I wonder how many people will turn up this post from a Google search and be disappointed ??
This morning as I kneaded bread dough and set it to rise I was thinking about cheese. Stick with me here. I was thinking about a dessert pizza that I have not made in a while. It is made with caramelized onions, sliced Bosch pears and Brie. I haven’t made it lately because it isn’t the kind of dessert children want to eat and there is no way Dave and I should be consuming an entire dessert pizza on our own. And we would, it’s that good.
The reason I was thinking about cheese is that it is difficult to come across really good cheese around here. There are no cheese shops, just the supermarkets and some Italian delis that make their own mozzarella. I was thinking how nice it would be to have a local cheese shop to patronize. That thought led me to thinking of my mom and dad’s stories of the shopping avenue near where they grew up in Brooklyn. Their mothers, my grandmothers, shopped on the avenue (18th Avenue in Bensonhurst to be exact) nearly everyday. There the food was freshly bought from the butcher, bakery and grocer. No one went to a supermarket and the local community supported these small businesses. I believe there are still places like this in the world. Places that have not been swallowed up by super stores and malls. Places where the business owner knows his customers and appreciates their business and the clientele pays a little more for the convenience.
So what would be my fantasy avenue? What shops and businesses would I want to have within walking distance of my home?
Well, a cheese shop would be cool. Lots of fresh cheese from all over the world. Think of how elevated your cooking could be with a Cashel Blue from Ireland, a Camembert from Vermont, a Grana Padano from Italy or a Brie from Normandy. Don’t forget the large variety of Cheddars and other cheeses from Wisconsin.
A wonderful bakery. A bakery that makes handcrafted artisan breads, sourdough, breads flavored with the freshest of herbs and cheeses (from the cheese shop next door), rolls, large muffins and turnovers made with fresh fruit and spices. Can you smell it???
I would need a greengrocer who stocked only the freshest in-season fruits and vegetables. Everything would be arranged in a visually pleasing and eye catching way. Since it is a fantasy store we would make everything organic and affordable.
A coffee and tea shop would be next on the avenue. A place where you could purchase the finest beans and leaves from around the world. A cozy shop with a lovely sitting area where you could meet a friend and have a peaceful cuppa whatever you fancy. Soft music in the background and the smell of roasting beans and heady teas would waft over you and envelope your senses as you relaxed in front of the fireplace.
The butcher would be at the end of the street. The meat would be trimmed and cut to my needs. Like his buddy the greengrocer my butcher would only have organic meat and he would make it affordable to a large family. He would make his own sausage and grind special blends for meatloaf and meatballs. You could order game meats and birds from him and he would give tips about marinades and cooking times.
Across the street would be the liquor store. At first I thought it would just be a wine shop but then how would we make Irish coffee? So a liquor store but very upscale. None of those goofy mixes from TGIFridays or Hooters. No novelty shot glasses and free calendar give aways (who uses those things?). My shop would give wine tastings occasionally and the shopkeeper would be knowledgeable about vintage and pairings.
Of course, there would have to be a chocolate shop. I could buy dark chocolate covered caramels to eat right away and chocolate from around the world to cook with. Valrhona from France is my favorite but I am willing to try something different if my chocolatier recommended it to me.
Perhaps I should put a gym on the block? No I will be walking there everyday pushing a stroller, that will be enough exercise.
What shops would you have on your avenue? Would you prefer this quaint village life to the hustle and bustle of the super store or do you like the convenience that is afforded by the giant markets?
While you are thinking about it you could make this dessert pizza.
3 Bosch pears (I’ve used Bartlett and they work fine)peeled, cored and thinly sliced
2 Vidalia onions thinly sliced.
3 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 pound of Brie
your favorite pizza dough recipe (a Boboli will do in a pinch)
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and prepare your pizza stone or pan for the dough. Spread your dough rolling the edges as you would for regular pizza.
Melt the butter and sugar in a large frying pan stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add the onions and stir to mix thoroughly. Cook the onions until browned stirring frequently.
Spread the onions evenly on the pizza dough. layer the sliced pears on top and then dot the Brie all over the pie. Bake until the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes. Serve immediately. This pairs nicely with a dry white wine. Your favorite Chardonnay would be great.
It sounds great. I think I’d still need the gym given how much fresh bread and cheese I’d probably eat (SMILE). I’d add a fabric/sewing store on my Fantasy Avenue and maybe a scrapbooking store as well.
Bridget Galbraith says
A thrift store where rich people donate their clothes.
A delightful bookstore without the garbage.
A beautiful, old and thriving Catholic church. OK, thats not for shopping, but for stopping in to pray.
Definitely a used bookstore. Also a huge nature preserve, which I would live next to so I could feel like I was living in the country while also being able to walk to cheese, books, and chocolate :-).
I lived in the midst of your fantasy avenue- Naples, Italy. Within 3 blocks of our villa we had a bar with pastry, a meat market, 2 groceries with fresh eggs, bread,and mozzerella cheese, and many other shops and neat places to go. The local weekly market had all this and much more.
Can you tell I would go back in a minute?
Alice Gunther says
I love this, Mary Ellen, and I would like to be your neighbor so we could push those strollers together.
BTW, Lissa and I lived in this type of neighborhood when we had our first apartments in Astoria, Queens. I still fantasize about that hop, skip and a jump from the church to the bakery (with the kindly women who gave our babies free cookies) to the Italian meat store (with the kindly men who gave our babies free samples of cheese) to the park. Those were the days!
Cay Gibson says
I love this!
Keep “feeding” my imagination. 🙂
I would have to add in a French style patisserie (uh-oh! more calories!) and a Jewish deli. Another essential would be be a traditional British tea room where we could all meet for a nice cup of tea after doing our shopping.
I have to be honest though … I could shop for most of these things at small stores or market stalls, but it is just too expensive and / or time consuming so I usually end up at the supermarket. We do have one more upmarket supermarket that comes pretty close to the specialist shops in quality and I shop there when I can – but most of the more interesting cheeses, deli items and so on are beyond my budget.
We used to live in a city with a small square of shops we called “our little miracle mile”. We had a small delightful children’s bookshop, a homemade ice cream shop, an idependent toy store, a high end children’s clothes shop and a our wonderful library. And just recently Fresh Market just took over a vacant store front. Food, Books and Toys-we had it all.
I feel lucky! We have most of the things you mentioned, more or less, in our town. We have a bakery that’s been in business for over 50 years, where I buy bread every Monday and order special cakes for baptisms, etc. There is a community market that sells beautiful, locally grown produce, plus has a hot deli and wine bar. There is an upscale wine shop, and just recently a cheese shop opened! We have an independent bookseller, an ice cream shop with an old-fashioned soda fountain. There is a great independent coffee shop, as well as many other wonderful businesses in our Old Town area. We are sadly lacking a chocolate shop (wouldn’t that be wonderful?!), and I would love it if there were a fabric shop. We do have a beautiful yarn shop, though. I really appreciate where we live. It is not exactly small and quaint, more like fairly big and gentrified, but not snobby. I have an ideal in mind of living where there is a lot of land and open space, but since that isn’t happening anytime soon, I’ll take my town with it’s beautiful old craftsman cottages, tree-lined streets, mountain views and revitalized old town.