Food treasures in New York City

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

“Rugelach By A Brother”

Mr. Alvin Lee Smalls

Mr. Alvin Lee Smalls

Rugelach, those crescent filled sweet pastry, are the best known and most popular of all Ashkenazic baked goods in America, according to Gil Marks, author of the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food  But some of the best in the city can be found at Lee Lee’s Baked Goods in Harlem. Its owner, Alvin Lee Smalls, who is also the baker, is known affectionately as “Lee Lee,” or “Mr. Lee.” He’s been baking for 50 years; first by running the bakery at New York Hospital and then 19 years ago opening his own bakery.

Scaffolding hides the front of Lee Lee's Baked Goods at 238 West 118th Street

Scaffolding hides the front of Lee Lee’s Baked Goods at 283 West 118th Street

While Lee Lee sells a variety of baked goods, people come from near and far for his buttery “rugelach by a brother,” as he calls them. Why rugelach? He told me that he saw a recipe in the newspaper many years ago and decided to give them a try. He baked them over and over again until he found just the right flavor and texture. He wouldn’t share his special ingredients but said when he retires he hopes to publish a cookbook and all will be revealed then.

Trays of apricot rugelach

Trays of apricot rugelach

Lee Lee bakes 3 flavors of rugelach — apricot, chocolate and raspberry — but call ahead to see what’s available on any given day. You can also order them online.

February 18, 2013 Posted by | Food, stores, sweets | , | 3 Comments

Stimulating Your Senses in Chinatown

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There are many wonderful things about visiting Chinatown. You truly feel transported to a different place. The sights, smells and sounds of the streets are so stimulating. Many people go to Chinatown for a meal at one of the many authentic Chinese restaurants. I like to go and walk the streets; looking into windows or admiring a display of fresh produce or seafood; as if the whole neighborhood was one big museum. But there are two stores I enjoy re-visiting each time I’m in the area.

New KM store

The New Kam Man Store, at 200 Canal Street, was founded in the early 1970s, and according to their website, was the  first and largest Asian supermarket in Chinatown.  On the first floor the store offers an array of Asian food products.

Soy sauce and hot sauce varieties

Soy sauce and hot sauce varieties

I love the second floor even better where there are rows and rows of bowls for rice, teapots and teacups, chopsticks and dipping bowls.

KM 2nd floor

There are also loose teas and teabags for every tastebud, containers for carrying dumplings, and bamboo mats for rolling sushi.

tea spoons at KM

Ceramic spoons for holding tea bags

Another store I love returning to is Aji Ichiban (at 37 Mott Street), a confectionery store which is part of a Hong Kong based company .

aji ichiban

It’s a relatively small store with everything from packaged candies to loose dried fruits, nuts, and other exotic items

inside AI

On top of each case, there are samples to try and clear cellophane bags to fill up with the things you like.nuts and dried fruit at AI

This time, I chose dried honey ginger to sample.honey ginger at AI

January 15, 2013 Posted by | Food, international, stores, sweets | | 2 Comments

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