in praise of the local supermarkets

Yeah, yeah, we made corned beef and cabbage. There’s nothing easier than corned beef and cabbage. You put the slab of supermarket corned beef in the pot, throw in the spice packet (or some peppercorns and mustard seeds if they weren’t nice enough to give you a spice packet), cover with water, and boil for a couple of hours; take the meat out, throw in some root vegetables and boil for another twenty minutes; throw in some sliced cabbage and boil for another five or so. Done. Serve with soda bread and grainy, smoky mustard. Eat leftovers for the next week or so. We all know how corned beef and cabbage works. It’s a well-loved tradition in the K and k household this time of year.

(I also tried making this chocolate-orange Guinness cake. It turned out flavorful but dry, as if I’d left it in to bake too long, even though I’d yanked the pans out five minutes early. It’ll need some tweaking.)

But anyway, I’m not here to talk about St Patrick’s Day food. I’m here to talk about my local supermarkets.

See, K was poking around this blog and said, “you know, you sound pretty elitist. You don’t talk about the Giant and the Harris Teeter even though you shop there all the time.”

And it’s true! I didn’t mention them at all! I rectified the problem on the Pantry page, but I feel I need to give the Giant and the Teet even more credit. (I first heard “the Teet” from my friend C, and I’ve been uncontrollably repeating it since. It’s so fun to say. “Oh, I picked this up at the Teet…”)

Anyway, the Giant is a smallish village center Giant, and if it weren’t so convenient (thank you, Columbia village designers), I probably wouldn’t be there so often. But it’s less than a mile from our house and it’s there for me whenever I need it. At various times, I’ve raced over there to get butter, baking powder, or heavy cream with a half-finished cake or scone batter still sitting on the counter. I drop by there regularly for orange juice and cheese, and grain-fed chicken eggs during the CSA off-season. (Since the mad cow scare, and the rather disgusting revelation that laying hens were sometimes fed cow brains as protein, I’ve switched to purchasing eggs from solely grain-fed hens.)

And for all its diminutive size, the Giant does a pretty good job with stocking. I was astounded to find creme fraiche at the cheese display near the deli. You can get almond flour and tahini from the “natural goods” isle. It’s really quite astonishing. I lean on the Giant a lot.

Because the Giant is smallish, the produce isn’t as rich or varied as it could be; they don’t have a lot of the more exotic produce, nor do they always have the variety of fresh herbs I’m looking for. That’s why I also go to the Harris Teeter, in the next village center over. The seafood counter at the Harris Teeter is clean, bright, and does a constant business (I like quick turnover in my raw seafood). They also have great specials every week. Harris Teeter has an amazing cheese display too, and they’re great about putting snacking samples out.

I’ll tell you something that neither the Giant nor the Harris Teeter had, though. Neither of them had organic red potatoes. I’m not an organic fanatic or anything; if I want broccoli or asparagus and there’s no organic to be had, I’ll happily buy the non-organic variety. But with potatoes, which are one of the top ten fruits/vegetables to buy organic if possible, I prefer to buy organic. Sadly, though both the Giant and the Teet offered organic potatoes, none of them were red potatoes, which K considered mandatory for the St Patrick’s Day meal.

I am not inflexible. A few pesticides never killed anybody. We bought the bag of non-organic red potatoes and they went wonderfully with the rest of the meal. But when Giant or the Teet stocks red potatoes, I will throw a party.

Oh, and although it’s not really a supermarket, I should still mention the Costco in Elkridge. The $4.99 rotisserie chicken (cheaper than at Giant or the Teet) has been a quick dinner when both of us are running late and don’t have time to cook. We just eat the meat off it (thighs and drumsticks as is; breasts become chicken a la king or chicken salad) and throw the carcass in the freezer to make broth later. The Costco baked goods and meats are fantastic as well.