Expectations Satisfied

It’s been two days and I still can’t stop talking about my trip to the grocery store. Not the kind of thing I would normally swoon over, this version of the market is independently owned, local, and brilliant. It is called Berkeley Bowl.

I made ready for the inaugural trip to the store with a huge list of items, the kind of list one makes after having just moved, the kind of list that mostly involves low-key staples like flour, mustard and butter. I had found a recipe for sea bass and was crossing my fingers that this place would have both the fish (it’s sort of rare and I think the Chilean sea bass might be an endangered species) and the miso paste for the glaze. cimg6590-320.jpgIn Calgary, I would be looking at a morning spent visiting at least a few different store in order to find those two ingredients but here in Berkeley, people are spoiled with the choice of fresh or frozen sea bass and no less than seven different kinds of miso paste. But, oh, that was just the beginning!

I had left Marc working at home and was thus free to take my time and examine what this place had to offer; that’s why it took me two hours to get through all the aisles. Honestly, I have never seen so much variety in food- not anywhere, not even in Asia. There was a massive bulk food section (I didn’t even know there were six different kinds of lentils or that one can buy ‘rainbow’ peppercorns), a pile of choices for organic breads, milk, yogurt, meat, and cheese, fresh sushi made on-site right next to the in-store Taqueria, a whole row of juices that I’ve never seen before made from fruits and veg that are new to me (what does sweetened with agave mean?) and this was all before I got to the produce section.

The produce, wow. I can’t even- it’s so fantastic- so many choices- where do I start?! First of all, there was a section of the store devoted only to organic veg and fruit. These are the more natural, rough-around-the-edges, more-expensive-than-the-rest types. I picked up a couple things here just because I’m curious to see if/how they taste any better than the standard. Then I rounded the corner to cast a glance over the rest of the marvelous produce and it was actually pretty exciting. There were kales and chards, frisee, live butter lettuce, banana flowers, ramps, large asparagus, small asparagus, wild asparagus, coconuts, all the fresh herbs, more than several types of mushroom, chayote, spiny chayote, tomatillos, okra, plantains, more types of eggplants than I imagined existed, ditto for the squash, piles of grapes, row upon row of apples, peaches, apricots, nectarines, berries and then just slew of vegetables with Asian names that I didn’t recognize. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I wish I could remember half of what I had tried to mentally record to I could tell Marc what he had missed. A few things I couldn’t resist buying just to try them for the first time: goji berries (a.k.a. wolf berries), a French Kiss melon, sunburst squash, jarred kimchi and bulk organic coffee.

The next time we go shopping, I’m going to go out of my way to pick recipes with crazy ingredients just to test the Bowl.

P.S. They don’t sell Coke, which I kind of admire.

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