The amazingness that today held actually started last night when Mister came home from work and said something to me that I've been waiting to hear for a very long time...
"The Spice Corner is open again."
Sorry if you were looking for something sigh-inducing and romantic, but that simple statement took my breath away!
Spice Corner in the Italian Market. It is here that I finally found my long-sought-after Harissa, here that Mister tosses a packet of Swedish fish or licorice up on the counter in the last minute before she rings up the total so I don't have time to object (like I would refuse him such a small thing), and only here have I been able to find black beluga lentils. All along the walls there are shelves covered with big jars of spices, little bags of measured & priced spices and herbs, and a huge variety of blends. In the back she has a bunch of flours, sugars, grains, and extracts (I had no idea there was any such thing as pineapple extract). Along another wall are shelves full of loose-leaf teas in all varieties, with bins of nuts and dried fruit along the floor below. As you approach the register, there are big barrels of coffee beans, as well as 1/2 lb bags of beans, and a few bags of treats - today there were those sugared gummy "orange slices" and "spearmint leaves."
One tragic day about 5 months ago, I headed over to the Spice Corner to get some, well, spices. As I approached, I noticed it was dark inside and when I got to the door, there was a "stop work" order posted and a note from the nice Tuscan lady who owns and operates the joint promising to be back as soon as she settled whatever dispute with the city government closed her down. That apparently happened sometime this past week.
I was like a kid on Christmas Eve last night - I could barely wait for today! I got up when Mister went to work, had some coffee and breakfast and began what can only be described as Market Day.
First, I ran down to the Headhouse Farmers Market, only to find that the few stands that were there had been forced out of their usual set up (by the Crafts Festival) and had put up their little white tents on the cobblestones of 2nd St. It was actually a very disappointing start to the day, since there were only three tents and only one of them had vegetables...and 75% of those vegetables were potatoes. My spirit would not be dampened, though, because that was just a "hey, I'm awake, why not?" detour on my way to the ultimate goal: The Spice Corner.
For the first time ever, I picked up one of the shopping baskets outside the door as I headed in...and proceed to fill it. I got 2 bags of beluga lentils, 1 bag of yellow split peas, hot paprika and Spanish paprika, cream of tartar, dried shallots, another tube of harissa, light and dark brown sugars, and another little bag of 5 Spice.
As long as I was actually at the Italian Market and in the mood for some good old-fashioned chaos and haggling, I decided to see how many of the vegetables on my grocery list could be purchased at the stinky, fly-infested, but still charming open-air market. I'm still pretty pleased with my 18-cent zucchini and $1.50 lb of sweet cherries, but I did very well across the board. After taking my treasures home, I headed back out to get what was left of my list from Whole Foods and Superfresh...but apparently Whole Foods doesn't believe in Israeli couscous and Superfresh doesn't know what small red beans are (even the Goya section!), so I finished Market Day at Essene.
And the Wine & Spirits store.
Sometime last week, I wandered up to the premium store we have on 5th St., conveniently across the street from Superfresh. I knew exactly what I wanted, but I was wrong - I went in there looking for Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling and walked out with Chateau Ste Michelle Harvest Select Riesling.
This wine is absolutely outstanding. I like wine a lot - sometimes a little more than I should, but I think we've all been there. Although I frequently try new wines, and almost as frequently react by raising my eyebrows and quietly appreciating some aspect of the wine's character, it is rare that a wine strikes me so strongly I want to exclaim, "holy hell, that's good wine!"
I'm going to hear about that, but it was totally worth it because that is really what happened. While I was preparing to slice my four peppers and chop up my seitan for last night's Seitan Pepper Steak dinner, I decided that Friday was as good a time as any to greet the long weekend with a little half-glass of wine while I cooked (at least I didn't have a cigarette hanging out of my mouth, a la Peg Bundy). I poured the wine and could smell that this was going to be a good experience but I was still surprised as heck. It's the same price as regular CSM Riesling, which is already reasonably priced, so do yourself a favor and get some! (I think "moderation" is going to be a challenge with this one and I didn't know if the wine store would be open again before Tuesday, so I got me a second bottle, just in case.)
I can't think of a clever segue, so here is the new menu of dinners which will accompany my wine:
1. Orecchiette with Cherry Tomatoes and Kalamata Tapenade from Vegan With A Vengeance.
2. Italian Tofu from VwaV along with Antipasto Salad from The Accidental Vegan. This was meant to be on last week's menu but I got distracted by the Seitan Pepper Steak.
3. Toasted Israeli Couscous with Vegetables and Lemon-Balsamic Vinaigrette from a member-submitted recipe on Chic Vegan. It was featured the week after my Banana Blondies and I thought, that looks and reads like it will be very good! Also, I've wanted to play with Israeli couscous for a while.
4. Cajun Red Beans and Rice from The Accidental Vegan.
5. Yakisoba also from The Accidental Vegan. I just have to make it with a little less ginger - Mister thought there was some overload last time.
I repeated a couple of things from the not-too-distant past (but not all that recent past, either) but I also cut my menu one meal short (normally, there are six). The reason is two-fold: It seems like I've been having trouble getting through all six meals, so I wanted to give myself some wiggle room. Also, in an effort to be more creative (or to get Mister to take me back to Horizons), I wanted a Free Day to either improvise in the kitchen with whatever fun things I can think of to throw together, or to experience great cuisine somewhere other than my own table (aren't I humble?). Anyway, we'll see how all that turns out!