I headed downtown early yesterday to pick Rich up at the apartment and head over to Elston to meet our friend Rick for the European Imports Sale. Rick introduced me to this little gem of a foodie deal shortly after I moved to Chicago and I still LOVE going to see what wonderful stuff can be found for what pretty darned incredible price. Of course, it didn’t hurt my enthusiasm that I had fallen off of their mailing list and not been in over a year.
Fortified with an iced Americano from the Starbucks up the street (where ISN’T there a Starbucks up the street? Oh yeah, my neighborhood) we headed in to search for glory and condiments…
I will note that ever since they moved next door to bigger digs, the crowds have been much less fraught – well, except for this one annoying lady by the cheese case. Looking past the crates of San Pellegrino, etc., there are the bargain crates of oils and balsamic vinegars (the good stuff is to the right along the back wall). Beyond that can be found the pastas and confections and then, the condiments (sigh). Mustards, chili sauces, herbs, salsas and chutneys for almost any taste, and all at pretty darned nice discounts compared to retailers.
See, the thing is, these guys supply a lot of retailers, and they do not normally have anything to do with the public, except for these few Thursday, Friday and Saturdays a year. I have been known to go (slightly) crazy at these things – stacking carts and baskets high with all manner of yummy stuff – whether I knew what to do with it or not – didn’t matter.
Grand total, Rich and I dropped a touch over $40 and this is the haul I brought home (minus some salsa and chips):We were running low on pasta and capers anyhow; the yellow fin tuna packed in olive oil was too nice to pass up, and the Belgian Chocolate will aid in my work to replicate my Aunt Buzz’s long lost Chocolate Mousse recipe. The fig preserves and whole grain Dijon mustard are always nice to have in reserve, and the sweet AND hot chili sauces are just necessary, in my humble opinion. Oh, and my favorite French sea salt – for a LOT less than what I’ve been paying. Everything else just seemed to call out to us from the shelves. Since we were planning on doing some more shopping and wandering, and since the day was sunny and rather warm, we chose not to buy any of the cheeses on offer – even tho’ they had one of my favorites – Huntsman – a Double Gloucester stuffed with Stilton – heaven on a cucumber slice, if you ask me.
Feeling a little peckish from all that food shopping, we decided to head down to one of our old favorites – Uncle Julio’s Hacienda on North Avenue. It IS kind of a chain, but not so big that they are everywhere – actually, this one in Chicago, I think one in the Southern suburbs, and then a few each in Texas and the D.C. area are about it. And besides, Rich REALLY LOVES their cheese and onion enchiladas.
The day as fine as it was, we opted to sit on the covered patio and finished off close to two baskets of home made chips and salsa before lunch arrived (and they weren’t that slow with the service). Rich stuck with his old favorite and Rick, who had never been, opted to try an enchilada sampler platter (he was quite happy). I went for the grilled fish tacos with avocado cream and was not disappointed. Sorry, no pictures of the perfectly lovely plates – we were all so hungry I forgot to get a shot until there was nothing but a bit of cilantro and the odd black bean left. Next time.
Rested and replenished, we went shopping along Broadway. I had surprisingly little luck at Unabridged, one of my favorite book stores, but Rick made up for it with a tidy stack of novels and short stories.