nyculinaryfinds

Food treasures in New York City

“NY Culinary Finds” Visits Israel

Dried fruit at Mahane Yehuda

Dried fruit at Mahane Yehuda

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.

"Cakes" of halava in Machane Yehuda

“Cakes” of halva in Machane Yehuda

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.

Fresh chocolate rugeluch from Marzipan

Fresh chocolate rugeluch from Marzipan

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.

Thongs on display at the Carmel Market

Thongs on display at the Carmel Market

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.

Drying peanuts on a car hood on Levinsky Street

Drying nuts on a car hood on Levinsky Street

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.

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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.

Albert

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.

May 14, 2013 Posted by | Food, international, spices, stores, sweets | , , | 2 Comments

More Brooklyn-Grown Chocolate

Nunu Chocolates on Atlantic Avenue

Nunu Chocolates on Atlantic Avenue

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 assort

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.

nunu purchase

Assorted chocolate box

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.

May 8, 2013 Posted by | Food, stores | , | 3 Comments

A UN for Foods

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.EM outside

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.

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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 outside

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.

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May 1, 2013 Posted by | Food, international, stores | , , | Leave a comment

Taking the Subway to the Middle East

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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.

db anniv sign

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.

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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.

Dried beans and grains at Sahadis

Dried beans and grains at Sahadis

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.

Inside Oriental Pastry and Grocery

Inside Oriental Pastry and Grocery

April 24, 2013 Posted by | Food, international, spices, stores, sweets | , | 2 Comments

All Things Greek

Athens Square Park in Astoria

Athens Square Park in Astoria

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.

Titan Foods

Titan Foods

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.

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April 17, 2013 Posted by | Food, international, stores, sweets | , | 4 Comments

Pasta For Any Preference

Eataly on 23rd near Fifth Avenue

Eataly on 23rd near Fifth Avenue

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.

Making fresh pasta at Eataly

Making fresh pasta at Eataly

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.

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You can also find a variety of rices at Eataly — from short to long grains; and white, black and brown rices.

Black and white rices

Black and white rices

April 10, 2013 Posted by | Food, stores | , , | 2 Comments

Doughnuts Not Donuts

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.

Doughnut Planet on Grand Street

Doughnut Planet on Grand Street

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.

The mouth-watering display case

The mouth-watering display case

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!

My doughnut selection

My doughnut selection

April 3, 2013 Posted by | Food, stores, sweets | , | 4 Comments

Beyond Sushi

outside

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.

Chef Guy Vaknin making the special of the day

Chef Guy Vaknin making the special of the day

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.

One veggie and one fruit roll

One veggie and one fruit roll

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.

March 28, 2013 Posted by | Food, stores | , | 2 Comments

Matzo Making

Streit's factory on Rivington Street

Streit’s factory on Rivington Street

For anyone who went to a Jewish day school, like I did, there’s probably a warm memory of visiting a matzo factory around Passover time. Some years, we would go to see matzo made by hand in Williamsburg. But other years we went to the Streit’s factory on the lower east side. Aron Streit opened his first matzo factory in 1916. In 1925 he moved the business to where it stands now on Rivington Street. Today, Aron’s granddaughters and great-grandsons run the company.  Streit’s is the only family-owned and operated matzo factory in America

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Prior to Passover, the store and factory are open Monday-Friday. You can watch part of the matzo making process any time you visit. But, if you’d like to see the full process, then call ahead (212/475-7000) and arrange for a free tour. You can have a tour whether you’re one person or a group.

Streit's sells other products too

Streit’s sells other products too

There’s also a retail store at the factory location. At this time of year Streit’s offers a wide range of Kosher for Passover products including soups, sauces, candies, condiments and even potato chips. But they aren’t a Passover-only company. They sell many other products year round, both in their own store and in retailers around the country.

March 13, 2013 Posted by | Food, stores | , , | 2 Comments

Chocolate From Near And Far

Chocolate is a very personal thing. There are those who prefer milk over dark and others who want it as bitter as possible. Some want nuts, others seek the bite of something savory added in.  Fortunately, there are many places to find the chocolate to suit your taste. There are two that caught my fancy recently.

Chocolate bars from Mast Brothers

Chocolate bars from Mast Brothers

The first is Mast Brothers Chocolate located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. They are one of the few producers in the country, and the only one in the city, according to the New York Times, to make chocolate by hand from cacao beans they’ve roasted in their ovens.

Chocolate making at Mast Brothers

Chocolate making at Mast Brothers

What’s great about visiting their shop is to be able to watch the chocolate being made and sample some of their varied and interesting flavors

Spicy chocolate if you like a  real "bite"

Spicy chocolate if you like a real “bite”

You can also order the chocolate bars online but you’ll really miss out on the total experience.  Mast Brothers has been around for about 2 years. But a new chocolate kid on the block is the Japanese chocolate-maker, Royce’, which recently opened a store on Madison and 53rd.

The Royce store on Madison Avenue

The Royce’ store on Madison Avenue

At the small but sleek shop you can buy moderately priced boxes of chocolate, truffles and chocolate bars.

Bittersweet chocolate squares from Royce make a nice gift

Bittersweet chocolate squares from Royce’ make a nice gift

You can also find Royce’s signature chocolate covered popcorn and potato chips.

Royce' chocolate covered chips

Royce’ chocolate covered chips

February 25, 2013 Posted by | Food, stores, sweets | , , | 2 Comments