Owner/Manager, BKLYN Larder
(Cheese and Provisions Shop, Park Slope)
Spending $100.00 on food is easy, especially in NYC. My fiancé and I can’t seem to walk out of any restaurant, no matter how “casual and sensible” for anything less than that; it has become our little joke. The real challenge is finding value for that Ben Franklin—I’m talking about value that will carry you over for more than one meal (or two or three or 12… or even 220!) While I know that Bklyn Larder is not at the top of most people’s food-shopping list when it comes to “value,” I’m going to take this opportunity to point out some real values in our little shop that most would point out as pricey indulgences. These are all pantry items that will enhance everything that you use them in; good cooking, after all, is all about starting with the best ingredients, and as you upgrade your larder, all of your food will taste that much better.
So, let’s start by grabbing a piece of the King of Cheeses, and my personal favorite cheese: Giorgio Cravero selections Parmigiano Reggiano. The Cravero family has been selecting the best wheels since 1855, and we have sold his cheese at Bklyn Larder for only five years now!
Giorgio’s cheese commands a higher price tag than a lot of other “commodity” cheeses out there that will also carry the stamp of the Parmigiano Reggiano consortium. We retail it for $24/lb. Giorgio and I are confident that when you taste it, you will recognize immediately where that extra money went. The Cravero family’s high standards of selection have evolved with industrialization of the Italian dairy industry: selecting only from caseficios that adhere to the traditional methods and only use milk from pastured, happy cows ensures not only that you are buying a cheese that will add that much more flavor to anything you put it in, but that it will also be a lovely cheese to feature all on its own with a lovely Lambrusco, or as part of a glorious cheese selection.
G. Cravero Parmigiano Reggiano, .71 lbs., $17.04,“cha-ching”
And now, we will need great olive oil: whether it’s for cooking, “finishing” or simply drowning some of that wonderful Reggiano, I only ever buy great-quality extra-virgin olive oil. This is the only way to assure you are getting the real deal, and not some crap like this. We currently have a terrific value in our sealed fusto, for dispensing olive oil in bulk. From the Pianogrillo estates in Sicily, our friends at Gustiamo import this lovely blend of Tonda Iblea and other local varieties. Sweet and grassy and a great value.
Bklyn Larder Bulk, EVOO, “Pianogrillo” 750 mL, $20.00, “cha-ching”
Now for a vinegar. Despite the fact that so far I have Italian cheese and EVOO, I will actually reach for a Spanish vinegar here, one of my Top 5 favorite ingredients in the whole store: the aged Cepa Vieja Vinegar from Jerez is for much more than just salads. With its deep, smoky flavor and high-toned acid (it is, after all, vinegar) it lives at the ready by my stove for finishing soups and braises with the tiniest drops… talk about value! At less than half the price of a Tradizionale Balsamico, this bottle should last you at least a year, unless you start making vinaigrettes or drinking it.
Cepa Vieja, Aged Sherry Vinegar, 500 mL, $18.75, “cha-ching
For a little softer acid in my pantry, I always have verjus on hand. Verjus (sometimes called “verjuice”) is the juice of green, unripe grapes. Verjus played a much more important part in classical French cuisine until lemons were introduced to the European mainland via the Moors in Spain. Rather than the intense, acidity on the palate that comes from dressing greens with vinegar or lemon juice, many cooks reach for verjus when pairing food with delicate wines so as to not alter the flavor of the wine.
“Ok, that’s nice Serge, but what about when I am not decanting my 1968 Chateau Cheval Blanc??” I have two tips here that I am constantly using the verjus in: use it instead of vinegar in a classic mignonette for oysters and mixed with wine and EVOO for braising artichokes; also, it’s great used in just about any fish that needs a little moist heat in the pan instead of your nice white wine.
Verjus du Perigord, 330 mL, $11.00, “cha-ching”
Recently, I have become obsessed with cooking rice. This super aromatic Kyela medium-grain white rice is imported by Askinosie (yes, the wonderful chocolatiers from Missouri). At $16.50, this may not sound like a “value” for a bag of rice, but here’s where we need to think bigger than our own wallets when it comes to value. Every penny of that $16.50 is going back to the village of Mwaya’s school lunch program in Tanzania, where the local PTA has created this amazing program, and that $16.50 provides funding for 220 meals.
Cooking this rice as a side to just about anything is a pleasure, and the lovely smell fills my apartment every time I cook it with simply water, salt and EVOO.
Kyela Super Premium Rice, 1kg/2.2 lbs., $16.50, “cha-ching”
Lastly, I hope to ruin cheap soy sauce for anyone who reads this. Better yet, taste this. Johsen Organic Shoyu is made with the best organic whole soybeans, organic whole wheat, deep well water and sea salt, then aged for 18 months. Having this staple in your fridge means no more throwing away old soy sauce, because you will find yourself reaching for it more often than the packets that accumulate in the door from delivery sushi/Chinese or that bottle of “Lite Soy” that you bought when you tried that “cleanse” two years ago and now the cap is sealed from an MSG crust. So, there is value in that!
Johsen Organic Shoyu, 10 oz., $8.75, “cha-ching”
NY STATE SALES TAX: $8.19
GRAND TOTAL: $100.48