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Sizzle and pizzle at C Fresh Market

2/27/2013

“Frozen balls” come in 22 varieties at C Fresh Market, 801 University Ave., 288-0525, open daily from 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.

“Frozen balls” come in 22 varieties at C Fresh Market, 801 University Ave., 288-0525, open daily from 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.

With federal financial aid, C Fresh Market opened recently on University. Besides bringing a supermarket to an underserved part of the inner city, it fills several niches in the city’s appetite for exotic foods and bargains. Reminiscent of the Ranch 99 chain in California, the store’s fresh fish section provides old fashioned service. Customers pick out whole fish from some eight varieties each day. Fish mongers then scale them, remove heads (if you like), disembowel and wrap them. The store’s deli will then cook them at no charge. I enjoyed a large striped bass for less than $5. King mackerel, red tilapia, giant perch, bonito, silver tilapia and mudfish were also offered that day, as were filets of other fish.                

Andrew Zimmern could film an entire episode of “Bizarre Foods” here. In a fresh meat counter I found liver, lungs, stomach, kidneys, feet, tails and tongue from multiple mammals, plus pig’s blood, ears, snouts, hearts and tightly packed jars of uteri and rectums. I was told to cook the latter like calamari. Chicken feet and duck heads were sold in family-sized packages. Chicken hearts went for a bargain 99 cents a pound.                

When a friendly voice asked if I was finding everything, I joked that I couldn’t find any testicles or penises. “Only frozen. Is that OK?” The labeling of the latter taught me a new Old English word: “pizzle.” It was nearly thrice as expensive as testicles, which have far more culinary applications. Other “frozen balls” (fish, seafood and pork) were offered in 22 varieties. There were four kinds of fresh duck eggs, plus pickled ones, and even pressed duck eggs in flaky pastry.                

Other bargains included leg of lamb ($5 a pound), six packs of frozen quail ($10), and 10 packs of quail eggs ($1.39). Coarse ground sea salt cost $2.09 — for two pounds, not half an ounce. Pomegranate concentrates were priced at $4.29 for 33 ounces. I also found a plethora of inexpensive gluten-free options. Pasta was made with flours of mung beans, arrowroot, sweet potatoes, rice and even haricots verts. Water chestnut flour was sold in small bags. Exotic pickled items included a few things I don’t recall seeing even in local South Asian markets — sour mustard, bamboo shoots and curried mackerel.                

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In the deli, I tried a dinner of two hot dishes and a choice of rice, with an egg roll for $5. One day hot dishes included salted sardines and chilies. Mostly they resembled stir fry dishes at Chinese restaurants. Whole roast ducks were sold for less than $20. The bakery made spring rolls, char sil bao (pork buns), walnut cookies (looking more like almonds), wieners baked inside pastry, Chinese crullers, doughy wintermelon rolls and “ham and corn buns” that tasted of coconut.

Side Dishes Des Moines Metro Opera’s Food and Wine Showcase rocked the downtown Marriott during the Friday night of the state wrestling tournament. Security guards were stationed at stairwells and escalators to protect the two groups from each other. Flying Mango’s smoked catfish cakes, Splash’s octopus terrines and Catering by Cyd’s applewood-smoked pork meatballs starred… The Pew Charitable Trusts hosted a dinner at Big City Burger and Greens last week to rally support for antibiotic-free livestock. New chef Mike Holman showed off for a crowd that included farmers who supplied dinner. Onion Creek Farm brought lamb bellies that were served with sweet potato gnocchi, candied walnuts, rum syrup cream and Boursin. After a butternut squash bisque with spiced cream and fried sage, some of the best risotto I ever tasted showed up. Reduced in bone marrow from Rain Crow Ranch, it complemented braised cheeks and a horseradish gremolata. Madsen Farms pork chops were served with white chocolate parsnip-carrot puree, Swiss chard and mushrooms. Templeton Rye molasses bread pudding topped the event off with Early Morning Harvest honey, toasted pecans and Cloverleaf Dairy ice cream. CV

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