So, I am LOVING all the recipes and suggestions you guys are sending me, and have been thinking to myself, Self, this is one of the best things that has come out of this little food blog adventure. How could life get any better?
Then the Grand Central Market folks called me. Life got better.
For those of you (like me) who weren’t aware of this little piece of heaven in the middle of big bad New York City, it’s located in the Grand Central Station terminal, and is a beautiful collection of 13 shops selling everything from wild boar salami to the best bread pudding I have ever tasted in my life, and everything in between. A few days ago they invited me down to meet some of the great folks who work there, and to sample some of the amazing treats they have to offer.
We started out at Murray’s Real Salami. You know you are in heaven when you are dealing with a store that only sells salami. Or to be more specific, cooked and cured meats from all over the US and Europe. I tried to come up with the right words for the mesmerizing aroma coming out of this place, and I finally gave up. For someone who is head of the Bacon Admiration Society…let’s just say they had me at hello.
Justin, who has the great good fortune to work in the middle of this aroma all day long, told me that the Cremenelli salami was very popular, and gave me a bite of the black truffle AND the wild boar salami. Let’s just say that I thought I knew what good salami was before this. I didn’t. Now I do. Oh my goodness. don’tlive your whole life without trying this, okay?
Murray’s has quite a few other goodies behind the counter keeping the salami company. I could have gotten into some serious trouble there, but I reminded myself this was only Stop #1, and I needed to pace myself. So we proceeded on to Ceriello, which sells meats and scrumptious-looking prepared foods.
This is Martin the Butcher, and this is his marinated prime dry aged ribeye steak. He explained that they marinate it in their own brand of olive oil with Tuscan spices (and I think I spy some garlic chunks in there too), and that it is one of their best and most popular items. They only sell aged beef here, which is more tender and flavorful because of scientific reasons related to the beef-aging process that I have no hope of understanding. I could practically hear the carnivourous Southern husband telling me “grab the ribeye and make a run for it!” But somehow I resisted, and besides, the great folks at Ceriello gave me a couple of these babies to try:
Oh, mama. They poured just a bit of their homemade olive oil over them first, and I thought I might faint. They are THAT good. Marinated aged rib-eye steak and blue-cheese artichoke hearts…now this is my kind of butcher, baby.
Now that I had the meat thoroughly checked out, it was time for some fish. And right across from Ceriello’s was the wonderful Wild Edibles, where we had a great visit with beautiful Maggie, who looks just like Cybill Shepherd, and told us all about the great partnership Wild Edibles has with the Blue Ocean Institute.
In a nutshell, they tell you how each and every one of their fish is caught and/or farmed, so that the customer knows exactly what they are eating. In all seriousness now, I was so impressed. And doesn’t it look so, so, so good??
Next stop was Penzey. I seriously cannot believe I have lived almost my entire life in the New York Metropolitan area, and not known about Penzey’s Spices. Wonderful Amy at Penzey’s explained that they are famous for their spice blends.
Penzeys has a load of beautiful jars of all the spices we know and love, but they also combine them together in these AMAZING blends that pretty much take you to spice heaven. They sent me home with something called “Bicentennial Rub” (salt, Tellicherry black pepper, sugar, turmeric, orange peel and coriander) and something called Northwoods Fire (salt, chipolte pepper, Hungarian paprika, garlic, rosemary, thyme, black pepper and cayenne). Uh-huh, THAT’S what I’m talking about. Where do they think these things up?? And how great that they do!! I have already used the Northwoods Fire spice in one dish already (watch for my upcoming post on coconut shrimp risotto) and ooh-la-la.
They also have a cinnamon blend that combines four, count them FOUR, different kinds of cinnamon – China, Vietnamese, Ceylon and Korintje cinnamon. It is the holy grail of cinnamon. I could be happy just breathing it in, never mind cooking with it.
Next stop…more Murray’s! And this time we were talking cheese, which after bacon is my absolute favorite food group.
And Murray’s has a LOT of cheese.
So I was basically finding it a little hard to breathe in and out when Julie from Murray’s said, can I give you a sample of anything at all?
Why yes! I asked what she thought were some of their most delicious cheeses, and that scored me a sample of some Pleasant Ridge Reserve (a cow’s milk cheese from Wisconsin). And some Kunik (an out of this world goat cheese). And, um, some of this Meadow Creek Grayson cheese.
Well, they DID ask me. And man, am I glad they did. They have over 300 different kinds of cheese, so whatever you are looking for, I’m guessing they have it.
Now that I was in a happy cheese-induced stupor, we went over to Li-Lac Chocolates. (I know, it’s great to be me.) Li-Lac makes all their own chocolate in their Brooklyn factory and they have a little bit of everything, from white chocolate almond bark, to chocolate covered candied ginger, to almond toffee crunch. But mostly what they have is chocolate. Lots and lots and lots of chocolate.
Sometimes a chunk of chocolate is all that you need, especially when it is melt in your mouth delicious homemade in Brooklyn chocolate.
Or adorable bags of Halloween chocolate.
Or, maybe you like some nuts with your chocolate? I don’t mind if I do. At this point I was getting, um, FULL. So the lovely Liveth from Li-Lac put together a care package for me that included a dark chocolate coconut cluster and a chocolate mousse-filled chocolate roll. I brought the second one home that night and practically had to fight the teenager for it. (It was worth the fight. And just for the record, I did split it with her, because that is just the awesome, generous mom that I am. )
So at this point I am thinking I have reached Grand Central Market Nirvana. Because really, what can be better than cheese followed by chocolate? Right?
Then I went to Dishes.
Oh my. Oh, my my my.
Dishes is basically the Holy Grail of prepared foods. Roasted brined turkey breast. Beef and fresh ricotta lasagne. Banana pudding. Grilled filet mignon with rosemary. And on and on and on, with dish after dish after dish of amazing looking food. Here is what they hooked me up with: Turkey meatballs with golden raisins and pinenuts, with lemon and cumin yogurt sauce.
And last but not least, we stopped in at Pescatore, where I met the completely charming Jerry, who owns the place with his partner Glenn. (Jerry is the one in the baseball cap. As far as I know, the other one is NOT Glenn.)
Jerry explained that their shop grew out of their wholesale business, which provides fish to many of the elegant restaurants in New York…and now us home cooks can buy that same high-quality fish here at Pescatore. Their fish comes from all over the world, and Jerry said one of their missions is to help their customers discover the many terrific kinds of fish out there. And if you go to their online site…they deliver. Nationwide. Not kidding. Go.
And Jerry sent me home with a serving of this gorgeous sesame-crusted tuna, which made the Southern husband fall in love with me all over again. Go visit Pescatore’s, folks, and make sure you say hi to Jerry for me.