Ever since Whole Foods, Fresh Direct, and Fairway spread their tentacles throughout yuppieland, a lot of New Yorkers have consolidated their shopping. In the olden days, we went to the supermarket for all our basics, and a “gourmet store” for exotic ingredients or a butcher (what’s that?) for short ribs, and so on. Now that all our basics have to be made of organic whole grains, those dingy, fluorescent aisles, with their dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets (I wish I was kidding) and 100% vacuum-sealed meat section seem hopelessly out of touch.
But the Associateds and Mets of this city have, perhaps by virtue of not following national trends, come to serve a new purpose. As “foodie” types become ever more adventurous in the kitchen, Whole Foods faces the challenge of expanding its “international” items while sticking to their strict policies, like a ban on MSG, and criticism for not carrying enough local produce.
Say you live in Chelsea, where there is a Whole Foods on 24th and Seventh Avenue and a Gristedes on 26th and Eighth Avenue. You’re an avid home cook and you’re giddily dipping into Daniel Boulud’s new cookbook, Braise, which is full of mouth-watering but obscure ingredient combinations.
Don’t worry, though. You could make the Oaxacan Pork Belly with Pineapple and Plantains, and get the ripe plantains at Gristedes for 50 cents each, or pick up the ripe ones for the Oxtails Asado Negro, for the same price. (Whole Foods only carries green.) You could also pick up the Calabaza squash for the Cuban Creole Stew, for 89 cents/pound. Or the chayote for the beer-braised pork shanks, for 50 cents each. While you’re there, get some yucca for 59 cents/pound, yautia for 99 cents/pound, or Mexican papayas, cooking bananas, and so on.