota and Iberico both taste heavenly (especially eating with hot steamed rice like sushi, the heat from cooked rice softens the meat and melts the fat slightly - heavenly indeed), Serrano is disappointing for some reason - dry and rubbery. So if you ever want to order Jamon Iberico from La Tienda, I would say skip Serrano and invest it on getting more Iberico or even Bellota.


                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                            Lindawhit, I just got an email from La Tienda that they are having Bellota Paleta slices on sale at 40% off in case you are interested.....


                                            1. re: smilyfoodcritic

                                              Ooh, tempting (they've got some great prices on the sale page - a 4-pack of 6" cazuelas for $14.95?)

                                              :::::stop looking, Linda, stop looking::::::

                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                Oh, you HAD to make me look at that. Boy, there are some good deals there.

                                      1. i'd say some nice condiments/extras- spices, oils, vinegars, etc. They last further than one meal, and it can be so much fun to pick that stuff out!

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: sfumato

                                          Like 25 year old (or older) balsamic. That is a definitely splurge item. A couple drops with a good pecorino/parmigianno or even a few drops on vanilla ice cream. delicious

                                          1. re: babaoriley7

                                            Mail-ordered the extra old Modena balsamic vinegar (25 yrs+) for hubby's birthday 6 years ago - and the taste IS unbelievable!


                                        2. How about some of New Mexico's Hatch Valley green chilis? Just do a search for "Hatch Chilis"

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: PattiCakes

                                            we have hatch chile festivals here in austin, and i second this!
                                            i don't have a source, though, since we can buy them at the grocery.

                                          2. What great news! :-)

                                            I think I'd vote for:
                                            * CSA membership for the next growing season
                                            * 1/8 grass-finished steer from local farmer
                                            * whole lamb
                                            * 1/4 hog
                                            * aged balsamic vinegar (I get them for my dh as a special treat for b'days, too!)
                                            * case of better-than-ordinary wine, maybe for long-term aging instead of immediate drinking. Hell, a case each in red, white and sparkling.
                                            * maybe a dinner party?

                                            Hey, maybe this would be a good time to check your pantry for non-perishables you don't use and donate them to a local food bank. I can't wait to hear what you decide and how you enjoy it!

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Mawrter

                                              If you have a fondness for tea, why not try a few things from the Tea gallery (http://www.theteagallery.com/default.asp) in particular some of the super aged teas ( in the reserve section) teas that have been aged for flavor ten twenty even over fifty years (like wine some teas improve in flavor with carefully ageing) just leave a pack or two of the 1980 tie-lohan in the store.....for me!

                                              1. re: Mawrter

                                                Great response! I like the idea of buying a future.

                                                Hey, smileyfoodcritic, please get back to us to discuss your epicurean haul. I'd love to live vicariously. Bet others would too!

                                              2. So, smilyfoodcritic, have you decided yet?

                                                16 Replies
                                                1. re: bayoucook

                                                  bayoucook, can you see I am having a hard time deciding? :)
                                                  What sounds good to me so far include -
                                                  stone crab, crawfish, maine lobster $500
                                                  truffles $100
                                                  croissants from WS $100 (for stuffing my freezer)
                                                  wagyu steak $300
                                                  cheese (can't decide which kind) $200
                                                  Zingermans.com (can't decide what to order yet) $200
                                                  ..... that leaves me with another $1K to spend still....

                                                  1. re: smilyfoodcritic

                                                    and with that, I'd sink my money into wine that compliments my purchases......

                                                    1. re: smilyfoodcritic

                                                      Smily i have an idea :)
                                                      actually you are very lucky to get such a bonus, very blessed and very very lucky!
                                                      i wish i were you, i'd travel a couple of countries with that bonus..:)
                                                      but on a serious note maybe the $1 K that's left..could you maybe give half of that or a third of that to charity? a favorite charity of your choice?
                                                      i know i sound like some religious freak..But i swear i am not, i just think we should always give back when we get such a blessing from our bosses.
                                                      My boss would never dare give such a bonus, i'm a store clerk, But we do get gift cards which i enjoy :)
                                                      but if i were you i would just give at least $400-$500 to charity..:)
                                                      then you'll still have another $500 to spend :)

                                                      just a thought ..from me :)

                                                      I hope this helps you out somehow :)

                                                      have a wonderful night!



                                                      1. re: princess0479

                                                        Thanks for the suggestion, princess0479, i like the idea of giving back too - a portion of my earning has already been donated for a good cause. :)

                                                      2. re: smilyfoodcritic

                                                        with Zingerman's you want to be careful, a lot of what they sell (particuarly the non-perishable stuff like the conserves spices oils etc.) are often available elsewhere (same brand even) for significantly less than what Zingermans charges (I'm assuming that bonus or not, you want to get the most bang for your buck) Whole Foods carries a lot of them.

                                                        1. re: jumpingmonk

                                                          Thanks for the advice, jumpingmonk. Yes, I will only spend money where it is well spent. Any suggestions on what Zingerman's carries are worthy of the price and shipping?

                                                          1. re: smilyfoodcritic

                                                            Well, here are some of my favorites (note you may want to use the online ordering form rather than the paper catalouge, it's much more complete plus you can see what is in and out of stock at the time)

                                                            In chocolate
                                                            1. any of the unconched (never heated) chocolates they offer. This works out to three of them (actually five but three brands). Unconched chocolate isn't heated so the sugar never melts into the chocolate, so what you get is this funky crumbly crunchy stuff. The most acessible (for someone used to ordinary chocolate bars) is the Bonajuto Chocolate Bars from Sicily (come in two flavors vanilla and cinnamon, plus chile pepper truffles) since this actually is a bar (thier out of stock now though) The second they offer is the Oxacan chocolate (this one and the next one are listed in the hot cocoa section, since that's what a lot of people use them for) This is proabably the best one in my opinon, certainly the most affordable (its $22 for a pound as opposed to $12 for a 100g bar) like most of them it does have cinnamon (unconced is very popular to make mexican hot chocolate and Mexican Hot chocolate is almost always cinnamon enhanced (dont worry this is mexican or real cinnamon, not the cassia you keep being warned about) plus a touch of smokiness from the wood fires used to dry it. Finally they have a disc shaped one from Taza which is also pretty good ($8 for two disks)

                                                            Other sweet things
                                                            The Mugulio pine syrup. This is just one of those things that you have to try once on a limb. It does as they say taste a little like roesmary maple syrup (though pesonally I noted some blueberry notes as well)
                                                            Fralingers Saltwater taffy, if you like saltwater taffy. mostly good though some of the flavors are a bit odd (the peanut butter for example)

                                                            Maybe the finnociata salami (if you have the fridge space) never had it myself but it sound pretty good

                                                            sorry I can't make the list longer but the fact is I've had more misses than hits at Zingerman's. Aviod the baked goods (the really arent very good at making them, and most of the suff arrives stale) and the cheese (you can do better at most good gourmet supermarkets)

                                                            1. re: jumpingmonk

                                                              Thanks Jumpingmonk - I almost placed an order with Zingerman's yesterday which would consist primarily their bread and other baked goods. Now I am having a second thought........

                                                              1. re: smilyfoodcritic

                                                                No prob. BTW if your looking for things to fill out your order I just remembered thier store brand fluer de sel caramels are pretty good too.

                                                                My advice is as follows, go the the Zingermans website look through it and make a written/printed list of what looks good to you. Then take a quick trip to a Whole foods (if you live in the NY metro area, you might want to add a trip to a Garden of Eden too) and see how many of the things on your list you can find. Any you do buy there and cross off (trust me its more or less always cheaper.) Then go back to the site and order what's left on you list.

                                                                1. re: smilyfoodcritic

                                                                  FYI, their breads are wonderful and freeze really well. In fact, they give you bags for freezing. The bread is much better than anything at Whole Foods and the Whole Foods in our area sells fresh Zingerman's along with their own.

                                                          2. re: smilyfoodcritic

                                                            Wow, that sounds wonderful. Just a thought - with 1G left, how are you set for wines?

                                                            1. re: bayoucook

                                                              Unfortunately, hubby and I have yet to acquire a taste for wine...........

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  You bet! :) And I can invest the money I save from needing no wine onto more food.......

                                                                  1. re: smilyfoodcritic

                                                                    I can't/won't give up my (mostly cheap) wine but good for you. A worthy cause :)

                                                                2. re: smilyfoodcritic

                                                                  What about fabulous beer? Or some really good liquor? Or a couple nice bottles of champagne?

                                                          3. Just think how much chocolate $2500 would buy...

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: Soop

                                                              Soop, what kind of chocolate would you buy and where would you order it from?

                                                              1. re: smilyfoodcritic

                                                                Recchuiti makes by far the best fleur de sel caramels (and I've tried a lot of highly regarded ones). However, I had some lovely caramels (including salted caramels) from V Chocolates. L.A. Burdicks makes delicious chocolates.


                                                                But much as I love chocolate, if I had money to make a large purchase I'd get half a pig and a lamb (and a freezer, if I didn't have one!). The lamb I get from a local CSA is the best I've ever had!

                                                            2. DiPalo's in Little Italy in NYC now has online ordering:


                                                              I especially love their gorgonzola dolce and the hunter sausage.

                                                              1. Lake Champlain chocolates and maybe some dried fruits from nutsonline.com.

                                                                1. Ok...it seems like we've spent all of your bonus. Anything left? A great list of suggestions for you to ponder. Have fun! adam

                                                                  1. Received croissants from Williams Sonoma this week. They are exactly what decent croissants should be - flaky outside, tender inside, buttery and tasty ... almost as good as the ones hubby and I had in Paris. Money well spent!

                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                    1. re: smilyfoodcritic

                                                                      Have you ordered anything else? You'll need to come back and report on the rest of the items you buy and try!

                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                        I also got Joe's Stone Crab from Miami FL - Ordered 10 large stone crab claws for over $150 including shipping. However, I was disappointed at what I received .... the claws are certainly meaty but lacks the good flavor I am looking for in quality crab meat. Some tasted almost like overcooked/overboiled. I will NEVER mail-order Joe's stone crab again - they are simply not worth the price & shipping (but I may give stone crab another try by visiting the restaurant.)

                                                                        1. re: smilyfoodcritic

                                                                          I've tried a couple of different companies over the years, including Joe's, and we always come back to Moore's - speedy shipping, friendy service and excellent stone crab claws.

                                                                          Moore's Stone Crab

                                                                          A picture from our last visit to Moore's restaurant on Longboat Key, FL (3 jumbos):


                                                                          1. re: Rubee

                                                                            Rubee, how much did you pay for an order consisting of 3 claws in the restaurant?

                                                                            Stone crabs from other places will have taste A LOT BETTER than the ones I got from Joe's to make me want to spend $13 to $15 per claw again to have it shipped to me.

                                                                            1. re: smilyfoodcritic

                                                                              Fresh jumbos are expensive, but oh-so-worth it. Prices jump accordingly per pound according to size (medium, large, jumbo and colossal). IIRC, fresh off the boat, that order was about $45-55.

                                                                              BTW, we firsted ordered from Moore's because they were cheaper than Joe's.

                                                                    2. dates from tunisia
                                                                      pistachios from turkey
                                                                      real balsamic (already mentioned above, but worthy of repetition)
                                                                      golden gourmet peanuts from the peanut roaster. http://www.peanut.com/
                                                                      andouille, tasso ham and boudin blanc from don's specialty / meats in louisiana http://www.donsspecialtymeats.com/pro...

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                        Just received the golden gourmet and hot & honey peanuts ......... and they ARE good!

                                                                      2. Now for something completely different:

                                                                        Perhaps as a starter for that lobster fest:


                                                                        1. Well, if you want to try cutting edge esoteric, you might find this interesting: http://www.caviar-escargot.com/en/cav...

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                            Reminds me of the chef who was offering pate du foie d' escargot (pate of moussed snail livers)

                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                              caviar = God's original "molecular gastronomy"

                                                                              those snail eggs are most wonderfully made and beautiful! thanks caroline!

                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                Was it Andrew Zimmern who did a piece on that? I was fascinated. Don't rememberthe price but it was a LARGE #!!

                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                  May have been. Whatever TV show I first saw it on, I was so fascinated that with all of the snails I raised live by the bucket load before cooking the little darlings, I don't recall ever seeing an egg! My god, was I eating sterile snails? But I am curious whether the caviar d'escargot can be as good as fresh escargot. I do love canned snails, but fresh snails are so amazingly much better! <sigh> Then one day I calculated what the little devils were costing me in the plants they were eating! Now I live where the helix snails are not bountiful. Time to buy another can....

                                                                              2. Is the bonus gone yet? I hope not! I personally would order every chocolate bar from BonBonBar, which is a single person chocolatier in LA: http://bonbonbar.foodzie.com
                                                                                I happen to know that the peanut butter and strawberry jam bar is brand new as is the caramallow bar and while it is way too early in the morning to be thinking about chocolate I can't stop staring at it!

                                                                                1. Lobster potpies from Hancock lobster. Forget everything else, this is the best food splurge I know (and I've been looking for quite a while).

                                                                                  1. Spices from Penzey's or The Spice House. http://www.thespicehouse.com/
                                                                                    Sausages from Paulina's Meat market in Chicago http://www.paulinameatmarket.com/ . They ship, (although your post says you're from Illinois, maybe you're close enough for a road trip? If so, you could spend all your money in a few hours once you hit the Chicago border) Paulina is an old school butcher, which specializes in European sausages and smoked meats. I love everything they sell!

                                                                                    I would also buy a big stash of fabulous honey and jelly, morello cherry, lemon curd, etc. And a supply of tea. Really GOOD tea. For years I used to go to Madison to shop at the Tea Man's store. He passed several years ago, but his business is being run by his wife and children. http://www.theteashop.com/tea/index.p... This is the really good stuff. Don't be put off by the low-tech website, they know their tea. (he's got teas that run over $100 a quarter pound, and those aren't even the expensive ones--but he's got some great more reasonably priced stuff as well


                                                                                    Chocolate! http://www.vosgeschocolate.com/ for Mo's bacon bar, the caramels and the drinking chocolates.
                                                                                    If you like more traditional chocolates http://www.belgchocpiron.com/index.html makes them fresh everyday in their little store and mails them out. SO GOOD!