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Stonehorse Market in Utica Square
If Stonehorse Market opened in New York City, there’d be lines around the block, all day, every day, people waiting, clamoring, begging to get in. It reminds me of Christina Rossetti’s haunting, powerful poem of love and addiction, Goblin Market. People who have tasted fruit from the goblin store pine and pine away, dwindle and grow grey unless they can get more. And indeed there’s something magical about Stonehorse Market, the tiny retail shop half-hidden and tucked away, like one of those enchanted shops on Diagon Alley, behind the justly renowned Stonehorse Restaurant. Let me tempt you with their wares.
Open the little wooden door, a bell jingles, the staff greets you. And yes, they are wizards — wizards at cooking, since most of them are line chefs at the restaurant. They prepare a lot of the food that’s on sale, because for me the magic of Stonehorse Market is that you can buy things prepped and ready to cook, so you can stick them in the oven and out come dishes more or less identical to those served at the restaurant. The pork chops, for example. ($5 per pound).
Thick — the thickest I’ve seen in my life — sometimes more than two inches wide, already brined in salt and spice, just pick one of these beauties from the case and run home to enjoy the best pork chop you’ve ever tasted. The flavor is so succulent, you know it isn’t from one of those big commercial CAFO farms. In fact just about all the meat and produce in this shop is from small-scale local farms (though local sometimes means Arkansas or Colorado, it’s worth going a few extra miles for the best). Or if not pork, how can you resist the chicken ($3.50 per pound)? “That’s a big-ass chicken!” I once told Tim Inman, the genius chef who runs the place. And so it was: almost 6 juicy pounds. The chickens are already rubbed with garlic and rosemary so all you have to do for a gourmet chicken dinner is heat (350 degrees, 20 minutes per pound) and eat. And the hamburger — huge half-pound patties ($1.75 or so each) of meat ground from the trimmings of the restaurant’s steaks — and you can get the steaks themselves for about $15 a pound. Fish and shrimp available too. They used to have lamb roasts, basted with rosemary ($12 per pound), which I once served to a vegetarian and converted him. Haven’t seen them for a while, but if you do, just grab them. In fact, lots of things pop up for a one time only appearance. One summer, Tim’s relatives shot some wild boar out in the hills of Little Dixie and that summer there was boar sausages and paté. Which reminds me… there are always some sort of homemade sausages (about $7 per pound, $3.50 for patty sausages), and they are all excellent. (They were restocking the meat counter when I took the photo, that’s why it looks half empty. It’s usually jammed.)
Now I have to back up a bit because, as I do in real life being a carnivore, I ran straight for the meat. But when you enter the store, the first thing you see isn’t the meat counter. There’s a case on the left full of fresh fruits, vegetables, yummy cheeses, several kinds of olives. And ahead of you is a wonderful glass case containing everything you could desire in the way of food (except for that meat). You can see them in the photo. Starting from the lower right… wonderful layered terrines, real show-stoppers if you serve them at a party, of layers of goat cheese, smoked salmon and capers ($7 per pound), other terrine varieties available. Several kinds of quiche… thick, velvety, ethereal ($3 per slice). Tiny elaborate mini-cakes and pies for dessert (from $2 to $5 each). Prepared potato and pasta salads (about $5 per pound). Some prepared main dishes such as moist juicy meat loaf (about $5 per pound). Some Italian charcuterie. And atop it all, breads baked fresh each day… lots of kinds. I love the ciabatta ($4 for a huge loaf). Some of the best bread I’ve ever had and better than that served in any restaurant I’ve been to.
Out of camera range is a counter with some canned gourmet goods and some bulk grains… some truly excellent rice, for example, for $1 a pound. They have arborio too, but it’s more. And a huge glass showcase with entrees from the restaurant, which are vacuum sealed in plastic pouches, so you can put them in boiling water and enjoy the Stonehorse experience at home. They run about $10 each.
Taking all these photos made me hungry, so of course I stopped at the restaurant next door for lunch. I used to go there every week, haven’t lately and they have missed me. I had fried red snapper atop black beans with an avocado salad on the side. ($12) The avocados were especially flavorful, and yes the Market sells them, for $2.
About the Author:
Born in NYC, age 0, on my birthday. College in Oxford (Meaning cow crossing a stream in Chinese) at age 16. Law School in New Haven, Conn. 6 years travel in Africa and Asia. Haven’t done much lately.
I speak enough Chinese to order food not on any English menu. Spanish French Italian too (not fluently but food-ently) My favorite restaurant is Jean-Georges in New York. But those NYC chefs would sell their soul to get the produce available from the farms around Inola.
“A writer writes alone. His words tumble forth from a magical inner void that is mysterious even to himself, and that no one else can enter.” And yet, the most important thing to me the writer is YOU. Without you to hear them, my words are worth less than silence.
1748 Utica Square
open 10 to 7 but closed Sun and Mon