In Grand Rapid’s, Michigan ??
And so I thought that after a week in New York, New Years Eve in Grand Rapids, Michigan was going to be was going to be the dullest ever.
Was I in for a surprise ! There is something about small town America that is more than just friendly and warm (of course) , it is .. how should I say it .. cosy and comfortable, with a plethora of restaurants and bars clustered together downtown. You could cover them all in an evening walk. Some of them quite outstanding. Dinner at the Tre Cugini was amongst the best Italian food I have had anywhere. Try the Trout. Outstanding. http://www.trecugini.com/
But the treat today was a chance visit to an extraordinairy shop.
Kaveri (my 11 year old daughter) and I were walking through the freezing high street. She kicking up the snow and trying to stuff it down my collar. At a temperature of 20 degree F it’s not a game that was very welcome. And suddenly in front of me was a shop selling Olive Oil. I am an Olive Oil lover, often harassing my Italian friends to get me the first pressings from their friend’s farms. The stronger the taste of Olive Oil the better for me. Not something my Indian friends can understand for whom any oil undisguised by spices is merely a lack of sophisticated taste.
My first encounter with Olive Oil came on a sailing trip with some of my friends in the 70’s. Hugging the south coast of Spain starting in Gibralter, we sailed a huge 80 foot ketch built so early in the century that it should not have been considered sea worthy. And I, in the search for spicy food found the Spanish Paella. Well … it looked like a curry. So I thought why not ? Put a handful in my mouth and almost threw it out – for which I almost got thrown out myself by the cafe owner when I complained it was rancid. Maybe I just could not pronounce the Spanish word for Rancid. Of course now I know. It’s Rancio. Of course it would be.
Try telling a passionate Cafe owner in the port city of Cartagena that his Paella was Rancio. See what happens.
Well Rancio it was not. It was my first bitter encounter with local Olive Oil. I have come a long way since. Learning to cook with Olive Oil is an art in itself. How do you preserve the consistency and nutty strong flavours contained in the best and freshest of cold presses by not heating it too much, and yet allowing the food to be cooked ? But ah .. the taste of freshly picked Cherry Tomatoes cooked gently and slowly over low heat of fresh olive oil is the greatest addition to scrambled eggs for breakfast.
Back to Grand Rapids, Michigan. And there was the most wonderful Olive Oils shops I had encountered in all my travels. Oils from Tunisia, all over the US, Spain, Chile, Italy and various parts of the world that I did not even know grew Olives. Spicy oil with spices from exotic parts of the world. And all kinds of Balsamic Vinegar, which to me was a new experience. For other than organic or not , was the extent of knowledge I had about Balsamic Vinegar.
And just as my 11 year old was getting restless enough to shove more snow under my collar, the great lady who owned the shop sensing that, brought out to her the wonders of Maple Syrup. And I thought Maple Syrup was just Maple Syrup. Well not in this shop it isn’t. There were all kinds of Maple Syrup from various places over the US. Never tasted Maple Syrup so sweet and rich. Perhaps its a speciality in Michigan. Is it ? So its Maple Syrup from Old World Olive Press – the most fascinating Olive Oil store I have visited.
Small towns like Grand Rapids certainly have some wonderful surprises in store. Like this one http://www.oldworldolivepress.com/store/
Visit it, you will not regret it.
And I was kicked enough to buy both me and my daughter a pair of the latest Jordan shoes. Which though far more expensive than I would usually pay for a pair of sneakers (sorry , sorry, I know they are not mere sneakers, they are Jordans !) , I know that stores had run out of stock all over the US on the first day. But here in Grand Rapids. Michigan I got them, much to my daughters delight.
Not shoes she said, Jordans.