Any trip to a good local deli involves a few ceremonial acts; browsing, picking things up, sampling and of course, going back for seconds and if no one is really paying attention, a third bite at the proverbial or sometimes literal cherry.
We’ve all done it, the deli counter is our new age smorgasbord of taste testers. Our world is bigger and smaller at the same time. New flavours such as harissa pastes have found home atop of grilled feta cheese whilst that jar of habanero peppers is cleverly transformed into something exotic when placed with a freshly prepared pasta salad.
There are fine operators of deli counters, the ones behind who understand the importance of getting flavours and selections right, and there are those that also understand how to work their way through a myriad of choice like some sort of food savant.
With the opening of our new store (coming very soon), we wanted to give you some of the best ways of navigating a deli counter and perhaps we’ll even see you try some of these top tips when you come to visit?
Try before you buy
One of the pitfalls of any trip to a deli is not actually trying anything before you buy it. This of course can mean that expectations aren’t met or worse still, you buy something you actually don’t like.
“If you’re in a good deli you should be able to sample most of the produce and certainly see it displayed before you even consider buying it.” Alex Lawlor from Yorkshire Catering Company. “What you need to focus on is having a clear idea of the kind of things you want and if you’re catering for something in particular such as a dinner party or a few drinks at your home, you know what it is going to work or not.”
When trying produce ask about it’s providence, serving suggestions, how long it can be kept for and remember, try it before you buy it!
Charcuterie is king
No trip to a deli counter should be done without really understanding the different levels of charcuterie that are on offer. The fine meat counters providing the best from Italy, France and Spain are some of the best things to be exported from Europe in the last 40 years.
As a nation we’ve opened up more to the mediterranean diet and lifestyle; we understand the importance of good ingredients and know about the value of fine deli counter meats that would have been unthinkable even twenty years ago.
The difference between a deli counter and a packaged supermarket variety is substantial. Parma ham sliced from the leg in front of you is an experience as well as an understanding of product. Salami that is cured and hung is easier to understand and appreciate good quality.
Never forget the cheese section
It’s a common mistake but one that can’t be overlooked, the cheese section is the queen of the deli counter. We have some of the best cheese in europe if not the world. From the creamy wensleydale to the punchy stilton.
“One of the best things that you have with the cheese counter of a deli and good deli’s in particular is the variety of local choice that is available. It’s really important to have that choice and if you considered buying from local producers, there is an overall benefit to these producers as well as the wider community as well.”
Taste different boards, try new varieties you may never have heard of and mix your cheese choices. One soft variety and one hard for example or go for different flavour profiles, spicy to rich and so on. Remember, try before you buy as well. It really is important!
Open your mind to new products
Deli’s are the perfect play to find something new or in some cases, give you that all essential ingredient that will help you make something new. From squid ink (to make delicious new styles of pasta) to pastes and seasonings.
“The Yorkshire Deli for example will have a pizza bar which will be a great way to showcase our feature – metre long pizzas – but also the different kinds of toppings and flavours you could achieve in your own home; so it’s a case of being brave enough to try something new.
Never forget the sweet stuff
A sure fire way to see if a deli is going to satisfy all of your culinary needs is seeing what options there are in the dessert cabinet. It could be frozen delights or it could be homemade treats.
“One of the all time favourites our sister branch, The Black Olive has is our vegan chocolate cake. It’s moist and packed with so much flavour that customers are shocked when we say that it is a vegan cake, let a lone baked in house!”
When navigating around these sections look for something that will please your soul as well as your appetite, don’t forget, as the late great Anthony Bourdain said, “your body isn’t a temple, it’s an amusement park.”