Main & Vine

When my alarm pierced the air at 4:00 am on Wednesday morning, I was fairly unprepared for a long, two-hour haul to the grocery store.

I can now tell you with the utmost enthusiasm, it was worth it.

Now before you wonder why I was out of my mind enough to hit the highway before sunrise for the sake of a shopping cart, let me set the stage. This Wednesday, February 3rd, was the grand opening of the flagship grocery store, Main & Vine.

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In the heart of Gig Harbor, Washington, in a beautifully repurposed QFC, is now a bright, friendly neighborhood grocery boasting local artisan products alongside recognizable brands. Hoping to bring a warm community center to the town, Main & Vine brings everyone together around the thing we all love most: food.

Unlike traditional store layouts, fresh produce and prepared foods took center stage, anchored by the store’s ‘sweet spot’ – an operating kitchen demoing a meal, highlighting what’s for dinner.

It was busy. Bustling with eager local shoppers and a veritable army of excited executives and employees, it was easy to see that this was a project of time, effort and love that the team was thrilled to share. And there were plenty of happy folks to share it with. Navigating the parking lot alone was like playing Tetris in a minivan. Shoppers pushed full carts up and down the aisles and cars tucked into parking spots in rapid succession.

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Big balloons and swinging jazz lit up the entrance. Immediately my sleepy, drive-tired mood was replaced with a tingle of excitement. Is there anything more fun than watching a community light up over food culture?

(Of course, I’m sure the coffee played a good part in my excitement. Cutter’s Point, a local Washington roaster and coffee company, is featured here, slingin’ lattes to the happy, hungry masses.)

To be truthful, I didn’t know where to begin. Everything had the enchantment of new, charming excitement to it. I had an empty shopping cart in front of me, begging to be filled.

Drawn to the breads, pastries and gleaming deli counter, I forayed into the fray. I was impressed—although there was approachable familiarity to all of the store’s features, there were unique and intriguing displays that made me grin. The bagel display, for instance, had me at hello.

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The deli counter was also impressive. I’ve found myself pleasantly surprised at how knowledgeable those behind the counter were.

I was handed sample upon sample of paper-thin prosciutto and hearty salami, courtesy of local charcuterie purveyor Olympia Provisions (of which I am already a huge fan.)

The prosciutto pictured below, by the way, was awesome. Sliced as thinly as possible on razor-sharp equipment, it only proved that early morning is a very acceptable time to enjoy cured meats.

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Maybe I’m in the small percentile of crazy gastronomes, but brand-new food features always suit my fancy. (I woke up before dawn to drive to a grand opening of a grocery store. Take it for what it’s worth.) But let me impress my excitement upon you once more for what ultimately was my favorite experience.

Side note: if you’re not in the Pacific Northwest and can only envision what I’m talking about, cross your fingers that someday a Main & Vine will open near you. If you are a PNW local, next time you’re hitting up Seattle, make a slight southern detour.

But I digress.

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The seafood counter was busy and brimming with smiling people, customers and employees alike. But as far as I’m concerned, it was the feature just a yard or two away from the iced glass of the fresh seafood that caught my eye.

A large, waist-high cooler, slotted with sliding handles, held an assortment of flash-frozen seafood and sides. Small bay scallops, shrimp in pesto, creamy risotto, and five-grain sides all stood at perfect attention, equipped with small scoops to fill the waiting pile of plastic to-go containers. Essentially a frozen bulk-foods style approach to premade meals, these seafood options were nitro-frozen, eliminating the need to add the usual frozen food preservatives.

It is, in my opinion, an awesome way to stock up on dinners (or sides) for the week, ready to eat in forward, cook-from-frozen simplicity.

Even better, they taste really good. As a premade food skeptic, I reserved all judgement until I could prove their worth over my stove later that night and was actually incredibly surprised.

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By the time I made my way through the massive lines, my cart was laden with all of my favorite things.

Prosciutto, thin and silky.

Salami (several kinds.)

Cheese. Lots of cheese, most of it local.

Unhomogenized milk from Washington’s Twin Brook Creamery, classically bottled in glass, thick cream waiting on top.

Honeycrisp apples larger than both fists put together.

Marbled steak. Raw local honey. Mandarins with stems. Daisies wrapped in brown paper.

I may have gone a little crazy.

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Of course, putting these things to the test is the true mark of a successful shopping trip. I returned home to fill my kitchen with a bounty of fruits and flowers.

And then, of course, I did what I do best. I started cooking.

Without further ado, let me pass along my sweet and simple takeaway from this excursion!


 

Honey Nectarine & Olive Oil Crumble

Ingredients:

3-5 large stone fruits (In my case, nectarines, although plums and peaches are also great options)

2 T raw honey IMG_0266

1 1/2 t sugar

1/4 c water

1 1/2 c flour

1/4 c sugar

1/2 c olive oil

dash vanilla

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, combine flour, sugar, oil and vanilla. Mix (preferably by hand or in a food processor) until it all comes together. The result should be crumbly and slightly sandy, but able to form a nice crumbled texture. If you’re having trouble getting the dough to stick together, add a few IMG_0273tablespoons of water at a time until desired texture is reached.
  2. In a small saucepan heat diced fruit, honey, sugar and water. Bring to a simmer and let thicken until fruit is soft and syrupy.
  3. Remove from heat. Pour fruit mix evenly into one large pan (a pie dish will do nicely) or several small tins.
  4. Top evenly with crumble.
  5. Bake at 375 for 8-15 minutes until crumble has turned golden. Remove, let cool.
  6. Serve and enjoy!

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Interested in checking it out? Visit Main & Vine here:

5010 Point Fosdick Dr NW, Gig Harbor, WA, 98335

mainandvineshop.com

or on Instagram

 

And check out the full gallery experience here!

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That Food Culture Mystery

I have recently been trying to define why is it food culture is so important to me.

Why is it I tear through the New York Times each Wednesday to read the Food section cover-to-cover? What could the reasoning behind my stacks of books –books on chefs, on the history of noodles, on the cultural importance of salt — possibly be?

I have notebooks filled with recipes, quotes, torn pages, glued and taped in a fashion that may seem haphazard at first but, upon second glance, reveal a very careful map of my thoughts.

My first notebook, positively stuffed to the brim, strains at the elastic band that holds the covers together.

I have sections of nothing but quotes from Anthony Bourdain. I have pictures of lavish feasts I wish I could have attended torn from the pages of Bon Appetit. I have a good ten-page spread on ingredients I’ve been dying to put together. Saffron semifreddo with cherry cardamom syrup and salted honey. Beetroot ravioli with poppyseed butter. Squid ink gnocchi.

Heck, I even have a page from a library book in there.

I thought maybe this mad notebook was a result of the endless inspiration I found while attending culinary school. My favorite recipes, quotes from my instructors, a copy of my NEHA certification… it’s all in there, brainchildren of a time of childlike wonder and inspiration.

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Still, after leaving school, the notebook continued to grow until it had been filled. And I started another, and it began to expand almost twice as rapidly.

For some reason, food culture seems like a vast, bottomless, intriguing black hole. I can never learn about it all, no matter how hard I try.

In my attempt to define why such an impossible task is so vitally important to me, I mapped out a chart that looked like this:

Food Culture = Survival + Society + Association

Food is a necessary part of life. If you don’t eat, you’ll die. Simple.

So how can something so basic become so incredibly nuanced and complex? Essentially, eating is a simple mechanism for getting nutrients into our bodies. And yet we are not only offered a plethora of methods, ingredients, techniques and abilities to do so, but we are given the desire to combine all of those things to create not only fuel but a delicious and desirable experience.

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Beyond that, because we all share the need to eat, we build a culture and society around food. These traditions become incredibly ingrained in our very natures. People turn to food for comfort, reassurance.

These positive associations –or, in some cases, negative associations– with food are often just as valuable as the food itself. A simple meal can be elevated by good company, a bad experience can remove a food item or even an entire culture from a person’s favor completely.

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So why bother to study something that is entirely personal, based off of an individual’s preferences?

There’s something about the amazing, intricate network created around food and the way it brings people together that intrigues me.

Food can be beautiful, it can be art. It can be comforting. It can bring back long-lost memories or unite unlikely friends. Food can warm your very soul. Or, at its very baseline, it can keep you alive another day.

I don’t know why food culture is so intriguing. Maybe that mystery is part of the reason I want to explore and discover so much. Perhaps someday I’ll find the answer.