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Single best food store


rgruby
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Ok. Deep breath.

In another thread I opined that a shop in my hometown might be one of, if not the best, single food shop in North America. This is certainly very debateable - many might not agree with me that it's even the best food shop in this city. (I'll weigh in on my opinion in good time. This ain't really about my opinion, but I do have one).

So, let's debate, but civilly. We can't all have shopped everywhere - I hope what this thread will develop into - if it develops - is a discussion of what we love about our best food shops, and what they do best, and what we want to see (more of) out of them.

So, what's the best single food shop where you are? What does it do the best? How does it stack up against other places you've seen in your travels?

Cheers,

Geoff Ruby

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I guess Savenor's in the Back bay of Boston is pretty good, if you like high end gourmet food items. You can get different types of game there and some offal. They also carry lots of gourmet artisinal items. I don't shop there though, because I can't afford to eat foie gras, or afford to screw it up for that matter. if I had to money though I would definitely shop there (and live in the area). It is pretty darn small though

Other than that, every where else I go to is pretty mediocre :hmmm:

BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
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Agreed, petite...the 'stew' looks awesome, I can smell it from here.  Is that a German rye?

Yes it is. This was a medium rye with lots of caraway seeds and a pleasant, sour bite from the sourdough starter.

So we are talking about just one Food Store.. Not a Market.. So like a Bon Marche in Montreal or Pikes Market in Seattle, or Philly Reading Terminal Market, or Arthur Avenue Market, or the Green Market in NYC doesn't count because they are a collection of stores? I dont know, for me I would go with Citarella in Manhattan.. Just because there meat department is out of this world, they have an interesting Fish Department, and they have great coffee, foie gras,truffles,caviar, a decent smoked fish department, a nice cheese department, an ok baker, but skimp on the vegetabels.. And worse of all, no booze.. Oh well, they are pretty close..

P.S Another plus.. The place is small without being crowded.. They dont have space for nonesense, everything in there is good..

Edited by Daniel (log)
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Agreed, petite...the 'stew' looks awesome, I can smell it from here.  Is that a German rye?

Yes it is. This was a medium rye with lots of caraway seeds and a pleasant, sour bite from the sourdough starter.

So we are talking about just one Food Store.. Not a Market.. So like a Bon Marche in Montreal or Pikes Market in Seattle, or Philly Reading Terminal Market, or Arthur Avenue Market, or the Green Market in NYC doesn't count because they are a collection of stores? I dont know, for me I would go with Citarella in Manhattan.. Just because there meat department is out of this world, they have an interesting Fish Department, and they have great coffee, foie gras,truffles,caviar, a decent smoked fish department, a nice cheese department, an ok baker, but skimp on the vegetabels.. And worse of all, no booze.. Oh well, they are pretty close..

Yeah, I'm, thinking a non-market store (unless a market-based store happens to be the best overall store). I know, not really fair to the market places which tend to be more specialized. But ...

Tell me more about Citarella - I haven't been there. I don't even know ehere it is. My NYC experiences have been places like Zabars, some of the markets (Union Square and a really small one in a parking lot in the LES - but it had heirloom tomatoes which are only starting to become somewhat widely available here, yuppie joints in the (mostly west) village and latino places in the east village and Queens. I've seen a fair bit of certain parts of NYC - but I'm definitely a tourist there.

Cheers,

Geof Ruby

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It's probably not helpful to say that the two best food stores in America -- the original Dean & DeLuca and the original Balducci's -- no longer exist. I think among the rest it helps to divide the field into a few categories, even though that's not conducive to picking just one store. But if you don't have categories you're really going to be comparing unlike examples. I mean, there are the places where the food is like art or jewelry or whatever, there are the places that are oriented towards a value proposition, there are places with full grocery inventories and places that avoid fresh produce altogether, etc. I'm not sure you can make a productive comparison between Zingerman's, Central Market, Fairway, Citarella and Eli's, except to say they're all better than the other places that try to be like them.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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It's probably not helpful to say that the two best food stores in America -- the original Dean & DeLuca and the original Balducci's -- no longer exist. I think among the rest it helps to divide the field into a few categories, even though that's not conducive to picking just one store. But if you don't have categories you're really going to be comparing unlike examples. I mean, there are the places where the food is like art or jewelry or whatever, there are the places that are oriented towards a value proposition, there are places with full grocery inventories and places that avoid fresh produce altogether, etc. I'm not sure you can make a productive comparison between Zingerman's, Central Market, Fairway, Citarella and Eli's, except to say they're all better than the other places that try to be like them.

With the possible exception of Le Grande Epicerie in Paris. Or Harrod's. although that is a singularly disconcerting experience for more reasons than the Dodie and Diana shrine.

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I think it is hard to beat Lazy Acres in Santa Barbara for overall quality in all departments - and they have wine, flowers and a decent selection of (overpriced) kitchen items which, can save you an extra stop if you just need, for example, some skewers as I did on a recent stop. I would kill for a store like that here in KC.

We have some places that do one thing well but fall short of the mark for others, necessitating a circumnavigation to pull together an elaborate meal. Some of the ethnic markets, notably the large Asian one north of City Market, may come closest to facilitating a one-stop meal.

And add me to those lamenting the demise of the original D&D and Balducci's. And isn't Gourmet Garage similarly "reconcepted"? Oy.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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In my opinion, Central Market (particularly the original on Lamar and 41st in Austin) is the best grocery store I have ever been to. They have the high-end items and the not so high-end items. I have never, ever gone in there looking for something and not found it. The employees are friendly and knowlegable. It's simply a great store.

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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I personally was more impressed with Fauchon and Hediard than with Le Grande Epicerie in Paris. Especially Fauchon, a company whose label really speaks to superlative quality and outstanding flavor in my experience (everything I've bought at Fauchon-Paris or Fauchon-NYC has been worth the pretty penny I paid for it, and then some). Le Grande Epicerie is much larger and carries all kinds of cool stuff not sold at the other gourmet emporiums, but they also carry a lot of chaff that you have to sort through due to their size.

In NYC, I like the cluttered and friendly nature of Zabar's over the occasionally brusque Fairway and the more designed space of Citarella. But I happily stop by all three when I'm around.

I don't think DC has any great food shops, and that's a damn shame. There's some good stuff at Balducci's and Dean and DeLuca, but it comes with so much attitude that I never seem to buy very much. Still, if I need a great cheese or some kind of specialty charcuterie, they're more likely to have what I need than the more accessible Whole Foods. Wegman's fits pretty much everything under a single roof and is a joy to shop, plus they're not overpriced, but even there you may have to do some nosing around to find specialty ingredients. And none of those stores are indigenous to DC, though this city's Whole Foods stores used to be Fresh Fields which was founded around here.

Edited by Malawry (log)
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Your Dekalb Farmers Market

Which, when combined with Trader Joe's, opening in our neighborhood momentarily, will offer what I think we Atlantans desire .. but that is two locations and one would desire one, freestanding store ... :hmmm:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Yeah, Central Market is amazing but I wonder how it compares to other shops in other parts of the country? This is one of the questions that only well-traveled people will be able to answer.

Oh, if any one was thinking that the Whole Foods flagship store in Austin might be awesome, it is not. Central Market is much better.

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I guess my vote would be for Larry's Market in Seattle. I'd just about strangle my first born for a shop like that in South Carolina!

Then again, I've threatened to do that to him for alot less.

Dave Valentin

Retired Explosive Detection K9 Handler

"So, what if we've got it all backwards?" asks my son.

"Got what backwards?" I ask.

"What if chicken tastes like rattlesnake?" My son, the Einstein of the family.

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It's probably not helpful to say that the two best food stores in America -- the original Dean & DeLuca and the original Balducci's -- no longer exist.

I would say it's very helpful. I would hate to have people go to the new Balducci's and mistake it for the old (luckily, the old Balducci's location has been taken over by Citarella, as a good a swap as one could hope for.)

"If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony."

~ Fernand Point

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Mmm. No matter how convenient one central location is (and the Mifflin Street Co-Op in Madison, WI is awfully convenient and well-stocked) I enjoy driving around on my market days to the halaal butcher and chatting with Umm Mahmoud, and saying 'Hi" to Diego at the carniceria and just generally making a human connection with the people who supply my food. To me that's worth more than truffles on sale.

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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I've been to Central Market in Dallas, Dean & Deluca in Manhattan, and DeKalb Farmers' Market in Atlanta, as well as numerous San Francisco Bay Area markets: Berkeley Bowl, Draeger's, and Andronico's to name a few. They're all great markets, and I'd be happy to shop at any of them. It's awe-inspiring to see that kind of selection and quality in one place.

What counts more for me than selection, though, is personal attention, which doesn't happen very often at the larger stores. I think finding a smaller good store and becoming a regular is the way to get the best shopping experience, rather than chasing down the best prices and biggest selection.

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What counts more for me than selection, though, is personal attention, which doesn't happen very often at the larger stores. I think finding a smaller good store and becoming a regular is the way to get the best shopping experience, rather than chasing down the best prices and biggest selection.

I agree, Janet, and there are ways to cultivate a great shopping experience at a large store. We'd lived in our new neighborhood but a week, and I decided it was time to infuse the house with a smoked butt. So, off I trotted to the big box store, talked to the butcher about the biggest, fattiest butt they had, and trotted home with the butt. The following Monday morning, I trotted back to the market with a mess of warm butt, some buns and sauce, and voila! (Same thing happened at my local meat market when I bought a brisket and brought in smoked brisket).

One of the things I've learned is that there isn't just One Store. There are many. I know that the brats and bacon ends at Hack's are the best. The Asian market can't be beat for fresh seafood (at least without avoiding a 1/2 hour drive each way) and all sorts of odd things. Then there is the hispanic market and their selection. Oh, and there are the couple of places that have really great cheese counters with knowledgeable staff. And, depending on what I want for wine will determine where I go.

So, is there a fab food market in the Twin Cities? None that cover everything, but if I pick and choose, I can get the best of the best. And, fortunately, I have the time to source it out, and I've learned to call first. And, at all of these establishments, I do take the time to browse to learn what other treats they have in store.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Not having been to the places in New York or Austin, I really have no grounds for comparison, and the merchants of the Reading Terminal Market offer so much that's so good, I think that many Philadelphians don't feel the need to patronize a high-end bazaar of the D&D variety.

But such people do exist here. Otherwise, there would be no justification for DiBruno Bros. on Chestnut Street, which I suspect now holds its own with the aforementioned places with the recent addition of butcher and seafood counters.

Edited to add postscript: Forgot to mention that the National Association of the Specialty Foods Trade named DiBruno Bros. Retailer of the Year for 2006.

Edited by MarketStEl (log)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Dunno how it stacks up against other stores, or even if it is the best in the area, but one very good one in the Sacramento area is Corti Brothers. It is supposed to be an Italian themed place, but has a lot of things from other European countries -- Scandinavian goat cheese, caviar and lefse, for instance. Lots of pasta and wine. Great cheese selection -- and a really great meat selection.

But perhaps most important of all, the staff actually knows what they're talking about. Some of them appears to actually have cooked food themselves, even! They can actually offer advice on how to cook things. Mindboggling... Try that at the Whole Foods hippy/yuppie store -- if you want anything beyond the pre-made lobster bisque, you're screwed...

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One great thing about Central Market is that they always have a dozen or so Foodies on duty, staffers that are chosen for their knowledge of food, how to use which product, etc. Small store attention and knowledge in a supermarket.

Whole Foods has no such equivalent.

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