Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Small Differences, Chapter 1

I have cooked in my new house for the first time. As Martha would say, this is a good thing. To do this, however, I needed to go shopping. Armed with my reusable grocery bag (I really need to remember that one is NEVER enough), I went to the butcher. There had been a much beloved meat shop in Greenwich that also had a restaurant called Manero's. Sadly, it closed several years back, leaving its denizens inconsolable. Especially sad for our household was the loss of the steak sauce. A couple of bottles were left over and their contents prized like Caspian caviar. More recently, some of the old employees opened up a new meat market and rebranded the steak sauce, turning many frowns upside down. Their store, Greenwich Prime Meats, was my first stop. Ok, so inside was less of a revelation than I may have hoped. There were some predictable cuts and some prepared food and some b-list olive oil for sale, but no fascinating local specialties. Greenwich may be many things to many people, but in the years I've known it, it has never been a foodie paradise. Though, Greenwich Prime Meats, if you read this, you have an enormous picture in your shop of all the different parts of the cow, it would be nice, I think, if more of them were represented in your deli case: bottom sirloin is no one's friend; hanger, strip, flat iron, skirt - any of these would be a more welcome addition. Still, the ACT of shopping at a butcher's instead of a supermarket feels good, and I came away with some flank steak.

Next door is the Bon Ton Fish Market, the real aim of my day's shopping. I wanted my first meal to be fish. A) because I notoriously suck at cooking any fish that isn't a scallop; B) I am not smoking and am adamant that I will not put lots of other things in my mouth instead thereby causing me to blow up like a hippo, ergo nice good for you low fat fish is something I should be eating more of which means; C) I should learn how to cook the stuff. The fish market was quite nice and there was a fair bit of selection - much more than at the supermarket, and it looked good and fresh and inviting. I asked the fishmonger what had been caught nearby, and aside from a little confusion as to whether or not Nova Scotia could be considered nearby (it can't unless it is compared to, say the Bering Strait in which case, yes Nova Scotia is nearer by), there were quite a number of options, though ecologically unsoundly, my eyes did linger overlong on both the mahi mahi and the grouper. I settled on a lemon sole filet which looked quite nice and quite bone free. Now a note to the nice people at Bon Ton Fish. I think, if I am not mistaken, that your scallops were selling in the neighborhood of $18/pound. This is too much for scallops. The Union Square Greenmarket, with its, shall we way, luxurious prices, sells scallops for $14/pound. Please reconsider. I love scallops, but would seriously consider tacking on 30 minutes to my commute to stop by 14th street to pick up my scallops there.

Ok, protein assembled, now it needs to go with something. And I was off to the Whole Foods. One of the chief selling points of this house was its proximity to the Whole Foods, a store I was initially suspicious of, but have come to love over time, and now really dislike shopping elsewhere. The Greenwich Whole Foods does need some help, though. It is, bizarrely, significantly smaller than the Whole Foods on 14th, 23rd, 59th, and Houston - suburbs are supposed to have the ridiculously outsized grocery stores! This one is frankly petite. As such, it's a little more cramped, but so so so so much better than the alternative (mostly because when faced with the Entemann's aisle at the Stop & Shop, I find my self drawn to its tasteless yet familiar "baked goods").

[Commence rant on current offerings at supermarkets]
Once upon a time I was younger and went to school surrounded by other children. These children had a surprising lack of allergies to: peanuts, lactose, gluten, color, air, water, etc. In fact, I have met a number of people in my life and I know 2 people who are lactose intolerant and have met 2 people who can't eat gluten. Who are the rest of you and why are you systematically destroying my supermarket? I wanted yogurt. Simple, whole milk yogurt. Yes, in a perfect world I wanted banana yogurt, but I am a realistic woman and I would settle for strawberry. Do you know how many yogurts at Whole Foods are NOT MADE WITH MILK? 5. Do we really need 5 different kinds of soy yogurt? Surely one is sufficient considering not that many of you can't have milk! Then there was nonfat yogurt, lowfat yogurt, a bewildering assortment of maple flavored yogurt, some goat yogurt, and one, that's O-N-E whole milk strawberry yogurt. I would waste some more time on the gluten-free, well everything, also the vegan stuff, but if you can't tell, this gets me actually angry as opposed to fake angry. If we are producing children so incredibly frail that milk and bread will kill them, well, all I can say is I need to pay more attention to my Mandarin homework because the end of American hegemony is far closer than I feared.
[end rant]

The point of this long foray into my personal shopping habits (for those really interested we had lemon sole with a radish and scallion butter reduction, sauteed radishes and pilau with a 2006 Bouzeron that I thought I wouldn't ever be able to find and Smith & Vine in Brooklyn carries), was to share my excitement at the chalkboard posted right outside Whole Foods: farmer's markey Wednesday 8:00am-sellout; in the Whole Foods parking lot.

Awesome! Wednesday was my traditional market day in New York, I can continue the tradition here. Besides the official town of Greenwich market isn't until Saturday and I have fears about Saturday markets being really crowded and kind of pushy and shovey. So a Wednesday market suits me fine. So this morning, I packed up the car and headed out (I've decided why I keep stalling the car by the way - the cool floor mats have ridges that catch even the tips and heels of flip flops - so until I swap them out, I'll be driving barefoot). I got to a suspiciously empty Whole Foods parking lot. I saw a guy selling flowers and plants and not much else. So I walked around the parking lot. Nope, no market. Maybe 8:00am was ambitious. True, I had waited until 9:15 to st out, thinking that 8 was ambitious, but perhaps the vendors showed up closer to noon and hit up people on their lunch breaks. I went inside the Whole Foods to inquire at customer service. The verdict?

That WAS the market. That one dude selling, I'm really sorry to say this buddy, some of the sickliest looking herbs I've seen in a while, his flora was the market. No fruit, no poultry, no weird mushrooms. One guy and what looks like the flowers and herbs he grows in his own 1/4 acre backyard. Perhaps calling that a "Farmer's Market" is a bit like my calling the fire escape at my old apartment a "deck."

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