Why Boutique Shopping isn’t Just for Handbags and Jeans

A while ago I wrote a post about making grocery shopping fun. I compared it to all other types of shopping and begged the question “Who doesn’t like shopping?” Why do we make grocery shopping a dreaded “task”?

Buying food should be something we enjoy. So why don’t we? Could it be the quality? Could it be the expireqvce? Think about your favorite store so shop in regardless of what you’re buying. What’s the experience? How does the store make you feel? How does the staff interact with you? What’s the lighting like? Is the store aesthetically pleasing? What is the quality of the product? Can you think of that store? Now, what if where you bought your food was like that? Would it change your desire to go “grocery” shopping?

It wasn’t until I moved to the midwest that I discovered just how great grocery shopping could be. I mean I have always liked it even as a little kid but it didn’t click as a pleasurable shopping experience until I moved here and started taking the time to find great places to buy my ingredients.

It first started with finding a Co-op. I know, that sounds totally hippy right? In some areas they are. The co-op in San Francisco we went to was pretty “alternative” from it’s aesthetics to its staff and even in it’s clientele. The great thing about co-ops is you have a staff that is passionate about their products and their products are for the most part made or grown by local farmers and artisans. We then ventured into the world of “the farmers market”. I have to say I have been to quite a few farmers markets and to really enjoy them I have to find ones that seem to click with me. I am not sure why some do and some don’t but I think it has a lot to do with the vendors and my interactions with them.

So when we moved to the midwest we started with finding farmers markets and co-ops. The two co-ops we became members at were because the staffs were knowledgeable helpful and friendly. They had great products and you could see the difference in the quality. Then it was a hunt for a great farmers market. Little did we know the St. Paul Farmers Market has a long history in this country as one of the first farmers markets and it dates all the way back to 1853. The key to shopping a farmers market isn’t about buying necessarily all of your produce and or meat there but to buy key “in-season” ingredients or truly superior ingredients there.

Since this often took us up to St.Paul, I then began looking for other things when I was up there such as sea food. I did some googling and found a seafood shop in St. Paul that was nothing but seafood and WOW! What as shop! Interesting seafood, hard to find fish and other ingredients like fresh fish stock! (This is great if you’re making a traditional paella instead of using chicken stock.)

On one of my visits there I asked them about a anchovy I had purchased that they were out of and they told me to check “The Cheese Shop“. I ask them where it was and what it was called and they politely smiled and said, “No, it’s actually called The Cheese Shop and it’s just around the corner.”

The Cheese Shop was amazing! It’s nothing but amazing cheeses with a few other things to round out any cheese platter such as a few artisan charcuteries. We asked them if they ever had linguisa and they said no but to check the mean shop… Not thinking I did it again… I asked what’s the name of it? To which they said “wait for it, The Meat Shop” and of course it was right down the road.

Yesterday as I was getting everything for my Thanksgiving dinner I went to the cheese shop and asked them if they ever had rind from their parmesan as they break it down for customers. I them proceeded to explain to them that I make a parmesan stock that needs just the rind. The girl then told me that occasionally when they get a full wheel in and have to break it down they have some “off cuts” and she proceeded to wrote down her email for me and told me to email her when I was wanting to make the stock and she would let me know when I might be able to get these “off cuts”. I also asked for some cheddar. She then asked me what I was making so I proceeded to tell her. She then proceeded to show me a few cheeses she thought I might like better and were more interesting. (And yes, I went with one of her recommendations.)

My husband and I then proceeded to go down to The Meat Shop for some breakfast sausage. Having never been there before I wasn’t sure what to expect and discovered maybe my new favorite store. The girl behind the counter not only help me pick a great sausage but then told us about their business model of being a whole animal butcher and they they even offer butchering classes! As we got talking we were telling her how much we liked different types of meat and that when we lived in London we fell in love with duck. We told her how excited we were to see they sold duck breasts. She agreed with us and then told us they had duck prosciutto! I then asked her if they sold lard, which they did, and as I was looking in that case I discovered they even sell rabbit!

On top of the meat counter they even had some season veggies from local farmers and as we were checking out she told us that on different days they have different deals and we could save some money in the future but shopping on specific days!

Getting to talk to craftsmen who know their trade, product, and practices makes shopping fun, interesting, and informative. Rather than going to a “One Stop Shopping” location look around you for those boutique stores as you might find something more interesting, creative, and enjoyable to take your mundane grocery shopping and turn it into a pleasurable outing with delicious outcomes. Oh, added benefit almost everything was competitively priced and they certainly offer the hard to find.

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