Monday, June 16, 2008

4 block radius

I always say New York’s culinary offerings are a full spectrum of possibility; that we have the best and worst food, at the most affordable and extravagant prices, in the most central locations to the farthest reaches, in the daintiest portions and grandiose exhibitions of indulgence and of course more gray area than a surrealist B&W short film.

It is no secret that I love fresh produce. I work and shop at the Food Co-op, actively embrace the green market’s seasonal selections and catalog artisanal finds throughout the city, but there is a new “4 block radius” in South Slope that has me overwhelmingly thankful and a little bit jealous of my neighbors’ choice and fittingly…speaks to my “NY as possibility” rhetoric.

First there is Pumpkins Organic Market (1302 8th Ave @ 13th St) a carefully curated, cheekily personable organic market; The McSweeney’s of food if I may! In addition to their bag exchange program, personalized notes, and intimate selections of local produce it is the first store that wholly speaks to food as an all encompassing rustically stylized movement. Often when I am cooking, I stare at my ingredients, amazed by their textural diversity and how each relates to one another, in production, cooking sequence, color, size, shape, smell and relevance to the meal. This poemic love of food is Pumpkin’s most surface asset, but does not outshine the sincere care for sustainable products and a greener life for all.

A beautiful walk (no really!) down 12th street towards 7th ave brings you to Union Market’s second Gourmet outpost in the neighborhood. As much as I have tried, I have found no justifiable reason to hate. Yes, the original’s store’s proximity to the Food Co-op reeks of the dichotomy between new & old and yes their prices can be scandalous, but whoever is sourcing their produce, cuts of meat, prepared food, juices, baked goods, coffee and cheeses has set the bar exponentially high for the neighborhood. In fact, the new store exceeded my expectations. My first outing inspired by Summer Lamb shank, a plate of Proscuitto Cotto (hard to find folks!) and an Heirloom Tomato salad, a perfect summer meal for two!

Although I only documented these two stores, there is more to take note. On 7th ave btwn 12th & 13th street, Mr & Mrs. Lee transcends the Korean Deli template beautifully caring for their produce. This neighborhood secret pre-dates them all! Grab on 15th street is working hard to differentiate themselves, but still stocking a very reputable selection of cheeses as well Jacque Torres Chocolates.

And if if all the fresh produce wasn’t enough to seduce you “post 9th street”, note I have not yet mentioned the Ravioli or imported Burrata at Russo’s or the impressive triage of wine emporiums.

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