The goal of the gourmet shop at Palmer's Olde Tyme Candy Shoppe is to carry specialty foods that customers won't find anywhere else in the Siouxland area, said Jon Sadler, the store manager.
"You won't find the items we carry here at specialty shops in Omaha or Sioux Falls, and you can't buy them at Whole Foods stores," said Sadler, who started adding gourmet sauces, jams, dip mixes, teas, and other specialty foods at Palmer's to go along with their confections. "If you're watching the Food Channel, a lot of times you can't find ingredients. We stock a lot of items so you can find them here."
Sadler attends the Fancy Foods shows and picks up specialty foods at those events, and he buys products from different brokers. Those two connections got the gourmet shop off to a good start as far as selection, but he still wants to add more products, he said. He plans to attend the Fancy Foods show in Washington, D.C. this summer.
The gourmet shop opened on Black Friday last year to rave reviews, but getting it ready in time for the unveiling was a close call. Construction on the gourmet shop was finished the Wednesday of Thanksgiving week, and Sadler and other staff members came to Palmer's after their Thanksgiving Day dinner to stock the shelves.
"We put out what we could then," he said, "but we have it fine-tuned now."
After the Fancy Foods Show in San Francisco in January, Sadler added 180 items. He estimates that the gourmet shop now has 450 items on the shelves.
Among the new items available at the gourmet shop are pastas, pasta sauces, pesto sauces, rice, vinegars and oils. Look for pastas from Benedetto Cavalieri and Artisan Italian (Alcester, S.D.); pasta sauces by Dave's Gourmet, available in Butternut Squash, Roasted Garlic & Sweet Basil, Masala Marinara, Spicy Heirloom Marinara, Wild Mushroom, and Red Heirloom varieties; Elki pestos, available in lemon artichoke and sundried tomato varieties, to name a couple; Heirloom Rice; Villa Manodori Balsamic Vinegar; and Blood Orange Olive Oil.
"We also have a barbecue section we didn't have before. Now we have a lot of barbecue products," he said. "I have a passion for barbecue."
The barbecue section is housed in an old hutch purchased in Omaha. It features a wine rack that now holds barbecue sauces, including the popular Stonewall Kitchen varieties.
One of the items sitting on the shelves of the hutch is a product called Rub Joe, the Ultimate Coffee and Spice Rub.
"It has a hint of coffee in it. You can smell the coffee when you put it on, but you can't taste the coffee. It adds a unique flavor," he said.
Among other items in the barbecue section are grilling planks, which can be used with gas grills to get a smoked flavor on your meat.
"You can use them till they're burned all the way through," he said.
The bigger grilling planks sell for $10.99 for two. Smaller sizes are also available.
You can also try their cedar papers to smoke and add flavor to meat.
Next to the barbecue section is a display of spatulas called "Sportulas," which are premium grill spatulas for tailgaters who want to support their favorite sports teams. Palmer's has Sportulas for Iowa and Nebraska teams and others, but they can order a Sportula with any team that a customer wants if it isn't in stock.
Another display in the gourmet shop showcases cookies, including the Moravian, Hottie Biscotti, Lady Waltons and Walkers brands, and high-end Scharfen Berger candy bars.
The Hottie Biscotti cookies were added after a man from California came into the store. He was visiting Sioux City for the NAIA tournament and told Sadler that Palmer's should carry the Hottie Biscotti cookies, which are made by his daughter in California. Sadler asked him to send some samples, and now they are available locally at Palmer's for Siouxlanders to enjoy.
Another section of the gourmet shop features a variety of Stonewall Kitchen jams, Scandinavian Delights gourmet preserves by Elki, San Saba River pecan pie in a jar, ice cream toppings, Koppers chocolate covered olives (which are made to look like olives), Bolga handmade baskets from Africa, and more.
Many of the items can be purchased as a housewarming gift or as special treats for your family and guests. The chocolate covered olives are ideal for cocktail or martini parties - any event where you want to bring something fun, he said.
"It's fun for people to come in here and grab a basket and start filling it up with items. It makes a perfect gift," said Sadler.
The cracker and pretzel section of the gourmet shop includes products from East Shore Specialty Foods, Elki, Tall Paul's (Pickled Asparagus), Stonewall Kitchen and the Gracious Gourmet. You'll find Water Crackers, bruschetta, dipping pretzels, spreads, and more.
A baking section features Nielsen-Massey vanilla, cooking and baking mixes (including Barefoot Contessa), cocoa, Dulce De Leche, and other unique, hard to find items.
"I love it when someone comes in and recognizes a label and says, 'I've been looking all over for that! Nothing I've ever tried is that good,'" he said.
In the righthand corner of the gourmet shop is a spice section featuring spices and sea salts that are hard to come by in this area.
"People used to drive to Omaha to find some of these," he said. "We have unique sea salts. The Smoked Bacon is good on a steak or burger, the same on poultry or fish."
One of the hard to come by spices is saffron, the rarest, most valuable of all spices.
"It's really potent and good with rice and soups," he said.
A couple of spice books are on hand as references to look up a spice that customers have never heard of or used before.
"This is about the only area we haven't changed yet," he said. "We plan to have little jars with spices you can taste and smell to visualize what you can do with them. We eventually would like to add cookbooks."
For more information about the gourmet shop at Palmer's Olde Tyme Candy Shop, visit the store at 405 Wesley Parkway in Sioux City or call (712) 258-7790.