For the past year and some change, I have demonstrated how, with some careful planning and creativity, a twenty-spot can be stretched to impressive degrees. I would be lying, however, if I didn’t perpetually think about blowing the budget while meticulously tallying the take in my shopping basket. While out shopping this week, I visited some of my favorite markets and let my imagination take over. What if this twenty spot in my pocket were extra, with no preconceived plans for its expenditure? What if I could drop this entire Andrew Jackson on one super-rich, guilt-free item? Here are some ideas for blowing your twenty-spot in one fell swoop.
RSVP is, by all accounts, Maine’s largest retail store for beer, wine, and spirits. But, what can we do for $20? We need something indulgent ... a treat. There are many sparkling wines that fall within the range, but very few actually toe right up to the line, and the goal is to max this bill out. Resident wine guru Chris Ziakos emphatically shares his thoughts about a $20 treat, “Westport Rivers, from Massachusetts, makes a surprisingly good sparkler.” At $18.99, his choice is on the money, literally.
Just a neighborhood (or two) away is Rosemont Bakery and Market. Right off the bat, a rack of vinegars and oils calls from across the room. There, dozens of exotic and gorgeous bottles hold the silky nectar of olive oil infused with garlic, or even better, white truffles. A bounty of boutique balsamic vinegars boast high price tags, but none quite maximize our buying power. On the top shelf, one of the last bottles of J. LeBlanc Huile de Noix begs for attention, en français, nonetheless. Walnut oil is fragrant and rather delicate, with many chefs opting not to use it for any sautéing or frying whatsoever, as it brings out some of the oil’s less desirable qualities. This generously large bottle is lobbying for the loot, at $19.49. This is certainly indulgent for the chef, but not necessarily practical or offering immediate gratification. Then, the cheese counter, as usual, grabs hold and barely lets go. An entire pound of Stonington Smoked Salmon, locally produced, extremely rich, and $19.99 a pound, is sounding pretty excellent. The always friendly staff at Rosemont, offering their suggestion for a one-stop-twenty-spot-drop, are willing to carve out a $20 piece of Callebaut hazelnut chocolate from a huge block in back. Their enthusiasm prompts some consideration, but a taste of this outrageous treat, priced at $5.99 a pound, prompts embarrassment at the feelings of gluttony. Equally as gluttonous is the Humbolt Fog, a goat’s milk cheese from the San Francisco Bay area. A thin layer of vegetable ash separates the morning and afternoon milkings. At $16.99 a pound, I could also afford a fresh baguette to accompany, baked on site and selling for $2.
So, after all this searching, where did my spare twenty-spot go? While at Whole Foods, I remembered a sandwich I had enjoyed while at the Quarter Deck in Fort Lauderdale. There, they have a Seared Tuna “Philly,” with slices of tuna sitting in a roll with piles of sautéed peppers and onions and a generous smear of wasabi mayonnaise. This has recently been the subject of several rather explicit dreams, and at $19.99 a pound, seemed like the perfect indulgence. Since my fridge and pantry were decently stocked, all I needed aside from the tuna was wasabi mayo. For this, I offer my apologies to Whole Foods for helping myself to a few packets of the free wasabi from the sushi counter. Lesson learned: guilt can be reasonably tempered with the right amount of raw tuna.