Food treasures in New York City

You Say Potato, I Say Potato


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.


Yam crinkles

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.

November 26, 2013 Posted by | Food, stores | | 2 Comments

Bagel “Holes”

bagelsNew 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.

Bantam sign

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.

"Box Lunch," a plain bagel topped with crushed, roasted peanuts filled with peanut butter and sweet strawberry jam

“Box Lunch,” a plain bagel topped with crushed, roasted peanuts filled with peanut butter and sweet strawberry jam

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.

November 19, 2013 Posted by | Food, stores | | 3 Comments

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

Sunnyside: A World’s Fair of Foods


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

Krispy Treats

treat houseDo 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

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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.”

August 13, 2013 Posted by | Food, stores, sweets | | 2 Comments

Unexpected UES Source For Israeli Products

store front

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


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

Nolita Sweets

nol;ita map

Nolita (north of Little Italy), is a small neighborhood that is bounded on the east by the Bowery; the west by Lafayette Street; the north by Houston; and the south roughly by Broome Street. But it packs a wallop when it comes to food. There are many restaurants to try but I went there recently in search of Brazilian Gelato and discovered rice pudding too.


Located on Elizabeth Street near Prince, A. B. Biagi uses farm-fresh milk and sugar from Brazil to “spin gelato in a traditional vertical batch freezer, the Cavttabriga EFFE, the first of its kind in New York.”

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Antonio Barros Biagi, owner of the shop, first fell in love with gelato while growing up with his Italian family in the Brazilian countryside. Their gelato recipes were adapted to Brazil’s tropical weather, using local fruits and naturally lower fat milk to create lighter frozen desserts that could stand up to the heat. The store offers a range of flavors including: cinnamon, white chocolate, hazelnut and goat cheese with anise. You can also have Brazilian coffee.


On my way to Biagi’s I discovered a NY Culinary Find that I hadn’t been looking for — Rice To Riches. Located on Spring Street between Mulberry and Mott, this store only sells rice pudding.

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The pudding choices all have amusing names like: hazelnut chocolate bear hug, almond shalmond, coconut coma and , “category 5” caramel, among others. Owner Peter Moceo has put a lot of thought into every detail of the shop. The rice theme is brought to life from the front glass window to the shape of the plastic bowls the pudding comes in. A 4oz. bowl is available in 4 flavors but the average selling size is 8oz. When I was there, I saw groups ordering a 3-dish bowl for sampling and sharing. You can even order the rice pudding online for delivery the next day.

July 10, 2013 Posted by | Food, stores, sweets | , | 2 Comments

DIY “NY Culinary Finds” Tour: Williamsburg


Williamsburg is an eclectic Brooklyn neighborhood bordering on Greenpoint to the north and Bed-Stuy to the south. It is both gentrified and industrial, and has a diverse population of Hasidim, Latinos, and hipsters. Not surprisingly, there are many culinary finds in this neighborhood. While you can eat at a wide range of great restaurants, including the newly re-opened Motorino’s Pizza, our tour focuses on other culinary options. The best way to get to Williamsburg is to take the L train to Bedford Avenue, the first stop in Brooklyn.

Inside Handsome Dan's

Inside Handsome Dan’s

When you get out of the subway, you’ll be on Driggs Avenue. Head Northwest towards Bedford Avenue and turn left on Bedford Avenue until you reach218 Bedford Avenue (near North 5th Street). Head inside the mini-mall and find Handsome Dan’s. Like Economy Candy on the lower east side, Handsome Dan’s is a trip down candy memory lane. While Handsome Dan’s doesn’t offer the variety that Economy Candy has, it does sell refreshing snocones with unusual flavors like thyme dream, earl grey cream, orange blossom ginger, rose pomegranate, and chili passion fruit.

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So buy a snocone and continue down Bedford Avenue towards North 4th Street. On the other side of the street, at 229, you’ll find The Bedford Cheese Shop. While not quite the size of Murray’s Cheese in the Village, The 10-year old Bedford Cheese shop “works directly with farms in order to select cheeses at their perfect peak.” They also sell other interesting products that you might like to have along with your cheese, including flavored mayonnaise, fresh made ravioli, and chocolate cubes to melt into hot chocolate.

Chocolate bars from Mast Brothers

Chocolate bars from Mast Brothers

For locally produced chocolate, continue heading North towards North 3rd Street and make a right. Walk down the street to Mast Brothers at 111 North 3rd.  You can watch the chocolate bars being made which start with locally roasted cacao beans. And you can sample some the products before buying them. You can choose from interesting flavored bars, like ones with chili peppers; or you can choose pure bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate.

Sketchbooks at the Brooklyn Art Library

Sketchbooks at the Brooklyn Art Library

If you have time, don’t miss the Brooklyn Art Library just a few doors down from Mast Brothers at 103A North 3rd. The Brooklyn Art Library is home to the Sketchbook Project, a global, crowd-sourced art project. At the library you can look at sketchbooks submitted to the project from amateurs and professionals; young and old; from nearby Brooklyn to China and Russia. It’s a rare opportunity to not only see an eclectic assortment of art but also to hold it in your hands.

From here, you have two options: If you like walking, you can walk to the Williamsburg Bridge (15 min from where you are) and over the bridge into Manhattan’s lower east side. Or you can head back to the subway station. Either way, you want to turn around and go back to Bedford Avenue.

To walk over the Williamsburg Bridge make a right on Bedford Avenue and keep walking until you reach South 6th Street where you’ll see an entrance to the bridge. When you get to the other side you’ll be on Delancy street. If you walk a few blocks on Delancy you’ll reach the F train or continue onto to Allen Street where you’ll find buses.

To return to the L train make a left on Bedford Avenue and head towards North 7th Street.


July 1, 2013 Posted by | culinary tours, Food, stores | | 2 Comments

DIY “NY Culinary Finds” Tour: Lower East Side

Last time I described a DIY NY Culinary Tour that took you through the west side of Manhattan. Here’s another DIY tour that gives you a taste of some NY culinary finds on the lower east side of Manhattan. The MTA trip planner can help you choose the best way for you to get there.

East Houston Street

Start your tour at Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery at 137 East Houston Street between 1st (which becomes Allen Street south of Houston) and 2nd Avenue. Yonah_Shimmel_Knish_BakeryThe store has been selling knishes since 1890 and looks like it hasn’t changed much since then. There are communal tables with cups filled with mismatched cutlery and plastic table clothes — all part of the charm. You can order knishes filled with potatoes, including sweet potatoes; kasha; or vegetables, like mushrooms, broccoli, spinach or cabbage. If knishes aren’t your thing, move on to Russ & Daughters, just down the block at 179 East Houston.


A family-owned business that’s been around since 1914, Russ & Daughters is your quintessential “appetizing” store. Inside you’ll find counters with cheeses, breads, and pickled, smoked and cured fishes all made in-house.

Now it’s time to leave East Houston and head south east to Rivington Street. Walk down East Houston until Allen Street (transformed from 1st Avenue South of East Houston). Make a right and walk South to Rivington Street. At Rivington make a left and head to Economy Candy at 108 Rivington.

Economy Candy

Economy Candy

As I wrote back in March,  Economy Candy is known as “The Nosher’s Paradise of the Lower East Side.” It’s been around since 1937 and sells hundreds of kinds of chocolates, candies, nuts, dried fruits; including halvah and candy I remember from childhood. There are traditional American products, like M&M’s and Bazooka bubblegum, as well as candies from other countries like Japan and Israel. You can buy candy and nuts by the pound or individual items you crave.

Streit's factory on Rivington Street

Streit’s factory on Rivington Street

While you’re on Rivington Street, you can also visit Streit’s Matzo Factory and Store, located at #148-154. But call ahead (212-475-7000) because their hours change when it’s not peak Passover time.

pickle guys

If you’re not going to visit Streit’s then from Economy Candy at 108 Rivington, head east towards Essex Street until you reach The Pickle Guys at #49 — it’s just beyond Grand Street. If you know your lower east side culinary history, then you’ll recognize this spot as the former location of Gus’s Pickles. The pickles from “The Pickle Guys” taste as good and you can still point to each barrel to choose the ones you want.

Your next two stops are practically side-by-side, so turn around and go back to Grand Street and make a right, heading east.

The first is Kossar’s Bialys at 367 Grand Street, another store that has been on the lower east side for years (65 approximately). Kossar’s is famous for their bialys but they also make bulkas (like heroes), pletzels, and sesame sticks. In 1998, they also started baking bagels.  If you can, get one of these hot from the oven.

If sweets are more to you liking, then two doors down, at 379 Grand Street, is Doughnut Plant.  As I wrote in April, Doughnut Plant is nothing like your typical “donut” shop. They offer both yeast-based and cake-like doughnuts with fruit, chocolate and many other kinds of fillings. I’m partial to their blackout chocolate cake doughnut. Buy some for your next day’s breakfast.

There are many ways to get home from the lower east side. If you live on the east side, walk west on Grand, back to Allen Street and make a left. There, you’ll find the M101 Limited/Express bus which goes up First Avenue. Or you can find nearby subways. If you still have energy, you can cross over Allen Street and you’ll be at the tail end of Chinatown.

The Next DIY “NY Culinary Finds” tour will take you to Brooklyn’s Williamsburg section.

June 27, 2013 Posted by | Food, stores | | 1 Comment