Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Where am I going to shop?

The local Whole Foods store closed this week and opened a new larger store in an outdoor mall in a location that is slightly farther away and much more inconvenient. With this move, and with the kids now gone from the house it has made me evaluate my shopping needs. For the past year or so, I would travel down to Whole Foods and buy produce, fish, some good tortilla chips, cheese, some Kashi cereal I couldn't find elsewhere, and some other odd and ends, then travel across the street to Alberstons to buy meat and chicken, paper goods and cleaning supplies. Our milk is delivered to our house, and I would occasionally shop at Claro's for great deli meats and Italian cooking supplies. With Whole Foods at the center of my Saturday shopping moved farther away what am I going to do?

What I liked about Whole Foods was their consistent high quality of produce, whether it was farmed organically or using standard practices. Other produce markets nearby lacked the consistency of quality. I didn't really care about organic. What I cared about was the freshness of the product (did it last long enough at my house) and does it taste good. Usually a store brand tomato, whether organic or not, has little flavor. Now give me an heirloom or locally grown tomato and yum.

So here is what I want in a grocery store.
  • A good selection of fresh, flavorful produce (I will measure variety by how many chile peppers types do they carry)
  • A good fish market (regular grocery stores fall flat in this area)
  • Reasonably priced meat market (Costco would match this criteria, Whole Foods does not)
  • It would be nice to have regular old tissue and paper towels in the same market
  • I rarely buy prepared foods from any market, so the less of this the better.
I will check out the new Whole Foods this weekend, and report back next week. Who knows, maybe I will be blown away and buy prepared meals for my wife and I for the entire week and give up cooking. After all there are only two of us at home....

On second thought, cooking is my hobby and that would take away the enjoyment of cooking for my wife and friends.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Helping the kids fly the coop

This has been a hectic week for the Clark household. On Thursday, we move our son out of our house and into the dorms at St. Mary's college, and then on the following Monday, our daughter leaves for New Zealand to work as a swim instructor, or any other work she can find over the next 10 or more months. So prior to becoming empty nesters, there is a buzz of activity, including going away parties, shopping for those last minute items, and cleaning out stuff that has accumulated for a dozen years or more. Adding to the chaos is a house guest and two extra dogs who are staying until mid September. Even though the house is a clutter, their is not enough time to do everything, we all have opinions on the correct way to do even the most trivial task, my wife and I would not have it any other way.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Waiting for that cool autumn air

I hate cooking in summertime. Summertime calls for cool foods like fruit, cucumbers, melons, mayo and grilled proteins like chicken, burgers and salmon. It also means that slow cooking like roasting or braising is out of the question as it heats up the house, when the house is already to warm. Even if you could cook a meal without any restrictions, the heat also changes your diet. Having melt in your mouth braised short ribs just isn't appetizing in August, but it is to die for in November.

My culinary talents lie more in fall and winter cooking. Root vegetables, dark greens, braising, hearty soups, slow cooking sauces, and fresh homemade pasta. Spring and summer force me to experiment with foods to keep the food light and refreshing. For example, I like fruit as a snack, but making a meal out of plums or peaches just doesn't make me reach for a cookbook. Fall and winter foods are rich, multi-layered and filling yet still healthy. The best thing I can think of for summer is spicy foods, mainly tacos and salsa.

Now I have to admit, this summer has been pleasant in Southern California. No really hot days so far. But my eye is on the calendar and the 10 day forecast, waiting for that first cool blast of fall to hit hot Southern California. You know that day has arrived when your sitting at home in the evening and while watching tv, you have to get up to close the window because its too cold. That night you will find me reading cook books in search of the next great fall fare.