Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Yes, but What do You Really Use?

In each person's personal life there comes a time (or two or three) when others bring your profession into play by asking for advice. For me, it's always welcome. I love to share with others and if I can help someone in their food life it makes me happy. Often I'm asked about brands and types of foods that I purchase for my own use. Mostly I redirect everyone to my usual stomping grounds, ALDI and leave it there.

As much as I love ALDI (and love is so small a word for my feelings there), I can't always get what I'm looking for and I sometimes have to turn elsewhere to fulfill my needs. It's not cheating, I swear.

There are brands I purchase elsewhere or simply prefer elsewhere. I'd like to share a few here. This is NOT a review in any way, shape or form. These are products I really use on a day-to-day basis with no compensation or otherwise thrown in there.

Olive Oil - I am not brand loyal with this. I stand in the aisle of any given grocery and find clear bottles of extra virgin olive oil to peruse. I hold them up to the light and the clearest and greenest of them wins. I shy away from green bottles because I can't see what I'm getting. This isn't the way you're 'supposed' to buy olive oil (not like sniffing melons or squeezing avocados), it's just the way I do it and I am never dissatisfied with the oil I get.

That being said, when I was in NYC with my cousin, we stopped by O & Co. and I purchased a rather expensive bottle of olive oil there - Il Fornacino, peppery finish and lovely flavor - I can only seem to find it on the UK website now. I absolutely love that oil and wish I could afford it all the time. I am also very partial to Sorelle Paradiso olive oils. They are the smoothest and most flavorful oils I've tasted - really.

Guacamole - When I'm not making my own, I can eat Wholly Guacamole by the bucketful. I can't get enough of that stuff. Just the right amount of garlic and perfect little chunks of avocado throughout. I wish I had some on hand right now.

Pasta Sauce - I make my own absolutely killer version of marinara that is to-die-for. It starts with a base of carrot, celery, onion and bacon and builds with smoked ham hock, garlic and just the right amount of herbs. When I don't have time for that bad-boy, I honestly adore ALDI's Mama Cozi meat sauce. It's got just the right amount of sweetness, nice chunks of tomato and perfect seasoning. I would go out of my way to buy it - I love it that much. I know - I said I was sharing things I can't get at ALDI, but I can't leave this one out!

Flour - For all-purpose, again, I buy the ALDI brand, but my very favorite flours are the King Arthur brand. The bread flour is awesome and I love the white whole wheat. Some day soon I'll order up a batch of French bread flour and let you know what I think of that. You really do get different results with KA flours, trust me on this one!

Parmesan Cheese - Just like any other busy mom, I routinely purchase round paperboard containers of pre-grated Parmesan for every day use, but I don't prefer or even recommend it. For the real deal I am partial to BelGioioso. I can find it in chunks, grated or shredded (my favorite) and the flavor is just over the top for a mass-produced cheese.

Yogurt - For the kids I purchase whichever yogurt has the least food coloring and sugar, which is almost always Stonyfield. For myself, and I do mean myself because I hate to share this - it's Fage. Simple ingredients, thick and rich and the flavor is like eating something you really shouldn't have. Yes, it's that good!

Salt - Diamond Crystal Kosher or Morton Coarse Kosher in a pinch. Sea salt from anywhere - I'm not picky about that.

Herbs and Spices - Well, this is a toss-up. I like the large boxes I can find at Wegmans very affordably (the Original Bulk Packed Spice Company), but I also love Penzey's. I use fresh herbs whenever possible and whole spices when available. I can also find bulk herbs, spices, grains and nuts at Elias Market in Bethlehem. One thing I buy without fail at least once a month is Mrs. Dash Garlic & Herb. I can NOT live without that stuff! So good - really. I also am smitten with Amazing Taste packets (which I've written about here and here) and pick up several a month.

Soy Sauce - This may not be a staple anywhere else, but it sure is here. I buy, without fail, Kikkoman. I buy it in large tins which are half a gallon each. Brewed soy sauce is completely different than the nearly-synthetic type you can buy. The aroma and flavor are smooth and full and it's something you don't want to skimp on. Once I started using real brewed soy sauce, my dishes changed completely. It really isn't worth it to buy the other.

Hot Sauce - Well, this one is varied depending on who is buying it. For me, Sriracha all the way! Not just hot sauce, garlicky deep flavored hot sauce like no other. You can literally eat this on just about anything. Scrambled eggs and ketchup? No way - try them with Sriracha and see if it doesn't convert you.

Want to know about anything else? What do I wash my dishes with, or what pans do I like? Feel free to ask!


Nerd Mom said...

The soy sauce thing has me giggling, but that's only because of my past lectures/rants about using good soy sauce vs the hydrolyzed crap.

With Olive Oil, I was told that you don't want to buy clear bottles because exposure to light makes olive oil go rancid faster. I use it rather slowly, so that's a consideration for me.

Annie Jones said...

I think a little Sriracha (my husband calls it "Rooster Sauce") on Aldi plain potato chips is a treat that can't be beat.

Penny Pincher said...

Thanks for sharing. I, too, do most of our shopping at Aldi. I have never tried the Mama Cozi meat sauce: we usually get the mushroom when we aren't making our own. I'll have to try it the next time around.

Midwest Mom said...

It's always fun to see where we agree or disagree. I'm an Aldi shopper, too, so I know what you mean. You can't always find *everything* there.

I'm a mustard girl, and Grey Poupon Deli Mustard with Horseradish is a must-have for my house.

I've never heard of choosing Olive Oil by color, but to be honest, that's probably what I do. I like my olive oil fragrant and olivey... So the less yellow (like vegetable oil) it looks, the better.

Fun post, Anne!

Ginny said...

Good Morning, Anne. On this 'hotter'n hell on the 4th of July' morning in the Lehigh Valley, I have a suggestion for Marty that might make it a bit hotter. My hubby, Joe, went to NOLA to help with a rebuild and brought me back this stuff called 'Slap ya Mama'. It's a pepper blend that is so hot to make one want to 'slap their mama'. He became addicted, which means I had to go online to get it (case lots, too). It comes in regular, extra hot and white pepper. I saw it on a shelf at only one place locally, Boo's Hot Sauce, in the Quakertown Farmers Market. I don't know if you get there, but I would wager, if Marty is like my Joe (and my younger daughter) you could park him there to sample and read bottles while you get the rest of your shopping done and he'd still be nibbling and reading when you were done.

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Jen said...

I've gone to the Aldi near me a couple of times and each time it has been an adventure. Of course my Aldi is in a really bad part of town so that might be part of my dislike for it. I've been pleased with their products but the clientele is scary. On the other hand, I go to Trader Joe's which is owned by Aldi (or the other way around, not sure). They are a block away from my house so very convenient. They don't have the same stuff but the quality is just as good.

I LOVE Penzeys and Diamond kosher salt.