Tag Archives: West Side Watch

West Side Watch: Arugula

Lamb and beef burger with caramelized pears, onions, bleu cheese, and ARUGULA

Although arugula wouldn’t be considered an abnormal or rare ingredient in our current culinary scene, I decided to do a feature on it for this simple reason–I love arugula! In fact, someone on Bwog caught me for my excessive use of arugula this last week asking, “Does Matt Powell throw arugula at everything?”

Well, the answer is essentially a resounding “YES!” Originating from the Mediterranean, arugula is my favorite green with its strong peppery flavor. Spinach and lettuce step aside. The other salad ingredients pale in comparison when coupled with arugula. I first discovered my love of arugula a couple years ago, and now, I even take it so far to simply have arugula salads with a good olive oil, maybe a bit of smoked salt on top.

Pasta with prosciutto, basil, sun-dried tomatoes, and ARUGULA

However, whenever I go to West Side Market, I’m met with a small dilemma. The market offers 3 different types of arugula: Uncle Vinny’s, Organic Valley, and the West Side house-packed arugula (This is the one that looks like it’s in a John Jay to-go plastic container.). The question remains: which arugula is best?

I decided to put the arugulas to a good ol’ science project. Purchasing all three brands,  I subjected each brand to a taste test and a longevity test. After tasting each brand, I found that the Uncle Vinny’s brand had a stronger pepper flavor while the Organic Valley had a noticeably fresher taste (no surprise there, I suppose). The West Side house brand was a good last-resort, but it didn’t measure up to the other 2. In terms of the taste test, I decided that I liked the Uncle Vinny’s brand the best.

Pear and pine nut pizza with ARUGULA!

Next came the longevity test. I stuck the 3 plastic containers on the same shelf of my fridge, and I observed the arugula as the days passed. The West Side brand was the first to go. By mid-week (I do my shopping on Sundays.), the arugula was starting to seriously wilt and there was a ton of condensation on the container. The Organic Valley was soon to follow after another two days. This brand also started to give off an unpleasant odor. Tasting the Organic Valley after 5 days, it had lost the peppery notes and it was reduced to a bland, watery flavor. The best for longevity turned out to be the Uncle Vinny’s arugula. I was able to use the arugula well into the next week, without sacrificing taste.

For arugula recipes, just take a look at the different pictures. Ideas abound!


West Side Watch: Waaay better than Yoplait

A mysterious little fruit has made an appearance at our market, and it won’t be around for long…

I know that it was only a couple weeks ago that I did a post on tropical fruit, but this week, there is a special fruit that has returned to our West Side shelves: the guava.

Now, I know you might ask, “Why is this fruit so special, Matt?” Well, the truth is that I have never tried a guava. The closest I’ve ever come is guava-flavored yogurt by Yoplait, and that’s not even close to the real thing. (It’s like those Yoplait commercials… You know the ones where you see the lady on the phone talking about how she’s losing weight and yet she’s still eating key lime pie, Boston cream pie, and red velvet cake? Well, she’s LYING! She’s eating yogurt! It’s not dessert in her fridge–it’s yogurt. Can you imagine how disappointed you would be if you went to Max Brenner’s and they gave you chocolate yogurt? No, don’t lie, lady. Yogurt is yogurt. It might be well-flavored, but it is no substitute for the real thing!) Sorry, for that little rant, but I had to get it out of my system.

Anyways, I stood staring down at the little green fruit and I picked one up. I realized that I didn’t even know how to tell if the fruit was ripe or not. On a whim, I just picked out two of the guavas, hoping that I had made the right decision. (Apparently, you are supposed to buy them when they are hard to the touch and allow them to ripen. The fruit is ready when it is soft and gives off a pleasant lemony scent. To speed up the ripening process, stick the fruit in a paper bag.)

Although I haven’t tried my guavas yet (they’re still ripening in a bag), I have found several uses for them. Many people like to juice the fruit or add it to a smoothie. The tropical taste is also great for desserts, but it is also used in savory dishes such as glazes for meats. The guava is native to Mexico. Good thing I’m not too strict on localvorism…

West Side Watch: Tropical Fruits!

Every Sunday, before going for your week’s grocery shopping, tune in for West Side Watch–your guide to the local market. This week, I spied some produce that may just brighten up your winter.

While it may be cold and dreary outside, inside West Side Market, there are beautiful tropical fruits calling to you. You know that area of the produce section, the “special” fruits area? It’s across from the salad bar near the arugula and salad kits. Well, it just became very interesting. With a rotating stock of exotic fruits, West Side has just filled this area with such rarities as passion fruit, carambola (or starfruit), kiwano melons, and pepino melons!

Passion fruit, my personal favorite out of the four, is usually sourced from countries such as Argentina and Brazil. (Clearly, we are not dealing with locally-sourced produce.) West Side is carrying the purple variety. Remember, that passion fruit is ripe when it becomes very wrinkled and it sounds hollow when tapped gently. Each fruit should yield at least a couple tablespoons of fruit. While the pulp can be eaten by the spoonful, this is my favorite use: Grape, Tomato, and Mint Salad. First, strain the seeds out of your passion fruit pulp. Mix the passion fruit juice with a bit of olive oil and salt. Cut some grapes in half and dice an equal amount of tomato. In a bowl, toss the grape, tomato, and dressing all together. Top with a handful of minced mint. (Although this may sounds like a strange combination, it is truly delicious.)

Carambola is native to southeast Asia, but it is also grown in South America and Florida. The fruit is particularly unique because the cross-section of the fruit is a perfect star shape. Although I do not typically use the fruit in my recipes, I have found it to be a great topping for turkey-nut burgers. Mixed with some grapes, apples, and a bit of mayonnaise, just place a spoonful on top of a turkey burger. It is sure to take an ordinary burger to the next level. Continue reading West Side Watch: Tropical Fruits!

West Side Watch: The Meat Aisle

West Side Watch is our weekly feature on the goings-on at the local market. Posting the latest news and products that are carried, we will keep you updated on all of your grocery needs. This week, learn how to understand the complexities of the West Side meat aisle–it’s not as tough as it looks.
Although West Side has an extensive collection of meat, I’m not sure they can pull this off…

I don’t know about you, but whenever I go to West Side Market, I have a very specific game plan. I find that on the weekends that this is especially necessary. Saturdays and Sundays at the market tend to be packed with old ladies walking about 1 mph (As one of my friends once noted, “It’s like attack of the old people.”), harried stay-at-home moms, little kids, and other college people trying to stock up on the week’s necessities. It’s madness!

Maybe I’m just a bit too organized when it comes to shopping. I have my list and my two reusable grocery bags in one hand and a small basket in the other. I start in the produce section, stepping over the oranges and apples that have tumbled to the ground and grabbing a handful of those silly plastic produce bags. Then, I wind my way through the bread and cheese sections with a pit stop over in the dairy section for my milk and cereal. (I usually rest a little in the dairy section since it is isolated and is a little less crowded.) Next, I swing over to the canned food/pasta area. Finally, I trudge over to the meat aisle. I’m in and out in under 30 minutes, ready for the long adventure back to East Campus with two fully loaded grocery bags.

However, the last three weeks, my routine has been thrown off. All three times, I have arrived in the final stage–the meat section–only to find that West Side does not have my meat of choice on the shelves. Week one I was looking for pork belly–a rarity I know, but West Side usually carries it. The second week I was in need of a leg of lamb for a warm winter stew, but once again I could not find it. Finally, this last Saturday, I needed pork shoulder (which is not a strange cut of meat) and I was yet again disappointed. Either my choice of meats is becoming more and more obscure, or West Side is slacking.

Now, by the time I reach the meat aisle, I have all the other ingredients for the week’s breakfasts/lunches/dinners. Heading back through the store and rewriting my grocery list would be such a chore! But I wasn’t going to give up hope–and you shouldn’t either! West Side often does not display their full stock of meat on the shelves. Each week, I found an employee and explained my predicament. Within 15-30 minutes, he would reappear with my request. The only time that something was unavailable was when I had lamb medallions on my list.

This issue has introduced a change in my West Side routine. Instead of starting out in the produce section, I head over to the meat section to make my request. In fact, for many Culinary Society events, we have called West Side Market in advance to fill our order. (The West Side number is 212.222.3367.) This saves time–instead of waiting with a basket full of groceries in the chilly meat aisle, the meat will be prepared according to your directions. The butcher will happily remove any bones or skin–he will even cut meats into cubes appropriate for stew.

Instead of heading all the way down to Fairways or splurging on Citarella, explore the West Side meat section. They may not be the best in the city, but they are fairly well-stocked. Just approach the men with confidence and state your order of business. They will almost always have your desired mystery meat.

West Side Watch


While egg nog may be gone until November, we can cheer for one small victory: the addition of candy canes to the West Side shelves! The holiday-themed candies are still available near the check-out of the very first cash register. West Side Market does in fact listen to customer requests!

In other market-related news, we have hit peak citrus season which means that one of my favorite fruits is available again: Blood Oranges! These sweeter oranges are especially unique for their crimson color. While the peels are typically orange, the interior is most beautiful. Plus, the oranges usually do not have seeds!

Unfortunately, West Side Market does not have the best selection of these fruits. For better quality, larger oranges, head down to Whole Foods.

Blood Oranges are delicious in many different forms. The oranges can be juiced for mixed drinks–the color is sure to impress any guest. Segmented blood oranges are perfect for salads. You can also marinate blood orange segments in a mixture of olive oil, a little vinegar, salt, and pepper. Serve this mixture with thinly sliced red onion or simply enjoy after marinating for a couple hours. And of course, you can eat them plain and sliced, just like the good ol’ days. (However, I like to accompany the slices with some bing cherries and brie with bread nowadays.)

West Side Watch: A Shortage of Holiday Cheer

I’ve been here in New York for three years, and every year it’s the same. West Side fails to recognize my request for candy canes.

West Side Market typically does a great job in listening to the needs of the customer, ordering that exotic ingredient even if only one person needs it. Every December, my one request has been candy canes, and they still do not stock the holiday candy on their shelves! Even when I ask the workers for candy canes, they look at me with confusion and direct me toward the other candies. It’s as if they have never seen the red-and-white striped canes before! It’s not like they’re difficult to come by during December! I mean, I’m pretty sure Morton Williams has their image painted on their windows.

Perhaps it’s because candy canes are a seasonal item that West Side has not taken my request into account, but it’s starting to be a nuisance. They don’t even have peppermint candies in general… Maybe the owner hates peppermint… Whatever the reason, I’m tired of having to buy my candy canes from Duane Reade and the dreaded Morton Williams. I want my candy canes!

West Side Watch: Code Red (and Green)!

As of Monday, West Side Market started carrying Egg Nog for the holiday season!

In need of dessert, Claire and I went to West Side after the olive oil and vinegar tasting. Browsing through the aisles, we began to meander through the dairy section. Suddenly, Claire pointed to a little red and green quart-sized carton. I yelped in joy. There in the glow of the West Side refrigerator was a beacon of holiday cheer: egg nog!

I know that it’s only November 9th, but Claire and I immediately snatched up the carton and practically ran to the check-out. We then hurried back to Ruggles where we I guzzled down 3 glasses of egg nog. Claire had half a glass… a little less zealous than I… I do kinda regret my gluttonous behavior now as I am in an egg nog coma. Egg nog and vinegar do not mix well in the stomach…

Although it is perfectly acceptable to drink your egg nog straight (or out of the carton), here are some other ways you can enjoy this holiday drink:

1. Claire insists on sprinkling a bit of nutmeg in each glass. I tried it and it actually tastes much better.

2. Egg nog with a shot of boubon

3. Hot chocolate with a splash of egg nog

4. Hot Chai Latte with a splash of egg nog

Note: West Side has yet to stock up on its typical varieties of egg nog (Southern Comfort, Tuscan). Right now, the selection is limited to Farmland.

P.S. If you don’t like egg nog, why? I don’t understand… One of my friends once explained it, saying, “I think I just don’t like the nog.” And that just doesn’t make sense.

West Side Watch: Fresh Ginger Ale

Whenever I thought of ginger ale, I thought of Canada Dry or Schweppes. Well, not anymore! I found this ginger ale with the sodas in West Side. It is produced by Bruce Cost, the guy “who wrote the book on ginger… literally.” The rustic bottle sat amongst the other natural sodas, and quite frankly, it kinda scared me. There was a layer of pulpy looking stuff on the bottom of the bottle… but it claimed that this was natural… After a bit more examination, I determined that the drink was harmless. After all, it only contained 4 ingredients: ginger, sugar cane, carbonated water, and citric acid. What harm could be done?

O my goodness, I could not believe my tastebuds after drinking this ginger ale! The ginger flavor was so strong! (This drink is NOT for ginger-haters… in fact, only ginger-lovers should try this.) My mouth was quite literally burning with ginger flavor by the end of the bottle, and I had difficulty finishing it. However, this must be the most true-to-form ginger ale I have ever had. I picture the inventor of the beverage drinking something similar… It was overpowering, but empowering as well! Haha!

West Side Watch: Goat’s Milk

Maybe I’ve been missing this, but I just spied goat’s milk in the dairy section of West Side Market yesterday. Apparently goat’s milk has a bit more fat than cow’s milk (about 2% more fat if you compare whole milks), but it’s easier to digest. And believe it or not, goat’s milk is the prefered dairy drink of most of the world… the U.S. is in the minority… kinda like the American system vs. the metric.

Anyways, I’ve never tried goat’s milk. I’m a big fan of goat’s milk, which I eat plain with a little honey and often use to make chicken tandoori. However, I have yet to use the milk. Looking it up on Google, I found that many dessert recipes can substitute goat’s milk for cow’s milk, and the finished product will turn out just as delicious. However, one idea that really caught my eye was goat’s milk ice cream. I’ve tried raspberry goat’s milk ice cream at the Union Square GreenMarket and it was AMAZING. Ice cream made with goat’s milk is a bit more tart and icy, but it is definitely a nice change from your typical ice cream.

Feel free to post your ideas or recipe findings for goat’s milk in the comments!

West Side Watch: Talenti Gelato

Welcome to West Side Watch, a new feature in the Culinary Society blog. This feature is designed to showcase new products that are offered at West Side Market. For the first feature, I would like to direct your attention to Talenti Gelato.

Talenti claims to trace its history back to the 1500’s when Bernardo Buontalenti first unveiled his latest creation at one of the Medici family banquets. This creation was gelato. This incredible frozen dessert was the 50th and final course of a grand Medici banquet. Since the 1500’s, the Talenti gelato has adhered to the strictest of gelato commandments: Use only the freshest, natural ingredients and continue the tradition of excellence established by Buontalenti.

Only a couple nights ago, this product appeared in West Side Market. The unique packaging immediately caught my eye, and I knew that I had to try it. However, the price made me hesitate… The gelato sells at 10 dollars a pint. I decided to wait for a special occasion. Luckily, that occasion presented itself a couple nights later. (I must confess that I was looking for any excuse to try that gelato.) Sharing the Tahitian Vanilla Bean Gelato with a friend, our eyes were opened to a new world of gelato. This gelato is quite possibly one of the best gelatos I have ever had in my life! (And I have had quite a few…) The vanilla flavor was so pure and clean. I could not express how delicious the gelato was. I reverted to moanings–yes, moanings–of approval. I was simply blown away by the quality of this gelato. I can only guess that the quality of the gelato can be attributed to the ingredients–I mean, they actually import their vanilla beans from Papua New Guinea!

To top off our gelato experience, we enjoyed the dessert with a chocolate balsamic vinegar. The pairing was something divine. In truth, I felt a longing within myself. As a person who prides himself in dessert creations, I found myself asking, “Why can’t I make something this delicious?!” Needless to say, I am now dedicated to creating a dessert that can rival this gastronomic experience.

The only downside to the Talenti gelato is that each pint has a thick layer of syrup on the bottom. This syrup has separated from the gelato, and it is much too sweet to eat. However, this should not deter anyone from buying Talenti.

After I first had Talenti, I immediately told my friends about the gelato. They scoffed at the idea of spending 10 dollars for a pint of gelato, but they obviously have not yet experienced Talenti. I was told that Grom would be just as satisfactory.  “Grom is the best gelato in the city,” one of them insisted, referencing the summer  he spent in Italy. And I might have agreed with this assessment before my recent experience, but now, I must pledge my allegiance to a new brand. Talenti is now my gold standard for gelato.

(Talenti also comes in several other flavors such as Dulce de Leche, White Chocolate Raspberry, Toasted Almond, Mediterranean Mint, Caribbean Coconut, and Cappuccino.)