Food for Thought

Specialty shops stock their shelves from the heart

 

There's a story behind everything at Larder and Cupboard (7310 Manchester Road). Browsing the displays at the Maplewood storefront is already interesting, but hearing about the small producers, their wares and their backstories turns the shopping experience into a voyage of discovery.

Proprietor Brian Pelletier already had a strong rapport with the local food community thanks to his Kakao chocolate shops. With Larder and Cupboard, he and general manager Cindy Higgerson are able to stock a wider range of specialty items, from cheese to sugar to bitters.

Curious about that jar of Date Nite Chutney? Pelletier can tell you about how Uzma Quader bases her Legacy product line on Pakistani family recipes. Wondering how to use the Tonewood Maple Cube? He’ll suggest grating the block of crystallized maple syrup over a fresh-from-theoven pie. Hankering for some of Gerard Craft’s gelato? He’ll tell you there are only two places to get it: here and at Craft’s Pastaria.

The 2,200-square-foot space is arranged with a museum-like precision, but it’s next to impossible not to pick things up and read the labels. (Bourbon-smoked sugar? Who wouldn’t want to know more?) The cheese case includes award-winning and seasonal products like Baetje Farms Coeur de la Crème goat cheeses.

A meaty selection

Just down the street, Bolyard’s Meat and Provisions (2810 Sutton Blvd.) has the same hands-on appeal for “meatheads.” It sells pasture-raised pork, chicken, beef and lamb with a “whole beast” philosophy, encouraging customers to experiment with less-common cuts and educating them about options for preparing them.

Although he’s a chef by training and spent more than a decade in the kitchen at Sidney Street Cafe, Chris Bolyard has a knack for meeting home cooks in their comfort zone, then extending it with simple tips. The butcher shop he operates with his wife, Abbie, also offers all manner of charcuterie and sausage, plus meat-based cooking staples like stock, rendered lard and hocks. But for those who would rather have someone else do the cooking, Bolyard’s sells smoked chicken, roast beef, city ham and other table-ready meats.

Another chef-backed food shop is Truffles Meat Market Butchery (9202 Clayton Road). The outpost’s symbiotic relationships with its namesake restaurant, Truffles, allows it to offer a wider range of prepared foods and to-go lunch sandwiches, but at heart it’s all about the meat. And executive chef Brandon Benack and chef de cuisine Andrew Jennrich have an ace up their sleeves: a dry-aging room lined with Himalayan pink salt.

If the question of which wine to serve with Butchery’s house-made patés and salume comes up, it’s a safe bet that the shop can offer suggestions, some of them from Truffles’ own award-winning wine list.

Wine and cheese, please

If, on the other hand, your thoughts turn to wine (or beer or spirits) first, Parker’s Table (7118 Oakland Ave.) is the place for you. Jon Parker’s boutique wine shop has long offered specialty cheeses and packaged foods like chocolate, olive oil, cookies, condiments and pasta, but Parker has gradually been expanding the selection. There’s almost always a wine to be tasted, a product to be touted or a food pairing to be debated.

Alongside Karl Runge, the newly appointed beer and cheese specialist making those sections his own, Parker can often be found working the floor himself, helping customers discover new wines or products they might not have noticed browsing on their own. Customers get the feeling—from Parker, as well as his fellow proprietors at all of these specialty shops— that merely making a sale takes a back seat to building a community of food-lovers.

 

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Larder and Cupboard interior

Victoria Lafferty.

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Merchandise at Larder and Cupboard

 

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