nyculinaryfinds

Food treasures in New York City

Turkish Breads

bagel

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.

Simit varieties available at Simit+Smith

Simit varieties available at Simit+Smith

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.

Poğaça (po-acha)

Poğaça (po-acha)

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.

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October 16, 2013 Posted by | Food, international | , | 2 Comments

Spices In the East Village

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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.

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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.

Make-your-own teabags

Make-your-own teabags

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.

September 11, 2013 Posted by | Food, international, spices, stores | , | 2 Comments

Sunnyside: A World’s Fair of Foods

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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.

BB store

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.

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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 store

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.

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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.

Beers at Superior Market

Beers at Superior Market

August 27, 2013 Posted by | Food, international, stores | | Leave a comment

Unexpected UES Source For Israeli Products

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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.

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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.

August 6, 2013 Posted by | Food, international, stores | , | Leave a comment

Israeli “Makolet” In NYC

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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.

Israeli breakfast cereals

Israeli breakfast cereals

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.

Israeli frozen treats

Israeli frozen treats

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.

July 30, 2013 Posted by | Food, international, stores | | Leave a comment

LIC Flea and Food

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If you’re looking for something fun to do one summer weekend, check out the newly opened LIC Flea & Food, not far from Vernon Boulevard and 46th Avenue in Long Island City. It’s easy to get to by subway and it’s open every weekend this summer from 10am-6pm. It feels more like an enclosed street fair than a flea market, and the food vendors take up at least half of the tents. You can find everything from gluten-free cookies and artisanal ice cream to local pizza and smokehouse barbecue.  There was a stand selling bibingka, “a new twist to the traditional Filipino dessert,” and one with a variety of pickles. There were two food vendors that I found were fun and different.

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The first was Ice Riders — shaved ice created in an environmentally friendly way. Shaved ice cones are Hawaiian-style snow cones with a finer shave than traditional snow cones. The Ice Riders create this finer shave by a bike-powered machine.  The ice is then flavored with a syrup of your choice or a combination, including blue raspberry, green apple, and Southern style sweet tea.

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The second was TornatoUSA, a spiral potato snack. A potato, or another vegetable is put on a stick and inserted into a machine that cuts it into a spiral. The potato is then dipped in a batter and deep fried. Tornato offers a wide variety of spices and sauces that are served with the spiral snack.

Different vendors may come on different weekends, so you never know what culinary surprise you may find.

July 3, 2013 Posted by | Food, international | , | Leave a comment

“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

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