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Where Serious Chefs go Shopping

Sunday, February 26, 2006

In the bottom floor of a boxy brick factory building on gritty Purchase St. in New Bedford, luxury foods from all over the world are displayed in bins, on wooden shelves, and in chilly refrigerated rooms.

Even better for browsers, tastes of some of the more exotic items are freely offered. In fact, sampling from a daily buffet of delectable dishes prepared from some of items is part of what makes a visit to The Gourmet Outlet at Sid Wainer & Son such a delectable treat.

The name “Outlet” is somewhat misleading, because the foods for sale are not discounted or bargains. “Outlet” here merely means that the shop is the retail arm of the International restaurant supply business Sid Wainer & Son, based in New Bedford.

Come to think of it, “arm” might be the wrong word, compared to the size of the rest of the Wainer family business. Now run by Sid’s grandson Henry Wainer, Sid Wainer & Son supplies fresh produce, herbs, spices, edible flowers and a wide range of specialty gourmet foods to thousands of restaurants and hotels throughout the country ad abroad. So The Gourmet Outlet is really more of a finger.

The Outlet is where the chefs shop; the granite counter and showcase kitchen area where the food is laid out is where celebrated chefs come to sample ingredients that they may order in bulk for there restaurants.

But to local foodies, it’s a wonderland of upscale and unusual foods. Who would suspect that down here in the bowels of New Bedford there would be a place where you can fill a shopping cart with Provencal olives, Scottish smoked salmon, quince paste, lobster mushrooms, goat milk butter, and pistachio oil?

The Outlet’s produce is generally fresher and of better quality and variety that you can find anywhere else. Even out-of-season strawberries are luscious and strawberry tasting, unlike the wooden-textured ones you see now in supermarkets.

Baby vegetables, dozens of kinds of mushrooms, arugula, mache, Frisse, fresh herbs and spices-the list is endless.

For the gift-minded, there are pre-made gift baskets of a variety of pantry foods ready to go, or customers can order their own selections.

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