Home brewing is in the name, but home cooking can be on the menu if you check out Maryland Homebrew in Columbia.
The store specializes in ingredients and tools for people who make their own beer or wine. But Kyle turned me on to using Maryland Homebrew to find unique cooking ingredients as well. Malt for bread baking. Grains that you can grind yourself. Exotic spices and even tools. This is Kyle's beginning tour:
I go there most often for dried malt extract. Malt is the flavor in malted milk or malt vinegar. It can be used anywhere you want sweetness with that unique malt taste. I use it in making bread or pizza dough for a touch of malt flavor. It also helps give a darker color to the baked product. I just add a tablespoon or so to the flour and mix it in good. Consistency wise it's sort of hard to work with and you have to mix it in well or you'll get clumps of malt. Maryland homebrew sells it in 1 pound bags in light and dark forms. I store it in a glass canning jar for easy access and to slow down the hardening process. Unlike the liquid form, dried malt extract doesn't go bad but it will turn into a rock over time. The store also has just about every form of grain you can imagine and a free use grain mill to grind it.
Some ale recipes sometimes use some unique herbs and spices. So if you need a local source for grains of paradise, juniper berries or dried elder berries, this is the place. Grains of paradise has a black-pepper-like taste with herbal notes. Sam Adams uses it in their summer brew. How can you resist saying something like "I'm serving seared rare tuna encrusted with grains of paradise?"
Finally, there are the gadgets like thermometers, funnels, large spoons and my favorite: the bottle washer. The bottle washer attaches to your laundry sink (you may need an adapter) and will spay a super-hard stream of water into any type of bottle, jar, can etc. It'll clean anything with hard to reach places.
This is the kind of place you wander around and see something new every time you go. The store employees get busy sometimes but are very helpful at findfing stuff or answering questions.
Maryland Homebrew just joined my list to check out, although it may take a while because it's not open Mondays when I sometimes have free time.