10 Little Luxuries

Because small splurges can bring big happiness

By Roxanne Webber

Good booze takes the edge off.
Good booze takes the edge off.
Chocolate makes you feel rich.
Chocolate makes you feel rich.
High-quality olive oil has a higher purpose than cooking
High-quality olive oil has a higher purpose than cooking.
Drink good tea. Forget about the economy.
Drink good tea. Forget about the economy.
It’s good to be budget-savvy when it comes to food, but it’s demoralizing to cut back on every little thing. Here are 10 treats to add sparkle to the day. Eating rice and beans every night doesn’t seem so bad when you can finish the meal with a nice glass of bourbon.

1. Professional Knife Sharpening. Sharp knives make kitchen work more enjoyable and efficient. If you’re not a pro with a steel of your own, it only costs around $3 to $8 per knife (depending on the size of the blade) to have your set honed by an expert. Check Chowhound for reviews of different sharpeners in your area (you’ll want to go to someone reputable), and keep an eye out for mobile knife sharpeners at farmers’ markets.

2. Wild Mushrooms. It’s easy to balk at anything priced well over 10 bucks a pound, but you only need a few good wild mushrooms to add richness to a dish. Try throwing some black trumpets into a winter stew. Truffle salt is also a favorite around CHOW, and though it’s certainly pricey, it lasts a long time and elevates a simple omelet or roasted potatoes.

3. A Dessert Date. Skip the appetizers, entrées, cocktails, and wine and share dessert and some coffee with a friend. You’ll enjoy getting to go out without the full price tag. Chowhounds have plenty of suggestions for where to find the best dessert.

4. Flowers. Some nice blooms brighten up a table fast. Shop for a variety like Alstroemeria that will last a while, and trim the ends before you stick the flowers in a vase so you get more life from them. And don’t forget to periodically check the water level in the vase.

5. Booze. A good sipping whiskey (we’re on a Basil Hayden’s bourbon kick at the moment—it’s about $35) or an interesting Belgian beer always feels luxurious. If you’re enjoying time alone, a mini bottle of champagne is a nice way to treat yourself.

6. Hard Cheese. Spend extra for a really nice chunk of hard cheese like pecorino. Since you need to grate just a little over a salad or plate of pasta to enjoy it, it’ll last a while.

7. Chocolate. Around the CHOW office, chocolate is one of our favorite splurges. A high-end bar like Vosges’s Barcelona Bar (milk chocolate with sea salt and smoked almonds) is under 10 bucks. Another favorite: Lindt’s Intense Pear bar.

8. Dish Soap that Smells Nice. An aromatherapeutic brand of dish soap like Mrs. Meyer’s makes doing the dishes a little more pleasant. It costs a few dollars more than a grocery-store brand but smells a lot better. We like the lavender and rose geranium scents.

9. Olive Oil. High-quality olive oil tastes completely different than the cheap stuff. Save the high-end version for drizzling over salads and soups so you can get the most out of its flavor. Cook with a less expensive brand.

10. Tea. Really nice tea is relaxing and tastes good. Currently, we’re splurging on Rishi’s organic silver needle jasmine tea, Paromi’s Earl Grey Dolce, and Mariage Frères Wedding Imperial Tea Bags.

CHOW’s The Ten column appears every Tuesday.

Roxanne Webber is an associate
editor at CHOW.

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