So, my search for the perfect meat spot continues.
There are two little neighborhood stores where I do most of my daily shopping. And then, every other week or so I augment my pantry with a trip to the Safeway across from Ocean Beach.
One little market is six blocks away down California Street and has a pricier product and not much produce. But that’s where I get my roast chickens from a guy named Chico who knows how to roast a chicken. I called to get one on Monday morning, but Chico was out-of-town. That’s how you know. When the roast chickens go away with the man then you know where the magic comes from. We’ve had many discussions, Chico and I, about the rub he mixes, how he cuts slices into the breasts so it will hold more of it, and how he always stuffs lemon slices inside. I always forget about the lemon slices until I’m tearing meat off bones days later. They always surprise me.
The other market is just two blocks away, has a wider variety of produce, and is as cheap as any chain market. So this is where I do my shopping. The store is run by a very nice lady and her husband who’ll order me what I want if they don’t have it. This is where I do most of my shopping.
The only thing neither of them has is meat. There are cold cuts, salamis, sausages, and Chico’s roasted chickens. That’s it.
I’ve been cooking a lot with sausage. I’ve made couscous with fried sausage and brocolini so many times that my kids are starting to eat it. That’s how many times.
So, Monday’s city adventure was to walk down to 17th and Geary and follow-up on a friend’s recommendation of a meat store.
When we get there I realize that I have expectations. This is not the quaint city meat shop of my vivid imagination. It’s a grocery store.
Correction: It’s a Russian grocery store. There are a lot of Russian bakeries and groceries in this area. I’ve been in them before. Only this one is really Russian. I mean, I can’t read anything on anything. And most of the staff don’t speak English. Even the Hispanic guys running the meat counter have to confer before telling me, “Nyet.”
I mean, my daughter, my four-year old daughter, picks up on it enough that she starts speaking in her made up language. Did I tell you my daughter has been making up her own language lately? It’s something like “Buttero” from the country of “Praytie”. She will lapse into spells of speaking it and then translating for us in the most darling and, yet, still slightly condescending manner.
First of all, the store was half cookies. Half.
And then, the meat was good, but not what I was hoping for. I got a pound of beef for dinner.
So, I try to think of what else I need while I’m there. Oats, I need steel-cut oats. The grain aisle is substantial but, alas, there are only quick oats. There are, however, about fifty different varieties of bulgur. I guess Russians eat a lot of bulgur?
Then I check out the jam. Every culture makes jams, right? Right. Except the preserves were really preserves. The jars were filled with whole fruit in liquid. I imagined the look on my kids’ faces when I handed them their morning toast with a whole quince laid across the top. I was pretty sure it wouldn’t fly.
So, I buy a pound of beef for dinner and a jalapeno only to then read the sign that I would need to spend at least ten dollars in order to use my card. I almost always carry cash for just such a contingency, but, alas, I was out today. I had about four fifty to make up. I might have bought some cookies; I was surrounded by them. But I once had a bad experience with a Russian gingerbread stuffed with black licorice paste.
Luckily, the Russians also do vodka and one bottle would not only adequately cover my monetary deficiency, but also my deficiency of spirit that this had not turned out to be my meat nirvana.
So, my search continues. I’m going to ask Chico if he knows a place.
Also, I might try to learn Russian.
Also, maybe I’m bold enough now to venture into one of the Chinese fish markets.