I remember in the early 1990s when I was a struggling college student. Back then, I wasn’t very particular about the foods and beverages I bought for myself. At that time, I bought whatever I could afford. Even today, I can’t justify buying a lot of name brand foods. When my husband Bill and I go to our local Publix, we tend to stock up on generic brands because it saves us significant money. However, there are just a few items on which Bill and I rarely compromise. Here’s an article about what those items are and why we consider them special purchases.
To be honest, I’m not really a big coffee fan. In fact, I rarely drank it before I married my husband, who is a bit of a coffee fanatic. When I do drink coffee, I like it to be very high quality, sweetened with sugar and half and half. Bill can drink any kind of coffee, but also really prefers the good stuff. Being from the southeastern United States, for most of my life, I had never heard of Peet’s Coffee, which is a chain that is most common out west. But then one day in 2004, I happened to read a review of a Gevalia coffeemaker on Epinions.com. In the comment section of that review, someone mentioned how good Peets coffee was.
I was very intrigued, since at that time I was under the impression that Starbucks coffee was the “it coffee” of my generation. At that point, I had never liked most Starbucks coffees I tried because to me, they tasted too bitter. But this person on Epinions, who was bashing Gevalia and Starbucks coffees, claimed that Peets coffee was the way to go. I figured we had nothing to lose by trying it. I went looking to see where we could get our hands on some Peets. At that time, it was only being sold in certain stores, especially on the East Coast. I finally found it being sold at a Safeway.
Bill and I had to go out of our way to get our first one pound bag and, to be honest, Bill was very skeptical that Peets would be any better than other coffees. But by the time we were leaving the Safeway parking lot, our car smelled of heavenly coffee beans. We enjoyed our first cup of Peets Major Dickason’s coffee and quickly became converts.
Today, we order Peets coffees from their official Web site, even though we can buy Peets at our local grocery store. We purchase Peets online because we can choose from a wide variety of exotic beans from around the world. We are assured that our beans come to us fresh; in fact, each bag we buy from Peets.com has its roasting date stamped right on the front. Peets bought in a store may not be as fresh because there is no way to tell how long it’s been on the shelf. We also prefer to grind our coffee at home and purchasing Peets online ensures that we can get whole beans. Grocery stores tend to stock whatever will sell; most people prefer to buy their coffee already ground. Bill and I enjoy Peets coffee so much that we became “Peetniks”. Every month, Peets sends us a pound or two of fresh roasted beans so that we never run out.
Specialty cheeses and butters
Bill loves cheese; the stinkier the better. I, on the other hand, am pretty particular about my cheese. I like it mild and meltable, since the texture and flavor of cold cheese makes me retch. Though we buy regular cheeses like cheddar, mozzarella, and Monterey Jack at the grocery store, I tend to buy specialty cheeses and butters from igourmet.com. I shop at Igourmet whenever I want to buy a new and interesting cheese for Bill. Indeed, it’s an excellent source for exotic flavored cheeses.
One of my favorite ways to treat Bill is to go on igourmet.com and look at their sale page. I then choose two or three cheeses on sale. This past Christmas, I even bought Bill a cheese basket that was offered at a fraction of its regular price so that Bill could enjoy some new and different cheeses in the New Year. Igourmet offers cheeses and other gourmet items from around the world. Purchasing from them tends to be pricey because they must package most of their products in a way that protects them from the elements during shipping. However, we have yet to be dissatisfied with anything we’ve bought from them. I particularly enjoy their selection of exotic butters from around the world. I figure if I’m going to be eating something that is pretty much pure fat, it might as well be exquisite. And Igourmet does offer some really wonderful, but expensive, butters from around the world.
When I was a kid, I loved grits, even if they were instant. I would happily eat a small bowl of instant grits made with hot water before I went to school. Nowadays, my palate is a lot more discerning. I still love grits, but I prefer them to be the old fashioned kind. And unfortunately, our local grocery store only carries quick and instant grits; they don’t have old fashioned grits that take about a half an hour to prepare.
Since Bill and I currently live in Georgia, it was really surprising to us when we couldn’t find old fashioned grits at our local Publix. But not having high quality grits local to us does give us a good excuse to get in the car and head to Atlanta, which is where the closest Whole Foods is. Whole Foods does carry old fashioned grits that come in a cloth bag from a farm in northern Georgia. While most people may not notice or care about the difference between quick grits and old fashioned grits, Bill and I have come to appreciate the subtle taste and texture differences that come from old style grits, properly prepared in salty water. And when those grits are done, we add just a splash of half and half for an extra special creamy treat at breakfast. It’s pure heaven that makes the trip to Atlanta really worth it.
Hot chocolate is a special treat at my house. Because it’s such a special treat, I only use real chocolate and milk to make it. You won’t find powdered Swiss Miss cocoa mix in my pantry. When Bill and I lived in Germany, I got spoiled on a brand of chocolate made in Belgium called Dolfin. It’s among the very best hot chocolates I’ve ever tasted, made with actual shaved chocolate from Belgium, which has the strictest quality standards of chocolate in the world.
It’s relatively easy to get Dolfin chocolate flakes in Germany. We used to buy it at a local chocolate store. However, in America, Dolfin hot chocolate is much harder to find. I finally got ahold of some last year from Chocosphere.com, and even Chocosphere had very limited quantities of Dolfin chocolate flakes. At this writing, the site is only offering 77% cacao flakes, which is only one of the several flavors of flakes made by Dolfin. These flakes are great for making hot chocolate, but they are also fabulous for recipes, as garnishes on cakes and pies, and I’ve even used them when I’ve made homemade ice cream. They make great chocolate chips.
I drink hot chocolate sparingly, but I use Dolfin chocolate flakes when I do. I guess when I run out of my current canister, I’ll either have to try another brand or go back to Europe. But you can be sure I’ll be shopping at Chocosphere first to see if they’ve gotten in a new shipment of my favorite chocolate flakes.
While I will admit that drinking Diet Pepsi sweetened with aspartame is one of my worst vices, every once in awhile I do enjoy a “regular” cola. But most colas on the shelves of supermarkets are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. I realize that high fructose corn syrup is in a lot of products and is pretty hard to avoid. Many people think high fructose corn syrup is bad for one’s health and try to avoid it for that reason. I will admit to being leery about the health hazards related to high fructose corn syrup, but given the fact that I readily accept aspartame, I can’t in good conscience say that I avoid corn syrup for health reasons. The truth is, I just don’t like the way high fructose corn syrup has changed the way cola tastes.
When I was a kid, colas were sweetened with cane sugar and, at least to me, they had a distinctly different flavor. But sometime in the late 1980s, most soft drink makers in the United States switched to high fructose corn syrup from cane sugar and now regular colas don’t taste the same. So on the rare occasions that I drink a regular cola, I tend to choose one purchased at Whole Foods or one of the specialty brands of colas that are made with cane sugar. Thinking about colas made with cane sugar, I’m once again reminded of why I loved living in Germany. Sodas made there (and in a lot of other countries around the world) are still made with cane sugar. To me, it just tastes a lot better. If I’m going to be drinking the extra calories, I want the taste to be worth it.
So there you have it…
Maybe some people think Bill and I are crazy for being so particular about certain foods. But as we get older, we find that we really enjoy certain special treats. Having them around just makes life more pleasant. As I trade youthful vigor and naivete for creaky joints and wisdom, anything that makes life more pleasant is always welcome.