No, no, General Gingersnap is not going naval. Those galley kitchens don’t let me wield my weapons as widely. I’m just singing, “yo, ho, ho. . . ” because my true and lovely comrade Heidi Moreno and I recently emblazoned my kitchen with the sights and smells of rum balls. We flawlessly vanquished Martha Stewart’s Recipe for Rum Balls, following it precisely with the exception of substituting demerara sugar for white coarse sanding sugar. Let’s speak spartanly: you bake a brownie in a vast, shallow baking sheet, throw the result in a mixer, add rum, and then roll the decadence in coarse sugar. For rum, we braved the Bermuda Triangle and used Goslings Black Rum (ideal for Dark and Stormy nights). The vapor of the alcohol gloaming in the mouth after each bite is delightful and the texture is best described as coming home to a warm, soft bed after nights of sleeping in the trenches.
My mind quells, thunders, and crashes with the myriad ways to advance this technique and create explosive flavor combinations: blondies made with white chocolate and St. Germain. Lime zested blondies with tequila. Sake soaked matcha blondies rolled in ginger powder. Grand Marnier brownines and rolling the balls in cocoa power. . . Each flavor becomes enlivened with a squig of booze for bravery.
Bracing for the best,
Baraka Bakery, although not much of a bakery at all, is still a magical, mystical place. Where else can you find seven different grinds of bulgur wheat? Or nearly a whole isle of tahini? Or house-made feta? Or turmeric roasted almonds? Yes? Magical and mystical? I’m glad you agree.
The employees at Baraka seemed a little suspicious of me at first, but I won them over with my enthusiasm with their store. They quickly gave me their allegiance and started showing me interesting items and guiding me around the store. I got to try all the wonderful olives they keep in bulk behind a counter alongside the cheese they make in the store. Oh, and those bulk olives are incredible. You must go in and get some free samples. My true and lovely comrade Amanda Odmark has found their olives unforgettable since I brought some to our Wanderlust Supper Club recently.
The packaging on so many items in Baraka is mind boggling. This is where the “gilded” comes in. Faux gold and curly-q logos abound. I nearly bought a rather expensive pound of tea that I had no idea what it was simply for the ornate package. For good or ill, I thought twice of it and put it back. My pocketbook thanks me if nothing else. I ought to research those kinds of investments.
One of the most beautiful and unique items in the store is a box containing rock candy covered in strands of saffron. It made me feel like a child and an adult at the same time.
Unfortunately, I have gotten wind that their baked sweets are deceptively disappointing. They look beautiful in the case, but from what I’ve heard they taste overly “corn-syrupy.” Even if they’re awful, they’re awfully pretty. However, their flatbread was good–I’d give it one thumb up.
Here’s the thing: It’s taken me two weeks to write about Lazzaroli’s because I just don’t feel inspired by it. Don’t get me wrong–everything they stock is excellent, it’s just that it’s all pretty much prepared for you when you shop there and I guess I’m a DIY type of girl. I remember they had mascapone lemon sauce for pasta and I thought, ‘that sounds good, but why should I buy that when it would be really easy to make myself?’ I bought herbed linguini for $5.99. It was good, but I could have made it myself for under a dollar. However, I did triumph with a jar of lupini beans, a dense peppery salami, and a strapping wedge of parmigiano reggiano, all of which you’d need to spend a pretty penny for anywhere you find them.
In contrast to Global Market, the owners of Lazzaroli’s are endearingly enthusiastic about everything they have in the store. The owner animatedly described the best way to eat a lupini bean and how it will sometimes just squirt right over your shoulder. “Bzzzwww. .. !” He told me to never throw away a rind of parmigano reggiano because you can cut it up really small and bake it. (In fact, he said it’s the best part of the cheese and I had always thrown it away all these years!) He guided me though the salamis and helped me pick out a good “beginner” salami, since I had never eaten that type of deli meat before. Yes, really, I’d never eaten salami. Perhaps I shouldn’t, but I find deli meat intimidating. I was a PB&J-only picky eater as a fragile kindergartner and continued that trend for a long time.
My final word is that Lazzaroli’s is great ally for the wealthy warriors with little time on their hands to throw together a satisfying meal, but as for me, my search must continue. . .
P.S. Every Saturday they sell mozzarella which they make in-house, offer free samples, and sell out of it quickly. Impressive.
If you’ve never had kombucha before, let me just tell you this: it will make you feel like you’re floating after you’ve had a bottle. Buoyant. Yes, it makes you feel that good. Here in Nashville we are graced with our very own local brand of kombucha, Booch, made by my true and lovely comrade, Kelly Snavely. Sometimes I crave Booch when I haven’t been eating well or I’m just tired and it always gives me that cleansed feeling I need to battle on.
The health benefits of drinking Booch are downright fantastic and you can feel it immediately. You see, good health begins in your gut and kombucha works by belting active cultures, like those found in yogurt, into your digestive system. These cultures help your body maintain balance, thereby increasing digestion, immunity and energy. It also helps you detox. What could be better, aye?
However, kombucha is an acquired taste. The flavor is a bit like a sweet vinegar, but much less pungent. Bubbly and biting. Kelly makes Booch approachable by giving it a perfect level of sweetness. Don’t be surprised if your kids like it even more than you do. Kelly’s daughter Audrey actually came up with the name Booch when she was 2 years old, calling it “my booch” because she liked drinking it so much but wasn’t old enough to say, “kombucha.” Booch offers an original flavor as well as Ginger, Peach, and Rasberry (my favorite).
Everyone in Nashville who would like to start floating through their days should first drag themselves to the Produce Place or the Green Wagon & buy some Booch. You can buy it in individual bottles or more economical half-gallon jugs (and the glass bottles and jugs can be returned for a refund to be recycled. Recycling=nice. Refund=double nice.)
Signing off, General Gingersnap
P.S. In addition to going local, it’s also rewarding to buy Booch because it never explodes in your lap like the other over-carbonated national brands which shall remain nameless.
No, unfortunately this is not an announcement of the second coming of The Beatles. Sigh. Perhaps it’s the next best thing? A post about Global Market which is the only international market in Nashville specializing in British imports.
This week my true and lovely comrade Rachel Briggs guided Liam and I to Global Market in our continued tour of the international markets in Nashville. I find Global Market a bit suspect. In its favor it has an excellent selection of British snacks and canned goods that are a challenge to find elsewhere. Some prawn cocktail flavored “crisps” (chips) and Colman’s mustard came back to the barracks with me. (The label for Colman’s mustard reads, “Not for the faint-hearted, the Original English mustard from Colman’s will set your taste buds ablaze…” Ah, an inscription after my own heart.) They also carry the largest boxes of PG Tips I’ve ever seen. Lastly, the place is a bastion of olive oils at reasonable prices.
In addition to the British provisions, I acquired some canned artichoke bottoms, sumac, and burnt sugar (browning) syrup. Perhaps the sumac will make an interesting butter cookie?
Here is what I find suspicious and I’ll just shoot straight here: they like kids a little too much. Look closely at the picture of the sign for Global Market. . .beside the big sign is another sign saying, “Kids Welcome.” Then when you walk in, you go through a corridor and the whole thing is lined with snapshots of kids and some of the kids don’t look too happy about having their picture taken. The man working there who acted like he was the owner tried to guess Liam’s age as soon as we walked in and he was eerily accurate for a middle aged man. He guessed 8 months; Liam is a strapping 7. That man is not holding my baby. Nothing bad happened, but Billie Jean was ringing in my ears even though no music was playing that day at the Global Market.
Another disappointment is that when I was checking out I asked the assumed owner what he really liked in the store and what he liked to cook. He said, “Not anything really. I’ll usually eat a can of sardines for lunch just because they’re there.” “Oh,” I said, “so you just stock whatever people ask for?” He circuitously answered yes and explained that they stock so much British food because that’s the only market that’s not been cornered by someone else over the last 40 years they’ve been in business.
Blast, I assumed he would care about what he sold. He is not my ally in the battle against mediocrity if he’s eating sardines out of a can every day, ignoring the exotic and incredible tastes and textures at his fingertips!
General Gingersnap, signing off.
This week my true and lovely comrade Rachel Briggs joined Liam and I in a scuffle against mediocrity at the K&S World Market. Rachel was quite a trooper. She even wielded my unfamiliar camera in order to take the vital pictures for this post. What a talent! The pictures are stunning! Thank you, Rachel! She and I have formed a pact to visit an international market every week. Thus, we are calling upon the United Nations to ally with us in tracking down unique and inspiring food. I plan to courageously force myself to buy unfamiliar things and discover new cooking techniques.
Why initiate international aid at the K&S World Market? Well, let’s see. . . first of all the store is HUGE HUGE HUGE! Then, they have breathtakingly low prices on spices, produce, and honey (local honey, ironically). In addition to the low prices on produce, they have an incredible selection of fruits, vegetables, and fresh herbs. Seriously, they have a whole aisle of mushrooms, not to mention exotic vegetables that are a challenge to find anywhere else (like the huge okra pods pictured above that are about the size of my forearm. I have no clue what to do with them. Perhaps they would be good stuffed with some Indian style cheese?). Oh yes, and I can’t go without mentioning the live crab, tilapia, catfish, and lobster. Save yourself some a few bucks by telling your kids you’re taking them to the aquarium and just go there instead. They’ll believe you (and then buy a lobster with the money you saved).
If style over substance is what gets you, it’s worth visiting K&S just to look at the packaging on the cans, boxes and candies–bold, awkward, charming, kitschy–you’ll undoubtably see something to rouse you.
This week I came back to the barracks with red curry paste, fish sauce, coconut milk, and cilantro. Tom Ka Gai is in the works. . .
K&S World Market has two weaknesses: customer service and the smell. This is where you must be courageous. Don’t expect to talk to someone working there about what to do with certain items or where to find things on your grocery list. If you are lucky enough to find someone to help you, they probably don’t speak English well enough to give you any advice. As for the smell, get over it. What do you expect from a place that sells live fish and keeps pork uteri in stock?
General Gingersnap, signing off.