IN THE LOCKED case, a Chateau Mouton Rothschild at $459 and a 1941 Sebastiani Cabernet going for $100 catch the eye. Revolving on the shelves in a companion case, also locked, are dainty containers of pa te' de foie gras, beluga caviar, cepes, chanterelles and black truffles, all at $15 and up. "A customer once told me she eats this caviar by the spoonful while watching television," muses Eva Krebs, international foods manager. The same woman, she says, also bought a case of champagne at $66 a bottle.
Not all the 10,000 items in the gourmet section are so costly but, by and large, they fairly cry out for a celebration. This is food--condiments, spices, flavorings, garnishes--to lift your spirits or make an occasion sparkle. See INTERNATIONAL, L2, Col. 2 SAFEWAY INTERNATIONAL INTERNATIONAL, From L1
There are rows of jars of sweet pickled canteloupe balls, lingonberries to accompany a roast turkey or goose, brandied fruits to mix with fresh fruit or top with whipped cream. "Someone who knows their foie gras would eat this with it," says Krebs, pointing to cherries bottled in sherry vinegar and sugar. Triumphantly, she holds up a jar of Swedish cloudberries. "I was after one distributor for years to get these for me."
Another shelf holds two kinds of raspberry vinegar, tarragon leaves under vinegar, French grapeseed oil and green peppercorn vinegar. Krebs recommends Essig Essenz, a concentrated vinegar that makes four bottles when diluted, as a good "everyday" vinegar.
Pepper jellies, White Label Marmalade with Scotch, Tiptree jams and Lyle's Golden Syrup (for baking) are all popular items. Shoppers looking for a spicier taste can choose from 68 kinds of mustard or sample Outerbridge's Royal Full Rum Peppers, a condiment from Bermuda that aficionados put on top of scrambled eggs, welsh rarebit or almost anything. Fancy giant asparagus is priced at $12.99 a can, and for those whose vegetable budget is tighter, Pilz-Schindler mixed mushrooms are a bargain at $2.35. There's even something for the junior connoisseur: multi-colored popcorn.
In addition to a large array of chutneys, the store stocks garam masala, a mixture of Indian spices "people are always asking for," and the Indian curry wafers called poppadums. Perhaps because Krebs herself was born in Germany, Safeway International shines especially in its offering of northern European food. From lutfisk and limpa bread to heavy brown German breads and rum stollen, everything is here. Some other ethnic foods are not represented so well. The selection is larger than in a normal Safeway, but quasi-ethnic brands such as Progresso, Old El Paso, La Preferida and Dynasty do not inspire.
The cheese table is also a slight letdown. It is lovely to find black diamond cheddar, caerphilly, brie with herbs and gjejost (a Norwegian goat cheese) in a supermarket, but all are precut.
Alternatives to the large selection of wine and beer can be found in Castella's "alcohol-removed wine," a nonalcoholic malt beverage called Warteck and half-dozen brands of mineral water. The 26 kinds of coffee beans include chocolate almond, a popular variety that sounds as though it belongs on the ice cream shelf.
The meat department caters to customers looking for unusual cuts. Pheasant, quail, squab, smoked salmon, fresh ducks, suckling pigs, geese and rabbits are available in season. Because the supply is uncertain, it's best to call ahead if you're looking for a particular item.