Food treasures in New York City

Spices In the East Village

store front

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

“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.


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

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

“Bespoke” Spices at La Boîte

lior spice making1

Lior Lev Sercaz making spices

Inspired by his passion for spices, and the stories they tell, Lior Lev Sercaz began La Boîte á Epice in 2006. The store located in Hell’s Kitchen, offers 40 unique spice blends like “Luberon,” a blend of lavender, basil and fennel; “Marrakesh,” a mix of cumin, cinnamon and thyme; or “Galil,” a blend of verbena, white cardamom and sage; inspired by Sercaz’s native Israel.

"Coquelicot" - a blend of poppy seeds, lemon and mustard

“Coquelicot” – a blend of poppy seeds, lemon and mustard

You can purchase the spices online but visiting the store is worth the trip. The spices are more costly than your typical supermarket brand but they offer a totally different and unique taste experience.With Sercaz’s guidance you can pick a spice that suits your tastes, or he might create a blend uniquely for you. Not only is it an aromatic experience but your other senses are stimulated as well. La Boîte also sells seasonal selection of biscuits “inspired by cultural events, personal reflections and a very special ingredient – art.” Each season the biscuits come in a special box designed by a featured artist. The artist’s work is then displayed gallery-style in the shop. The Fall 2012-Winter 2013 collection is called “Pure, Real Taste,” and features the work of photographer, Thomas Schauer.

Located at 724 11th Avenue, the store is opened Wednesday-Friday, 3:00-7:00pm.

February 5, 2013 Posted by | Food, spices | , | 1 Comment

Kalustyan’s: Global Selection of Spices and Sweets

If you’re looking for fenugeek seeds, vindaloo paste, dried porcini mushroom, green rice, or you just want your senses stimulated, then you must visit Kalustyan’s Spices and Sweets located at 123 Lexington Avenue (at 28th Street).

Kalustyan’s in Little India

K. Kalustyan opened this specialty food store in 1944, with a focus on Indian spices and groceries. When he passed away, the ownership and management was turned over to Marhaba International Inc. and the company added products from more than 30 countries — from Japan and China to Greece and Israel, and from Australia and England to Thailand and Vietnam.

Some of the products you’ll find at the store include: 180 varieties of tea, 30 varieties of dried whole chiles, 18 different kinds of ghee, and over 400 kinds of spices.

Spice room

Here are some other enticing products you can choose from at Kalustyan’s:

Salts of all colors and coarseness

Hot sauces from around the world

Dried beans for stews or soups

The store is opened Monday-Saturday 10am-8pm and Sundays and holidays from 11am-7pm

Luscious cinnamon sticks available as you check out

November 27, 2012 Posted by | Food, international, spices, sweets | , , | Leave a comment