Sunday, May 29, 2016

Getting the Good Stuff: The State of Grocery Shopping in Sioux Falls

If I've said it once, I've said it a million times: We are living in Sioux Falls at a great time. The cultural diversity keeps getting, well, diverse. And we are all reaping the benefits in terms of music, art, and food.

If you really cook, like I do, sooner or later you are going to need some pretty crazy ingredients. I'm on a real Asian food kick lately, and fortunately, I have identified much better resources for things like fish sauce, Chinese wind sausage, and dried shrimp, than I ever imagined. I needed ingredients yesterday, so between downpours, I ventured out and picked up a few things and made a few mental notes I'd like to share.

Nikki's. I've mentioned Nikki's before. This gem is located at 8th and Indiana and has been serving awesome, authentic Mexican tacos, tortas, and burritos for years. The food is great, but step inside the grocery store and prepare to stock up on all those authentic little ingredients you need to cook some great food at home. For instance, need some epazote to simmer in a pot of black beans and pork? No problem- you just need to decide what variety you need. Need dried peppers? Ancho? Pasilla? Guajillo? Chipotle? All there. How about good tortillas? Queso fresco? Crema? Reliably ripe avocados? Si, si, si, and si. Need a beef head to make barbacoa for the neighborhood block party? What the what? Yeah, there just might be one in the meat case-- along with really good pork, pre-seasoned beef, chicken, or pork for fajitas, all sorts of short ribs and other cuts that will amaze you. The prices are great and the quality is outstanding.

New Asian Store on East 10th. I'm sure it has a name, but I didn't catch it. It's at East 10th and Omaha, right next to where the old Pizza Inn/new Popeye's Chicken is going. I stopped in there because I was on a quest for Thai Bird Peppers- the very small, insanely spicy red peppers to make a dipping sauce for some chicken. The sign said Asian Seafood and Produce, so I figured this was a good bet. Beautiful little store. Clean and well organized. No fresh peppers on this occasion, but I asked for help and was handed a package of frozen peppers. Boom! While I was at it, I picked up some curry paste and some rice noodles to add to my collection at home. Apparently, I feel compelled to pick those up every time I leave the house.

Thanh Mai. This is the Asian grocery on Rice Street. It's practically in the Morrell's parking lot. Hands down, this is one of the most far out crazy places to visit in Sioux Falls. It's small, the aisles are narrow, and the shelves are bursting with all sorts of things. It's organized, but it will take you several trips to get the hang of it and to locate some of the hidden gems. If you need dark soy sauce, kecap manis, thick soy, mushroom soy, or just want a gallon of regular Pearl River Bridge soy sauce, this is the place. Been missing out on duck flavored ramen noodles? No problem. Korean fermented pepper paste? Yup. Need a pot and basket to cook sticky rice? It's there. Thanh Mai is also my go to place for esoteric Asian vegetables. I honestly cannot identify a lot of what's there. If you really want to blow your mind, go explore the freezers. You'll find things like bags of pre-made pot sticker dumplings and some frozen fish. But I have also made note of the following: an entire pig skin, a tray of frozen duck heads, frozen frogs (not legs, whole frogs), and the prevailing champion (thus far) a package of four, whole, immaculately packaged and vacuum sealed frozen giant water bugs. They were labeled "Bait for Fish." Yeah, I have some doubts. You might also note a box full of fresh fish heads or maybe even some live blue crabs. Don't touch those.

Fareway at 41st and Sycamore. Yeaaaahhhh! The new Faraway store is open. And, I must say it is NICE! Very nice layout and a very nice store. You won't find the bells and whistles like you do at Hy Vee, but these guys have a great selection of all sorts of things. However, the real reason to go is the meat counter. Staffed by a small army of flying monkeys, it's all fresh out of the case, old school butcher service. It's fresh, good, and priced nicely. And chances are, if you need something a tad out of the norm, like skirt steak, just ask. They probably have some. It might be frozen, but you'll likely get what you need.

Start searching the inter webs for cool recipes, make a shopping list, fill your travel mug with coffee, crank up some good tunes, and go explore the awesome ingredients available in the little grocery stores around town. You'll be much richer for the experience and the efforts are well worth it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Attic Kitchen Is Open! Get there!!!

One of the best options for a friendly beverage and a respectable, delicious bar meal on the East Side is The Attic. The lines out the door on Friday nights and some Wednesdays attest to the popularity of the food.  Well, if you've been by 41st and Sycamore in the last 30 days, or so, you may have noticed the kitchen has been closed due to the super cool expansion and remodeling going on there.

The kitchen is now together with about as much new, shiny stainless steel as the top of the Chrysler Building! And, with the kitchen open, there is now a new menu. Here's the low-down. 

Overall.  Kicked up. If you were loving something that rolled off a delivery truck in a processed pre-made, freezer ready form, you're going to be sorely disappointed. Goodbye big breaded "shroom" slices, waffle fries, and Nacho cheese the color of John Boehner's suntan. Hello whole chickens cut up in house, fresh steaks, and reformulated, house ground burger. Yeah, that new "Nacho" cheese? Creamy Manchego.  Impressive and tasty.  Chef Roger has totally revamped this. Some old classics like the club sandwich are gone, but there are some new contenders that will be hard to beat.

Burgers. Reformulated. House ground. The Attic always had a good, fresh burger, but if there was any complaint about them, it was that they could get a tad dry.  Now, it's a house ground blend with chuck and either short rib or brisket that delivers on the juicy flavor you want. And look at the menu pages below. A couple new contenders with a Pull Monty and a tricked out egg burger.  Probably more of a mess and a food coma than I am looking for, but I bet they get some attention.

Flatbreads.  Another nice addition. Anything pizza is usually pretty good. I had one last weekend and the buffalo chicken flatbread was really flavorful. And the presentation on a half sheet pan with some micro greens as garnish was very cool.  I'm looking forward to trying the Mediterranean version soon.

Way gourmet stuff.  A braised short rib glazed with plum demiglace? Sign me up.  And the half roasted chicken is phenomenal. That's a dish you'd expect to see at a place with starched white table linens. It almost begs for a wine list instead of an icy cold macrobrew. 

I dare say this is going to push bar food ahead just a tad here in River City. Give it a try!

Here's a bootleg look at the menu on the first full day of the new kitchen being open: