Can we talk about grocery store culture for a minute?Why, for instance, is the Big Chain store on the other side of town SO much more pleasant to shop in than the same Big Chain store by my house? Hm? It cannot just be the structural differences in the buildings. I recognize there are higher ceilings and slightly wider aisles at the other store, but that is NOT it. There is just something yucky (that is truly the best word to describe it) about the one around the corner that makes me want to take a shower when I leave there. If I were comfortable being honest with you people, I’d admit that the problem is the clientele more than the store itself. For some reason it’s a magnet for homeless-looking people, employees and shoppers alike!
Okay, fine, call me a huge snob but you know you’ve had this thought, too, and you prefer some stores over others.
I am totally baffled, though, about why there is such a huge difference in the culture of two stores only a mile apart in a city this sparsely populated? It’s not like one is in Chinatown and the other in Polishtown. Come on! The demographic curve in this town is totally flat. The variation in cultures is not this distinct. There is just something weird going on with this particular grocery store. I so can’t go there anymore.
It’s not just a “west side/east side” thing, either. See, we’re close to another Big Chain store – one that sells virtually everything, not just groceries – and it is 100% better than that yucky Chain Grocery I avoid like the plague.
Unfortunately, though, the other day I wanted something they didn’t have and I almost had to go to the Other Store. Ugh. I really wanted plums or apricots or peaches, or even fresh figs. We were going to the brother-in-law’s for dinner and I was contributing dessert. I had this great plan to make a rustic fruit tart to try & impress a couple of my friends who have made beautiful tarts in the last couple weeks. Fail. No stone fruits at ALL in the produce department. Gah.
So I sulked around the Big Store for awhile feeling kind of lost. Luckily the atmosphere of this store is fairly nice and it was a quiet Monday. I said a “hihowareya” to the stock boy in dairy who I have the same conversation with almost every day. Drifted aimlessly into the baking aisle (home away from home) and stood in front of the canned fruit pie fillings for a few minutes feeling frustrated, sad and a little ashamed, trying to come up with something else. Was I really contemplating buying canned apricot filling and almond paste? Yes. And I did. As a back-up ONLY, I told myself. Those WERE the flavors I wanted, afterall, to recreate the tart Steph made last weekend.
Feeling a bit of resolve with my back-up plan, I pedaled my little butt back to the front of the store, turned over the tiny uber-expensive container of bland-looking figs, put them back, and filled a bag with a few pounds of the prettiest apples they had. So what if I’ve already made three apple desserts this month. They’ve all been for different people, there was no reason I couldn’t make another one. I am really loving the season anyway, and I had an idea how to spice it up a little.
Enter: Traverse City dried cherries! We bought a truckload of them last time we were Up North. They’re starting to get a tad hard so, at the suggestion one of the friends who I was hoping to impress, I soaked them in alcohol (love my college friends 😉 – which ended up being from an open bottle of Black Star Farms’ Red House Red. Score! Chef Steph is always putting Black Star wines & spirits into her professionally-baked treats up there, so I knew this would help me impress her. =D
While the cherries soaked in a nice, warm red wine bath (making me wickedly jealous), I peeled the apples, one large golden delicious and one large honey crisp, and sliced them right off the core kind of like carving a country ham. I tossed them in a mixture of flour, cinnamon, & nutmeg (which I totally failed to measure) then laid the slices neatly on a rolled-out lightly-sweetened homemade pie dough.
More on the dough later.
I may or may not have eaten one or two of the apple slices that didn’t fit.
After folding up the edges of the dough a little around the apples, I speckled the top with the wine-soaked cherries, then drizzled on some Grade B maple syrup. In the oven it went. Soon it was smelling Deeeeeelicious. Perfectly Fall. It made the cold rain outside much less miserable.
We were ready to leave the house about 20 minutes later, and although the tart wasn’t quite finished baking yet I took it out of the oven as we were walking out the door. I figured I’d pop it in the oven for a few more minutes at Mike & Lindz’s. (This is why I still have oven mitts in my purse, btw.) This was probably a mistake.
It actually ended up sitting on the counter for about a half hour while we chit-chatted & finished making dinner. Then I put it in the oven to warm & finish browning as we ate. I think this is why the crust turned out really, really hard. It might have been better if I would have taken it with us raw and waited to bake it completely when we got there. I mean, it tasted AWESOME flavor-wise, and the only thing I’d change would be to add a little melted butter on top before baking. It was a smidge dry, but that was okay because our guys are in careful-eating mode, and it was nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a little light cool whip. The texture of the crust was kinda tough, though. No one complained, and the boys polished off the last two pieces while they did the dishes so I should just brag about the flavor combos and not mention the sorry crust. Really, if you ever get the chance to have anything with cherries, red wine, apples & autumn spices – DO IT!