Saturday, June 03, 2006

Foraging at Findlay

This morning, unlike Friday, arrived bright and clear with a cool, gentle breeze in the air. While I was somewhat groggy from lack of sleep, thanks to the relentless "thunking" noise coming from a party next door until almost 4 am (which, by dawn's early light, I could see had been coming from their endless game of "cornhole"--don't even ask!), I got dressed and readied myself for my friend Ruth's 9:30 am arrival.

Making a list and checking it twice, I plotted out my shopping trip from store to store and stand to stand. I knew I wanted to stop by Embrace Sweets again to say hello to Sandi and Brandi. They had told me last time that the French pastry stand next to theirs was going out of business and that they were buying its coldcase for their pastries. Since this would give them a lot more space, I was curious to see what they might add to their line. I also wanted to stop by Silverglade and Sons, a venerable merchant shop which must be described as Cincinnati's one and only fromagerie. And then on to Saigon Market, Cincinnati's oldest Asian foods store, to have a little adventure admiring its exotic and mysterious wares.

Ruth arrived right on time to pick me up, but, by the time we made our short journey down the hill to Findlay, there already was a sign reading Parking Lot Full at the entrance. Luckily Ruth recognized the man at the gate as an artist she knew and he took pity on us and waved us through, pointing toward a spot near the farmer's market shed. That task accomplished, Ruth and I went our separate ways, agreeing to meet in 40 minutes. I didn't really have a lot of things on my list this week and even less money, so I had carefully chosen my splurges.

Check out that "Spanish Drunken Goat Cheese"! LOL! (Click to enlarge photo.)

First stop was Silverglade's. Before Findlay Market's recent renovations, Silverglade's had been one of the Market's most long-lived merchant stands. Now they have their own self-contained store across the narrow pedestrian street just north of the markethouse. There have been Silverglades at Findlay Market since 1922 and they are renowned for their huge selection of more than 200 imported and domestic cheeses (many of which they import directly from Europe themselves), as well as sausages and Boar's Head brand meats. They even have a fresh, Cincinnati-made gravlax! Jonesin' for olives? They have 30 different kinds. Need bread for that yummy sandwich you'll be making once you get home? Pick up a freshly baked artisan loaf from Shadeau Breads. (sigh... sometimes I dream about the peach cream cheese Silverglade's used to carry, slathered on challah bread!) WARNING: Don't forget to take a number before you start looking because this small shop gets incredibly crowded in no time flat. (Oh! And what did I buy today? [purrrrrr] Oh, just some fabulous French Gourmandise with Kirsch cheese!)

Silverglade and Sons
Storefronts 220-222 (north side of market)
Findlay Market
Hours: Wednesday, 7am-3:30pm; Thursday, 9am-3pm; Friday, 7am-4:30pm; Saturday, 6am-5pm; Sunday, 11am-4pm
Telephone: (513) 421-6156

This is Mr. Nghiep (Yip) Ho, owner of Saigon Market. He is a very kind and helpful gentleman, especially, if you are, like me, a novice at Asian cooking. (Click to enlarge photo.)

My next stop was Saigon Market. Although I venture to say I probably have at least 12 Chinese cookbooks in my collection, I tend to read them for pleasure, and have rarely made anything very complicated from them. Oh, there was that one odd New Year's Eve when I made a huge pot of homemade wonton soup. And those spicy cold sesame noodles that hot hot summer. Beef with broccoli, sweet and sour this or that, and, more frequently, easy stir-fries for supper with boneless chicken breast strips and fresh veggies. Quite honestly, I've always loved Saigon Market for its selection of black cloth Chinese shoes. Tricked out with gel insoles, they wear like iron and, like old-fashioned Keds, can be thrown into the laundry when they get dirty! (And they're only $5.50 a pair!)

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Owner Hgiep Ho emigrated from Vietnam with his parents, Xu and Janet, in 1976. They bought the building in which Saigon Market now stands that same year and started their business with only a few packages of noodles and a couple of bottles of sauce. Today Saigon Market is a veritable bazaar of Asian ingredients, including items from Vietnam, Thailand, China, Japan, and the Philippines. Other parts of the world are represented, too. They also carry a selection of West African sauces, Jamaican spices, and Mexican groceries. I even saw a jar of falafel seasoning today. Not everything is pre-packaged. You can also find bulk dried herbs and spices, as well as specialty produce like Thai holy basil, plantains, Asian cabbages, fresh horseradish, shallots, and garlic.

Many moons ago I found myself reading Chez Pim and she was blogging about Thai food. Since Pim knows her Thai food, I made a little note to myself to look for the Pantainorasingh Brand Chili Paste she mentioned. Mr. Ho led me straight to it--a 17.6 oz jar for only $2.89. Wandering around the aisles of the store I took in the dizzying array of beautiful labels, but suddenly stopped right in my tracks. There, on a shelf, sat small (3 ounce) cornflower blue plastic bottles of Orange Flower and Rose Flower Waters from Vallauris, France! Thinking of Moroccan pastries, I snatched up a bottle of the Rose Flower Water ($2.39) and made my way to the cash register to pay for my purchases. Next time, I won't stay away so long!

Thai Chili Paste and French Rose Flower Water (so excited, I couldn't keep the camera steady! LOL)

Saigon Market
Storefront 250 (south side of market)
Findlay Market
Hours: Monday - Friday, 10am-6pm; Saturday, 8am-6pm
Telephone: (513) 721-8053

On my way to finally hit the produce stands, I stopped by the Embrace Sweets.

Sure enough, there were a number of new items filling the coldcase: huge black and white iced cookies and all kinds of cupcakes, from Lemon-ginger to Matcha ($1.50 each). Next time, a couple of these cute little cakes will definitely be on my list.

Time almost gone now, I waded past some crowded stands, looking for some nice-looking lettuce. Alas, all I could find was some iceberg ("The polyester of lettuces" -- John Waters). I ended up with some pre-bagged baby lettuce ($1/4.5 oz), along with some locally grown thick-stalked asparagus and a couple of cobs of bicolor corn. All in all, not a bad trip--and such a nice day for wandering.


Blogger Garrett said...

Sounds like so much fun! Thanks for the great pictures!

1:37 PM  
Anonymous rick said...

Dearest Fugu,
Iceberg the polyester of lettuces!!! What would a man who has his actors eat doggie doo know about eating?
People are now singing the praises of the berg. I believe served traditionally with 1000 Island dressing.
They are growing it now at Stone Barns so what more do you need to establish its reentry into polite society
You can even occasionally find it on the menu at their impossible to get a reservation unless you have a connection (and even then my connection was apparently B class!!!) restaurant

I do miss my trips to Findlay Market and have not seen it since it was remodeled. Is my favorite Mediterranean store still there? Give the handsome gentleman who dishes out the olives my fondest regards.


1:34 AM  
Blogger Willa Frank said...

dearest rik,

i have heard of the retro renaissance of the 'berg and have a great fondness of it myself when it comes to that other old favorite, shrimp cocktail. it's just when one is hoping for a more exotic mix of--let us say--darker, more vit-a-min filled greens like romaine, endive, escarole, etc., it is simply a big disappointment to find so little variety in such a large market!

as for Mediterranean Foods, oh, yes, it is still there and on my list for the next visit!

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I followed Embrace sweets at Sams, and with a cart filled with Hershey Brownie mix!!Homemade? Not.

12:49 PM  

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