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Comments by YACCS
Sunday, January 29, 2006

Shopping for food

Makes for a nice dinner

One of the least pleasant things about New York living, and it is only New York, is the lack of decent supermarkets. Most are tiny, some are nasty, and few allow for the kind of shopping experience suburbanites take for granted.

However, there are some charms to urban life.

You can do like my father and go out to Jersey, and shop at King, or my sisters in Boston, who have warehouse-sized Stop and Shops, stores so large that they have their own English food aisle. I don't mean section, I mean aisle.

But the charm of New York is the fact that you can find damn near anything.

The Upper West Side is not reknowned for its restaurants, it's actually better for a drink, but it does have a series of markets which is ideal for people who like to cook. Zabar's is the king of the speciality store, but for some reason, I've never shopped there. Never been inside.


I always liked the food from Balducci's better. The two stores were competitors since I can remember. But being an NYU student at the time, I ate a lot more Balducci food.

There was no Gourmet Garage or Whole Food back then.

In fact, those stores wouldn't exist without Fairway and Stew Leonard's.

In a three block strip south of 79th St on Broadway, there is Westside Market, Citarella and Fairway.

I like Westside Market for their deli and baked goods. Their bread is pretty good as are their bagels. I know, people are thinking why not go to H&H. But I don't like their rather large bagels. I grew up eating Ess a Bagels, because my father, when he worked the night shift, would bring them home warm, because they were a block from his job. When I was a kid, they were tiny, like Lender's Bagels, maybe a little larger.

Citarella, which started on the East Side, has a nice selection of bread. But of course, the reason to shop there is the fish. And to pay some ridiculous prices. If you're going to make a fish dish to impress, this is where you go for the raw materials. They also have a speciality butcher for your venison needs.

But when you think of the Upper West Side and food, it's Fairway, with their produce display which is the real attraction.

The reason I mention this is because unlike most supermarkets, where you go in with a list, this is a place where you can be inspired to create dishes based on what you see. The only other place which can do this is the Union Square Greenmarket where you can see Spinach and heirloom tomatos and be instantly inspired to make a salad.

So I was shopping and whilke picking up some fresh herbs and mushrooms, I walked over to the fresh fish counter and picked up some salmon. But then, I saw these beautiful rainbow trout.

The best thing about cooking is when you have an inspired idea based on what you see. In a regular supermarket and our dependence on lists, inspiration is rarely found. But in a place where the produce is piled high , that inspiration is easier to find.

But I love Rainbow Trout. There's just something so earthy and natural about that fish.

If there is any one thing missing from most people's diets is imagination. They either wind up doing take out or repeating meals because they are so wedded to lists and recipies that true innovation is often missing.

Which is why people need to get into farmers markets and stores which don't hide their produce, so they can decide to actually cook with the food and not make the food fit into a recipe.

posted by Steve @ 3:09:00 PM

3:09:00 PM

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