Friday, October 13, 2006
Weekend crowds at Sahadi's
I met my friend Margeaux on Atlantic Avenue this past Saturday so that we could go to Sahadi’s, one of my favorite food relates places to go in the city. Sahadi’s is kind of a Middle Eastern Balducci’s, for those of you who remember it, without all the pretension and definitely minus the high prices. Their dried fruits, nuts, coffee, and spices, displayed without frills in glass jars and burlap sacks, are some of the cheapest you’ll find. They are not lacking in variety either; they have raw, roasted, salted, unsalted, shelled, unshelled, and seasoned nuts. They have all the standard spices, pepper, basil, and oregano as well as Syrian and Lebanese spices and blends. They’re olive counter houses over a dozen varieties of olives, pickles and four types of feta cheese.
Did I say cheese? Lord have mercy! The cheese corner contains over a hundred assortments of cheese including fresh mozzarella, farm fresh cheddar, goat Gouda and Syrian and Lebanese cheeses that I’ve never seen anywhere else. In the back of the store there is a prepared food section where you can purchase, hummus, baba ghanoug, a selection of salads, and sun dried tomatoes.
As you head toward the registers you approach my favorite part of the store filled with huge jugs of olive oil, shelves of vinegar, mustards, and olive spreads. If you like jam, make sure to try mymoune, a brand of Lebanese jams including fig, strawberry, and mulberry. Yum! Closer to the register you will find an array of goodies including, huge chunks of Dutch dark, milk, and white chocolates for baking or just for eating, freshly cut Halvah, marzipan, and freshly baked baklava and pita from the very close by Damascus Bakery. To be honest with you, I rarely make it past this section of the store without purchasing at least a tiny piece of marzipan, or on my weaker days a hunk of luscious chocolate.
Needless to say, the store is very popular with Brooklyn locals and on evenings and weekends it can be found teaming with people. I myself hate crowds and make it a habit of going on weekday afternoons when there are virtually no line-ups. Unfortunately, Saturday, an hour before closing, was the only time that Margeaux and I could meet.
Margeaux was fashionably late so I waited outside the store and nerviously watched the store fill with shoppers eager to stock their pantries for the following week and to prepare for Saturday night dinner parties. I was getting anxious at the idea of squeezing and maneuvering the congested aisle ways. It seemed that hordes of people were entering the store yet only a few trickled out and I imagined the store slowly filling to its capacity then bursting like a balloon, showering the streets with the bitter sweet mist of almonds, cumin, and cocoa.
It was Margeaux’s first time at Sahadi’s and her eyes lit up with delight as we approached the overflowing bulk station, took a number, and stood aside for a substantial wait. I looked down at my number and pursed my lips with aggravation as an employee screamed out “NUMBER 37… 37….”; we were number 78. As I waited, I took in all the brilliant colors, wonderful smells, and breathtaking textures. I watched employees zipping and shuffling about the floor filling orders, and the energy and movement coupled with the blanket of layered conversation created a symphony for the senses. I released my clenched lips, and decided to enjoy the show.
The line went extremely quickly, in fact, and next thing you know our order was being filled and I had come up with a fabulous idea for a salad to make for dinner that night.
Having filled both of our baskets to the brim, we headed for the registers, successfully passing the enticing mounds of Dutch chocolate, the alluring array of Damascus pastries, and even the warm and fragrant stacks of freshly baked pita…well, that is until the woman behind the counter yelled out, “Pita bread three bags for a dollar, we must get rid of it, three for a dollar.” It was an offer we could not resist and we added to our load three bags of whole-wheat pita.
A quick trip to the produce store next door, and an interesting and eventful cab ride followed and we were at last at Margeaux’s humble abode where I was to attempt my newly inspired salad idea.
Not every time that I go to Sahadi’s is it such a momentous journey, but this Saturday’s visit was an event, one that I will hardly forget as it was the inspiration for the salad I have documented above. This one could even make it onto my Thanksgiving menu, or should I say “Gracias” Giving.
187 Atantic Avenue