[Okay, first, a little disclaimer: I actually wrote the following as my writing sample when Accidental Hedonist was looking for a guest blogger. Well, I either didn’t get the gig, or she just changed her mind on doing it, because there’s been no mention of it again on the blog, but this food item was too good not to share — and frankly, I’m still recovering from my two-day birthday this past weekend — so, here it is:]
There has always been a special place in my heart for all pickled foods. There is just something about that combination of salt and sour and sometimes sweet that lights up the pleasure center in my brain. My mom likes to tell the story of me as a baby, happily mauling a pickle at the beach one day, when some total lunatic yelled: “Don’t let that baby eat pickles! Don’t you know it will give her brain damage?!” But no, not even the threat of brain damage could keep me from pickled food. I ate my way through every jar of hamburger chip pickles and pimento-stuffed olives my mom brought home.
Among all pickled foods, I’ve always been especially fond of pickled beets. Maybe it’s because we never ate beets in any other form in my house, or because it was an excuse to eat as many pickles as I could at the dinner table, but I can still remember that jar of Aunt Nellie’s brand sliced pickled beets coming to the table and how glad I was to see it each time.
When I tried explaining my love of pickled beets to my husband — not a native of New England as I am — he looked perplexed and I shrugged it off as yet another one of those New England food oddities, so when we moved to NYC this past June, I filed pickled beets under ‘Foods To Bring Home After Visiting My Mom’ along with piccalilli and brown bread in a can.
So, you can imagine my delight to find Rick’s Picks at the Union Square Greenmarket, selling pickled beets they call Phat Beets. (I have yet to grow tired of this name. “Gimme some Phat Beets!” “Are you ready for me to lay down some Phat Beets?“) I do have to admit, my deeply entrenched Yankee frugality balked at the idea of paying seven dollars for a pint jar of beets, but the man selling them (whom I think may have been Rick himself) was so nice (melting my usually reticent three year old daughter’s heart with a Rick’s Picks sticker) that I gave in and bought a jar. I brought them home and set them in the fridge for a day or two, wondering how best to eat $7 of beets. Eventually, I decided to just pop it open and eat one off the fork.
At the first bite, I admit, I was… aghast. This beet was so far from the pickled beets I was accustomed to, I just couldn’t even process the difference immediately and reacted with more than a little horror: this is so NOT a pickled beet. The pickled beets I remember? They’re very soft, with both a sharp vinegary tang and a sweetness that gets a little sickly after a couple beets. This beet was nothing like that. After stopping for a minute to regroup, staring down the rest of the beet on my fork, I took another bite.
The beet itself is firm, stopping just short of being crunchy. Although the sour/sweet flavor — which is neither overpowering or cloying — is what hits you first, what amazed me the most about these beets is their spiciness. I don’t mean capsaicin heat spiciness; I mean redolent of spices spiciness. Allspice, cinnamon, and even a little bit of clove, which imparts a lovely tingly feeling as you swallow, all linger in its aftertaste. So far, I admit, I’ve just been eating them straight from the jar (quite a few, as you can tell from the photo), but I bet they’d be fantastic in a salad with maybe some goat cheese, or even diced up and stirred into a borscht for a little extra kick.
So, if you want to serve up some Phat Beets, visit Rick’s Picks NYC to find a local retailer or place an order for delivery.