Winter makes me crazy, but now that we’ve all (hopefully) survived the avalanche of snow, it’s time to take a look at what the winter madness has wrought upon the Deli. That’s right, it’s the “What’s New in the Deli” issue! Let’s just say the avalanche analogy is a good one. What began as a simple idea has snowballed into major changes. But we should start at the beginning...

Gotham Bagels

It all began in the late fall, when Becky (the Juice Bar Coordinator) and I were reading labels on the bagels, and lamenting our options for selling great bagels to go with the Just Coffee our loyal Readers and shoppers had voted onto the menu. Exasperated at the vendor options, Becky finally said something along the lines of, “I wish we could just get Gotham Bagels in here.” We looked at each other and she was on the phone shortly thereafter talking to Joe, who happens to make the best bagels in Wisconsin. The rest, as they say, is history. We carry a variety of flavors delivered fresh, and if you haven’t tried them yet be warned that most of our staff are now hopelessly hooked. I’ve never cottoned to the idea that New York has some sort of culinary corner on the making of pizza, but I’m willing to concede the bagels. Now we got ‘em local, and I don’t have to fly into La Guardia.

Moving the dips

Then winter hit and I began to get restless. I kept coming down aisle one and seeing all the bagels, and I’ll admit it...I began coveting the grocery cooler directly across from the Juice Bar. There were bagels in there, and pasta, and pitas. The Deli sells all kinds of awesome stuff that goes with all of that! It became an obsession slightly less than Gollum’s, but not much. Then one day, the Grocery and Purchasing Managers stopped by the Deli and ask if I might be interested in filling up some space right next to the Gotham Bagels in the cooler—between the RP’s pasta and the tortillas. I said I thought I could find something for the space. And the avalanche began in earnest.

The first major change to shake the Deli was moving what we lovingly refer to as the Grab-N-Go. We took all the hummus, the flavored cream cheeses, the salsas and baba ganouj, the pestos and pates, and the spinach dip and we moved them. No warning, just a sign. Bad form, I agree, but it was winter’s fault. And...let’s be honest, what goes better on an onion bagel than veggie cream cheese, or with RP’s ravioli than some basil pesto made with basil from Renaissance Farm (who happens to sell their salad dressing right next to it) and nothing’s better on a pita than hummus. To top it off, we were able to put our salsa right next to your burrito’s tortilla. Makes perfect sense even now. I just wish I’d written this article beforehand! It made so much sense to us that we upped the ante. We decided that if want a bagel, you’ll probably want to be able to grab your plain cream cheese with it. Blueberry bagels need some plain cream cheese.

Sandwiches and sushi

Now we had two cases with mighty big holes in them over in the Deli. Change numbers two and three were on their way. Our first thought was to move the sandwiches over to the tall case next to cheese. It’s a big case and we sell a lot of sandwiches, so we’ll see if we can fill it that way. That made room for us to add a new member to the Co-op’s family. Okinawa sushi now rents out some Deli space much like the Seafood Center, and with their expertise makes the kind of beautiful sushi we could only hint at when we did it ourselves. They have great suppliers for their seafood, and the best supplier around for their produce (us). Much like the great relationship we’ve developed with the seafood guys, who supply us with all the fish we use in the Deli, Pau and his crew have fit right in and are a great addition to the store. We still had some room to fill, so our kitchen also developed a line of jo-yu. What is that you ask? Well, it’s basically a generic term for a Japanese dipping sauce. We currently offer three flavors including wasabi, ginger, and orange. These are soy-based sauces that not only go great with sushi and sashimi, but also pair very well with seafood and meat.

New cheeses

We then turned to the empty spot in the cheese case. We’ve had a number of requests from members to sell Parmesan rinds. Why? Not only is there usually a fair amount of high quality cheese left on these rinds, but the rinds themselves are great for cooking. Poached slowly they make a fabulous stock and add a richness to any soup or stock. They also are fabulous when making tomato-based sauce—just remove it before serving or canning and it adds a rich, salty, and savory flavor without adding to much cheesiness, Parmesan is a pretty light flavor in the cheese world. We also added some other much requested cheeses. We brought in a French Camembert from Le Chatelain, a local Havarti from the cheese masters at Roth Kase, Mt. Sterling’s goat mozzarella, and Organic blue cheese crumbles from Organic Valley. We were also able to add Fromage de Meaux, a pasteurized version (and closest we can legally get to selling) Brie de Meaux. Finally, for the kids, we added a Colby Jack version of the ever popular line of Stringles string cheese.

Researching olive bars

And we’re not done yet. Personally, I didn’t much care for the way the sandwiches looked in the new case and wanted to move them back (again, maybe it’s the winter restlessness talking). Additionally, we’ve never been satisfied with our selection of olives—sure the ones we carry are great, but one look at the amazing cheese selection always reminds me that we can do better. To this end, we’ve begun researching olive bars! We’re hoping that shortly we can add one to the Deli and expand not only our selection of olives, but also our selection of antipasto in general. Nothing goes better with the cheese and bread right around the corner from where we hope to place it.

Organic deli meats

In the Deli case we’ve brought in our first really organic deli meat from Rich Lange’s farm. Rich treats his animals the way I would, and is a vendor I’ve always had a lot of respect for. Now, in addition to providing us with roast beef, we carry his uncured, nitrate-free organic ham. For those unfamiliar with the workings of ham, this means that his ham may not have the bright pink color of ham with dyes or nitrates that you’re used to, but it has all of the flavor. We’re excited enough about this addition that we’re also in the process of developing a sandwich to feature it. (It’s still being developed, but expect it to be fancy!)

Becoming seasonally appropriate

The last major change we’re currently working on isn’t really a change at all. Let’s call it a major re-focusing on what we’ve always done best and want to emphasize even more. That’s becoming more seasonally appropriate in the foods we offer. Sounds great, right? But what does it really mean to you? Mostly it means we want our food to be better, and we want to be able to keep prices as reasonable as possible for sustainable, local and organic food prepared by people that know what they’re doing. For example, when we use tomatoes out season they are not only trucked great distances, but even in California the quality isn’t as good as a tomato grown when it’s supposed to be and delivered from across town the day it’s picked. In order to offer you the best quality product, we are taking a look at all our menus and making an even greater effort to provide items that are at the peak of their quality and freshness. This may mean that some of your favorites will be gone from the case for a while, but it also means a re-dedication to developing new and exciting recipes that will hopefully provide you with even more favorites. I do enjoy making life more interesting, especially in winter.