A couple of weeks ago was "Small Business Week" in Scotch Plains. As I've previously mentioned I used to have a small business when we were living back in Portugal - a beauty store that sold cosmetics and perfumes. I loved the "people" aspect of having my own store. Getting to know people and recommending the best products for them was something that I truly loved and enjoyed. With that usually came a more personal conversation and, eventually, I became friend with a LOT of my costumers.
I always try to remember that when I have to buy something now and, even though, I don't do it as often as I would like to I made an effort this past week to buy locally. In Scotch Plains we have Park Avenue which is filled with businesses, from beauty services to an amazing butcher, different kinds of restaurants and small shops. There is also East Second Street with a good amount of shops and services, so if you happen to have some time available, please, look around and enjoy the great spring weather while browsing through our local community businesses.
My mindset was to try and get my produce and meat shopping done here instead of doing it at the supermarket. It was also a fun way to get to know places where I had never gone before and it was an excellent opportunity to meet great people and to see some of them back again.
I started my produce round on Monday - I try to always meal plan and to get everything I need for the whole week as early as Monday or Tuesday. I went to "Tom the Green Grocer" after looking the place up online and thinking that it had a good variety of produce and some extra grocery items that I was going to need. I also noticed their plant and flower section which was just blooming with different colors and varieties - what a great way to start the day!
I was also looking for a place to get great quality, organic, certified meat and I decided to, finally, check out "John's Meat Market". Every time I'd go to the farmers market on Saturdays I would say to myself "I have to check that place out!" but convenience has spoken louder for me and supermarket butcher has been the most easy and fast choice. Not from now on, it won't!
That same week happened to be "Teachers Appreciation Week" and I called my Brazilian friend Desire at "Oba Brazil" to get me some small Acai Bowls to offer my children's' teacher at school. It was great because, due to the nuts allergy situation, Desire was able to get me the bowls with just the Acai and the fresh fruit, without the nut portion that is usually included! You can personalize your order and you can be sure that, at Oba Brazil they will make sure that you get exactly what you ask for. Also, I was still on the soft diet and I didn't get the chance to buy some of the amazing appetizers that you can find there, like the "coxinhas" which are amazing! Can't wait to have those again!
Another place that I went to is a favorite of my kids and husband who have a pretty active sweet tooth! "The Swiss Chocolate Shoppe" at East Second Street has a great variety of baked goods and bread and you can also have a cup of coffee while you're there. The kids got some decorated cookies and I also bought some raisin scones. Will go back, for sure.
Last but not least, I have to mention a place where I go twice weekly - the 'Robert's Dry Cleaners", also on East Second Street. I love when people always great me with a smile and a happy face and that happens here every single time!
Tom's Green Grocer
I was surprised when I got to the parking lot with the variety of flowers and plants. Talk about a great greeting card! I entered the store and the first though was the the space really was a bit hidden from plain sight. It's a small store and, maybe because of all the flowers outside which make it grand the inside of the store really is peculiar. I was greeted by the cashier, a very nice gentleman that made sure that I was comfortable enough to ask for help, if I needed to.
There is a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables and, once again, the colorful aspect really brings the store alive. I came home with tomatoes, potatoes, bananas and some apples. There is also a good range of pantry item like pasta, jar sauces, spices and snacks.
There's a section of ready made food which is super convenient when you're in a tight spot on those busy weekdays! Soups, stews, pasta dishes and vegetables you can choose from a well stocked supply! The sandwiches are also famous, as I've noticed from reading the reviews online. There are several choices between sandwiches ($5.95 - $9.95), wraps ($6.95 - $7.95), Panini ($6.95 - $8.95) and salads ($6.95 - $7.95) with several different dressing to choose from.
I don't usually buy prepared food because I really like to cook and I'm used to it. I'm sure that I'll need something quick by summer time and I'll be sure to check some of these options because they really looked tasty. There was also a selection of baked goods and tarts and I bought a salad fruit cup for the kids' school snack for the next day and I also grabbed a scone for the husband on my way out.
The service was great and everyone was very nice which is a really important aspect in a local store where people need to feel welcome!
John's Meat Market
This was a place that was planning on visiting for a very long time. Getting my diet on track, first with the Whole30 and now with the Paleo approach lead me to look for healthier and safer choices, both in the produce department and in the protein department. Making sure that I buy good quality fish meat and eggs has become a priority so buying certified meat on a renounced establishment like this one seemed the perfect choice. This butcher has been in Scotch Plains since 1939 and has costumers that, even tough have moved to other towns, still come back to get their meat and that says a lot to me about the trust that I can put on this business.
I met Mr. Vinnie (I hope it's the right spelling!) who made me feel utterly welcome and confident enough to ask for advice when choosing my meat products. Please feel free to ignore my messy hair (don't care!) or lack of make-up because when I'm around on my daily errands I'm really in a hurry and just really don't care about how I get it done! I had a great time at the butcher, I'll tell you that!
So, the first thing I did was to look around the store to get a general idea of what they offer. After all, this butcher was voted NJ's best butcher 4 wears in a row, I really have been missing something! They have the "regular"meat but there are also pre-marinated meats and separate marinades for those who prefer to do it on the spot, which is a great idea!
There are also several varieties of sausages, hamburgers, including veggie burgers, duck, organ meat, quail, lamb and oxtails, for example! I mean, I could be here and pick one of each and I'd be a pretty happy cook! Just looking at the meat you can see that it really is fresh, the color is something that is not altered here and what you see is what you get.
There's the freezer section where you can find something for everyone. I got my eye on the buffalo steak (which I never had), the rabbit (which we used to eat frequently back in Portugal, with slow cooked rice) and the rack of lamb. With so many choices I just kept thinking about the delicious meat dishes I could cook up and it felt amazingly perfect to have such a gem in our community. I'm really sure that I'll come back in a couple of weeks, after finishing what I've bought on this shopping trip.
One of the things I was looking for just bumped into me at the counter! I have a weekly budget for grocery shopping which includes everything from food to cleaning products. I wanted to start using a third of that to buy the protein every couple of weeks and try that system to see how it would work out. Would it be enough? Would I spend more? If so, I'd at least know that it was good sourced meat and that would be fine by me.
With that in mind I found out that this butcher has several pre-made packs in the sense that you have a particular set of cuts of meat that comes out a little more economical than if you would get your meat items separably. This was the perfect opportunity for me to try out that plan - I already had some beef at home and what I really needed was chicken, so I bought the "Chicken for days package" which seemed perfect for what we usually eat at our house.
As I'm writing this blog post we already had the whole chicken (roasted chicken with potatoes and veggies, over the weekend), the chicken sausages (I grilled them and they were amazingly delicious - will get some in the future, definitely!), half of the bone in breast (I cooked it in the InstantPot and made some chicken soup) and half the chicken cutlets (very tasty and juicy, the kids loved them). The verdict can only be one - 100% approved and will get back next week to try some of the cuts that I got curious about.
Also, I love meat organ, which is one of the richest cuts of meat you can eat so I'll be sure to ask for cows liver, kidney, heart and tongue. It might sound strange but I was used to eating this foods since I was a kid. My mom used to make a braised cows tongue with a tomato and vegetable sauce which was to die for. I'll make sure to ask her the recipe to see if I can cook it up for my kids - they have tried it but I don't know if they remember it. It will be nice to cook something familiar and with such a sentimental value since this was one of my comfort foods growing up.
Moving on there are other packages, like the BBQ one which is perfect for the Memorial Day Weekend that's coming up! Also, the "Cooking in a Pinch Already Prepared" is perfect for people who have little time to cook and need something really quick, yet delicious, to put on their plate! I'm sure that, even if you don't like or want something on the package they'll try to accommodate your request and change it for something of an approximate price.
I had my eyes on an "oxtail package" and was glad to bring it with a well received discount from Mr. Vinnie! The attention to detail was another thing that made me love this place from the first minute I stepped in and the fact that they even helped me bring the meat to the car was another charming and promising sign. Loved the personalized service and, in my opinion, it's the image of perfect costumer service.
There is also the deli section with different kinds of cheese, hams and bacon and also a refrigerated section with soups, cooked meats and fast choices, like crab cakes or chicken tenders.
I really hope that I was able to capture the soul of this business and its personal core because when you buy meat you need the perfect assistance and I really found that here, at "John's Meat Market". I would love to know if you were already a costumer or if, by reading this blog post, you became curious enough to go there and give it a try!
If you leave in Scotch Plains, please, comment and show these businesses some love!
"John's Meat Market" is located at 389 Park Ave, in Scotch Plains and can be reached on the following telephone number: (908) 322-7126.
For "Teachers Appreciation Week" I decided to call my friend Desire at "Oba Brazil" after noticing, on the business's Instagram feed that she had done some Acai bowls for her daughter's school. I thought it was a great idea and something out of the ordinary to gift the teachers! Also, it was healthy and something that I thought would be more personal. The only thing was that I had to ask to skip the nuts, for allergy issues, and Desiree had these beautiful and delicious bowls delivered at my doorstep!
Personal service at its best!
When someone goes above and beyond to make sure that the service is well done it shows the commitment level and I was really appreciated for the last minute arrangements and for the adorable bowls that I got to offer my kids' teacher and aid.
Thank you, Desire!
You can visit "Oba Brazil" at 2507 Route 22 West.
Besides the Acai bowls you can choose from smoothies and yummy appetizers like "coxinhas" which are delicious chicken appetizers or "pao de queijo"or cheese bread, so good!!!!
Also, make sure to check their Instagram feed so you can look at some beautiful creations with healthy and refreshing ingredients!
The Swiss Chocolate Shoppe
I had only been at this pastry shop a couple of times in the almost three years that we've lived here, in Scotch Plains. We loved it, at the time, specially the kids! The pastries were really good and there was a pretty good variety. We just ended up not going out looking for pastries mainly because I usually bake something at home. This time I got some cookies for the kids and a couple of raisin scones.
I went there in the morning and there was a line at the door! It's always a good sign when you have people lining up at a store, it can only mean that the products are good! There were people ordering pastries to go, some ordering to eat in and I order to go too - I gave up gluten after discovering that it was my trigger for migraines so what I bough was for the rest of the family.
Of course the family loved everything I got and they even asked if they could go the next time! As you can see from the pictures they have several kinds of pastries, donuts, muffins and cupcakes. They also sell cookies, cakes and several kinds of bread and bagels.
Everything looked fresh and was very well presented.
The "Swiss Chocolate Shoppe" is located at 1711 East 2nd Street, Scotch Plains and can be reached by phone at the following number: (908) 322-4751.
This is the dry cleaner that I usually go to and I'm pretty satisfied with their service. Every time I go there they are super nice and polite, always asking about my kids and they also pay attention to detail which I think is a must in this particular kind of service.
I don't have anything negative to say about them, just positive input!
If you're looking for a new place to switch this is a great choice.
They are located at 1832 East 2nd Street, in Scotch Plains with the phone number (908) 322 6538.
These were my picks of the week and, as you can see for yourself, we DO have a good variety of local businesses and we CAN help our community by shopping local.
Where are you going to be shopping during this next week?