If you make it to Jungle Jim’s International Market in Fairfield (just north of Cincinnati) or Eastgate (just east of Cincinnati) take my advice and go early: You’ll be spending plenty of time just gawking. It’s true. Here are 10 surprising finds from Jungle Jim’s:
Butter is a pretty simple staple, but this place has very many better butters. Dozens are available from mostly Europe: Italy, Ireland, England, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland — plus dozens of domestic varieties. Seriously, I had no idea there were so many butters. It made my head churn just thinking about it.
2. Herds and flocks of tasty meats
Including crazy meats. Got a taste for alligator or wild boar? Gotcha’ covered. How about some tasty kangaroo or elk? It’s all good. Meats from all around the world are sold here, including good old American-made pork heads. Yep, snout, eyes and ears, it’s in there. My daughter Maddie just stared blankly at it. She was not raised on a farm. In her defense, I saw kids on a school field trip with the same stares, along with “OMGs” and “Eeewww’s.”
3. Fresh seafood
I mean fresh-fresh, as in live bluegill, large-mouth bass and tilapia, dipped out with a big net from giant tanks. Plus the usual lobsters, clams and mussels. That kind of fresh. But wait, there’s more! Fresh-caught, iced-down meat-without-feet treats like whiting, pompano, skate wings, catfish, snapper, crabs, anchovies and squid, among others. It’s so fresh, watch out for sea gulls. And don’t forget whole fish heads. Yep, they’re in there.
Chicken eggs – of course, everyone has those! But how about rhea, emu and ostrich eggs. Talk about big, no yolking around. Ostrich eggs almost football-sized. Maddie stared right at the ostrich egg and declared: “That’s not an egg!” Let’s go to the other end of the spectrum. Quail eggs, pretty tiny. Check your recipe before you use any of these eggs. In fact, for baking, stick with the old-fashioned chicken eggs, otherwise you’ll be doing eggstreme math.
Beer from here, there and everywhere. Old beers, new beers, never-before-seen beers. In fact, Jungle Jim’s stocks more than 4,000 beers. You can find micro-brewed and craft beers from all over the planet. There are so many great options, it might be “brewski-overload.” Be sure to check the latest and greatest brews being offered at the store.
6. Fruits and vegetables from another planet
I’m guessing you haven’t seen these at your local grocer: lychee, longans, Dominican quenepas, malanga, chayote, jujube plums, bamboos shoots, giant cactus leaves, mangosteen, whole sugar canes, etc. And don’t forget the dangerous stuff, like kiwano melons. “Why is this so pointy?” Maddie asks. “I mean seriously, these could hurt you!” And don’t forget the cute stuff, like tiny red bananas and tiny pineapples. “Oh look at these little infant pineapples, they’re so cute and cuddly,” she exclaims, cradling one like a newborn. Plus four types of coconuts and a thousand other yummy and strange fruits and veggies.
7. Hot Sauce
How hot does it have to be? We both like hot sauce, but just looking at the shelves made us sweat profusely. At least five hundred spicy little bottle rockets adorn this aisle, with names of things so hot I cannot type the words without shivering. All the world’s peppers are here in little bottles waiting to spread their fiery love.
8. Cheese, anyone?
Or maybe I should say, cheeses, as in plural, many, many cheeses. There are literally thousands of cheeses.
9. America’s Best Restroom
Yeah, this “portable” restroom is a trick. “This?” Maddie asks, frowning, as she tugs at the door and grimaces. Spoiler alert…the familiar portable bathroom door opens up into full-sized, extra-clean restrooms.
10. And don’t worry
If you just need paper towels, milk, chewing gum, household cleaners, ground beef, shampoo and the like, they have all that, too. Not very exciting, I know, but they have it. Meanwhile, let’s return to aisles and aisles of international produce, seafood, pastas, cheeses, meats and spices….
Bottom Line: If it’s on the globe, Jungle Jim’s likely has it.
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