Saturday on the Food Trail

After three years of The Cowgirl Gourmet, you know by now that my impetus is to inspire you to eat better, know where your food comes from, cook at home more often and get everyone involved in the process. I am not--and never will--blog about anything that is "sponsored" or anything that I am not completely sold on. This is not a business for me, but rather something that I love doing--sharing with you my love of food, cooking and purveying. Good food that comes from people you know and trust.

So it's only befitting that I share with you a new food find in town--and something that could (and should) become a regular stop on your weekly list of things to do. As a reader of our edible journey, you know that we only buy our seafood at Groomer's.

For four generations, Rick Groomer and his family have been in the seafood business. In the last year, things have really gone nuts at Groomer's and their recent lobster fest ($5.95 a pound) has been bringing throngs of people to their store. Located at 9801 McCullough--just off of 281 and Isom, the building was renovated in early spring to accommodate a retail store with 3,000 square feet.

Rick Groomer fills an order on a busy Saturday morning.
Fresh whole fish or filets are available.
Clams, mussels, squid and oysters and more.

Take home a tub of crab claw meat, squid salad, seaweed salad
and even smoked fish.

Yes, there's seafood, but the retail store is packed with tools,
spices, sauces and a wide selection of other culinary accoutrements.

In addition to having the freshest seafood in town, you'll find a wide array of cooking tools, sauces, spices and other culinary accoutrements that combine well with seafood. On Saturdays, they sample products in the store and show customers how to pair them with seafood. Whether you are in search of stone crabs in stone crab season (and it's right around the corner), hog snapper, oysters or troll-caught King Salmon, Groomer's is the place.

What you might not know, however, is that just across highway 281, another epicurean center filled with imported foods from Argentina, Italy, Spain, Brazil and Paraguay--all of which have rich and developed food cultures--awaits your arrival at 935 Isom Road.

Say hello to Gaucho Gourmet!

The business was established 20 years ago by Manuel Thomas Ciorciari and operated exclusively over the Internet. After Manuel passed away, his three sons, Raul, Juan and Luciano Ciorciari relaunched the wholesale division in 2010. In addition to the three sons, Luciano's wife, Sylvia, and his mother, Cuqui, are part of the team.

For the last two and a half years, this secret spot has only been accessible to restaurants, hotels, catering businesses and other professional culinary-minded people. But because of the growing demand for high quality food in this city, they have recently opened their doors to the public and are now open Monday through Saturday for all of your imported food needs.

This second generation culinary-centric business has undergone several enhancements in order to be ready to serve the public. They added a deli where you will find the city's best selection of artisan meats and cheeses!

You will not find any smoked turkey breast or roast beef here, but rather a 20-month aged Jamon Serrano, hot coppa, artisan copa, artisan pepperoni, sopresatta leccini, smoked procuitto from Alto Aldige, a spreadable soppresata typical of Calabria, procuitto San Daniele, procuitto de Parma and even Jamon Iberico--this is just some of the 30 varieties they have.

On the cheese side, how about some triple cream San Andres, fresh burrata, rubiola, mozzarella di Buffala, rosemary manchego, or maybe the smoked scamorza, an entire line of aged Italian Provolones or artisanal goat cheeses from Northern Italy or even some cave-aged French cow's milk cheese might be more your thing?

Sylvia get s a big kiss from her husband, Luciano, as he takes a break
from slicing charcuterie to wish her a happy anniversary.
Seven years of wedded bliss!

Pre-packaged sausages and cheese
Deli cheeses
Deli meats
The air-conditioned, 7,000 square feet warehouse space near the airport features shelves and shelves of products ranging from spices and dried beans, to pastas, Yerba Mates, coffee, vinegars, oils, nuts, flours and grains, condiments and other products that the restaurant industry demanded and that will add international layers of flavor to what you cook at home.

When the Ciorciari family decided to focus on developing the retail side of their business, they thoughtfully added an olive and condiment bar where you can find fagioli (white beans in olive oil with pearl onions and artichokes), roasted red peppers, assorted olives, pickled vegetables and more--all of these are especially great when you need appetizers for a group dinner or just to have on hand at home when a snack attack occurs.

You really need to see the store in person, but until you get there, here's a sneak peek of what to expect.

Olive bar and other condiments

Customers browse the store shelves as they determine what they need,
what they want and what they never knew existed.

Everything you need for a paella party!

Paella pans for a large group
Juan talks with a customer.
Like Groomer's, they are open daily (closed on Sundays), though Saturday is the day when they pull out all of the stops and offer special tastings and chef demonstrations. This way you can sample foods that you might not have had since you were in Buenos Aires or Torino or may have never even tasted before.

Last Saturday, they welcomed Chef Fabricio Palermo, of Houston's Tango Malbec, a restaurant that focuses on Uruguayan cuisine. As a customer of Gaucho Gourmet, Chef Fabricio wanted a way to thank the Ciorciari's for all they have done and continue to do for the food community by importing specialty items from their homeland.

So Fabricio and two of his staff traveled to San Antonio to tantalize our tastebuds with melted provaletta, light and crispy empanadas with assorted fillings, sliced charcuterie and lots of cheeses.

Everyone was enjoying the camaraderie as much as the culinary delights and you could overhear the conversations among the customers about what they made with last week's procurements and what they plan to whip up with this week's purchases. A real foodie find!

So I invite you to do what David and I do on Saturday mornings. Stop into Groomer's for your seafood fix and then ease over to Gaucho Gourmet to stock your pantry and refrigerator with a beautiful and growing assortment of food from Europe and South America. (Be sure and take note--you'll likely see many of the same people at both locations.)

And to think that you can enjoy such exquisite food finds without leaving San Antonio.

Buen provecho!

If you "like" Groomer's and Gaucho Gourmet on Facebook, you'll be kept apprised of everything that comes in as well as special offers. 
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