Shopping Without a Supermarket: Our Old Fashioned Guide
Tired of your daily flash-frozen, evaporated, concentrated, dehydrated, reconstituted, canned, prepackaged, fortified, freeze-dried, preserved and expensive goodies? Read on.
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IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS corn came in shucks, not in golden cream sauce; fish came with scales, not cornmeal breading; meat was cut to order, not wrapped fat side down in cellophane. The twentieth century, however, has left the harried, carpooling, wait-for-the-repairman wife (or any cook, for that matter) with little time or interest in shucking, scaling or standing in line at the butcher counter. To the rescue have come the food giants—supermarkets with one-stop shopping, check cashing, convenience foods, stamps, coupons and identification cards.
Sometimes, however, modern cooks tire of food that has been flash-frozen, evaporated, concentrated, dehydrated, reconstituted, canned, prepackaged, fortified, freeze dried and preserved. To their rescue we come with suggestions as to where they can—if they’re dedicated—get the real McCoy, fresh food. If you think your pocketbook prohibits your shopping for the “real McCoy” consider the pleasure of unpacking a grocery sack without finding your old friends Grapefellow, Count Chocula and the 12 packages of sour raspberry gum which your children extorted or bit through while you waited in line at the supermarket.
For cooks with the time, the rewards of such shopping are great. Here’s where to do it. This month we concentrate on Dallas and Houston. Next month we will cover San Antonio.
If your child thinks that all edible fish are spawned by Mrs. Paul, you might consider a trip to one of the catfish farms where he can catch fish in other men’s ditches. Actually hatcheries, these farms almost guarantee the youngest fisherman a stringerful. This is the place for the Incompleat Angler: rods, reel and bait are available—as is processing (cleaning)—at nominal fees. If you won’t go near the water, you can buy fresh or frozen catfish by the pound. Banbury Fish Farms, Inc. (Danbury, Texas—between Alvin and Angleton—2 miles south of highway 35 on Farm Road 171). No fee to fish. Pay for catch at 75 per pound of live weight.
Catfish Acres (Winnie, Texas—between Winnie and Highlands—Farm Road 124, south of Interstate 10). $1.50 fee for anyone over 16 years to fish. Price includes bait and tackle. Catch is 60 per pound of live weight.
FFA Auctions (Future Farmers of America). Chicken on the foot, beef on the hoof, lamb on the leg, turkey in the straw as well as rabbits, hogs, and capons are auctioned off each spring by Texas high school FFAer’s. Although the prize animals are often bought by philanthropists, the also-rans meet their takers at reasonable prices. Students cut and package the meat for you, usually to your specifications. Check with individual schools for auction dates.
Glatzmaier Fish Market (516 Travis. 223-3331). You would expect to find Glatzmaier’s fish in New York City, but it sits atop a three-foot curb on Travis in Houston and looks antediluvian, or at least ante-Gerald Hinesian. It began receiving seafood by rail from Galveston in 1907. Great wooden barrels of fish and seafood are still fixtures in the store. An enormous locker holds run-of-the-gill Gulf seafood (from the deepwater off the South Texas coast) plus turtle, live lobsters, unshucked oysters, frog legs, squid, snapper throats, live crawfish, alligator gar steaks, snapper (15-pounders are not a rarity), carp, buffalo fish, speckled trout, pompano, Spanish mackerel, flounder, soft-shelled crabs, and rabbits. In the frozen food section you’ll find crawfish tails, Alaskan snow crab fingers, abalone and eel. If you give Glatzmaier’s a little notice, they can provide behemoth catfish for you to cut into steaks, or get practically anything else that wiggles in the water.
Orange Grove Game Birds and Hatchery (4602 Orange Grove Drive, Houston. 442-3407). End your small game hunt by taking home a brace of pheasants, a covey of quail or a dozen doves—live, frozen or freshly dressed. For peasants with pheasant tastes, the Stubbes offer fertile eggs of several varieties and incubators. They also raise Araucana hens that lay eggs for gentlemen with heart conditions. Low in cholesterol, these pastel eggs soothe the heart, but at $4 a dozen may irritate the purse.
Farmer’s Market Cooperative (2520 Airline). The Farmer’s Market’s clientele is composed of three main groups: the restaurant buyers who arrive, dicker and load up before most of us have plugged in the morning coffee pot; the parents of unplanned families who heap the pick-up truck with enough vegetables to fill the freezer for the winter; and the newest group on the produce horizon, the vegetable clubbers—ladies in polyester pantsuits who band together against supermarkets, preservatives and high costs. They buy in bulk and then divide the harvest among six to ten families. To this last group and you rugged individualists who are dying for a crate of cucumbers to “put up,” we offer these suggestions:
1. The freshest fare is for the early birds. You won’t see any old hands arriving at noon for the left-overs.
2. The lettuce in the crate may be like the pig in the poke. Check to see that bottom layers of boxed fruits and vegetables are not in the last stages of decomposition.
3. Apples, pears, onions, etc. are graded according to size and quality. Thus, the bushel at $3.50 may be a better buy than the one at $2.50.
4. Buy what is in season.
5. Comparison shop.
Prices and quality can vary radically. You’ll need a pencil and paper to keep track as you move from stall to stall.
If you are not interested in buying in bulk, try Canina’s, an open air conditioned produce shop at the front of the market. You will find a stellar assortment of quality vegetables which includes cactus leaves (nopales) and a wide variety of chilis. Prices are below those in most supermarkets. Froberg’s Farm (Old Manvel Road, Alvin. Take Hwy. 35 off the Gulf Freeway from Houston to Alvin; stay on Business 35, take a right on Hwy. 6; go 11/4 miles to County Road 149; take a left and then a right on County Road 190; go one-quarter mile to sign on right, “Froberg Farm.” This sounds complicated, but isn’t. However, it is a 52-mile round trip from downtown Houston).
The Frobergs have farmed these acres for four generations. The giant pecan and oak trees were making shade when “Washington” meant “on the Brazos.” Mr. Froberg grows vegetables and sells them directly to you from his fields. Nothing is cut until you arrive (or call) so you can be sure that you won’t get last week’s or even yesterday’s harvest. Cauliflower is the winter specialty, but broccoli, okra, mustards, green onions, turnips, collards, radishes, kohlrabi, spinach, squash, lettuces, Chinese cabbage, curly mustard, English peas, beets, endive, parsley, potatoes, carrots, cabbage and celery are also available. Blackberries (not dewberries) are luscious in May. Strawberries have been discontinued. Prices are at ground level, particularly in comparison to those in the market, and Mr. Froberg is indeed a gentleman farmer. Vegetable clubbers might find this a better deal than the farmer’s market.
Miss Pope’s Berry Farm (Penick Road, Waller. Miss Pope and her Austin May Dewberries are about an hour’s drive from downtown Houston. Turn left at the train station in Waller onto Penick Road; go past God’s Mercy Store to her miniscule sign on the left).
Here are five acres of pick-em-yourself berries in a field totally devoid of weeds, bugs and snakes. The rows of berries are separated by candy alleys, so you won’t leave with your clothes tattered and torn. Miss Pope runs the whole operation like her daddy did, charges 65 a gallon when you pick, but sometimes has a few gallons already picked for $1.50 per gallon. The season lasts about three weeks from about May l0th.
Pecans—From about the middle of October through November, the pecan brokers open their trailers and sheds west of Houston to receive pecans from growers and to sell some to local nut nuts before shipping the larger part of the crop to candy makers and packagers. Both native (tiny, sweet and juicy—from ungrafted trees—preferred by most food manufacturers) and papershells fill the bins and tow sacks. Buy by the pound or by the 100-pound sack.
R.B. Bagley and Sons (Hwy. 59, just east of the Brazos River Bridge in Richmond). Desirables, Mahon’s natives, Squirrels Delight, San Sabas: in 1972 from 60-70 a pound, less by the 100 pounds. Cracking from 10-15 per pound extra. Bagley seems to be about 10 a pound cheaper than his nearby competitor.
Fulshear Drive In (Take Hwy. 1093 straight out West Park from Houston to the intersection in Fulshear). Some of the lowest prices on good local pecans like Success. About 5 a pound; less by the 100-pound lot.
Andre’s Swiss Candies and Pastry Shop (2512 River Oaks Blvd.). Blow your diet on quiches, breads, Linzertortes, marzipan frogs and Swiss chocolates. Gorge on the spot or cart the calories home. All baking is done on the premises. Luncheon and tea are served.
Jean-Pierre Bakery Incorporated (2711 Kipling). This petite boulangerie specializes in crusty French bread (in various shapes: 35-65), croissants, brioches, chaussons, tartelettes (with fresh fruit), entrements, and pan de campagne. The full assortment is not always in view in the showcase, so ask for what you want.
Mouritsen Danish Bakery (2168 Portsmouth-Greenbriar Shopping Center). Succumb to the rich almond tarts, moist almond coffee rings, almond macaroons (one chewy for eating and the other hard for cooking) and a showcase of other Danish delicacies.
Van Horn’s Bake Shop (1989 West Gray). For 30 years this shop has been famous for fresh English muffins.
Three Brothers Bakery (4036 S. Braeswood Blvd.). Take home Kosher breads—rye, pumpernickel—by the loaves, and bagels by the dozen, as well as some newish items: French rolls, German chocolate pie, jelly cake, cherry pie, carrot cake and sour dough bread.
The Nut Hut (Almeda Mall, Northwest Mall, Town and Country Village). Nut butter—peanut cashew, pecan, almond, walnut, etc.—made on the spot.
A Moveable Feast (908 Westheimer). Take your children to see a miller’s tale firsthand. Primarily a source of organically grown foods, The Moveable Feast is owned and operated by an attractive young couple who mill their own flour daily and keep the bins filled with rice, beans and fresh grated coconut. Also available are yard eggs, grain, cereals, cheeses, chicken, fish and continental yogurt—all uncontaminated by chemical fertilizers, additives preservatives or trading stamps.
Rudolph’s Meat and Sausage Factory (2924 Elm St. 741-1874). Rudolph is the oldest meat market in Dallas (1895), but increased U.S. government restrictions have erased almost every trace of this market’s antiquity. Only the front of an old, ice-cooled wooden freezer displayed on the wall suggests that this is indeed the same Rudolph’s where, in less inflated days, children were pacified with free weiners while their parents shopped.
A third generation of Dallasites depend on Rudolph’s for Polish, Country-Style pure pork sausage, German franks, and Kolbase (an old recipe of beef and pork ground coarsely with caraway and other spices). Rudolph’s prime and choice heavy beef is aged three to four weeks. Top quality lamb, pork and occasionally veal are also available. All meat is cut to your specifications. If you don’t know standing rump from hind shank, Rudolph’s is the place to learn.
Kuby’s Sausage House (6601 Snider Plaza 363-2231). If soaring meat prices have cancelled your trip to Europe, splurge on a simulated trip abroad to Kuby’s. Almost any day of the week you are assured of hearing five languages spoken around the meat counter, (German, Dutch, Austrian, Polish and Russian) English is not their forte, but beautiful European style (boneless) meat definitely is. This seems to be the only market in Dallas where veal is available every day. Browse the meat counter and find rolled veal shoulder roast, scalloped veal, European cold cuts such as Beerwuurst (south German cooked salami) and Schinkenwurst (Ham bologna), Austrian and German sausages, as well as more standard but nevertheless artistically butchered beef and pork. Kuby’s butchers are European-trained masters.
The Filet Meat Company (4513 Greenvile 368-5517). If you’re partial to this cut, drive a few blocks north of Mockingbird to Frank Hayden’s small meat market. He sells only choice heavy filets and thick sliced bacon. Meat prices are climbing steadily, but the day we visited, his filets were more than 20 cheaper per pound than the big chain supermarkets. There’s no elaborate packaging to fill your trash cans—just a couple of pieces of nice brown butcher paper and string you can save.
Farmer’s Meat Market (2113 Taylor, 742-5453). (No relation to the Municipal Produce Mkt.) If you’ve spent a hot summer morning haggling for produce bargains in the Farmer’s Market sheds, this is an ideal stop for your meat purchases. The entire meat market is a cold storage locker. All cuts of beef and pork are available. Spare-ribs looked particularly better than the supermarket variety. Saturday is very busy, so come early or risk frostbite while you wait.
If your appetite for game is better than your aim, find quail, chuker and occasionally pheasant at R. A. Peterson’s, 8355 Huddig, Pleasant Grove (EX-89474) or at Lake Clopton Shooting Resort, Route 1, Waxahachie (area code 214, WE 7-2439).
Johnny Varcasia’s Sea Coast Fish (5719 W. Lovers Lane 357-0121). This small, family-run market, unobtrusively situated between one of Dallas’ oldest seed stores and Marcel’s French restaurant (supplied by Johnny’s) provides standard salt water fare: crab, oysters, redfish, sole, trout, snapper, shrimp in all sizes, as well as a few fresh water items such as smelts and catfish. Frozen food section contains massive lobster tails, squid and Johnny’s own gumbo, stuffed sole, flounder and crab.
Johnny’s personal attentiveness to his regular customers may astound you. Seemingly everyone who walks through the door is greeted by name, (Johnny says, “I have no customers—just friends”) and the market is stocked to suit their palates and cholesterol counts. Johnny readily admits that his famous sauces (Remoulade, horseradish, Tartar and cocktail) vary their ingredients with the season. December palates can apparently handle more horseradish and chili sauce. Children can watch the fish being expertly dressed or fileted on the big table just behind the display case. Do not be intimidated by the in-crowd feeling in this cozy market. Introduce yourself, confess your ignorance and come away with recipe suggestions and possibly a few pennies saved.
Gulf Fish Market (2947 Walnut Hill 358-3477 and 1005 Preston Royal Plaza 363-6397). Live Maine lobsters in a see-through tank at the door simultaneously delight and horrify your children, while you survey the most cosmopolitan gathering of seafood in town. Hawaiian mahi-mahi, African Bob-ba-luc snails, New Orleans oyster in the shell, Dover sole, Cherrystone clams, Canadian salmon, Alaskan crab and California squid are airfreighted in fresh for you and Neimann Marcus’ Zodiac Room and Greenhouse. The Walnut Hill market is bigger and newer, but the same fresh fare is available at Preston Royal.
Doyle Garrison’s Catfish Farm (Edd Road, Seagoville 286-0044). For a dollar a day you can fish these tanks. Pay for your catch at 65 per pound. Facilities are available for cleaning them yourself, or pay 15 per fish to avoid the dirty work.
The Farm Cat (1226 E. Irving Blvd. 254-5393). If you are no fisherman, but know the sweet flavorful taste of fresh catfish too well to accept frozen, the Farm Cat offers the freshest possible. These farm raised catfish are trucked in live to the market, slaughtered and dressed while you wait. Ron Groth, the market manager, an evangelistic proponent of catfish eating, will supply you with catfish cookbooks and all you never wanted to know about catfish farming. Better yet have a catfish party (minimum 25). Groth will bring fresh fish, hush puppies and cole slaw and reveal his cooking secrets to your guests.
The Farmer’s Market (Municipal Produce Market 1010 S. Pearl Expressway). You don’t have to be a wholesale produce buyer or a co-op member to benefit from these bountiful sheds. Buying in bulk, of course, provides the greater savings, but all of the Dallas area farmers in Shed #1 display their onions, tomatoes, spinach, peas, corn, etc. in retail bunches.
The peak of the summer prizes are, of course, the vine-ripened East Texas tomatoes and Weatherford peaches, gourmet treats in anyone’s mouth, but the more discerning shoppers will also discover the unique stalls of Lily Crowley and Joe Lucido. Unless you have an herb garden in your backyard, this is the only place we know where you can find fresh oregano, dill, coriander (cilantro), fennel, sweet basil, garlic and shallots. Mrs. Crowley, an organic farmer, has an established clientele of all nationalities, not to mention the health food devotees who require her exotic greens for Dr. Kirshner’s “green drink.”
Don’t leave the market without sniffing all the varieties of Mr. Lucido’s mint. The day we visited he had only 15 varieties, (lemon, orange, banana, apple, doublemint, spearmint, mountain, field and domestic peppermint…we lost track). What do you do with it beside decorate tea? “Well,” Mr. Lucido says, “The world ain’t all one kind. Some folks use it to cure their colds, some put it in their pie crust, or use it in canning fruit.” He even had a recipe for a mint-garlic marinade for steaks, chicken and potato patties.
In the height of the summer season 75,000 people have been known to stroll through this market on Saturdays. So if you’re not there by 8 A.M., expect a traffic jam.
Get to know the farmers when business is slow, and you may find a farm to visit where they’ll pick the produce after you arrive. Mark Woody’s farm in Seagoville (287-1634) sells “over the fence” on Saturdays.
Pick-A-Peck. Inc. (corner of Central and Taylor 742- 0500). If the seasonal produce available at the Municipal Market doesn’t supply all your needs, you might try this recently opened wholesale-retail market across the streets from the sheds. Owner Jim Toon, formerly a produce buyer for a big chain supermarket, gets to the big wholesale produce houses between 4:30 and 5 A.M. to provide his customers with “the best quality produce for their money.” His market offers a wide variety of fruits and vegetables at attractive prices even if you are buying in small quantities. If you’re industrious enough to “put up” peaches, peas, etc., give Mr. Toon your name and he promises to call when quality and supply offer the best bargain.
People Buying Together (Cooperatives). If you’re willing to do occasional weekend work to save some grocery money, there are at least seven fresh produce cooperatives in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Write to Roger Pearce, 503 South Center, Arlington, 76010, to locate your nearest organization.
Aston’s English Bakery, (6029 Luther Lane, 368- 6425). This is the stuff Nutcracker dreams are made of. Delectably costumed clowns, dogs, elephants, leprachauns, and gingerbread men peer from the cookie shelves, while ballerinas, cowboys and toy soldiers pirouette, ride or march across the most elaborate birthday cakes in town. If you haven’t the time or the oven, take your cake recipe to Mr. Aston.
Bread without preservatives (salt rising, butter-crust, Rye and stoneground whole wheat) comes out of the oven between 7 and 10 A.M. Monday through Saturday. Despite the name, no crumpets, scones, or muffins to be found here. Hot crossed buns were the only thing remotely Anglican in sight.
Albert’s Swiss Pastry Shop (5723 W. Lovers Lane 357-2952). European baked goods are prepared with more loving attention since pastry chef and owner Albert Schaufelberger no longer supplies Braniff Airlines with thousands of napoleons, rhum balls, eclaires and sylvanas. His small shop is easily crowded, and the parking in front woefully inadequate; however Albert’s Dutch Almond cake is worth the trouble.
Black Forest Bakery (5819 Blackwell 368-4490). The Baker Hotel first whetted Texas appetites for Black Forest cake, but Daniel Dreyfus’ bakery was the first to let them take it home with them. Besides the creamy rich cakes, macaroons, tortes, and breads available at all three locations, The Blackwell St. bakery behind Sterlings has a restaurant which serves superb quiches, European soups and sandwiches.