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Fatten up for the cold winter ahead

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For the last few days the temperature in my house has hovered around 63 degrees and that is NOT acceptable. I am a warmth whore and this whole "waiting until we get paid before we can buy a furnace" thing, is wearing thin, REALLY thin.

So I began to think about comfort food like pasta, cheese, pastries, etc. Not that it needs to be cold out to enjoy these tasty treats, but somehow it seems more acceptable to indulge in them when cold, and who knows more about cold weather and comfort food than the Eastern Europeans?

Friendly Foods on Center Street has just the ticket. The first thing you see when you enter the store is the massive wall of pickled vegetables and it dawned on me - pickled stuff is the perfect food for long winters. Grown in the summer, harvest and pickle in the fall, food for months! Duh. And man, do they have plenty of pickles.

Let's begin with the pickled mushrooms: chanterelles, boletus, slippery jacks (I know a few slippery Jacks), wine caps, nameko, oysters, grey oysters, shitakes and champignon to name most, but I'm sure I missed a few. Pickled whole tomatoes are another clear favorite, as well as, just cucumber pickles.

I bought a jar of mushrooms and a jar of pickles in order to throw myself on the grenade for you, so to speak, so you don't have to. They were different for sure. I was hoping the mushrooms would be a little more tart and salty. The pickles were good, but different. I think I caught a hint of celery seed. Not entirely sure.

Canned fish and meats were plentiful, as well as lots of cured meats, whole smoked fish, various cheeses with names I won't even try to pronounce, and caviar. Yes, caviar. Now you know where to go for that fancy holiday party you plan to throw. While you're at it be sure to grab some of the amazing confections this store has to offer. They are beautiful.

And who doesn't want a big tube of bologna called Alex's Meat with a picture of a cute 3-year old on it? I'm sure it's wonderful if you like mystery meat in a shiny red tube. Maybe Alex does, but not so much me.

Do you like hard candy? If you do, this is your lucky day. Bins and bins full of various hard candies, all in fanciful looking wrappers and miscellaneous flavors. The chocolate bars looked awesome and there seems to be cultural inclination toward very large wafer cookies. I plan to look into that further.

Ever seen a palate of cabbage? I have. Great prices on mystery apples at 69 cents a pound. You can find fresh dill too, and strangely not the pickling kind. There is a difference you know. This was not pickling dill, but in a pinch I suppose you could use the regular kind.

I cruised by the small section of frozen foods and grabbed a bag of potato and cheese pierogies because I'm making meatloaf tonight and it just seemed right. Screw ravioli! The frozen chicken pelmeni looked really well made and tasty. Like ravioli, they are just pasta stuffed with chicken, they just looked better. However the serving suggestion was sour cream and vinegar, not pasta sauce. I'll have to think on that.

Speaking of things looking better, most items had shiny, colorful and festive packaging. Maybe they use this fancy packaging to disguise the what's inside, which is most likely some tasty, caloric treat that will fatten us up in order to get us through the heinously cold winter? Oh, and pickles.

Friendly Foods

3612 Center St., Tacoma

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