August 12, 2013 at 1:00 am

Let's Talk Food: Hard-to-find ingredients

The tackily named but flavor-packed Jackass salsa, center, can be ordered online. Meanwhile, two local stores carry the Olde Cape Cod Olive Oil Basil Sun Dried Tomato dressing, upper right. Both are key to my favorite Sundried Tomato Avocado Mushroom salad. (Maureen Tisdale / The Detroit News)

Yes, the delicious Sun-dried Tomato, Avocado & Mushroom salad I wrote about last week takes me back to my honeymoon — happy sigh — but it also dragged me on an obsessive treasure hunt for its two hard-to-get ingredients: Jackass salsa and Olde Cape Cod All Natural Olive Oil & Basil Sun Dried Tomato dressing.

Both have given me little bait-and-switch scares. But don’t worry, I’ve tracked them down, and am more than happy to share my sources.

When I first tried the salad with crunchy romaine, I used a dressing I just loved, Meijer Gold Spicy Roasted Tomato & Poblano salad dressing. It was a sad, sad day when I showed up early one morning only to have the produce manager tell me the distributor stopped carrying it (don’t you HATE when they do that?). I went on a quest to try to find it at different Meijers to no avail. When Kate wrote in Good Stuff a while back that Meijer was bringing back the Gold line, my hope renewed — only to find in multiple checks in stores and at Meijers.com that that particular dressing didn’t appear to be among those revived.

But you can’t keep an obsessed foodie down. After I discovered the delicious Jackass salsa on my honeymoon, I thought maybe it could bring the heat to the salad and another dressing might bring the rest of the flavor.

I had to find a long-term source for it first, though. While we returned to our honeymoon spot and the gift shop where we first discovered the chunky flavor adventure twice within our first year of marriage — and purchased as many jars as they had on the second visit — the third time we went, we were horrified to find the gift shop had moved and stopped carrying it (what, our three purchases a year weren’t enough?).

Fortunately, this wasn’t a terribly hard fix. I started ordering it by the case at HotSauce.com, finding that if I ordered a 12-jar case (yes, it’s worth it), I got a $3 case discount and didn’t have to pay shipping. It isn’t cheap — with the discounts, it runs $7.45 a jar — but even when I wring my hands over our grocery bills, I have no doubt this indulgence is worth it. And hey, if you’ve seen it locally, please let me know.

So, the next mission was finding the right dressing to pair with the salsa and re-create the sweet, spicy, flavor-packed punch of the first dressing.

After bombing with lots of red pepper or sun-dried tomato dressings, I found a good match in Olde Cape Cod All Natural Olive Oil & Basil Sun Dried Tomato dressing. Then — how hard does this salad have to get? — I started having a hard time finding it. Even online, I kept finding “light” versions but not the “real” one I use (light dressings are almost invariably higher in sugar, which I avoid).

Fortunately, a call last week to a nice lady named Danielle at Cains Foods, the parent company of Olde Cape Cod products in Massachusetts, gave me three solid options. In addition to ordering directly from the company, two local stores (whose employees confirmed when I called to check) carry that specific flavor:

■Papa Joe’s at 34244 Woodward in Birmingham, (248) 723-9400.

■Hollywood Market at 29200 Campbell in Madison Heights, (248) 399-0900.

Other stores carry the brand, but this flavor is particularly hard to find. By the way, if you find the “light” version online, keep in mind that according to Danielle, the company no longer has a light version; any bottles marked that way are outdated.

Compared to tracking down the ingredients, putting together the Sun-dried Tomato, Avocado & Mushroom salad is simple. And yes, I maintain that spicy, sweet, chewy, creamy, crunchy dish is worth a bit of a treasure hunt. My guess is if one of these products disappears from the market, the first thing I’ll do is start experimenting with replacements — well, after the tantrum, anyway.

Do you enjoy hard-to-get food stuffs that are worth some extra work and money? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below. You need a Facebook account to add comments, but they’re free and easy to sign up for, which is how I managed to have one for years and ignore it except for this sort of thing. I’ll be keeping an eye out the next few days to respond to any great comments or questions you post. You can also follow me on Twitter @reentiz. Join the discussion!

Olde Cape Cod Olive Oil Basil Sun Dried Tomato dressing is no longer ... (Maureen Tisdale / The Detroit News)