Favorite things at Surfas
I'm planning a trip to Surfas in the near future to bone up on some kitchen basics and other lust-worthy items, but i was wondering what your staples and favorites are at this wonderland..maybe there's something not quite on my radar that you can turn me on to!
Seriously though, it really can get silly once you get there... :) I am lucky enough to live nearby (almost dangerously) close and what I regularly buy...
* Canned Sam Marzano Tomatoes
* Beer and Wine (I love Hitacho's Nest beers they have and they have a Sparkling Syrah that was a HIT at my last dinner party)
* Cheese and Charcuterie (You buy this at the cafe, they have the BEST prices on common fancy cheeses like Humboldt Fog and others)
* Flours (All types)
* Cute seasonal stuff (I got Halloween Cupcake Liners! :))
* Chocolate!! (they have entire line of Voseges chocolate among others!)
* Oils and Vinegars (They have them available to taste)
* Loose Leaf Tea Bags (I buy my tea elsewhere but get the saks here)
I could go on and on... :)
*Vermont Butter and Cheese Co. Butter with sea salt.
*Snake River Sarsparilla.
*bulk chocolate and cocoa from all the best names.
*stone ground grits.
I'm due for a pilgrimage to Surfas. Is the cafe still open? They have these fantastic pressed sandwiches, so try to time your visit to grab some lunch.
Saffron Spanish Tin (1 oz/28.5 gram) -- Price: $28.50
This should last you over a year and still be frangrant. I mostly use it in Risotto, which I cook probably twice every three weeks, and have no prob using about 1/2 a gram in the dish. Wonderful!
Check out their bags of dried lentils etc. Nice quality and nice prices. Red lentils are lovely, also fancy 'beluga' lentils and 'puy' lentils.
They have a brilliant range of high quality olive oils and viscous, aged balsamic vinegar, you can sample them with a bit of bread.
I love the mild French olive oils -- sometimes they have this brilliant one in a tin from Marseille called Nicholas Alziari Olive Oil 34 fl oz (1L) -- $35.95.
ooh, no, don't use Spanish saffron! Saffron from the Middle East and India is much better. Go to Elat Market on Pico east of Robertson, on the left side of the store there is a guy behind the spice counter from whom you can buy excellent saffron at a good price (1 oz for $20 I think...)
What Dommy said about flours - this is I think the only local source for White Lily, absolutely the best Southern-style flour and cornmeal, both conventional and self-rising. With WL self-rising flour, even Mr. Heavyhands here can make tender, fluffy buttermilk biscuits.
They also have the widest variety of dried beans I've found in captivity, and some wonderful "heritage" varieties of rice as well.
As for the seasonings and spices, this is where I found the Spanish smoked paprika - a bit of this and a bit of saffron, and your arroz con pollo gets really Mediterranean all of a sudden!
I strongly agree with the recommendations for San Marzano tomatoes and White Lily flour, although I've outlived my stone-ground grits days. Give me the breakfast grits they serve at every corner cafe in the South (neither stone-ground nor instant), and I'm happy.
While you're at Surfas you might want to pick up one of those nifty cast-iron plates for weighing down everything from bacon to chicken (under a brick). And if you don't have a fine-screen Chinois for the final straining of your favorite meat stocks, that's another worthwhile purchase.
re: Mel Gee
Ok, I'll bite. Breakfast grits vs. stone ground grits. Are they finer ground, softer to uh.....digest? I have yet to determine the difference between the grits I've brought home from Amish country, i.e. stone ground white, or yellow, with corn meal and then polenta? What????? I just serve the grits for breakfast, the cornmeal in cornbread, and then the polenta, well, you get the idea.
re: Ginger Wolf
See the Wikipedia entry on "Grits" for a more complete discussion, including the obviously correct description of grits as "an inexpensive, simple, and thoroughly digestible food." Grits, it goes on, quoting a 50-year-old newspaper article, "should be made popular throughout the world ... given enough of it, the inhabitants of planet Earth would have nothing to fight about. A man full of [grits] is a man of peace."
There's nothing wrong with stone-grinding, the original method of grit milling, just as there's nothing wrong with the prosciutto currently in my ice-box. But I grew up on country ham, not prosciutto, and on steel-ground grits, whose mild flavor and slightly pebbly texture -- especially when softened by a large lump of sweet butter -- taste better to my rebel tongue.
Paraphrasing Don Williams, we're all going to eat what we're going to eat.