October Notes from the Near West Side

Fall is in the air and a woodsy, mushroomy scent wafts its way into our towns and countrysides.  In recognition of the season we are now carrying a rich assortment of foods from Fungus AmongUs .  Most of these can be found in the tin-roofed shed display located on the edge of the produce section.   In addition to all manner of dried mushrooms you can find delicious soup mixes (perfect for the chilly days and nights ahead), mustards and other condiments, dry rubs, and truffle stuffs of many kinds.  Much of the selections are organic and all are top quality and delicious.  The good folks at Fungus AmongUs call themselves “The Organic Mushroom People” and this writer is inclined to agree with them.

Another antidote for the chilly days and night ahead is hot, spicy Indian food.  Our cheese buyer, Mary Roosma, is happy to have secured for you one of the key proteins in many such dishes: Paneer.  Paneer is a fresh, soft, barely curded style of cheese which uses citrus juice or vinegar to curd the milk, rather than enzymes.  This makes the cheese more universally palatable by sidestepping some people’s reactivity problems with enzymes often used in cheese production.  Paneer is very versatile because it has a high melt point and does not become runny or gummy when heated.  In fact, it can be fried in oil until it is golden-crusted and crispy.  Yum Yum!  It is used in soups and curries, and is a good substitute for tofu in many recipes.  Our Paneer is made by the Royal Mahout company, a domestic producer of Indian style cheeses.   Ideas for how to use Paneer can be found at www.paneerrecipe.com.

Produce manager Ruth Ferree tells me that apple season is in full swing.  A wide variety of local and other delicious apples are available.  We have pie apples, sweet apples, crisp apples, red apples, green apples and crabapples.  Ok, so maybe no crabapples, but we have lots of apples and they are all delicious.  Mix a bag of locals and take home a hunk of your favorite cheese for an easy, healthy, and tasty snack!

Beer and wine buyer Jason Hill (that’s me) would like to mention two excellent deals which will run only while supplies last.  The first is Victory Brewing’s Summer Love Ale in six packs.  At the height of the heat this brew was $10.99.  We are able to offer you the last of this year’s allocation at only $5.99 per six pack.  It’s still drinking fine and it won’t last long.  Deal number two is a small (7 cases) stack of Santa Barbara Wine Company Pinot Noir for $10.99 per bottle.  Previous retail on this wine was $15.99 and it sold quite well at that price.  The discount comes to us because the winery has had to change their name and labels because an older (and much smaller) winery went to court to protect its very similar name.  Score one for small business and score one for you and your Pinot-loving palates too!

Both of these deals are vendor closeouts.  Several times a year most of our vendors offer these deals in order (usually) to move inventory out of their warehouses that is holding space needed for newer inventory.  Much of what is offered is not in great shape, but there are always a few gems.  Your Bloomingfoods beer and wine buyers undertake to taste those items on the list that possibly provide great value to you, our customers.  These tasting sessions can be excruciating as the lineup of possible values is large and the gems are few and far between.  From lists of tens or even hundreds of candidates, we will taste 50-100 beers and wines over several sittings and select 10 or so winners.  That means that up to 90 percent of the time we have something unpleasant in our mouth.  All for you, our beloved imbibers, gourmands, and value seekers!

We have some new items in the beer and wine section for your consideration here at the Near West Side too.  Seasonal favorites from Bell’s Brewing include that delightful duo of stouts, the Double Cream Stout and the Java Stout and the beautiful Brown Ale.  Other seasonal brews will be arriving in the weeks to come from most of the breweries with which we do business.  Fall thru Winter seems to be the time when brewers like to send out their most serious efforts, so keep an eye on the shelf!  On the wine side we have a lovely Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec blend (from Argentina, of course) called Dos Fincas and a new selection from Durugutti (also of Argentina), this time a Bonarda.  This Bonarda is a bit bigger and richer than most, but still sits firmly within the flavor profile of the ones we have featured before.  We also have a lovely Prosecco (I know, finally!) from Riva di Rocca (and an organic one on the way, maybe by next week!).  Finally, for your enjoyment, we have the curiously named (and therefore Australian) red wines from Vinaceous: The Snake Charmer, the Raconteur, and the Red Right Hand.  At least one of these is named after an ex-girlfriend of the winemaker.  I will leave it to you to guess, and to guess at the meanings or references associated with the other two names as well.

I will close this letter (Article? Press release? Advertisement?) with an observation by wine importer Terry Thiese from his book “Reading Between the Wines”, one of the best little books about wine I have ever read:
“If you see the world sacramentally—apart from whatever religious affiliation you may have, or even if you have none at all—you find you have learned to assume things are connected.”

Please have a fine October (and beyond), and please take time to consider your connectedness to your food and drink, to your close relations, and to the world at large.  What you do to yourself and outside yourself really does matter!

Jason Hill,
Store Manager