Seeking chestnuts, scoring eggplant Parm
An urgent, if improbable, need for vacuum-packed chestnuts first led me to DiPasquale's Italian Market, a happy discovery that came to mind yesterday when I passed along news of the coming Highlandtown Wine Festival.
I was making a batch of chestnut soup to be photographed for The Sun's food section just before Christmas, following a recipe from Cindy Wolf.
The recipe was simple enough, but the Charleston chef clearly had access to better fresh chestnuts than I.
Wolf had warned me that if the chestnuts weren't fresh, they'd turn hard during roasting and wouldn't puree properly in the soup. Sure enough, the ones I'd bought -- at Whole Foods, no less -- came out of the oven like rocks.
Turns out that as much as we associate chestnuts with Christmas, they're reaching the tail end of their season by then. And most retailers don't store them in refrigerated cases, even though that's recommended. Wolf had suggested buying canned or vacuum-packed chestnuts if I couldn't find really fresh ones.
The catch was that the deli was in Highlandtown, a pretty good hike from my house in Southwest Baltimore. (I've since learned they have a location in Towson.) Worried about getting that soup done on time, I was annoyed by the long schlep.
That faded once I walked in the door. DiPasquale's had all kinds of olive oils, breads, olives, produce, prepared foods and -- oh, yeah! -- vacuum-packed chestnuts. There was so much to look at, I could have forgotten the nuts. I purchased an eggplant Parmesan sub along with my chestnuts.
I'd meant to eat the sub at home, but I wanted to try just a bite when I got in the car. It was gone before I started my engine.
Funny, but the drive back home didn't seem that long.
DiPasquale's Towson location. Sun photo by Amy Davis