Tuesday, June 5, 2012

La Islena Market in Las Vegas!

A nice old fashioned hispanic latin market and carniceria!
     La Islena Market is located at 4205 North Rainbow Boulevard at the intersection of Smoke Ranch in Las Vegas.  Because a freeway overpass was widened after the plaza was built, the access to the plaza is restricted to southbound Rainbow Boulevard traffic.  Hanging a U-turn is fairly easy to do in this area, if traveling northbound.
     La Islena is like the old fashioned neighborhood corner markets in east coast cities.  The market is small, the aisles are narrow and the store is jam packed full of merchandise.  I kind of like shopping in small markets like this, rather than shop in huge grocery stores that are stocked with unnecessary junk.
     La Islena offers a nice selection of Mexican, Central American and South American food products.  Many hard to find specialty items can be found at La Islena.  I found some frozen cashew fruit and loroco.  Those are items that are not seen everyday.  Fresh produce is stocked and the prices are reasonable.  Fresh epazote is available at La Islena.
     What impressed me was the carniceria at La Islena!  Many Mexican style cuts of beef and pork were available.  Tripas and specialty meats all looked fresh.  Small markets that have a steady flow of local clientele seem to be the better choice, when shopping for specialty meats.  Those items are not overstocked at small markets and they tend to be sold, before they get old.
    La Islena offers marinated meats for those who are on the go.  I have read reviews of La Islena and there are many people who mention that the marinated meats are very nicely seasoned.  For those who are new to Mexican cuisine, cooking marinated meat from a small butcher shop can be a good way to experience the correct flavor to shoot for, when planning on making a seasoning mix later on down the line.  It does help to know what something is supposed to taste like, before making that item for the first time.
     The La Islena carniceria offers some very nice quality hand crafted sausages.  Longaniza, several styles of chorizo and specialty sausages were offered.  I purchased some of the best longaniza sausage that I have had in many years!  The La Islena fresh longaniza was mild and expertly seasoned.
     Tortillas of all sizes are stocked at La Islena.  Home style lard and roasted lard can be found at this market.  Lard is required for many traditional Mexican recipes.  White lard that can be found in grocery stores has no flavor at all.  Old fashioned home style rendered lard is the best for Mexican cuisine.  Roasted lard adds a great flavor to tortillas to tacos, tlayuda and tostadas.
     What I like best about small markets like La Islena is the smiles and personalized service.  If you have a look on your face, like you have a question, a clerk will offer help.  Large grocery stores do not offer much help for those who have questions, because they tend to hire people that are not really food experts and people who will work for a cheap wage.  One secret to a small market's success, is for the employees to be well informed about the products that they sell.  The employees at La Islena were very helpful when questions are asked.
     Two snack items that I simply cannot resist were strategically stocked by the checkout counter!  Hand crafted coconut candy and pepita brittle were favorites of mine when I was a kid.  Pepita brittle is made with toasted calabaza seeds and raw sugar.  Pepita brittle is not overly sweet and the brittle is loaded with calabaza seeds.  This is actually a healthy sweet snack!
     I highly recommend La Islena Market for those who are looking for a good Mexican style market that has a high quality butcher shop!  La Islena is stocked full of useful food merchandise and the small market atmosphere is much more appealing than the cold feeling of large modern grocery stores.  Yum!  ...  Shawna