Monday, November 12, 2007

My wandering eye

Everyone who knows me knows I love Sahadi’s with a passion. Sahadi’s is my favorite place in New York, and even though I’ve said this so many times, I’ll say it again. I feel about Sahadi’s the way Holly Golightly feels about Tiffany’s. Whenever I’m blue, I go to Sahadi’s because nothing bad could ever happen at Sahadi’s.

But I must confess that the other day, I walked into a gourmet food store in San Sebastian that made me feel a little bit like, well, like I’d had a brief but meaningful affair with a beautiful Spaniard. If Sahadi’s is my faithful lover waiting for me back home, Don Serapio is my Iberian fling (though sadly, the closest I’ll get to an Iberian fling, sigh).

The first thing that drew me was the faint but sure scent of the Italian moscatel grapes sitting on the sidewalk. Pale green fading to gold, they tasted like sweetness and flowers. I grabbed a big bunch and went inside, only to find myself feeling weak in the knees.

I looked at the house-made jams, with tantalizing flavors like peras rioja, pears poached in Rioja wine, and ciruela con menta, plum with mint. I ate a tiny cube of 17 Euro/kg cheddar and almost bought a hunk immediately. I gazed at various unknown Spanish cheese with cute little goat and cow faces on the labels, at bright red strips of chorizo and panceta, in shiny foil packets. I bought a tiny little bottle of olive oil because I was seduced by the simple, luxurious packaging. Of course, there were giant legs of jamon iberico and fascinating sausages.

I don’t know why Don Serapio affected me so much, more than the other little Spanish stores I’ve been in so far. It may have been that the store has done a fantastic job of labeling everything, so that I understood just enough to know what I was looking at and yet had never tasted. In other words, the store is very attractive, tantalizingly so. I bought a few things to eat at my shared apartment but I knew that I could never try enough in the 5 days or so I have left in San Sebastian.

I would never give up Sahadi’s and the happiness I know I can find there. For one thing, Sahadi’s is amazingly affordable, and Don Serapio is not, not to mention one can’t eat foie gras every week. But I did ask myself for the first time, “What if I just didn’t go home?”

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