Wine! Food! NYC!

I am so psyched to have been invited again this year to the Food Network's New York City Wine & Food Festival by ShopRite. Last year was a blast and I had high hopes for a repeat performance. It didn't disappoint.

Chris & I took the Megabus down Saturday afternoon and went to our hotel to check in. They kindly informed us that they were just putting the finishing touches on our room and Could They Escort Us to the Guests-Only Bar for Complementary Drinks While We Waited? Uh... yes. Sure. Um, ok. Yes! It was one of those moments where we side-glanced each other trying to figure out what was happening and why we were getting the royal treatment when our room wasn't even supposed to be ready for another 25 minutes. But, the smooth operators we were, we just followed him right to the bar and ordered ourselves some drinks. As the bartender said, "Sky's the limit!" Thank you.

We settled in, shopped around for a new suit for Chris and then met up with the ShopRite gang to go to Tacos & Tequila, hosted by Bobby Flay. I didn't take any creepy videos of him this year. Apologies! We had a blast, even though there weren't many (any?) vegetarian tacos. I mean, what? Veggie tacos are so easy! I will admit to eating a bit of meat that night, including a bite of octopus. I will also gladly admit that I don't think we've been missing anything in our meat-free experiments. I prefer veggies, hands down.

Onward to Sunday's Grand Tasting event! Dana & I were on the live-blogging team for the day and also talked up ShopRite's Potluck blog. I think I preferred this year's Grand Tasting experience, if only because Sunday seemed slightly less crowded than Saturday was last year. There was a ton of food, a ton of booze (wine, beer & liquor, oh my) and lots of celeb chefs. That food is GOOD, people. The above picture is of a Quinoa & Goat Cheese Arrancini with Romesco Sauce served over Brown Rice & Red Quinoa with Butternut Squash & Sage, by Harvest Grains.

I am a pro at Tabling at Events and Telling People What's Up, due to all of the work-related, FSC-related and other cause-related outreach I seem to find myself doing. So I actually really enjoyed chatting it up with peeps about the ShopRite blog. It never ceases to surprise me how grabby people can be when there are freebies around, however. They will claw your eyes out for a plastic spatula or box of biscotti. Intense.

Anyway, we caught a slice of 10,000 calorie pizza here before hopping on a nighttime train back to Albany with our bags full of food swag. And then we slept in an extra hour the next morning.

Oh, this is just a bonus pic of me with Chef Fabio. We also saw B. Flay (obviously), Giada, Paula Deen's kids, one of those mean guys that yells at people on his show, one of the guys that eats weird food (not Anthony Bourdain), Masaharu Morimota and maybe someone else. Sorry, we don't get the Food Network so I'm not up to speed on everyone's names.

Thanks, ShopRite, for inviting me to live-blog & work the Grand Tasting at this year's NYC Wine & Food Festival. It was an awesome weekend! 

Where I buy food + a look at the new ShopRite

I had the chance to check out the new Albany ShopRite store last week before it opened. Having started as a Potluck blogger before there was a really convenient location near me has gotten me all hyped up. It also got me analyzing where I shop for food. Here's the scoop:

I'll always be loyal to our local co-op for certain things, especially bulk items, their delicious prepared meals & other hippie goods. I support the co-op as much as I can and talk about it to anyone who will listen. If you are local, you should shop there. Quit complaining about the parking or the cramped aisles, because it's worth it to navigate. Try it out, I think you'll like it.

I'm very much looking forward to the start of our new CSA season with the lovely Denison Farm. Knowing exactly where my vegetables came from and who grew them makes eating them all the more delightful. Just listen to Episode 2 of the FSC Podcast and you'll hear how excited I am about CSAs. Similarly, Saturday mornings at the Troy Farmers Market are some of my favorite times and we try to buy as much of our produce there as possible when we aren't in our CSA season. There's a great community that gathers at local farmers markets and it's one of the most fun ways to buy your food. Plus, you are directly supporting local farmers and producers, and that is always good.

We are nearing the end of our second season of being part of a community-supported bakery. At the beginning of the "bread season", we made an upfront financial commitment to All Good Bakers in exchange for weekly loaves of fresh, locally-sourced, artisan loaves of bread. So that's primarily how we get our carb intake each week.

With all of that being said, a good portion of our weekly grocery shopping still happens in supermarkets. There, I said it. Slay me!

What do we buy at the supermarket? Well, we buy bananas. And avocados. They aren't local, but I love them. We buy tofu, tempeh, English muffins, cooking oil, almond milk, granola bars, frozen berries and a few frozen vegetables, veggie burgers, cereal, yogurt, juice, crackers, cheese, toilet paper, paper towels, beer, an occasional convenience food and whatever else tickles our fancy. These are things that we buy regularly and that we appreciate paying cheaper prices for. We stock up on pantry items. Sometimes I buy People magazine there with a candy bar. And I'm guessing, and this is just a guess, that many of you are at a grocery store on a regular basis.

Which explains the excitement over the new Albany ShopRite.

They've hired over 500 employees from the area and are regionally-owned. They have an on-site dietitian who provides one-on-one nutritional consulting and will walk around with you and help you shop for a diabetes-safe, gluten free, low-sugar, allergy free or whatever else fits your lifestyle. For free. But, and I think this is more impressive, they also do community outreach to places like schools and senior centers to talk about healthy foods.

They make a lot of prepared foods, from straight up home-cooking and fried chicken to hot paninis and Asian fusion. The prepared foods are made from scratch daily by what appears to be a staff largely trained by the Culinary Institute of America.

85% of their bakery goods are made from scratch, on site. They also feature baked goods from local companies like Coccadotts (cupcakes!), Cookie Factory (Fudge Fantasies!), Villa Italia (yum!), Neighborhood Bakery (halal products) and Bread Alone (natural, local & organic). They also have a gluten free bakery section though, of course, watch for cross contamination. ShopRite has a full kosher grocery section too.

ShopRite's produce section has an impressive organic selection. Right now, their "local" produce comes from New Jersey but they've committed to sourcing a fair percentage of their produce from actual local farmers by July. I was also guaranteed that their produce staff is well-trained and will actually be able to answer questions about vegetables, which... you don't find at all supermarkets. ShopRite also has a big cheese counter with an actual trained cheesemonger plus they have house-made mozzarella-- perhaps we should team up? :)

If you're into fish, it all sounds pretty good in that department. I believe that ShopRite is the only supermarket with its own USDC Grade A fishery, so that's something. You order weird things like live eels & sea urchins, if you so choose. They'll marinate, season & cook your seafood on site for free- although I think Price Chopper might also do that, no? I was impressed that their fishmonger actually mentioned seasonality when talking about what types of fish were in stock or expected soon. In the butcher department, while they don't offer locally-raised meat products, they do make their own ground beef in small batches several times a day to ensure ultimate freshness. ShopRite only sells Grade A poultry, which I'm sure means something good, and they also have Boars Head (gluten free, no GMO) deli meat. 

Look! Battenkill Creamery! The best chocolate milk ever. And they are even in their glass bottles.

And hey! Locally-made Gatherer's Granola! It's really delicious, if you haven't tried it yet. Sweet and crunchy.

They have a huge variety of these aloe drinks, which Chris loves but I'm not so sure about. There's no other local place with the same selection, apparently.

Oh & did I mention that you can place a grocery order online and either pick it up or have it delivered to you?! WHAT?! Yup, ShopRite from Home. I will absolutely be trying this out soon and reporting back.

Now you know where we buy our groceries. We're kind of crunchy and pretty locally-minded but yes, we go to grocery stores. I've been a member of the ShopRite Potluck blog team since last summer but this is the first time I've had a store that is actually convenient for me to shop in, so I'm eager to see how it will impact my weekly grocery shopping. I know, it's just a grocery store. But I'm feeling pretty good about it as a supplement to my CSA, farmers market & co-op excursions. As always, you can read my Potluck blog posts right over here. (I should mention that I am never obligated to post about ShopRite on my own blog. I just thought I would share in the new store frenzy that has swept the area.)

Catching up, making cookies & goals

I've been posting 'round the internet this week and thought I would catch you up...

Are you going through holiday cookie withdrawal? Learn my tips for hosting an epic cookie-bake-thon over at ShopRite's Potluck blog!  Relax, you don't have to make 40 dozen cookies like we did.

Also, I shared my food-related goals for 2012 over at From Scratch Club this week, which include hosting small dinner parties and making more condiments. Head over and check them out if you like!

The Can Can Sale

You guys know I'm a blogger for ShopRite's Potluck blog, yes? Well this will be my first time experiencing the craziness of the famous ShopRite Can Can Sale. Apparently many of you know the Can Can sale jingle already and have fond memories of it from years past. Bring it on. So, basically, ShopRite hosts an annual mega-sale on canned goods and other non-perishables. This year, ShopRite will donate one can of food up to 50,000 cans for each fan on its official Facebook page. Soooo, all you have to do to help raise awareness for the fight against hunger, is "Like" ShopRite's FB page.

The Can Can Sale runs from Thursday, January 5 through Saturday, January 21 but you can "Like" their Facebook page anytime during the entire month of January to help ShopRite fight hunger.

If you are feeling particularly cheesy, you can become a virtual ShopRite Can Can dancer, which is both ridiculous and secretly awesome. You know those dancing elf things that people send around during the holidays? With their heads stuck on a cartoon dancing elf's body? Yes, this is the same idea. You can upload a photo at www.ShopRiteCanCan.com and giggle at it when your boss isn't around.

ps- Don't roll your eyes at the canned goods. We regularly keep a good variety of canned beans and legumes in our pantry (which, if you remember, is actually just a small bookcase in our kitchen). They make it easy and affordable to prepare healthy, whole foods recipes. I mean, I won't be running out to buy Spaghetti-Os, but chickpeas, black beans and kidney beans? Yup.