August 27, 2012

123 Lexington Avenue, New York, New York

Last Wednesday, I attended a portion of the 2012 Obama Classic, a basketball fundraiser in New York City benefitting President Barack Obama's re-election campaign. The schedule details of that event were fuzzy at best until the day right before and when they were finally released with an apparent 4 p.m. finish, I thought I might have a little time to kill before my 6:45 p.m. train home. Turns out I was right. What better way to spend it than with a quick trip over to Kalustyan's on Lexington Avenue between 28th and 29th Streets? I needed some supplies anyway.

What is Kalustyan's? Well quite simply, it's THE one stop shopping destination for all foods dried, canned, jarred, bottled and more and if there's anything in this world that might rival my fanaticism for the Washington Wizards, it's my love of food (notice I said "if" and "might" in that sentence). There are so many wonderful products from mustards to spices to seasonings to sauces to oils and more packed into this tiny store; just everything you could want, except maybe habanero and chipotle flakes, which are mysteriously absent. And you just can't find all this stuff in one spot in the Washington DC area. Not like this; no way! I'll add it to my list of reasons why New York is just the greatest city in America. Although honestly, I still don't want to live there.

This is about a quarter of the spice section at Kalustyan's.
I first discovered Kalustyan's in late 2010. I cracked open a recipe book that fall and decided to make tacos al pastor, a dish which required 40 guajillo, 20 ancho and 20 pasilla chiles. Since I couldn't imagine traipsing round to grocery store after grocery store in northern Virginia in search of that many chiles, I opened up Google and searched for spice stores in New York. I was headed up to the Big Apple a couple of weeks later with my friends Mike and Bryan and decided I could wait that long to make the al pastor. That first trip I think I spent about $100 on chiles, chile powder and Mexican oregano. The irony is that I never did make tacos al pastor. But I've kept returning to Kalustyan's.

Venturing into Kalustyan's is like an event for me. I could go in, grab what I need, and split but what would be the fun in that? I think it's amazing to just wander around the store and check out everything that man uses to make food, some of which I would never ever buy or use, but I'm sure I buy things some others would never use. On this trip, I checked out the selection of fish sauce, bulk salts and pickled vegetables. Who knew there were this many types of fish sauce? Sometimes I wonder how long some of this stuff has been on their shelves. There's actually one part of the store which has a dead end passage that you have to turn sideways to walk down. It's just not wide enough to walk straight ahead. I didn't go down there; afraid of getting stuck maybe.

The object of my desire!
But ultimately, I had to get what I came for: a very large jar of hot mango chutney and some ancho chile powder (because you can never have enough ancho chile powder). This chutney is the nuts. If you ever come across it, grab some. I've been eating it in tacos: warmed flour tortillas with ancho cumin chicken thighsa smear of the chutney and some homemade pickled onions. You get warmth from the tortillas and chicken, heat from the chicken and chutney, sweetness from the chutney and a sour crunch from the onions. And it's really quick and cheap too. I should be set with the 40 oz jar of chutney for a few months at least. The last 10 oz jar I bought disappeared in less than two months. And of course I impulse bought on the way out. I can always put lime pickle and Mexican chocolate to use, right?

Before I left, though, I had to wait for the cashier at checkout because she was talking someone through a recipe on the phone in Indian. Love this place!

The final haul: 40 oz jar of hot mango chutney, ancho chile powder, Mexican chocolate and a jar of lime pickle.

No comments:

Post a Comment