Sometimes I think I should just start a Western Beef blog (or would that be more appropriate for a Tumblr?). Or maybe just publish a blog and call it Western Beef—I’ll always be a West-Coaster at my core and I’m more beefy than non. Western Beef is me.
This weekend I noticed that there was a Macedonian section in the left-hand row of European (heavy on the Eastern part of the continent) products. There are two lengths of international shelves with the Latin American products on the right taking up the most space. Malta, my most loathed beverage, has a huge dedicated section nearby.
The jars of Vava brand pickles and condiments are what caught my attention. Avjar? I’d never heard of it (though that didn’t stop me just “liking” it on Facebook). The roasted red pepper spread seems vaguely similar to muhammara, minus the walnuts or pomegranate molasses. There is also an avjar with cheese. Malidjano is the "Balkan Babaganush." I’m going to pick these up next time. There’s always a next time at Western Beef.
Instead, I got sucked in by the promise of sour cherry flavors. Honey Cakes with sour cherry jam sounded so wholesome, and at 79-cents for a bag, who could resist these heart-shaped cookies?
In reality, they were soft, graham crackery with a dull chocolate coating that shows fingerprints but barely melts at the warmth of a hand. Waxy, like a Little Debbie cake and no cherry flavor to speak of. The insides of the cookie were practically hollow, only containing a hint of sweet goo.
The Marco Polo sour cherry jam was more what I was hoping for: just cherries, sugar, and pectin (oh, and citric acid—I’d been wondering about this ingredient, too). There is no indication of origin on the glass jar’s label, but I think this brand is Hungarian.
One of the predictable things at Western Beef is that there will invariably be items they just don’t carry. Take your fancy Greek yogurt, smoked trout, matzo meal shopping list (three real examples from this excursion) elsewhere. Tasting Table clearly doesn’t get out to Ridgewood—I balked at this line in their newsletter, Wednesday, “Thick, creamy Greek-style yogurt is hardly an exotic item these days; you can now pick up a tub at any corner bodega.” Not at Western Beef, bub.
This parking lot photo taken in the in the middle of summer, sums up Western Beef.
The unpredictable thing is what produce item will give the cashier trouble—and one always will—because it’s never the food you think it will be. I’m ok with people who don’t eat a cornucopia of vegetables (I don’t really like fruit much other than cherries), but you would think that working in a grocery store would expose one to a variety of vegetables through customers’ purchases.
We had a bunch of greens in our cart: kale, turnip tops, collards. I thought these would be the problem produce. It was ok, though, because they had codes on them. What caused the teen at the register to give me the confused face was asparagus. She didn’t even know the word for it (yes, she was ESL but spoke fine conversational English). I was, “Oh, it’s asparagus, with an A” so she could find it on the spinning cylinder with products codes on it. She still seemed baffled and had to ask the guy cashiering at the next station over. He knew what asparagus was and repeated it again to her. Then she said asparagus back to me with a hard A like in attic, as if now she got it and initially misunderstood because of my pronunciation.
Watercress also spazzed her out, but I had anticipated that.
Oh, Western Beef. The things I put up with for love.
Western Beef * 4705 Metropolitan Ave., Ridgewood, NY