Yesterday (1/31/09) I decided to drive into Dallas to get a read on the current inventory of pizza ingredients from three of the places I usually go to for this purpose: Central Market at Greenville and Lovers Lane, Whole Foods at Lower Greenville, and Jimmy’s Food Store at Bryant and N. Fitzhugh. As I was planning my itinerary to make most efficient use of gasoline, I inadvertently discovered that Jimmy’s now has a website, at http://www.jimmysfoodstore.com/
. While at the website, I signed up to receive their email newsletter even though I have no idea as to what, if anything, they will end up sending me. For those who have never been to Jimmy’s, their website is a good place to start to get the history of the place and to see their sandwich menu (the photos are mouthwatering), and the products they carry.
My first stop was Central Market. They were very busy, no doubt in great measure because people were stocking up for today’s Super Bowl game. As usual, they had a very wide selection of cheeses usable on pizzas, but at their usual high prices. Not much changed in the way of canned tomatoes. They continue to sell the faux
San Marzano tomatoes grown in the U.S. with the fancy Italian looking and sounding label, still at well over $3 a can (from Simpson Ltd.). They did, however, have a fairly broad selection of Cento canned tomatoes, including some San Marzanos. They have never carried 00 flours, nor did they this time.
My next stop was Whole Foods. The slumping economy has been very hard on Whole Foods, as anyone who has held their stock for any time will attest. The store traffic was light, and it seemed that Whole Foods has scaled back on its product lines for many goods. I found a few pizza cheese choices but nothing like at The Central Market. They had a good selection of Muir Glen canned tomatoes, but at very high prices. Some of the items that I used to find in their bulk bins, like dried dairy whey, are no longer available. Even the Bob’s Red Mill diverse line of products seemed to have been scaled back. It was actually quite sad to see the changes. Usually I would find a lot of happy shoppers and a lot of energy to the place. This time it was eerily quiet.
My last stop was Jimmy’s Food Store. As I have noted before, going to Jimmy’s is always an adventure because you never know what you are going to find. Jimmy’s seems to carry just about everything but not always from the same suppliers. I arrived at around lunchtime. There were crowds of smiling and happy people milling about, inside and outside of the store, many of whom seemed to be ordering and eating Jimmy’s award-winning sandwiches and sampling wines from the extensive Italian wine selection. As usual, I checked on the pizza cheeses then in stock. This time it included the Polly-O fresh mozzarella cheese, the Calabro smoked mozzarella cheese, a shredded blend that I was told was the 50/50 blend of low-moisture part skim and low-moisture whole milk mozzarella cheeses from Grande, and domestic and imported Provolone cheeses. There were also fresh fior di latte
and buffalo mozzarella cheeses, and several pepperoni and freshly made sausage offerings. As usual, they were selling the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese at the absurdly low price of $9.99 a pound. At Central Market and at Whole Foods, the prices for that cheese per pound were about double, and not as fresh looking (they were shrink wrapped) as what I got from Jimmy’s—right off of the wheel. I also bought some very nice Locatelli Romano cheese. I saw that they had the Grana Padano cheese but I did not buy any this time.
This time, I did not see any 00 flours but, as anyone who has ever been to Jimmy’s will tell you, their stocking methods are rather bizarre and the locations of where things are kept can change a lot from visit to visit. The selections of canned tomatoes, however, remains solid. I saw the Stanislaus Tomato Magic tomatoes (the counterpart to the Escalon 6-in-1s but with citric acid), in both the 28-oz. can ($1.99) and in the #10 can ($5.99). They also had #10 cans of the Stanislaus 7/11 ground tomatoes, Full Red diced tomatoes, and the Full Red California tomato paste. I also saw Cento, Sclafani and LaValle tomatoes. The LaValle tomatoes (San Marzanos) were on sale, although I neglected to write down the prices. I think it was around $25 for a case of 12 cans.
As a result of my visit this time, I have concluded that there is not much to be gained by going to Central Market or Whole Foods in search of pizza related ingredients. It is best to just stick with Jimmy’s. However, I will still make a point to check out Central Market. It is a fascinating place with selections that you will find in no other place in the Dallas area. One can easily spend hours in that store. Just bring a lot of money.