There is no doubt that I love exploring grocery stores - as much as a pirate like searching for buried treasure. It is what I do for a past time. Whenever I am out of town I am looking for a grocery store to go into. I am a grocery store nerd to the core. On a recent trip to Chicago I got to make my first trip to Mariano's. Back in January I drove by a Mariano's. I was not able to stop as I was talking my wife and youngest daughter to O'Hare. I was disappointed that time but not this one. Lots of great finds to be had at Mariano's. Below is some of the items that peaked my interest and should peak yours as well.
Of course the most important section to me is produce. Whenever I go into a new grocery store I am looking for unique or specialty items. Not just your plain old Cavendish bananas, navel oranges, or Honeycrisp apples. Mariano's did not disappoint. They had plenty to offer beyond the basics. The thing I was most excited about were the Verry Cherry Plums. They are a cross between a plum and a cherry. They are smaller than your average plum but bigger than a cherry. They taste like a really sweet, flavorful plum, that has a really small pit. I really wish more stores carried these. I hope to see production of Cherry Plums ramp as well. If you can get a hold of these treasures, please do yourself a flavor (see what I did there) and buy them! They may be more expensive than other plum varieties but they are worth it.
How do you make maple syrup even better? Age it in bourbon barrels. It's amazing the kind of flavor the syrup can pick up by just sitting in a barrel. Bourbon barrel aged maple syrup has a more butterscotch, smoky flavor. Really rich and a real treat for breakfast or even on top of ice cream. Check out another variety of syrup of Bourbon barrel aged syrup I reviewed this year.
I got to say I love when stores take bushel baskets, line them with burlap, and display dried beans, rice, lentils, etc in them. It looks really inciting - more so than when in a plastic bin that has no character. I was excited to see dried Tongue of Fire beans. This is a beautiful bean that I have grown in my gardens in years past (ran out of space this year).
Nothing says gourmet donuts more than Fruit Loops or Cocoa Pebbles on top. I admire the humor in that. I probably would like the Cocoa Pebbles donut, but I was busy eating this donnut:
Now this is a donut. Two whole strips of bacon with maple icing. I can't begin to tell you the deliciousness that burst forth in my mouth when I devoured this sucker.
Speaking of bacon, I found this Candided Bacon Cream Soda made by Cicero - a Chicago company. First time I have seen this flavor of soda pop. I have had one of their other flavors in the past, their Salted Caramel Root Beer, which is outstanding. I need to get my hands on their entire line someday.
Their selection of glass bottled soda pop is the best I have seen since I visited Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati, Ohio. I love that you can make your own pack as well so you can try a variety of flavors and producers.
The cheese department was a delight at Mariano's as well. I saw at lot of great cheese there with some good sale prices - like $10 a pound for Parmigiano Reggiano. What I decided to grab for my lunch was a bag of Henning's Two Tone Cheddar Cheese Curds. I love the easy snackablility that cheese curds provide. Plus it reminded me of my trip to Wisconsin back in January where I brought these curds and several others home with me.
Overall I was glad that I used some of my time in Chicago to visit a Mariano's. I got some fun treats. Enjoyed looking at all the produce, cheese, and baked goods I saw. Some of the best sightseeing in Chicago is on a 2nd floor on Halsted street - a short walk from Chicago Union Station.