Vom Fass and Penzey’s

In food, shopping on 01/04/2009 at 10:44 am

There’s a strip mall that was recently renovated across from the Whole Foods in Madison on University Ave that houses two of our favorite stores we must visit whenever we’re in town: Penzey’s Spices and Vom Fass.

Penzey’s now has a small outpost at Grand Central, in that long hallway with all the other decadent seafood, meats and bakeries. But their selection is paltry compared to the grandaddy store in Madison. The theme is decidedly old salty pirate, with empty distressed boxes stacked to display the wares, the tops draped with burlap to give it that extra rough hewn look. They sell individual spices from all over the world, with jars you can open and sample a smell. For the gift giver, they also custom mix with riffs for meats, stews, and ethnic dishes. We tend to overstock up and store the extra in our freezer for freshness.

Vom Fass, two doors down, is a newer neighbor, whose name gives you no clue what they actually sell. According to their literature, they are a German company specializing in infused oils, vinegars and rums. When we went, their rum-tasting wall was defunct because they were having licensing issues with importing the product. The only oil we wanted to sample, the truffle, was out of stock. We have another source of our oils and vinegars, the Oilerie in the Door County resort peninsula – on the thumb of the Wisconsin mitten – a good 7 hours away, so we were eager to compare and see if we could switch to the new local guy. We decided to sample a couple vinegars instead, since the description said it would make a great soda, something we do with Ikea elderberry and lingonberry syrups. This option will be more tangy and less sweet. We bought quince and calamansi flavors. They have a gimmick there where you buy their fancy glass bottles and bring it back for refills. We wonder if recycling ours will actually happen next time we’re in town.

Our favorite things to do with truffle oil: drizzle on poached egg or cheesy bread made from Trader Joe’s pizza dough.

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