We were like kids in a candy store, oohing and aahing over all our options.
Only instead of a candy store, we were eyeing the incredible range of hot and cold foods, the salads and the dumplings at a Russian supermarket less than 20 miles from our house. In this age of coronavirus, essentially unable to leave the U.S. and even facing a two-week quarantine when coming back from most states, this bike ride gave us a brief feeling of being somewhere unfamiliar. And doesn’t everyone check out supermarkets in a foreign country?
And yes, we heard Russian spoken. No idea what this sign says. Is it about store hours and senior shopping hours? Wear a mask?
To back up just a bit: last winter, friends mentioned a Russian supermarket in Philadelphia called Netcost. Of course I had to Google it — a possible bike destination? The store in Manapalan, N.J., not a Philadelphia location, popped up in search. Even better! And we already knew most of the way there, thanks to, among other rides, our expedition to discover Bruce Springsteen’s Freehold.
The route to Englishtown is pleasant. No trails on this trip. We mostly took roads so quiet that we didn’t miss not having a shoulder. The final miles to Netcost — Main Street, then right on Gordons Corner Road for a few miles, then right through a neighborhood to Tennent Road and left for the final quarter-mile to the store — was busier but still OK. Or is that just because we’re all driving less?
So what did we find in what’s really a Russian/Eastern European/Central Asian supermarket with a smattering of familiar brands?
First, the fish. Herring prepared many ways. We came home with a package of herring in oil, with smoke flavor in the oil. Packages of smoked salmon that reminded me of my years living in Germany. Caviar, including more budget-friendly imitation options. I got an 8+-ounce jar of generous orange eggs for under $3.
Then the prepared foods. Pancakes. Dumplings. Pierogies. Stroganoff. Beet salad. So much more. This would be a great instead-of-a-deli stop if Monmouth County is part of your regular riding turf.
But that’s not all. If we hadn’t been on bikes, maybe I’d have gotten buckwheat to build on my assortment of whole grains. Jars of vegetable spreads tempted me.
And no flour shortage here! If only one was spelt flour…
The final spot was the frozen section. Freezers of small dumplings! And manti, an oversized lamb dumpling we discovered a few years ago at an Uzbeki/Uighur restaurant in Brooklyn. And samsa, a hockey puck-sized savory pie, also stuffed with lamb. No way was I going home without a mix of these.
Finally, we needed a snack, especially since I had forgotten to stuff a Clif bar in my jersey pocket. Back to the prepared foods. We picked a small, rolled pancake stuffed with preserved cherries. Then we added a squat ball of a pancake stuffed with cheese and raisins. Finally, we got a dense cheese-stuffed bread that probably would be better heated up so the cheese oozes out all gooey.
We ate them outside as we waited out the brief rain.
After all this, there was no need to check out the kosher bakery we spotted less than a mile away. Another ride?