As gastro-bloggers and culinary wags like me have been dutifully pontificating, local is better — better for the local economy, the environment, and for your general kumbaya/hakuna matata well-being. Your great-grandmother knew this as well as your favorite food snob friend. Local is not only produce, but products, like sauces, pickles and grains. Most communities have at least one food emporium dedicated to these local products. Charlotte has Reid's Fine Foods.
After more than a decade Uptown, Reid's Fine Foods, which was established in 1928, returned to Myers Park in a small neighborhood shopping center, Selwyn Corners, which once housed another grocery store (The Fresh Market). In April, Reid's reopened under the new ownership of Tom Coker, once a supplier to Reid's, and Al Waugh. Coker is also the owner of Young Plantations, a specialty product company based in Florence, S.C.
Reid's new digs are smaller than the Uptown store, but with better flow than the cramped space on Providence Road. The focus here is on local products, wines and an excellent meat department complete with the only journeyman-trained butcher in town, Bucky Frick. Reid's has continuously been the place to acquire special orders and special cuts of meat.
The shelves have been carefully calibrated to showcase vinegars, olive oils, salad dressings, sauces (including a variety of barbecue sauces), South Carolina-grown Anson Mills grains, and Crook's Corner stoneground grits. Layers of intriguing, albeit pricey, items promote much perusing.
Just inside the door is a refrigerated unit filled with locally made products, including Beverly's Gourmet Foods, all of which are vegetarian and vegan; locally made pimento cheeses; pickles; and desserts. Angel biscuits made by A Little Taste of Heaven in Monroe line the section with fried pies and cheese straws.
On the opposite side of the store near the wine racks is a kitchen for cooking demonstrations. Many familiar faces are on staff at Reid's. Store manager Jose Velasquez has been with Reid's since 2003; food writer and caterer Heidi Billotto is the director of Reid's Cooking School; and Leyla Arcovio (of the former Salute) heads the wine department. Reid's, once known for an extensive collection of wines, has fewer wines than before.
Executive Chef Kyle Biddy has changed the menu of the ready-to-go Queen City Kitchen, but the renowned chicken salad still stakes its claim on the roster. The best of the sandwiches is the humble GCBT or grilled pimento cheese with smoked bacon. The intensely flavored house-made pimento cheese does not lose its integrity or chunkiness when grilled, and the giant tomato slice adds a super-fresh summer flavor. The rotisserie turkey sandwich, however, needs more oomph than the Muenster can muster. But the beautifully textured, slow-cooked roasted pork loin — almost a Jersey Sloppy Joe — with mustard slaw and Swiss Cheese under a dollop of creamy 1,000 Island dressing could be morphed into an awesome Cuban if you add some ham, dill chips and a Cuban roll. Just saying.
In addition to the "create your own salad" station, Queen City Kitchen has a few signature salads. One of these, the buttery green 100 Acre Wood (my description, not theirs) salad, sports honey coriander pecans and more honey in the vinaigrette. All the salad dressings are house-made, including the everything old is new again chervil-infused Green Goddess.
I guess everything old is new again.