Before we begin I must tell you, this is a story about so much more than a grocery store. This is a story about people who share something in common, coming together to do no harm, and simply enjoy the fact that food is so much more than the fuel of life.
Ok, so by now you’ve figured out that this food blog isn’t about eating the healthiest, cheapest, or most convenient foods. It’s about remembering that life is an adventure and the most common yet varied language we can use to share the adventure is food. Food tells us so much about who we are and the culture around us.
Now imagine if a group that shared this vision came together, let’s call them “Foodies”. These foodies might need a meeting place, a place to discuss what they have found and share the experience from other cultures. They could learn from wiser foodies and experiment in strange flavors. Designated scouts from far regions could bring back treasures and report to the group. Well kids, I am that scout and I am back from Jungle Jim’s International Market to report the news.
Wednesday Matt, Jeff and I set out on our yearly pilgrimage to Jungle Jim’s International Market. The three of us orchestrated 2 weekdays off together and planned an epic road trip. Any road trip planning does require a few essentials.
- Jeff Drove – He has the largest vehicle
- 2 large coolers with ice packs
- Road snacks including hot coffee and tea to start, energy drinks, water, 2 kinds of trail mix, popcorn in Banana Nut and Cherry Cheesecake, mixed nuts, jordan almonds, buffalo chicken jerky and protein bars.
- 2 Ipods
- A hotel reservation
This was Jeff’s second time to the jungle. As we drove the 4+ hours to Cincinnati we discussed sections we would hit, areas we needed to be careful about budgets and dreams of the beer selections. We compared pictures and emails our friends and coworkers sent us of wish list items.
We arrived in Cincy around 1pm. Much like any other holy land there are small shrines to the central cause as you get close to the epicenter. We stopped at the original Skyline Chili restaurant for lunch.
www.skylinechili.com A Cincinnati classic!
Matt grew up on the stuff and it has been made clear to me that no one can love it as much as a native. The rest of us either love it or hate it. Cincinnati Chili has no beans, a velvety smooth texture and a hint of chocolate – I’m sold. A few coney dogs loaded with onions, mustard, shredded cheddar and a healthy splash of hot sauce later we were refreshed.
After checking into the hotel we took some time to explore a few local museums and grab a beer before checking in with Matt’s Parents. We stopped at a local bar near his parents’ house as we were still a bit early. The bar and the beer were unremarkable but the Bartender had a suggestion for dinner that we took.
www.beersellar.net There are three locations, we were at the Newport, KY location right on the river.
Unfortunately the menu online is a bit out of date. The beer I saw online was not available but there was something far more valuable in its place – a knowledgable bartender. I mentioned that I liked something dark and not far from the porter/stout style. I was presented with the Southern Tier Chocolate Stout. I have had a few things from Southern Tier and am becoming a big fan. The stout was smooth almost creamy with a dark chocolate and coffee taste. While it was almost too sweet it was very strong at around 11%. Matt went with a local option, Rivertown’s Roebling with a similar but less coffee taste. Jeff chose a flight sampler getting 4 small 3 oz selections. The Roebling was in there as well as a Leinenkugel Big Eddy. The Eddy was an Imperial Stout with a malty hint of tobacco. The New Holland Cabin Fever Brown Ale was light and toasty. The surprise of the evening was the Killians Irish Stout, very dark in color but light in taste. We all agreed the Killians was a good “gateway stout”. The beers were enjoyed with live music and pizzas but it was time to rest up for tomorrow’s excitement.
www.junglejims.com – I have arrived
It’s hard to explain the lure, the size, the variety. The first time I visited Matt’s family in Cincy they offered to take me to the grocery store. Ok, I like a good grocery let’s go!
I was not prepared.
It was funny reliving the shock and amazement when we took Jeff last year. You have to keep focused. It is hard to get through the whole store in 8 hours. You heard me – 8 hours. More than that and you buy stuff just because it’s there and your tired feet and hungry stomach make dumb decisions. There is just so much to look at. They give guided tours of the store for $5.
This year we went for dry goods first, checked out and had lunch before going back for beer, cheese, hot sauce and produce. Since none of us were rookies we could focus a bit. Even Matt who used to do his once a week groceries here gets caught up in it. In just under 7 hours this time we were able to grab some good deals on usual stuff like Cliff bars and Tasty Bite lunches. We explored relaxation drinks by Bob Marley and treats from Spain, Scandinavia, Morocco, Indonesia, Mexico, England, Greece, Italy, France, and about 30 other countries. We devoted quite a bit of time to the 4 isles of hot sauce before investigating a wall of assorted rices. I found some powdered peanut butter for my business and scored some Ale8, a ginger ale we can only get in Cincinnati. Our produce selection included dragon fruit, plantains, grapefruit, honeycrisp apples and some great looking orange and yellow peppers.
Beer – Oh the beer. We spent the better part of an hour in the beer section. Singles or six packs. There was a ton to explore.
Matt and I picked up a few winter weather necessities including a winter ale, a few saisons, and abbey ale or two and a few stouts and porters. You know, just the essentials. A quick trip through the cheeses and kitchen gadgets and we were on our way.
Between the three of us we spent over $350 and we were trying to behave ourselves…
The jungle has some basic departments like fish, meats, cheeses, chips/snacks and produce but they are each about the size of a regular grocery. The rest of the store is grouped by geographical region, purpose or product. There is an entire section of mustards! My father in law scours the Gluten Free department regularly for new treats. The funny part is that in a far corner tucked away there is a regular grocery store. Yes you can buy Kraft Ranch Dressing, Tums and contact solution.
The rest of the store has a such sense of humor about it.
We packed up the coolers and started the long drive back home. Along the way we discussed our desire for a spring trip, our strategy for the next tour and relocating our hotel choice to Newport Kentucky closer to the Beer Sellar. All of this between bites of Jerkey in strange varieties like Ostrich, Antelope, Pheasant, Kangaroo, and Wild Boar found in the deli department.
Hmmm, anyone know a good recipe for Kangaroo medallions?
Until we eat again,