Grocery Outlet: A must for the serious cook

Three bottles of La Tourangelle Roasted Hazelnut Oil from Grocery Outlet in Berkeley.

Some of my friends laugh when I tell them about Grocery Outlet (2001 Fourth Street, Berkeley).  They think it’s downmarket. Fine with me, because that gives me, and other serious food people, less competition for the all the high-end and otherwise wonderful products a person can find there.

Case in point:  La Tourangelle Roasted Hazelnut Oil for $3.99 a bottle last Tuesday.  I kid you not.  This stuff is upwards of $15 a bottle elsewhere.

They had about 15 bottles, total, and I took 3.  I wanted to take more but I didn’t want to be greedy.  I later saw two yuppies with 3 bottles each, and then a couple of people in line behind me saw the oil in my cart, asked where I got it, and then made a mad dash and brought back 3 bottles apiece.  That pretty much took care of the stock on that product.

Now, I have gotten many serious bargains at Grocery Outlet, but this was the best I ever did.

If you know your products you cannot go wrong.  Look at everything in every aisle to get an idea of the place, and then come back at regular intervals so you know what they tend to have and what’s fleeting.

They carry store brands from around the US, and numerous Canadian and European products, too, like Sandstede Westphalian ham from Deutschland that’s sold under the bizarre name of “Black Forest Prosciutto” on our shores.  Prosciutto is cured only.  American-style Black Forest ham is more like pedestrian deli ham than anything they’d be eating in the Black Forest.  Westphalian schinken (ham), on the other hand,  is both cured and lightly smoked.  Kind of an assertive, dry, slightly-smoky prosciutto.   It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing and not so easy to find.  When it’s $1.99 here (for 3.5 ounces) I and the other Germans in the ‘hood clean them out.

You may see huge bags of grated cheese of middling quality next to a small carton of 4-year-old Cheddar or Vintage Gouda.

I’m not gonna tell you anything else.

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