Bulk Gourmet at le Village Warehouse Sale

If ever there was an event to make me feel like a real gourmet glutton--with all the good and bad that phrase implies--it's a visit to the Warehouse Sale at le Village on a day when not too many other people are out shopping. On such days, I can peruse the goods without being jostled or needing to rush or having to wonder whether my finds are really worth the hour-long checkout line. Saturday was just such a day. My haul: an obscene amount of chocolate, cheese, more cheese, butter, Petit Suisse yogurts, roasted peppers, and dried mushrooms.If you haven't already discovered le Village, it's an importer of primarily French, mostly gourmet food-stuffs with a warehouse in Brisbane, just south of San Francisco. You may have seen their name on natural sodas sold in high-end grocery stores like Draeger's. Think of them as a foodie's occasional Costco where buying in bulk is an option, not a requirement. (Occasional because they only open to the public on a Friday afternoon and Saturday once every month or so. To find out about the next sale, sign up their free monthly newsletter.) I've finally resigned myself to the fact that, despite my protestations after last year's episode, I will be making truffles for the holidays again this year (cheers and rejoicing from the Peanut Gallery). I haven't come up with a viable alternative. With this eventuality in mind, I decided to get my chocolate early to avoid the holiday lines. (That's what happens when a place like this only opens once a month.) Amazingly, the warehouse was practically empty and the shelves were still unusually well-stocked at noon on Saturday. Paradise. Dangerous paradise.We started with the cheese cooler, as it tends to empty the fastest. Full wheel of perfectly ripe, creamy Petit Basque for the bargain price of only $16: check. Baby Petit Suisse whole fat yogurts and Plugra European butter: check. Epoisses: got that too. After some prodding from Oren, I asked the French manager for additional recommendations. Tip: he speaks perfectly lovely English, but as Oren anticipated, may actually people better when they speak French. He was soon double checking the cheeses I had already selected to make sure they were properly ripened and handing me a few more choice rounds: Lou Pérac, a soft sheep's cheese, and le Délice, a cow's milk cheese, both from Burgundy. On the to the chocolate aisles. Yes, aisles, plural. In the first, you'll find 3 kilogram bars and bags of a wide variety of chocolates, as well as tubs of various coatings. This is the only place I've found locally to buy the brilliant Valrhona disks in bulk: they come in a resealable bag in easy-to-melt pellets, no chopping required. This is a very good thing, as the point of one of my knives is still deformed from that enterprise a few years past. You can see my two black and white bags in the back on the right in the photo above.. I selected the Guanaja 70%, as it has a wonderfully long finish and easy floral note that mates well with other flavors for truffles. I have found the Manjari 64% (of which I still have at least a pound) too sweet in past years. You can also choose from a handful of other Valrhona Grand Cru chocolates, or explore other brands entirely. The selection is really mind-blowing and the prices are pretty good too.The next aisle is for consumer-size packages sold individually or in cases. Because they were there, I hadn't tried this line, and I liked the concept, I picked up three New Tree All Natural Belgian dark chocolate bars: Renew (blackcurrant for an antioxidant boost), Forgiveness (lemon to help metabolism), and Vigor (with coffee, for energy). One or two were destined for care packages, but didn't quite make it. Guess I'll just have to try them. I also got a 200-count box of Valrhona Guanaja 70% individual chocolate squares. Yes, this is the same chocolate as the twenty pounds already in my cart. Why the duplication and all the wasted packaging, you may wonder? Because, a) the disks don't work as well for stashing in your purse for friends or emergencies, and b) the wrapped squares don't leave chocolate smudges on the pillow when Oren decides to offer turn-down service at Chez Teich. We took our time with rounds of the rest of the warehouse, adding to our cart: Valhrona dark chocolate coated almonds for my Dad (from yet another candy aisle), a jar of roasted peppers with herbs that are perfect for spur of the moment cocktail parties, and improbably inexpensive bags of dried chanterelle and porcini mushrooms, some of which made it into the package with the third big bag of chocolate for my Mom. A quick glance at the wines and we were finished.So what did we do with all this food? We picked up a wonderful bottle of 1993 Guy Roulot Auxey-Duresses from K&L that was recommended with Epoisses, had some friends over, and enjoyed a thoroughly wonderful evening. The 2003 Chalone Pinot Noir that followed the Burgundy was a good contrast and not half bad either. And in case you were wondering about those other cheeses: the Délice is mild, slightly sweet and salty, and unusually light for a triple cream. It is fantastic with fresh figs or wild berry jam and I will be looking for it again. The Lou Pérac was also quite good, though less novel. The Epoisses was soft but not quite runny and without the overpowering odor I've encountered in the past. We all could have easily done without the salmon course, but in case you didn't really think us gluttons, the chocolate and assorted ice creams we had for dessert should seal the deal.