I often find myself making excuses to go to Four Seasons Natural Foods- I love browsing the aisles, smelling the essential oils, perusing the bulk section all while sipping my draft local kombucha, and buying little baggies of various herbs, spices, teas, granolas, you name it (fun fact- the market also sells cute little containers for said bulk goodies). There are endless amount of interesting and local (and often both) products to be found at the store and I feel good about supporting this business, which has been operating independently and locally for 23 years. It was about 2 and half years ago that Four Seasons expanded its operations and added a second location to Henry Street, the new location being mostly shop-oriented while the Phila Street location is primarily a vegetarian cafe.
What you may or may not know is that the Henry Street Four Seasons market also has a wonderful juice station and sandwich bar, along with an amazing selection of prepared foods, imported olives, local pickles, house-made hummus and cheeses from all around our area as well as the world. It's a microcosm of the expansive natural food stores and chains that some of us get used to and it's also so much better. Don't get me wrong, I also enjoy getting lost in the aisles of Whole Foods and Healthy Living, but being able to walk down to Four Seasons, peruse the well-priced aisles and ask questions of the knowledgable staff, all while supporting the local business scene is an all-around win for me. When I discovered the sandwich bar and the fact that they stock my favorite Castelvetrano olives, I was giddy.
While some of the sandwiches at Four Seasons are vegan, all are vegetarian and all can be made vegan if that is your preferred choice. The paninis range from riffs on classics such as the caprese-like chevre, tomato and olive tapenade which is grilled and served on local french peasant bread to creative takes of meat-based sandwiches such as the Steuben, which subs in tempeh for corned beef but keeps all the other major players in- sauerkraut, swiss, caramelized onions and Oscar's More Than Mustard (a welcome addition to any food in my opinion). Behind the counter at the sandwich bar, and the guy you can thank for stocking the olives, cheeses and other goodies is Jessie Smith, a trained chef and food-lover who is also a vegetarian. Jessie has excelled is creating unique flavors and combinations to satisfy any palate while using as many local and organic products as possible. Trained at ACC and Mohawk Valley, Jessie is passionate about his creations and about sourcing the freshest ingredients.
On this particular day, I was feeling in a classic mood and ordered the apple, cheddar, caramelized onion and mustard panini with a side of the curried lentil salad (and a pickle). I watched from the counter as Jessie carefully created the sandwich and put it in the magical creation known as a panini maker, searing hot grill marks into the french peasant bread and melting the thinly sliced Vermont cheddar. The side of lentil salad was scooped in next to the sandwich onto a bed of thinly sliced kale and topped with a light curry vinaigrette and what I think was a drizzle of Four Seasons Awesome sauce... this stuff is truly awesome and can be bought by the container. Ingredients include Vegenaise, raw apple cider vinegar, Bragg liquid aminos and various spices and it's delightful- give it a try.
Let me just say it took a large amount of willpower not to dig into this sandwich on my way home and to wait to eat it like a civilized human. The bread was crunchy, the apple crispy, the mustard tangy and the caramelized onions almost sweet. The lentil salad was just as satisfying and I am happy to know that I can buy it as a side as well if I would like. A mixture of lentils, red bell pepper, carrots and dried cranberries, the salad is incredibly satisfying with a mild curry flavor and an awesome creaminess from the awesome sauce. I did make one mistake on my trip to Four Seasons, a rookie mistake. I didn't order a dessert; I think I was too mesmerized by my sandwich to think about it. But so you don't make the same mistake I did, check out the dessert case by the counter which holds various vegan and gluten-free treats such as the coconut cream brownies and banana oat bars as well as gluten-free cupcakes from local Bryan Street Bakery.
If you're not hungry when you go in, take a moment to browse the prepared foods which include containers of olive, fig and olive tapenade, noodles with peanut sauce, thai rice salad, house made chutneys and hummus. In addition, Oscar's Smokehouse products mix in with the olives and various local pickles. On the other side is the cheese motherload: one case devoted to local cheeses while the other features products from around the country and the world. Favorites in the local case include Nettle Meadows wonderfully creamy lavender-honey chevré and triple crème Kunik from Thurman as well as Plymouth Artisan cheeses from Vermont which come packaged in handsome heritage-style wax and comes in mouth-watering flavors like Sambal and Black Truffle. If I could write about all the products Four Seasons offers, believe me I would. Bur for now, I'll leave you dreaming about crusty paninis and creamy cheeses...
Whether you are putting together some cheeses and snacks for the big game this weekend, having a few friends over or it's just enjoying a quiet evening at home, Four Seasons is your go-to local market (since 1988) for all the fixins as well as the perfect healthy lunch spot. Don't forget to stock up on your bulk items, fresh produce and essential oils while you're there too! Check out Four Seasons website for all the most up-to-date information at fourseasonsnaturalfoods.com or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
P.S. they also sell local craft beers and ciders! bonus!