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When An Old Reliable Friend Moves Away

When I heard the news that my local Trader Joe’s would be closing its doors at the end of August, I can honestly say, I got a pit in my stomach. TRADER-JOES-largeAnd I’m not alone, as others, like LAIST are writing about it too. Ever since I moved into my beloved condo in West Hollywood in 2005, this TJ’s has been my reliable neighborhood companion.

I know, I know, it’s just a friggin’ store, why get so dramatic?!

When I lived in NYC, I shopped everywhere by bicycle or by foot. It was great! And in a new home, in a new city, having a TJ’s walking distance away was a real comfort, and I knew that anytime I just needed one or two things (although let’s be real, you never leave a TJ’s with just one or two things), it was just a few minutes away. Not to mention, having been to the other Trader Joes’ around town, this one had the best parking.

I was out of town when the store closed, so I didn’t say a proper good-bye, and when I returned to LA, it was gone. At first, I felt like someone died. Where would I shop? I tried the Hollywood TJ’s on Vine, one night after the gym, and the unpleasant experience began as soon as I turned into their underground parking garage (My Trader Joe’s had an easy and convenient outdoor lot), and took my ticket from the automated ticket box, a guy on a scooter whizzed through the open gate, and it shut on me before I could follow. Now with a line of cars behind me wondering what the hold up was, I had to get out of the car, and walk back to the box to get another ticket. Once I entered the store, it was filled with people, Hollywood people. I longed for the elderly West Hollywood Russians who walked too slowly down the aisle, and would stand way too close to me in the checkout line, or the super friendly staff who knew me and were more than willing to look in the back if I couldn’t find what I wanted on the shelves, and who I could count on to recommend their favorite beer or wine. That night as I drove home from the Hollywood Joe’s, I missed my neighborhood companion. A couple of days later, I went to the local Whole Foods store, where I already shop at occasionally, but which costs me about triple what I pay at TJ’s for my regular groceries.

Then something happened. On my way home one afternoon, I remembered I needed to buy a plant as a gift, and again cursed that I couldn’t go to TJ’s to get one of their wonderful orchid plants. Then I remembered a local plant store, Moe’s. I worried that it would be more expensive, but I didn’t have time to figure something else out. To my surprise, I could find some very affordable and healthy plants on sale, and even decided to buy myself a beautiful fern as well. So, as the reality that my local reliable store has moved on is sinking in, I am beginning to open up to what my neighborhood still has to offer.

Farmers Market 2
On Monday, I shopped at my local farmers market, where I became lazy about going to on a weekly basis because I could always go to TJ’s if I missed it that week (even though the produce is far superior (and cheaper) at the farmers market). There are also plenty of local Eastern European delis and grocery stores in the neighborhood that carry the things I may need on a moments notice, like cream for my coffee.

Farmer Market 1

And actually, the small stores and the farmers market are what I love about living in a neighborhood, where the locals all go. The Trader Joe’s was an incredible convenience, but sometimes it’s good to expand one’s view to what else is out there.

 

 

 

Rainy Day Kale Potato Soup

It’s a rare rainy day in Los Angeles. I happen to have a bunch of kale and a few potatoes in my kitchen, but any dark leafy greens will do. And I made this comforting soup in about 30 minutes. After posting a pic of it on facebook, the requests for a recipe started to pop up. So here it is. I am sorry now that I didn’t photograph the step by step process.

Ingredients:

1 Onion (I didn’t have any, so I chopped up a bunch of scallions), chopped

2-4 Cloves Garlic, roughly chopped

About 4-5 medium Potatoes, quartered

1 Bunch Kale, Rinsed and finely chopped, stems removed

8 Cups of Water with Vegetable or Chicken Stock (I used the concentrated kind, but you can use 8 cups of pre-bought stock if you prefer)

Instructions:
Heat oil over medium heat in a large Soup Pot. Add chopped onions and saute until tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Add vegetable or chicken stock, potatoes and garlic and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

When the potatoes are tender, transfer the potatoes and garlic to a bowl; lightly mash with a fork. Return the mashed potatoes and garlic to the pot, and bring to a simmer. Stir in kale, add sea salt and a pinch of cayenne. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until the kale is tender. I used an immersion blender here, with a tablespoon of yogurt, to make it semi pureed with a touch of creaminess and tanginess from the yogurt. While the soup was cooking, I also hard boiled an egg, and added half an egg and a teaspoon of sour cream, garnished with scallion to the bowl.

This soup was a super comforting and hearty treat for a rainy day!

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