Single ingredient food shops have become very popular. It began with all the cupcake shops popping up throughout New York. Today you can find restaurants and stores that sell single themed items like mac ‘n cheese; peanut butter or rice pudding. Now you can add to that list, Pota•topia. Located on Sixth Avenue, near 8th Street, Pota•topia opened earlier this year and offers different kinds of potatoes (yams, Yukons, Idahos) baked, mashed or fried with vegetable, cheese and protein toppings.
You can order one of Pota•topia‘s “signature meals,” like “I Think Therefore I Yam,” — sweet potato crinkles topped with Asiago and Parmesan cheeses, parsley, red onion and garlic aioli. Or you can build your special meal, salad bar style. You pick the kind of potato you want; choose vegetable and 2 cheese toppings; add a protein like chicken, shrimp or egg; and then choose a sauce. There’s a small counter space to eat in the shop, though it seemed most people bought their potatoes as take-outs.
New Yorkers are very particular about their bagels, and rarely are they happy with bagels produced by other cities. Some people like them big and doughy, like you find at Hot & Crusty. Others prefer a thinner bagel with a crusty outside, like you used to be able to get at the original H&H Bagels.
But Bantam Bagels offers a completely different take on the New York bagel. Located on Bleecker Street in the West Village, Bantam sells mini bagel balls, known as “Bantams,” which look like donut holes. There are “Bantam Basics,” which are plain, sesame, or everything “bagels” filled with cream cheese or butter.
Then there are 14 different specialty bagel combos, some sweet and some savory. They include : “French Toast,” which is a cinnamon nutmeg egg bagel filled with a buttery, maple syrupy cream cheese; “Cookies and Milk” which is a brown sugar walnut bagel with a sweet chocolate chip cream cheese; the Hot Pretzel bagel which is topped with sea salt crystals, filled with mustard and sharp cheddar cream cheese; and the “Bleecker Street,” a pizza dough bagel topped with a thin slice of pepperoni and filled with marinara mozzarella cream cheese.
I enjoyed the “Box Lunch” bite which was the equivalent of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.I only wish the ratio of filling to bagel was a bit greater.
If you have ever walked from the new city of Jerusalem to the Old City, you would have passed vendors selling a bread they call, “bagela.” In fact, they are called “simit,” a traditional bread eaten throughout the Balkans and the Mediterranean, primarily for breakfast. The “Turkish bagel,” as it is nicknamed, is much less doughy than its New York counterpart and rarely eaten with cream cheese and lox. Simit rings are soft and light on the inside and crunchy on the outside.
At Simit+Smith, located on the upper west side, in the financial district and in Cliffside Park, NJ, you can buy freshly baked simit. The owners are trying to replicate the experience of buying them from the simitçi (street simit vendors) of Istanbul. The simit rings and loaves come in three flavors: original, multigrain and whole wheat.
At the store you can also buy Poğaça (po-acha), a cross between a pastry and pretzel-like roll. They come plain, or filled with feta and parsley, or kasseri ( cheddar-like cheese) and olives. Other Mediterranean foods and drinks, like Turkish soda or Ayran, a yogurt drink, can also be found at all the locations.
Begun originally as a spice store catering to the Indian and Bangladeshi communities, the Dual Specialty Store now carries spices and other products from around the world. Located on First Avenue between 5th and 6th streets, Dual is similar to Kalustyan’s, but with a greater emphasis on spices.
It’s not just the range of spices that make Dual worth visiting, but the choices within each category. For example, you can find cardamom powder, seeds and pods. Or you can choose ground ginger from among three or four different brands.
Dual sells other products besides spices, like varieties of grains, sauces and sweets. One unusual product I found was individual tea filter bags that can be used for brewing fresh tea.
Sunnyside, Queens is just 15 minutes from Manhattan but feels like you are in a quiet suburb. It has an eclectic community made up of Armenians, Romanians, Indians, Bangladeshis, Chinese, Koreans, Colombians, and Ecuadorans. Though it may not be known for its restaurants, there are two very special food stores that are worth visiting.
The first is Butcher Block located on 41st Street. At first glance, it appears to be just another supermarket. But if you look closely you’ll find an incredible array of Irish and English products.
Though I’m not an Anglophile, I could appreciate being able to find a great selection of Irish butters, teas and jams. But if British and Irish food are not your cup of tea, you might want to visit a store more focused on Eastern Europe.
Massis International Foods, on 43rd Avenue, is known for serving the Romanian community but inside you will find products from Croatia, Poland, and Bulgaria, as well as middle eastern products from Morocco, Greece and Turkey.
If you’re a beer lover, then on your way back to the number 7 train, stop at Superior Market on Queen’s Boulevard. A strangely dark store, it is packed with beer options from all over the world.
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins Wednesday evening September 4th. It’s customary to serve honey to ensure a sweet new year. So what kind of honey to choose ?
According to the National Honey Board, there are more than 300 unique kinds of honey in the United States, from diverse floral sources as Clover, Eucalyptus and Orange Blossoms. In general, lighter colored honeys are mild in flavor, while darker honeys are usually more robust in flavor. The color and flavor of honey differ depending on the bees’ nectar source (the blossoms). Honey comes in 5 different forms: liquid; comb (honey in it’s original form); cut comb (liquid honey with chunks of comb inside); naturally crystallized; and whipped or cremed ( crystallized so that it’s in a solid state and can be spread like butter).
All supermarkets and specialty stores carry at least a few varieties of honey. Many farmer’s markets also have stands with locally produced honeys. For convenience and variety, I found that Fairway was a good place to shop for both the most common and the most exotic honeys; honeys from the US and around the world. Some examples:
Langnese Country Honey is from Germany. It’s a creamy natural honey “made from the honeycomb after the bees have sealed it tightly with wax. This means that the honey is mature – it has a full taste and all the nutrients are intact,” according to the company. A different German honey is made by Bihophar and it’s an acacia flower blossom honey with comb. Attiki honey is from Greece. It’s derived from a select variety of Greek thyme, wild flowers and herbs. Aleluya is pure honey from Argentina and is mild and creamy.
Dutch Gold Honey is a Lancaster PA company that has been making honey since 1946, Fairway sells a variety of different blossoms of their liquid honey including buckwheat, clove, and orange blossom. Tupelo honey comes from the blossoms of the tupelo gum tree and is mostly produced commercially in areas along the Choctawhatchee, Apalachicola, and Ochlockonee rivers. Honey produced from only the white tupelo is the only honey that will not granulate, according to the Tupelo Beekeepers Association.
Fairway also offers its own brand of reasonably priced honey made from wildflower blossoms.
Do you remember Rice Krispies Treats? Basically, they are squares of Rice Krispies held together with marshmallows and butter. Well, earlier this month a new store opened up on the Upper West Side, whose products are inspired by these very treats. Treat House on Amsterdam between 81st-82nd, sells more than a dozen different flavors of crispy rice treats. And, according to their website, “all Treats are certified Kosher Dairy; and unless specified otherwise, are gluten-free, dairy-free, and nut-free.” Their flavors include, cappuccino, chocolate mint, peanut butter, and blueberry pie
Treat House also sells home made marshmallows made from raw cane sugar, breakfast bars, pops and ice cream bars. Treat House is committed to giving back to the community so the’ve partnered with The Food Bank for New York City. For every Treat they sell, they donate 10 cents to the Food Bank and for each t-shirt sold, they donate a dollar.
As expected, the Treats are rather sweet but if you’re looking for a unique way to satisfy your sweet tooth, then visit the “House.”
Last time I wrote about an Israeli style “Makolet” in the East Village, however there are other places you can find everyday Israeli products. You would expect to see them in supermarkets with large Kosher sections, like Fairway. And especially in Kosher specialty stores like The Kosher Marketplace, Park East Butchers or Seasons Kosher Supermarket. It’s unlikely that you would expect to find a large selection of Israeli foods in a mini-market on Second Avenue and 76th Street. But the International Fine Foods store located there will surprise you.
The inside of International Foods looks like any other small market that dots the corners of the Upper East and West sides. But as you look at the shelves, you’ll find a wide range of specialty products from Asian sauces to English crackers. What is surprising is the number of products from Israel. Not just the usual cookies and candies, but products that are not particularly Israeli but are manufactured there like flour, juices, and pita bread. The store also carries a variety of Kosher products that aren’t necessarily from Israel, like Kosher cheeses.
If you’ve ever visited or lived in Israel, then you know that you can food shop in large chains like Supersol or Super-Dosh, or you can go to your local “makolet” (mini-market) for your grocery needs. You can re-live this experience, and find some authentic Israeli products by visiting The Holyland Market on St. Mark’s Place between Avenue A and First Avenue.
Holyland Market is a small store but within you can find food products you don’t normally see in kosher supermarkets promoting Israeli foods. You’ll be able buy things like breakfast cereals, baking products and even frozen “Limonana” pops.
Not only does the store carry food products but you can also get the latest newspapers, CDS and DVDs The store is open daily 10am-midnight.
Fear of missing out – FOMO – is what the New York Times said was the reason why people were willing to wait at least 2 hours to get into the MOMA exhibit, “The Rain Room,” which closes July 28th. As a member, I thought I would have no trouble getting in if I arrived a half-an-hour early. But alas, others had, indeed, arrived 2 hours earlier. No art was worth standing in the sun for that long.
FOMO may also be why people have been lining up at 7am every morning in front of the Dominique Ansel Bakery on Spring Street. They are waiting to buy this summer’s phenomenon – the Cronut. Developed by Chef Ansel and introduced in May, the Cronut is a doughnut shaped croissant. Every month the bakery offers a different flavor.
If you choose to wait on line, you can only purchase two at a time. You can also pre-order by phone for pick-up Monday morning. But as of this posting, they are already filled with orders through August 4th. Not really knowing all the details, I arrived one day after noon. Of course, the Cronuts were all gone by then and no more more were being re-baked that day. My friend rose to the challenge and arrived at Spring Street one morning at 7:30am to already find the line down the block. As it inched forward, she saw people leaving the bakery; going to the corner; and re-selling their Cronuts like scalped tickets! Turns out, she was the last person of the day to get a Cronut box.She saved the Cronuts for her daughter, a food blogger, who thought it was the best thing she had ever eaten. My friend had a croissant instead and found it very disappointing.
I’ll never know how good these are because no food is worth waiting on line for two hours. But I do think there could have been a great cross promotion this summer — wait on line for the Rain Room and when you get inside buy a Cronut.