One Epic Sale

I can’t remember who told me about it — a gourmet food sale to end all gourmet food sales. I was at a party somewhere, talking to someone, they described a nirvana of exotic food items, all at wholesale prices — in a sale that only happened a couple times a year, and only if you knew about it.

The line outside Epicure the opening morning of the Holiday sale

The line on the loading dock outside Epicure the opening morning of the Holiday sale

I had promptly forgotten all about it when, the next day, an email arrived from [whomever it was] with information on how to sign up for sale notifications and a link. I followed the link, gave them my name, and promptly forgot about it again.

A few months later, I got the email — “You’re invited to the warehouse sale at Epicure Imports.”

Unable on a Saturday morning to rally any of my normally adventurous food-loving friends, I set out on the lonely solo journey to North Hollywood. (For those of you not in the Los Angeles area or unfamiliar with our many sub cities, “North” Hollywood — the city of my birth, incidentally — lacks any of the history or glamour of its southern namesake, sharing only certain of the latter’s seedier characteristics.) There, on a particularly depressing street, past low-income housing and sandwiched between various plastics fabricators, car scrap yards and iron works, was the Epicure warehouse. I parked, followed various sophisticated-looking people past the chain link fence and up the loading dock. And was met inside by the scent of sausage and cheese.

Charcuterie samples

Charcuterie samples

I was overwhelmed. $70 later I left — still confused and bewildered — armed with various dried goods, one godly package of duck sausage, some artisan butter and a couple cheeses.

While I was checking out that day, I’d asked the guy helping me about Epicure’s business. They catered mostly, he told me, to restaurants throughout the Southwest, but also caterers and private chefs. I told him I sometimes did private dinners, and he encouraged me to sign up for an account. Then I could go whenever I wanted! And I imagined the accountant sorting through the business receipts at the end of the year — several thousands of dollars in expenses at Epicure for a few hundred dollars in sales?

Sampling the quality of each product over the ensuing months would illuminate a grave miscalculation: I should have gotten more.

And then, a couple months later, just as I’d almost finished my block of my Beurremont butter (winner of a prestigious Bocuse d’Or USA pastry prize) and my prized vialone nano risotto rice, salvation came in the form of another email: “You’re invited to the Epicure Imports holiday warehouse sale!”

Inside the cheese walk-in

Inside the cheese walk-in

Arriving five minutes early the first morning of the two-day sale, I found a line snaking through the parking lot. I took my place at the end, and soon I was no longer the end but the middle. The owner of Epicure came out onto the dock and addressed the crowd: They were late in opening because a cheese shipment had just arrived from France, but they would be starting in a minute. In a minute they did, and the crowd charged toward the cheese walk-in.

Taking the owner’s advice, I headed instead toward the rest of the warehouse to do my dry goods shopping first. Various vendors were offering samples — including Urbani Truffles and Valrhona chocolate — and while my rivals were queuing up for bites of cheese and sausage back at the walk-in, I congratulated myself on my choice of navigational strategy.

“Would you like to try some?” the caviar sampling guy said, waving a generous little spoonful of big pearly black Siberian sturgeon eggs at me.

The caviar guy hard at work

The caviar guy hard at work

I sampled in peace and filled my bags and eventually found myself back at the walk-in, where the line had thinned some and I waited to get some charcuterie and sausage samples while pushy entitled older people pretended they didn’t know there was a line and butted in for a bite. I could’ve purchased every cheese and salami offered, but allowed restraint to carry the better part of the day.

What did I get at the holiday warehouse sale? Two blocks of Beurremont butter, two bottles of Urbani white truffle oil, a large package of sliced jambon de Paris, a large package of sliced jamon serrano, Tiparos fish sauce, a jar of squid ink, a package of Fabrique Delices saucisson de Toulouse, three containers of vialone nano risotto rice, a package of Spanish torta crackers, two bags of Umbrian farro, a jar of Italian pistachio spread, a round of stinky French cheese and two baguettes. (What!?? Some of it was for gifts!) The bill was a bit over $100.

The queue waiting to pay. Line to get in, line to get out.

The queue waiting to pay. Line to get in, line to get out.

If you do happen to live in L.A. or are looking for a reason to visit beyond trying to spot George Clooney at the Starbucks or finding an agent for your killer screenplay, I’ve included a link up there in the top of the email so you can sign up for the sale, too. Heck, it’s a WordPress blog, you might just want to follow them…

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Benjamin J Thompson (@ThompsonBenjami)
    Nov 25, 2013 @ 16:07:16

    There’s a little wine shop down the street that stocks that exact brand of sausages you have pictured at the top of this blog post. A couple weeks ago I ate an entire Saucisson d’Ail over a couple nights and couples bottles of burgundy. Even my wife who is not a charcuterie fan kept stealing pieces of it.

    Reply

  2. linnetmoss
    Nov 26, 2013 @ 12:41:26

    The pile of cheeses looks ravishing!!

    Reply

  3. pal-O
    Nov 26, 2013 @ 17:46:32

    “Ravishing piles of cheeses floated like delicious dreams in my ravenous eyes”

    Reply

  4. coffeetablecookbook
    Nov 26, 2013 @ 23:08:02

    WOW

    Reply

  5. Jessamine in PDX
    Nov 27, 2013 @ 07:54:05

    This makes me think of the open houses that Provvista (now Chef’s Warehouse) has in pdx twice a year. I go hungry and leave stuffed to the gills. Good job scoring some tasty treats!

    Reply

  6. Greggie
    Nov 27, 2013 @ 08:16:47

    An apt description of NoHo though they do have a burgeoning theater district. Not exactly the place you would expect caviar tasting in the ‘wood hoods. At least you owned up to being born in NoHo and not Valley Village or other realty created neighborhood. The cheese and sausage samples look tempting. Good food hunting. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

    Reply

  7. jewel
    Nov 27, 2013 @ 17:04:28

    Oh wow, what a dream come true! They’d have to be dragging me out at closing time! Wishing you and yours a beautiful Thanksgiving!

    Reply

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