You can get anything in New York City. That is, if you’re willing to travel.
I’ll put it out there – New York has pretty bad produce. I have three “supermarkets” near me and the produce is terrible! It’s often stored in too-cold temperatures, so that once I get home and put it in my normal fridge, they go bad in a matter of days. One of these spots is so cold that the olive oil is often congealed, in their bottles. Or it could be due to the fact that they’re already about to turn, and then nothing can be done about it. Some of them even refrigerate their tomatoes, which was actually the reason for the first argument Ryan and I had. Over tomatoes. Delicious, juicy, sun-ripened heirloom tomatoes. Turns out we were both right, but he was right-er. That’s what you get for arguing with a chef.
I suppose we could go to the farmer’s market for produce BUT:
1. Union Square is in Manhattan.
2. The Grand Army farmer’s market is only on Saturdays.
3. The downtown Brooklyn farmer’s market is convenient but it is tiny and the produce is not that great – I bought tomatoes last summer that went squishy in less than a day. Don’t tell me I should’ve put it in the fridge, I won’t listen.
Ryan just pointed out that there are other farmer’s markets in the city but these are the most convenient to me. Union Square gets a mention because it’s the biggest and nicest.
Recently we have joined Quinciple, which I recently posted about. It has really helped us out in getting healthful food on the table, as well as menu planning. Plus we know where our food comes from, and we get to try new things each week.
For steak, special cuts, sausage, and rendered duck fat we got to Paisano’s in Boerum Hill. It’s only a 10 minute bus ride from home, and a 2-stop train ride from work. They also have great frozen pasta, and we often get their raviolis. Most recently, chestnut as well as broccoli rabe-mozz. The guys there are great and will cut your meat however you want it. They have a great selection of charcuterie – I love their mortadella, which they slice paper thin. The Meat Hook also has great products and I LOVE Tom Mylan, but it is not at all convenient to get to – a long walk + train ride or sweaty bike ride requires a special occasion.
For seafood I stop by HK Supermarket in Manhattan’s Chinatown on the days I have to pick up office mail. Or we wait until we go to dim sum in Bay Ridge (where I STILL get “ni hao’d”) and fill up for the next two days on fish, clams, shrimp, and cheap cuts of pork at Fei Long-the-supermarket-not-the-StreetFighter. I would really benefit from learning Cantonese but it is SO HARD. I’ve tried Plimseur and that $10 iPad app, no dice. So now I just have to stick to rubbing my tummy and pointing at a pile of pork to indicate “pork belly” or showing Google images to the butcher for more complex requests like ox tail. This, after miming a swinging tail action with my arm & butt. The butchers looked at me like I was crazy.
Trader Joe’s has great cheap frozen dinners (tamales and garden vegetable lasagna are my current favorites) and rack of lamb for $15/lb. Also decent olive oil for under $4 and cheap condiments. However I don’t buy produce there because I like to pick and choose each piece and theirs is pre-packaged. The upside of this though, is that all the produce is cleaned and trimmed already. So it’s super helpful if you are planning a big-ish dinner party.
Fairway and Whole Foods are ideal for produce but not convenient at all to get to. We go to Fairway for special occasions and when we feel like renting a Zipcar, and Whole Foods is a weekend adventure, unless I am in the city after work to pick up work mail. And even then I am forced to go to the Union Square location, which makes me want to swing my shopping basket around and smack everyone in the head.
As for bread…that requires special trips too, whether it be to Choice Market/Choice Greene in Clinton Hill or BKLYN Larder on Flatbush. I can also stop by the spots in DUMBO near work, which include overpriced Forager’s Market for Amy’s and Balthazar bread, or Almondine, which has just reopened post-Sandy. I’ve also hit up Bien Cuit after going to Paisano’s but their counter people are assholes. I stood at the counter for a full 2 minutes, while both girls had their backs turned to me.
I’ve yet to go to Murray’s for cheese which is a horrible thing, seeing as how I’ve lived in New York for over 10 years now. I will get there one day but for now, the Grand Army Farmer’s Market and BKLYN Larder are a huge help.
I really do try to eat well and buy good food. But it takes a lot of planning, compromise, and TRAVEL TIME. Good thing I have a partner in crime who doesn’t mind splitting foraging doodies. I’m looking at you, Green Lantern.
I have this Tumblog that I started a couple years ago, in which I would report on people’s groceries at different stores I went to. I’ve tried to make it more interesting by taking photos of other grocery-related minutiae. Enjoy.
Other specialty stores I like:
Kalustyan’s – Indian spices and groceries. They sell orange oil here, which I use in salad dressings.
Tehuitzingo – this is a bodega in Hell’s Kitchen that doubles as a tacqueria. One of my favorite spots.
Kiszka Meat Market – Ryan works in the area and brings me kielbasa and other Polish treats upon request.
Perelandra – conveniently close to work and gym in downtown Brooklyn, I love their juices (cheaper than Forager’s) and all-natural/vegan bath products. Snacks, produce, breakfast, and lunch as well. Sometimes my coworker and I make the trip there from the office for lunch and sit outside the courthouse on the steps to eat. It’s a nice break in the middle of the day.
Russ & Daughters – for all your smoked fish and caviar needs! They also have strawberry Kookabura licorice, my favorite. It’s right by the 2nd Ave F train stop (get on the back of the train if you’re coming in from Brooklyn) so it’s not too bad to make a quick trip on a weekend morning, then straight back to BK.
The one thing I’m having locating is a fish that I ate growing up in California and the Philippines. It’s called “bangus” or “milkfish” and you can only get it in Filipino grocery stores. Not Chinatown, not Koreatown. My mother does not believe me, and ironically, importing it to the U.S. to distribute to groceries and other food purveyors is part of our family business. I’ve begged her to send it to me but understandably it is expensive, and she has no time to feed her firstborn. Go ahead and call the wahmbulance now. So my only option is to head to Woodside to buy it from a Filipino grocery who probably already buys it from my uncle’s business. It’s silly, but I crave it…apparently Mom ate a lot of it while she was pregnant with me!