Store offers taste of Middle East
Look at these raisins. The quality is incredibly different than in a supermarket, said Rosenfeld, as his wife, who is from the former Russian republic of Georgia, searched for Oriental dates. This is a very good store. We walk a good distance to come here.
Rosenfeld said he and his wife love to come to the gourmet food store at 97-22 Queens Blvd. for the imported nuts, dates, dried fruits and other goods that no other stores in the area carry.
Eat a Turkish pistachio and youll never eat a California pistachio again, Rosenfeld said. The taste difference is unbelievable.
The stores owner, Rahm Mizrahi, helped serve a continuous stream of customers on a busy weekday last week with nuts, bulk dark chocolate, white pearl Bulgarian Kashkaval cheese, Israeli dates, dried cranberries, fresh halvah sweets and gol gavzaban, a dried purple flower from Iran used to make tea that can be used as an aphrodisiac.
Everybody has a special ingredient that they use for cooking, Mizrahi, 43, said. If we dont have it in our store, we can get it for them.
Originally from Iran, Mizrahi, who speaks Farsi, Hebrew and English, came to this country with his brother in 1979 when he was 18 years old. He studied electrical engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and later worked as an engineer while his brother opened up Sunflower International Gourmet Foods, a specialty store that catered to people from Israel, Iran and all over the Middle East.
In 1996, Mizrahi moved to the city to help out with his brothers small business. Two years later, he took over the Rego Park store completely, while his brother opened up another Sunflower International Gourmet Foods store in Brooklyn.
In addition to selling fruits, nuts, cheeses and sweets, the store carries an extensive back section of spices used in Persian, Indian and Israeli dishes.
This is used in almost every food in Iran, said Mizrahi, holding up a bag filled with dried lemons. We use this in all soups and all stews, in goumeh sabzi, a mixed vegetable stew that smells so nice, people say they named the word gourmet after it.
The dried lemon is also available in powder form, near the stores bags of fennelgreek, whole sumac, whole mahlop, tarragon, esphard, esparzeh and khaksher.
One of the most expensive items in the store is saffron, a red spice that costs $25 per ounce from Spain and $35 per ounce from Iran.
Saffron is more expensive than gold, said Mizrahi, holding up a small black box containing the spice. You use just a little bit of it in cooking.
Another ingredient that is popular in Iranian dishes is pomegranate paste, which is used in fesingham, an Iranian stew that contains walnuts and chicken, Mizrahi said.
I find the store to have merchandise I couldnt find where I live, and the owners are very nice, said Arthur Laifer of Far Rockaway who has been coming to the store for more than two decades. Like this whole section of pickled foods, you couldnt find where I live.
For the Jewish New Year known as Rosh Hashanah, Mizrahis brothers store in Brooklyn is preparing a special jam made with squash for some Syrian customers. The store often takes special orders for holidays such as Rosh Hashanah and Christmas as well as Persian holidays, Mizrahi said.
The store is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to sundown on Friday. It is closed Saturdays. Special orders can be placed at 718-275-3800. http://www.timesledger.com/site/News.cfm?BRD=1079&dept_id=170343&newsid=10179721&PAG=461&rfi=9