Salad Ground

Salad Ground

In a back corner of P&M Fine Foods on Orange Street, a hanging chalkboard menu offers 10 curated salad choices—a Caesar, a Cobb, a “Black and Blue” with steak and blue cheese. Not listed on that menu is the most curatorial choice of all: a create-your-own salad charged at $8.99 a pound.

Browsing a handsome grid of fresh and cured ingredients—but passing over the arugula, which had seen better days—I started my own creation yesterday with some flawless-looking spinach, the leaves taut, bumpy and richly, uniformly green. The server stuffed a few tongfuls into a size-large container and asked if that was enough. I quickly nodded, then had him throw in florets of broccoli, kalamata olives, slivered red onions, shredded carrots, whole cherry tomatoes, sliced button mushrooms and seasoned chickpeas, a fresh and nutritious mix finished off at the server’s recommendation with a side of the House Balsamic Vinaigrette, one of 11 listed dressings.

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Somehow my box brimming with salad weighed in at less than a pound, or $7.82 before tax. I paid near the front of the market and headed out to the patio, finding an open table bathed in hard sun. After pouring the dressing over the top and carefully tossing everything together, which next time I’ll ask the server to do, I dug in and discovered the ingredients were as fresh as they looked. The balsamic flavor was mostly too mild for me, but savory bursts of salt and acid from the olives and onions helped make up the difference. Had I known while I was ordering that the cost was only $8.99 a pound—and that a pound would stretch so far—I might have added more components, maybe marinated artichoke hearts or colorful chops of bell pepper or what I think were candied walnuts.

On the other hand, it was good to limit the salt and the sugar and the processed ingredients and let the fresh vegetables, which I find hard to fit into a busy and budget-constrained life, take the lead. Portioning and pricing at grocery stores aren’t exactly optimized for a family of two adults and a lettuce-averse dog (though she could down a bowl of raw carrots, tomatoes and chickpeas by herself), and it’s rare to buy the produce I like without some of it going bad before I can finish it, which leaves me feeling irritated and guilty.

So for people like me, the create-your-own salad option at P&M is a great find. Ingredients seem to turn over quickly enough to maintain a good level of freshness; we can buy just as many and as much of them as we’re actually going to eat; and we can do so at a reasonable flat rate—a rate that extends across basic and premium ingredients alike (except for a few proteins that command an upcharge). With often shocking price hikes seemingly everywhere we look right now, and with no guarantee that those prices will ever deflate, P&M’s create-your-own salad is doing us a solid.

P&M Fine Foods
721 Orange St, New Haven (map)
Mon-Sat 7am-8pm, Sun 7am-6pm
(203) 865-1147

Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

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