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Exotic or unusual ingredients

07-Dec-2004

There are several places in Seattle to find ingredients common to different cultures.  Pike Place Market has several stalls and the International District has lots of Asian markets.  Outside of those areas there area a few places that I’ve found that are really helpful when looking for specialty items. 

Central Market has an amazing array of produce! The produce section is as large as many full grocery stores.  I have always been able to find any sort of fruit, vegetable, root, or herb that I’ve needed.  I shop in Shoreline but I’m sure that the other stores have the same abundance of choices.  In addition to produce, they have an amazing assortment of Asian goods – more types of rice than you can find anywhere, a great meat and fish department (live crab tanks), and a full deli. 

Big John’s PFI is a relatively recent find for me and an exciting one at that!  Big John started out selling Italian foodstuffs from the trunk of his car.  Over the years he expanded his product line to include other European Mediterranean countries and now has items from the Mid-East and Eastern Europe.  This is truly a "no-frills" place.  Some of the shelving is block and board (like the bookcase you had in college).  But on those shelves are buckets of bulk spices and grains.  They have 10 kilo (22 pound) chocolate "bars" from Callebaut and Guittard!  This is a great place to just wander around and buy a few things you’ve never heard of.  They also have a good frozen selection of filo, tart shells, etc.  And a deli case full of lovely cheeses. It’s a little challenging to find since it’s in the middle of an industrial area and the entrance sits back off the street but it’s worth the effort.

Probably everyone knows DeLaurenti’s but since it is so visible I think that it sometimes is overlooked.  The cheese selection is wonderful and the people behind the counter are the friendliest and most knowledgeable in all of Seattle! There is a great selection of oils, vinegars, marinades and sauces.  There are types of pasta that you won’t find anywhere else.  The bulk foods (upstairs) include an amazing variety of lentils, among other things.  This is another fun place to just stroll the aisles and check out the selection.  Several years ago I learned to make chestnut soup and it’s one of my favorites.  The recipe calls for simmering and then blending vacuum-packed chestnuts until smooth but it’s much easier (and just as good!) to buy a can of chestnut puree from DeLaurenti’s!

If you are looking for Spanish ingredients head for The Spanish Table.  They specialize in items from Spain and Portugal and have tons of paella pans, dishes, music and cookbooks as well as foodstuffs.  They have a huge selection of Spanish wine and Ports.  I believe I’ve read that it’s the largest selection in the U.S.  I will say that they do NOT have bargain prices here and, in fact, a couple of times I’ve found the same items at DeLaurenti’s for less.  Most items, however, seem fairly priced. 

There are very reasonable prices at World Spice.  A great selection of herbs and spices in bulk.  The people here are very friendly and will grind spices, if you request, but recommend you do it as you need them.  They also carry teas, but I’ve not really checked that area out.

And finally, if you live in the Seattle area there is a recently published book that can help you locate all kinds of items.  It’s called "The Food Lover’s Guide to Seattle".   It lists and recommends shops in several categories. 

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