A Supermarket Tale

Green Peppercorns

Green Peppercorns

It seemed simple enough. I was nearly out of green peppercorns, the ones packed in brine, so I added them to my grocery list.  I don’t go through them quickly, but every now and then, when I’m splurging on a nice steak, I like pungent green peppercorn sauce, the kind you might find in a nice French bistro, like Sophie’s up in Somerset. I make mine with reduced port or red wine, and – if I have it on hand – maybe a little cream, otherwise just a knob of butter to finish it.

I looked for the peppercorns in various grocery stores, depending on where I was going each weekend. First, Trader Joe’s. Not surprising they didn’t carry them.

The following weekend, I made a point of going to Wegmans, as there were a couple things I hoped to find there. Sadly, they have discontinued two of my favorite Wegmans products, the lovely and light coconut cake and their little shelf-stable boxes of chicken Culinary Gravy. Sometimes when I have roast chicken (which I may buy prepared), their chicken gravy seemed better than anything in a can or jar. I would heat it up with some juices from the chicken and get a perfectly decent result. Oh well. But while I was there, I searched high and low for green peppercorns, even asking a couple of staffers I came across in the aisles, to no avail.

At the checkout counter, I noticed a sign advertising a new Wegmans app for smartphones. At home, I downloaded it to my Droid, set my store for the Nassau Park store, and was able to determine that they have (or allegedly have) green peppercorns in aisle 15A. Oh well, too late, and I really did think I’d scoured those aisles pretty thoroughly.

Yesterday I went to ShopRite in Montgomery.  The store is so massive, surely I would find them there. Again, I searched high and low, with nary a green peppercorn in sight, except the dried ones in the spice aisle. I did, however, find jars of capers in about 5 different places, no kidding! Before I checked out, I stopped at the Customer Service Counter. While neither of the friendly kids behind the counter had an inkling of what a green peppercorn is, they valiantly called various people to ask after I repeatedly clarified that they are packed in brine, and then, defined what “packed in brine” means. Sigh. No luck. And isn’t it strange that most grocery stores can’t simply search their computerized inventory system to determine if they have an item and where it is shelved? Go figure. And that’s common, I’ve had the same problem at McCaffrey’s.

Today I went to McCaffrey’s, my last hope (as far as supermarkets go).  Surely, this old-fashioned (sometimes frustratingly so) market would have them?  At first I couldn’t find them, but as I headed for the customer service desk to ask (or beg or plead), I spied the shelves of olives, and eureka!! You see them here, not exactly a fancy French brand but hey, at this point, I’m relieved to find they still exist.

Of course, I do know that Bon Appetit, also in the Princeton Shopping Center almost surely has them, and I have been glad to see they have vigorously updated and expanded their offerings lately, including opening a new Cafe in Forrestal Village. Because if they close, we are sunk, as far as being able to find some of the more traditional items for fine gourmet and international food. Like real puff pastry, made with butter rather than shortening.

With the ever-expanding aisles of various ethnic foods in today’s supermarkets, what a shame that there is not a French aisle, which (in my dreams) would contain jars of green peppercorns, those Petite Ecolier cookies (extra-dark chocolate of course), and, hmmm, maybe a Pommard or a white Burgundy. Meanwhile, I have walked miles of aisles in search of this one item, and my feet hurt.


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