Peanut butter is my “go-to” spread for a sandwich of if I want to liven up an apple or banana. I used to buy Skippy or Jif but in an effort to eat healthier, I make my own peanut butter by grinding peanuts at my local Fairway. When I heard about a little shop in Soho called Peanut Butter & Co., I had to check it out.
Located on Sullivan Street between Bleecker and West 3rd, PB&Co. is a sandwich shop that offers “classic” peanut butter sandwiches and “gourmet” sandwiches. Among the classic ones are, of course, a straight PB&J but also a “Peanut Butter BLT” which has fresh cut bacon; a “Peanut Butter Cup” which includes Nutella; and a “Pregnant Lady,” which is topped with pickles! The “Gourmet” sandwiches include: “The Bees Knees” with apple butter and wheat germ; and “White Chocolate Wonderful” sandwich with white chocolate peanut butter and orange marmalade. One of the fun parts is trying and choosing your favorite flavor peanut butter. There’s white and dark chocolate, cinnamon, honey and maple syrup. You can also choose among jams and jellies and types of bread.
There are also peanut butter centric desserts like sundaes and brownies. And you can go home with a peanut butter cookbook or jars of the peanut butter flavors the shop offers.
I just returned from a family visit to Israel. And while this was hardly the first time I was there (more like the 30th); I used this visit to explore unique Israeli culinary finds. My focus was in the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv areas.
If you love food, you can’t miss a visit to Machane Yehuda. Located off Yaffo Road in the heart of the new city, the “shuk,” as it’s familiarly referred to, offers both a sense of the old and the new. Not only will you find stall after stall of beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables that have been available since the founding of the state of Israel. But you can also have brunch, dinner, drinks or snacks at one of the many restaurants that have opened over the past 5 years.
On my visit to the shuk, I had dinner at Pasta Basta; bought warm chocolate rugeluch at Marzipan and hazelnut halva at Halva Kingdom. You can have a similar culinary experience at the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv.
Located just off of Allenby Road, Shuk HaCarmel also offers beautiful produce; wide selection of fish, meat and cheese; pastries and candies. This Shuk also has a wider range of clothes and household items than Machane Yehuda. If you go to the Carmel Market on a Tuesday or Friday, be sure to visit the arts and crafts market at Nachlat Binyamin. Don’t go just for the beautiful jewelry, pottery, and glassware. Also stop by the Bedouin tent to have fresh laffa with labane and za’atar.
While I was in Tel Aviv I also visited the Levinsky Market, which is really just one long street in Southern Tel Aviv. It was my first visit there and I went because I had heard about the wonderful spice stores I would find; and I wasn’t disappointed.
The stores on Levinsky Street all sell spices by weight and many sell dried fruit, including 3 kinds of dates, and a variety of nuts including 4 kinds of almonds. I also saw (and tasted) more unusual things like dried watermelon seeds, candied lime peel and dried garlic. My favorite store was Shuk California where I bought quinoa, candied ginger and ground cardamom.
While in the neighborhood,visit Albert’s Pastry shop on Matalon Street, which runs parallel to Levinsky Street. The shop has been there for over 40 years and offers many Mideastern sweets but is famous for its marzipan.
Brooklyn seems to be a hotspot for home grown chocolate. Back in February I told you about Mast Brothers in Williamsburg. Nunu is another Brooklyn chocolate shop worth visiting. Located in the shadow of the new Barclays Center on Atlantic Avenue, NuNu is the “child” of Justine and Andy who started Nunu Chocolates “with the belief that the world is a better place when chocolate is involved. ” Nunu is an affectionate name for children in Africa where Justine spent her youth.
Nunu sells a variety of chocolates which you can buy in small or large boxes, or by the bar or piece. They also sell chocolate covered potato chips, graham crackers, coffee beans, cacao nibs, and even hot chocolate which you can enjoy while watching the chocolate being made. One of the most unusual boxes was the beer assortment. Nunu mixes various craft beers that they pour at the shop right into the ganache itself.
I sampled both the box of mixed assortment which included my favorite, a salty caramel chocolate, and a box of “booze filled” chocolates which included sake and rye-filled chocolates.
Although Astoria is heavily associated with its Greek population, it’s really a neighborhood of multiple ethnicities. Two supermarkets are available to meet these diverse needs.
EuroMarket, on 31st Street, sells foods from all over Eastern Europe including Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia and Poland. They carry everything from tomato sauces and grains to honeys and jams. Most impressive is their refrigerator case filled with more than 700 varieties of beer. You can also find cured meats, olives (which you can sample), breads and pastries.
Another market catering to international taste is Trade Fair, with three locations in Astoria and several others around Queens. I visited one just around the corner from EuroMarket.
Trade Fair looks and feels like a more traditional supermarket. They also carry a wide range of international products and boast that, “we don’t carry foods like the ones you had at home. We carry the food you had at home.” Most impressive was their fresh produce section, which EuroMarket doesn’t offer. They carry fruits and vegetables that you see in any supermarket, like varieties of beans and baby eggplants; and many you won’t see, like karella, snake gourds, cacti and bitter melons.
Take the train to Borough Hall in Brooklyn and head towards Atlantic Avenue.Without ever needing your passport, you will be transported to the Middle East. Within a two block span you will find stores selling spices, sweets, dried goods, and breads with an authentic Mideast flavor. There were three that stood out.
Damascus Bread & Pastry Shop, also known as Damascus Bakery, has been around since 1930. While they sell dried goods, like many varieties of beans and dried chickpeas, they are known for their breads and pastries. They offer 9 different kinds of pitas as well as lavash wraps, panini, and filled breads. One unusual find were chocolate fudge rugelach made with “gream” cheese.
Next store to Damascus Bakery is Sahadis. a market that has been around since 1948. More like a grocery store, at Sahadis you can find canned goods, fresh produce, and packaged breads and pastries. I really liked the large jars of dried goods and condiments.
My last stop was at Oriental Pastry & Grocery. Though indoors, this store reminded me of walking through the Arab shuk in the Old City in Jerusalem. Like Sahadis, Oriental Pastry sells all kinds of Middle Eastern grocery items. But it’s a much smaller store and all the goods are on top of each other. It’s more challenging to find what you want but the staff is very helpful and the smells really transport you to another place.
Ethnic diversity is one of the interesting characteristics of Astoria, Queens, but many associate this neighborhood with a strong Greek population. And though there are Greek communities all over Queens, one does still feel a strong presence in Astoria. This is evident in the numerous Greek bakeries and restaurants; schools and churches; and even the parks.
The place to go for authentic Greek foods and ingredients is Titan Foods on 31st Street. You can find everything from worry beads and Greek flags to canned pickled octopus and bunches of dried oregano. If you are a cheese lover, there’s one whole deli case devoted to a variety of feta and other Greek cheeses. There’s also a bakery that sells both sweets like baklava and savory filled dough like spanakopita.
The nearly three-year old Eataly is food destination, mega store, that is nearly as popular for tourists as Disney World. There are four restaurants (that don’t take reservations), a charcuterie, bakery, cheese shop, and all things Italian. Both the crowds and array of items can be overwhelming. But it’s worth a visit for the pasta selection alone.
Eataly sells both fresh pasta, which is made on site, as well as an incredible range of dry pastas– from egg pasta and semolina to gluten-free and whole wheat. There are short and long pastas ; spaghetti and linguini; rigatoni, penne, and calamari pastas. More than 15 producers from all over Italy are represented.
You can also find a variety of rices at Eataly — from short to long grains; and white, black and brown rices.
There are 50 Dunkin Donuts stores within a 10 mile radius of my home. For a simple, dependable chocolate frosted donut, you can’t go wrong with one of theirs. But, if you’re looking for something a bit more unusual then you need to try the doughnuts at one of the two Doughnut Planet stores located in Manhattan.
Mark Isreal started Doughnut Plant in 1994, with his grandfather’s original doughnut recipe, in the basement of a Lower East Side tenement building that was converted into a bakery. In 2000, he moved to a street level location on Grand Street. Mr. Isreal developed his own techniques of doughnut making as well as the original idea of using fresh seasonal fruit and fresh roasted nuts in glazes. Other innovations he brings to doughnut making include: a jelly-filled square doughnut; “cake” doughnuts, which are made without yeast; and mini doughnuts with unusual fillings and glazes like Gianduja, a doughnut with a chocolate glaze and chocolate hazelnut filling.
On a recent visit, I had a hard time choosing which doughnuts to buy. I picked a combination of cake and yeast doughnuts, and selected one I had before — chocolate blackout cake — as well as two I had never tried — peanut butter and jelly, and Valrhona chooclate. They were all delicious!
If you like sushi then you probably have a favorite place you like to go when a craving for a California roll sets in. For a different kind of sushi experience you need to try Beyond Sushi, The Green Roll. Located on East 14th Street, this small shop offers 100% vegan sushi that is as appealing to the eye as it is to the mouth. Each fruit and vegetable sushi is wrapped in either black forbidden rice or a customized six-grain rice blend that contains red rice, short grain brown rice, black rice, rye berries, hulless barley and pearl barley.
You can get sushi by the roll or the piece which comes with custom sauces like jalapeno wasabe and carrot ginger. Beyond Sushi also offers rice paper wraps, hand rolls and small salads.
On a recent visit I chose the “chef’s special,” — a veggie roll that had lemon roasted artichokes inside and kale chips on top — and “Crunch N’ Munch — black rice wrapped around alfalfa sprouts, cucumber, baked tofu with kiwi on top.
There are many places around New York City to buy kitchen equipment — from chains like Williams Sonoma, Sur La Table and even Bed Bath and Beyond, to smaller stores like Bowery Kitchen Supply, Broadway Panhandler, and my newest favorite, Whisk.
But if you’re looking for some basic kitchen supplies, then you need to go down to the Bowery on the lower east side of Manhattan. There are several stores to choose from, all clustered around Delancey and Kenmore Streets.
I like to go to Bowery Restaurant Supply; a small, packed store that’s reasonably priced. Inside you can find smaller items like soup ladles of all sizes and stainless steel mixing bowls, to larger equipment like deep fryers and 2 gallon pots.
Fishs Eddy, named for a small hamlet in upstate New York, is a different kind of restaurant supply store. This 25 year old company got it’s start when the owners stumbled upon a barn filled with restaurant dishware from a near-by manufacturer. The tons of plates, bowls, platters, cups and saucers had been in a fire but every dish was intact.
Today you will still find China and pottery retrieved from restaurants, as well as unusual sets with patterns like the Brooklyn Bridge, the New York Times crossword puzzle or Alice in Wonderland.
When I needed to get new flatware for Passover, I found great options at Fishs Eddy for under $2 a piece. Go there also to find interesting glassware, serveware, linens and unusual gifts