I consider myself adventurous. I really do enjoy trying new foods. As I revel in all the new tastes, textures and smells, I can remember, as a child, the anticipation of trying something unusual or simply different, the thrill of a new flavor—a novel experience. I still find myself seeking out the curious or extraordinary in a restaurant’s menu, and I have even traveled in the search of food. Perhaps you feel the same way?
If you are like me, though, you’re also a creature of habit. This week’s grocery list could easily be a facsimile of last week’s—with few additions or subtractions. These days I findmyself trying new foods only when my budget allows me to visit a new restaurant, and that’s, frankly, depressing.
Fortunately, even with grocery lists so rote that they need not be committed to paper, there is an easy solution that will regain the excitement and anticipation of our youthful culinary memories. Yes, we can experience “new,” again. All we have to do is put something different on that list...but in a store with thousands of potential new experiences, what should one choose?
With this in mind, I put it to my co-workers in a simple, but straightforward question, “What’s something you wouldn’t have tried—but you’re hooked on—and would recommend to others?” Their answers ranged far and wide, and I’m excited to present some of them here.
To begin a trip into uncharted gastronomic territory, check out these (newer) faux meats from Upton’s Naturals. As things go with meat alternatives, these are really top notch. Fully vegan, they are a delicious, spiced seitan, made from the protein in wheat gluten, not another soy product. We carry two flavors—Italian Sausage and Chorizo. Both are perfect for any kind of scrambled dish imaginable, and they’re also excellent in any traditional sausage application: tacos, pizza topping, stuffing peppers—you name it. This sumptuous seitan crumbles beautifully. In fact, it is difficult to say which is better about Upton’s Naturals, the taste or the texture. But, to present a fully qualified opinion, you’ll have to try them yourself. Find them across from the yogurts and milks in the Dairy department.
Keeping with the theme of meat substitutes, have you experienced any of the Quorn products we carry? Quorn is a company from the UK with a line of products made from harvested mycoprotein, a nutritious form of mushroom. They are all vegetarian and make fantastic sandwiches: Chik’n Patties make great finger food; Chik’n Tenders are great in stir-fry; and Chik’n Nuggets are tasty on their own. I’ll admit to a healthy dose of skepticism about a non-chicken patty being called “Chik’n,” (full disclosure: I work in the Meat department), but I was very pleasantly surprised. Quorn has a great texture, and even tastes like chicken. I frequently find myself across from the bread, grabbing a box out of the freezer. You’ll find yourself in a savory sensation, slightly off the beaten path.
Perhaps your taste for taste adventure is strong enough to bear you all the way to China—the source of our latest exotic rice. One of our specialty importers, Woodland, is now supplying us with Forbidden Black Rice, an exotic rice with a smooth, medium grain. With its high gluten content, it can be used in a variety of dishes. It has traditionally been used in desserts, but its heartiness makes it perfect for savory entrées as well. Called “black” due to its outward appearance, it takes on a deep indigo hue upon cooking and can be used effectively to color a dish’s aesthetic. Throw a handful in with white rice and experience a new sight on your plate tonight. (Meal idea: Broiled Pollock with Jackson Pollock Rice.) It is kept in Aisle 3 with a few other varieties of specialty rice you might like to sample.
So far, we’ve opened ourselves to main courses, or entrees to entrées. But perhaps you’re looking for a faster flavor revelation. Gregor Mendel studied peas for decades, but you can make your own delicious discovery—in just moments—with Calbee’s Snack Salad Snap Peas, one of the least-known snacks in Aisle 5. These are the ultimate noshing food, combining the flavors of a variety of vegetables in a crisp, crunchy pea pod shape with two types to try: Original and Caesar. The Caesar-style evokes the experience of the celebrated salad...butwith neither the fuss nor price required to make one. Calbee’s Snack Salad Snap Peas were recommended by at least four grocery stockers, our highest rating.
Finally, if you enjoy something a little sweeter, be sure to check out our vegan marshmallows by Sweet & Sara. We carry two varieties—your standard marshmallow, and one that is rolled in browned coconut. Remember your childhood: the campfire s’mores, the sticky rice crispy treats, the fire-roasted mushy, melted, marshmallow bombs on the end of a sharpened stick...mmmm. You can be born again—back to your youth—except without the animal-derived gelatin. These marshmallows are 100 percent vegan, and 100 percent delicious. Sara Sohn, a young (vegan) entrepreneur, founded Sweet & Sara in New York. She noticed there were no vegan marshmallows on the market. She toiled tirelessly, crafting a perfect pleasure, and a few awards later (Forbes, VegNews), the results are in: these marshmallows are perfect either in recipes, or for snacking. Try them. Seriously.
With the right attitude, eating a new food can take you to a new place, a new flavor destination that doesn’t require jet setting, airports, long lines or security checks. All it takes is a sense of experimentation, a willingness to try something new, and a place like the Co-op that carries more than the items that always make your grocery list. So try a new product this week, something you’ve never had before. I did—more than one, in fact. And if you’re still looking for something else to test your tastes, ask anyone in the Grocery department. Believe me, we always have something new for you to try.