Finding quality ingredients can sometimes be difficult, especially when those ingredients can be termed specialty ingredients. Some things are easy: I do my best to buy my meat from a butcher if at all possible. You might remember these guys (and gals): They stood behind a counter of meat which they have trimmed, ready to help you find the perfect cut or even cut something special for you. Butchering is an art form that cannot be replicated by plastic-wrapped Styrofoam folks! (Look, I occasionally fall prey to vacuum-sealed meat but I really try!) The meat tastes better, and you know you're not getting the weird bits that you really don't want when you can look someone in the eyes. On the other hand, finding things like spices, great honey, and such can be a real chore. Luckily, I've found places that specialize in both locally, and for those of you not in Southern California, one has many branches and one ships!
In the world of spices, may I suggest Penzey's? They have branches throughout much of the United States, and they also ship. If you're still buying your spices and dried herbs at the grocery store, stop. Seriously. Penzey's is fresher, their spices and herbs are of a higher quality, and to be perfectly honest, they're cheaper. I am more than willing to drive the 10 or so miles up a LA freeway just to get to their closest store. The smells when you walk in are the best perfume in the world. As much as I love fresh herbs, sometimes that's just not possible, and I will take the dried herbs from Penzey's over wilted, overpriced supposedly fresh herbs any day.
It's been a long time since stores carried nothing but clover and orange blossom honey. Still, it's hard to find good quality honey that hasn't had the nuances of flavor completely processed out of it. Luckily, there is Honey Pacifica to rescue us from bland honey. They use minimal processing on their honey, and it shows on the palate. They carry a wide variety of sizes, and even some great infused honey. PB and mango infused honey sandwich anyone? Yum. They ship, but if you happen to live near Lakewood CA you can stop on in and pick up what you need. Just be sure to call first as they're not a shiny storefront operation. I'm not complaining as a shiny fancy store means higher prices.