Sunday, September 14, 2008

Gourmet Ice Cream Truck

My transition back to the US was eased by the Van Leeuwen ice cream truck. I mentioned, when I first got to New York, that there was a truck parked a few blocks from the dorm I stayed in this summer, and that if I were awake and about after 8:30 pm, I would stop by for a cup of this hormone-free, organic, ice cream (mint chip or ginger or espresso) with homemade hot fudge and fresh whipped cream. All eaten with a biodegradable spoon.

I obsessed about it to Liam. He'd ask about the leadership institute I was attending, and I'd tell him about trying ginger after being on a mint chip binge for a week. He'd ask about my jet lag and culture shock, and I'd wax poetic about pre-bedtime sundaes. He'd ask how I liked the dorm food post-30, and I'd reply with my own culinary dilemma: should I continue along with the combination that I favored, or should I branch out and try each flavor while the yellow truck was parked just 5 blocks from me?

When Liam was here at the end of July, we found ourselves in SoHo trying to use a Crate and Barrel wedding gift card, and it occur ed to me: the truck was parked here in the day! We scoped street corners and intersections and found it. The teenagers working were perhaps confused by my glee, but I was thrilled to share it with Liam - at this point, afraid I'd built it up too much.

He took his first organic spoonful and smiled.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September at the market ...

This past weekend, I went to the market armed with a September list: Sungold cherry tomatoes for a pasta dish with fresh mozzarella, parsley to fry up for tacos with lemon, basil to add herbal essence to a lemon sherbet, and my weekly new-to-me-greens (this week? purslane).

The final item on my list was basil - for dessert.

I hadn't made any ice cream yet this summer and was interested in a lemon sherbet flavored with basil. I read her description of herbs best infusing liquids when cold, but wasn't quite convinced.

Then I had my first bite of sherbet.

There I was, holding the dasher in place since I'm missing the plastic ring that goes around the top and watching the ice cream freeze, bits of rind gathering around the bottom and I couldn't resist sticking my finger in to taste.

I often find myself adding Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips to most ice cream that even I make - but this one I didn't want to mar with anything else. I just wanted a bowl. And another. The only thing holding me back from finishing it after a dinner of parsley tacos and fried chickpeas or pasta with tomatoes, was trying to hold out until Liam gets here next week to share it.

Or, I can just head to the market this weekend and grab some more while it's still September.

Special thanks to Sara for sharing her great market photographs with me.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Grocery Store Maven Stumped

I used to call myself a Grocery Store Maven.

In Oakland, I knew the prices of coconut milk at Berkeley Bowl and Trader Joe's and 99 Ranch and Piedmont Grocery. I had opinions on where to buy dried garbanzos and whole coriander (Vik's) and the cost effectiveness of having a Full Belly Farm CSA Box.

In Paris, I began again to memorize the cost of Bordier butter at Le Grande Epicerie vs. the fromagerie at Marche d'Aligre. I knew that Monoprix was not the place to get anything Asian and that it was worth a trip to the 13th to Tang Freres for 10 items for under 3 euros. I charted the costs of American ingredients and weighed that against my desire for chipotles ($9) molasses ($6) and cans of pumpkin ($5) at Thanksgiving and other ex-pat merchants.

I realize that since we left the country, food prices went up. I realize that New York City has the most expensive food around. I am appreciative to have a gourmet market a few blocks away and bodegas that carry Fage yogurt and that I don't have to carry my groceries if I want to order from Fresh Direct.

What I didn't anticipate complaining about at BBQs and the water cooler, was the sheer price of items. It's like I'm shopping each day at Thanksgiving or Le Grande Epicerie yet I'm in the country the items come from and each place I go to lacks 2 or 14 that I wish I could have (why doesn't Fresh Direct carry bags of Tazo Tea or buttermilk? Why doesn't the gourmet grocery have French lentils?)

The Grocery Store Maven is stumped.

I've inquired into CSA boxes (all full save East New York). I take the train into the city and trek the vegetables back. I have researched the Park Slope Food Co-op but here 10:1 negative stories and worry about how my hours will change when the school opens next year and the sheer disorganization of 12,000 members and yet everyone needs to work every 3 weeks?

So I ordered Fresh Direct to stock my pantry. Sans beans and tea. I paid 2.79 for DeCecco spaghetti at the store. I'm scheduling a trip to Astoria next weekend to go to the Indian market or to Midwood to check out the new Kosher one.

I'm determined to find an answer before I suck it up and pay twice as much for yogurt and milk and cereal and refried beans than is necessary.

Whole Foods is the cheapest option. (I'm not even kidding). I might have to switch careers and open a store.