The Producers

In food on 05/11/2010 at 7:30 pm

The other half is off baking bacon on a business trip this week in Chicago, which means it’s time for me to vege after work and contemplate the awesome-ness that is Hoboken. This is exactly the hometown we’d been envisioning as a place to settle down, family cozy and brownstone cute, with streets filled with unique storefronts to walkabout and lots of blossoming trees lining the sidewalk cafes. Where else could there exist a city-wide yard sale?

Mom n’ Pop are still front and center here. Case in point, Sobsey’s Produce on Bloomfield St., just behind City Hall. It looks like something out of the 5o’s, a gourmet bodega or a barely contained farmer’s market.

The time warp continues inside the General Store of yore. All the products are softly lit as you tread silently on the terra cotta tile, completely in awe of the meticulously chosen, almost meager, selection of items, all either organic and/or just the thing you didn’t know you were craving.

Sobsey’s is on my walk home everyday. But I didn’t go inside until the other half was with me, just so we could savor the experience together. We’re food shopping junkies. I thought we’d be priced out of the place, but surprisingly, it’s equivalent to going to the upscale mini-chain that is Garden of Eden on the main strip. So given the chance, why not support someone who’s fetishized the grocery store to an art form? An artist can exist in a flannel shirt and scruffy beard wading in produce.

One evening, an older lady walked in and made a big fuss about some dried fruit in an open jar on the low counter of nuts n’ berries. She said her son had brought it for her to sample, but didn’t tell her what it was before she ate it. She was so bowled over she had him take her to the place he bought the stuff from. Sobsey’s was about to close for the night, but waited patiently while she bought her handful of this treat. She said it was just QQ enough, and not too sweet. It was nature’s licorice: dried rhubarb with a smattering of dessicated strawberries. The other half coveth.

Sobsey’s carries Guss’ Pickles, only one bucket of his ‘new’ flavor pickles, my favorite. How did they know?! They have the best food imports from NYC, e.g. Little Pie and Company treats. And they sell the cheapest Hoboken Eddie’s in town, ironically. We grabbed a bottle of the ‘Mean Green’ to go with the Xo’chitl Tortilla Chips they carry, the kind that are thinly crispy, usually served free at Mexican joints, to which I’ll add my own blend of vege to make a salsa fresca.

One object that’s emblematic of this city is the wire shopping basket available for use at Sobsey’s. It’s old school and reliably constructed, but now chic and dare I say, hip, just like the hidden cobblestone street running alongside modern downtown. The old is new again, unearthed and beautiful in all its distressed glory. I am glad to be home, finally.

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