Sunday, September 18, 2011


In Park Slope, there was a store we referred to as "The Man," one that unlike the nearby Co-op was extraordinarily hierarchical, the chief being one of the older men who worked there, "the man." The store was The Man, even if the man himself wasn't around, although he was almost always there. It sold tiny expensive morsels of gourmet-ness - as in pre-foodie, pre-food-movement imported delicacies - and was both pretentious and wonderful. Atmosphere-wise, I prefer a supermarket, but it's not right to complain about the proximity of good cheese, and unless you live next to a Fairway (or, uh, Monoprix), you're not getting the cheese without the 'tude.

In Princeton, store after store after store has a The Man-like quality times a thousand. Purveyors of all kinds of things I thought I'd need to order online (the pizza peel somehow lost in the move, for instance), which is great, but with this requisite faux-folksy chit-chat and a hefty mark-up. At one shop, an overenthusiastic/over-pedagogic 'monger asked a customer who'd just tasted a cheese, "Why do you like the Manchego?" It was at that moment that I turned around and left.

But today was an exciting (and traffic-wise, bad-exciting) bike adventure to the Princeton Shopping Center, which I'd passed by on shuttle but never actually entered. (Bike lanes are a great idea, but it helps if cars acknowledge them.) The main purpose of the trip was to return with non-spoiled milk and "accident" pads for Bisou - missions accomplished! - but this store called "Bon Appetit" caught my eye, probably not unrelated to the fact that after the ride there I was famished. At first glance it seemed like every other home-of-cutesy, but it was past my lunchtime and I was not going to leave it at one glance. Good thing too - it's chock full of all kinds of Dutch and Belgian (and French, gourmet, etc.) products, including the chocolate sprinkles Nederlandophone-types put on bread, speculaas, and... Passendale! The cheese that was so tough to find in Paris (only at Bon Marché's food hall), and that I didn't think could be found at all in the States. Just as at The Man, there were all these random not-so-chic German products interspersed with the Fancy, here there must be some Dutch connection or other, but this was truly fantastic, and not just because I'd spent the previous half-hour staring slack-jawed at seemingly indistinguishable chew toys and canine shampoos.

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