Today we stop by Greene Grape Provisions, the venerable Fort Greene institution that is stuffed to the gills with good things to eat. Finding ourselves mildly overstimulated by the sheer volume of options, we turn to grocery buyer Lisa Archer for advice.
OK Lisa, what are you loving these days?
My favorite product in the shop these days is Big Spoon peanut butter. The guy who makes it is named Mark Overbay, and he’s always been in love with peanut butter. He’s from Durham, North Carolina. When he was in the Peace Corps, he was assigned to Zimbabwe, and while he was there he had some fantastic handmade nut butters in these really rural villages, and he was kind of blown away by them. That inspired him to try to make some really great peanut butter when he came home. He spent a few years experimenting until he got it just right, then started Big Spoon.
I love peanut butter. I think it’s the quintessential American thing. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich? What’s more American than that? The best day yet for me here at Greene Grape was when the first samples of Mark’s peanut butter came in. I made everyone working in the store that day taste it. I’m a peanut butter geek, and I am really excited about this peanut butter. It’s the best all-natural peanut butter I’ve ever had.
Do you know anything about how it’s made?
He gets all of his nuts from a cooperative of small farmers in the Durham region of North Carolina. He makes the peanut butter entirely by hand. He roasts the nuts right before he makes each batch. Then he grinds them into butter. He adds a little wildflower honey from the Durham area, which adds a little sweetness and smoothness and acts as a natural preservative – you don’t need to refrigerate it. The only other ingredients are some organic coconut oil and sea salt.
He spoons every jar by hand. He literally takes all of the peanut butter out of the grinder and spoons it by hand into the mason jars. So it’s obviously still in the early stages. He’s not in many stores yet. We’re actually the only store in New York City carrying it right now, which is pretty cool. I’m really excited to be carrying his products.
What else is he making?
We carry the pure peanut butter and his peanut cocoa butter, which is made with stone ground dark chocolate. He’s also making a peanut and almond butter, peanut cashew butter, and peanut pecan butter. They are all really delicious.
How did you and this peanut butter find each other?
Mark has some friends who happen to live in the neighborhood, who come into the shop fairly often. They told him they thought he should sell his peanut butters here, so he called me and we talked for about half an hour. He sent some samples, we tasted them, and here they are! So it was a friend of a friend thing – always the best way.
So what, to you, a serious peanut butter lover, is the best use for this peanut butter?
No question – for me, it’s a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with grape jam.
Doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s good bread. The bread is just a vehicle for the peanut butter and jelly.
Toasted or untoasted?
I can go either way. It depends on my mood. [laughter.]
So Lisa, how did you end up here as a grocery buyer at Greene Grape?
I’m from Ithaca, in upstate New York. I moved to New York last year for a restaurant job. I quickly realized that fine dining was not for me. I saw a posting for this job on Good Food Jobs. I loved the sound of it, came in and met everyone, and that was it!
Greene Grape Provisions is located at 753 Fulton Street, at the corner of South Portland, in Fort Greene