23 April 2021 Posted By : Margaret Rhodes

The Gloriously Filthy Allure of Horny Groceries “It’s hot — and it’s nothing like going to Whole Foods.”

In March, a cooking hobbyist named Theo Blau posted an Instagram Story of a red walnut resting in the palm of his hand. “This is the sexiest looking and freshest tasting walnut I’ve ever had,” read the text accompanying the knobby, wine-colored nut. “It’s just begging to be drizzled with some of the pure Appalachian black walnut syrup I’ve got on the way.”

The words practically brim with yearning, and they call to mind another recent piece of Instagram prose, this time by Yana Volfson, the beverage director for the restaurants Cosme and Atla: “Take a fresh kumquat between your fingers,” reads the caption below a photo of the small citrus fruit, then “graze your teeth gently over the skin until it breaks and suck out as much of the fresh juice that wants to come out.”

It all reads like food play, until you realize both posts explicitly shout out the grocery stores that supplied the tempting fruits. This isn’t a food fetish; it’s horny grocery shopping, which isn’t shopping while horny, necessarily, but is rather a version of shopping in which the mere consideration of groceries becomes its own erotic act. On Twitter, Dean Kissick, the New York editor of Spike Art Magazine, summed up the vibe: “When I go to the grocery store I don’t bring a list. I just throw myself into a twirling space of temptation and desire.”

Before the pandemic, grocery stores were already sensory playgrounds, filled with tomatoes to squeeze and melons to smell. Lately, that kind of skin-to-rind contact has gained new importance. “With our inability to touch right now,” Volfson tells me, “having a place where they still allow you to touch fruit, to pick out your own apple and cherry-pick what you want, that’s such a sensual thing.”

These days the horniest grocery shopping in New York is most assuredly happening at Alimentari Flâneur, an Italian-leaning market in the lower level of Essex Market, and the purveyor of the sexy walnut. Originally a pop-up at Maman’s and Galioto’s in Little Italy, Alimentari Flâneur gained regular status at Essex Market and celebrated its grand opening last weekend. The stand sells delicacies like Send Olives antipasti and Táche pistachio milk, along with “seductive” purple artichokes, “femme fatale” pink lemons, and “debaucherous” Oro Blanco grapefruits. The bodice-ripping signage comes from the young owner, Daniel Soares, who points out that phrases like “variegated lemons” and “forced rhubarb” simply cannot convey the romantic provenance of his produce. “Candlelit rhubarb,” however, hints at how the stalks are harvested, which is by candlelight in a barn upstate during the dead of winter. And Soares thinks it sounds sexier.

Soares’s great-grandfather opened Balducci’s, one of New York’s original gourmet markets, in 1946, but the spirit of Alimentari Flâneur really comes from a photo of his grandfather giving a grape to Anne Bancroft. “It was one summer at Balducci’s, and he’s smiling a sly, Italian smirk,” Soares says. “Her eyes say, I know exactly what you’re doing, and I’m willing to indulge you just for a moment.”

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