Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Supermarket Sweep

A little background on me - before moving to Brooklyn, I lived on Roosevelt Island. Sure, it was a tad creepy and isolated, but my building was beautiful and I loved living there. The biggest drawback of Roosevelt Island, to me, was its lack of a decent grocery store. There was a Mega Gristedes that I believe was voted one of the dirtiest in all of New York...that's it. All of this is to say that I'm not spoiled when it comes to NYC grocery stores. I'm not a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's snob. I don't demand Italian specialties from Agata & Valentina. All I ask is that it be clean, that there be an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables and that there is a reasonable assortment of "ethnic" foods and products.

Naturally, one of the first things I did upon arrival to BK was stake out a decent grocery store, as any voracious eater/wanna-be chef would. At first, my journey took me more towards Prospect Heights because the hipster/young locavore family/only eats organic quotient seemed high. A few trips spent lugging mediocre groceries in 90-degree heat quickly put an end to that. I occasionally used Fresh Direct while on the Island and have done that here, but it's costly and their selection isn't amazing, either. Plus - you can't run to Fresh Direct on your way home to pick up marshmallows for an impromptu smore-fest. So I sucked it up and checked out the stores closest to my abode, despite all warnings.

First, up - Fisher's on Franklin & Lincoln.

OMG! Run by my, like, favorite family EVER. Why is the produce either on, or damn near, the floor? I have a feeling that if I went digging through the potatoes, I would probably find Ben and his family. And folks - what you see in the picture is pretty much it in the way of produce, save for a few hearty eggplants and green salad bags in the dairy section in the back. Fisher's wins points for being the only grocery store around here that carries Galvanina Italian sodas and for that reason, I may have to patronize them in the summer so that I can make my traditional Shandy-like concoctions with their lemon flavor and Peroni. And of course, every thing was overpriced - packaged, pre-shredded cheese excluded, which was cheap but probably cheese-product and not real cheese.

Nam's (Franklin & St. John's)

Just a few blocks down we find Nam's, which is half-way between a bodega and grocery store. The selection of organic, all-natural and vegetarian foods, both fresh and frozen, is amazing. There is no meat or real deli department, as everything is vegetarian (I think - maybe some organic frozen chicken products are hiding in there). It is very pricey, however, and because it's such small space, it doesn't have everything you would find in a normal grocery store. I don't shop there often, but it is definitely worth stopping into every once in a while for a treat (ginger chews!!!). And take a look at the produce section - even through plastic paneling, it kicks Fisher's ass.

Bravo (Nostrand & Fulton)

My first experience with Bravo market was in Astoria. I was overwhelmed, overjoyed (over love....okay, I'll turn off the Stevie) by the selection of Middle Eastern, Greek and Brazilian goodies. When I realized there was an outpost around here, I got excited - could I really find haloumi in this 'hood? Sadly, no. What I didn't take into consideration is that the Bravo in Astoria carries those products because they serve populations that demand it. Duh. Still, I figured this Bravo would carry all sorts of amazing West Indian/Caribbean products. Instead, all I can find is Goya. Drats. The produce section is passable, although not very appetizing (for once, my photo made something look better than it is). The price points are very reasonable.

Key Food (Nostrand & St. Marks)

Kumquats!! Tart-tastic kumquats! Can you believe it? Key Food was the last grocery store I visited because I've had several questionable encounters with other locations, namely the one on Classon and Eastern Parkway (?) when my bf lived in Prospect Heights. This Key Foods pleasantly surprised me. No, you're not going to be able to find grape leaves, or prosciutto, but you will find fresh fruits and vegetables beyond just bananas and onions. My only complaint is that the frozen food section often seems empty - except for ice cream. There are two ice cream freezers (yay!?!?!). The products are affordable and basics (milk, eggs, etc.) are almost always on sale. They also are currently selling six-packs of ginger beer (non alcoholic, of course!) for $1.19. Key Foods wins.

Whew. That was a lot of shopping. Who wants to carry my bags home?

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