Please pardon all the roadtrip posts. I wanted to do this one, because this place just put us in the holiday mood. We decided to head up to LA to do some shopping this past weekend, mostly food stuff. On our previous roadtrip (more posts coming up), instead of visting sites and such, we just ended up hitting various markets along the way. On this roadtrip, we hit up old favorites like the Torrance Farmer's Market, which seems to get larger everytime we visit and of course, Marukai Gardena, the motherlode with regards to Marukai's. But I had my sights set on another place that I'd only recently heard about; the Alpine Village Market, located close by in Torrance.
The Market is located in a large complex, called...duh.... Alpine Village. Along with the market, a deli, and restaurant and ummm "bierhall" (of course), there's a travel agency, driving school, clock and watch repair, along with the mother of all swap meets, which made the parking lot into an insane swarm of vehicles trying to find a parking spot. We lucked out and found a tiny spot to the left of the rather kitschy looking exterior of the market.
I was totally set on being underwhelmed, but this place exceeded my expectations. The market isn't very large but they sure pack a lot into the place.
From the bakery, with stacks of wonderful smelling bread.
And all the old school type pastries. It's a good thing I don't have a sweet tooth, otherwise I'd have gone a bit crazy here. The couple in front of me at the register bought three loaves of bread and spent almost $300 bucks on groceries. Kind of tough, since the prices seem very reasonable.
There are all sorts of candies and confections, canned and jarred products.
This was all nice, but the one section that was just packed to the gills busy was the butcher shop. The line was four to five deep. Man the place was hopping.
The collection of sausages and charcuterie was impressive......
I was told that all of this was made in house. There were sausages and cuts, I'd never heard of. There was a cold case full of various "wursts", but no one was taking stuff from there....it was all happening in front of the meat counter.
One look at the selection of head cheese and we were sold; the Missus took and number and headed into the fray.
Honestly, if this were say 99 Ranch Market and a survival of the strongest type situation, we'd truly have walked away. But this crowd, though busy and intense, also had a bit of jovial, friendly nature to it. Perhaps it was the holiday season, but as nice as the crew behind the counter were (and they were very nice), the other customers were really friendly, at least to us. I guess we kind of stood out.....
Back in the line, the Missus was having a conversation with an African-American gentleman originally from Louisiana, who seemed to know everyone....he told the Missus he came here every two weeks. He had a basket full of smoked beef bones for his dogs. The Missus decided to send me off looking for these....which is how I came across this:
Grieben Schmalz, which I had heard off but never seen in a market. When you hear the term schmalz, you tend to think of the Yiddish "schmaltz" which refers to rendered fat from fowl......grieben schmalz on the other hand is rendered pork fat....think lard, that has been flavored with onion and in many cases, though not this one, with apple. How could I resist? I grabbed five beef bones and a container of schmalz and a older woman looked at what I had in my basket, smiled, and asked me, "you like schmalz?" I tols her that I'd never tried it, but seeing it, I just couldn't resist. I was told it is fantastic on toast. I mentioned that my wife is standing in line to buy head cheese. She asked me which one we chose....I told her all of them. She laughed and said we would have a fine buffet. Apparently, her daughter brings her here every two weeks to shop; "even though I live in Orange County and there are shops there, everything is twice the price and half as good as here....."
Interesting tidbit about buying deli meats.....the counter folks ask you for quantities in "slices"......though they were ok with the Missus ordering a quarter pound....of all the head cheeses.
Thus we ended up with a basket of smoked dog bones, head cheese, some candy, flavored lard, and three containers of sauekraut, purely for comparison of course......
Alpine Village Market
833 Torrance Blvd
Torrance, CA 90502
Mon - Thurs 10am - 7pm
Fri - Sun 9am - 7pm
So we did end up having our "Kaltes Buffet" of sorts. So remember the variety of head cheese? Well here's sampling along with what seems to be cured pork belly stuffed with forcemeat....simply called "pork belly", along with a few cheeses.
My favorites are the top two; the "Norweigan" seemed to be made of shank and shoulder, with a nice pork flavor, no vinegar, with minimal aspic to hold it together. The second one down is the "Hungarian" version, which was full of various vegetables and some pickles, with a distinctive flavor that I found pleasant. The fourth item down, the "French" version had a good amount of paprika and reminded me of capacolla with a bit of pleasant sourness to it.
As for the schmalz....well, I started by tasting some of it straight from the container on a spoon, which tasted nice, but the Missus just wasn't able to eat it that way.
So what I did was toast some baguette, smear a bit of the schamlz on it and put back into the warm toaster oven to melt.
It is "betta' den butta'".....
While this won't make me forget about duck fat; it sure will taste good with eggs or used to make brussel sprouts...or heck, even if we do cook some coleslaw......