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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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« Flyover Tastebuds? Talkin' About Pie »

Store Wed Feb 21 2007

Far Away Flavors Made Easy

So, you're going down your ingredients list at your favorite grocery store. You've grabbed the heavy-hitters like meats and veggies. You've got your supporting cast like starches and sauces. And there’s always that one egg. But then you get to the mood setters — the spices. Suddenly the needle scratches right off the record as you realize your perfectly planned meal has been sabotaged; by exorbitant prices if you're lucky or by a woeful selection if you aren't. Special spices and ingredients like tamarind, bulgur, sesame oil, tahini and exotic chilies can be hard to find at a reasonable price if you can find them at all.

Fear not ambitious gourmands, there are plenty of markets across Chicagoland that sell every obscure, but utterly necessary, ingredient your cookbook will ever call for. And at a fraction of the price you'll pay at the big chain stores. (They don't call it "Whole Paycheck" for nothing, right?) And consider this: exotic spices sold by specialty stores will be far fresher than ones sitting on a chain store shelf waiting for that one special shopper to come blow off the dust and take them home.

Chicago's ethnic markets are a superb place to track down these sultry essentials. Some suggestions can be found below the fold.

Patel Brothers (Indian) - 2542 W. Devon Ave.
For: spices, dry goods, produce, fresh and frozen items
Why: stands out for its spice and produce selection

Broadway Supermarket (Pan-Asian) - 4879 N. Broadway St.
For: produce, dry goods, cooking utensils & equipment, fresh & frozen items
Why: stands out because if its size and huge selection and (gasp!) parking lot

Golden Pacific (Asian, including many Korean items) - 5353 N. Broadway St.
For: produce, dry goods, cooking utensils & equipment, fresh & frozen
Why: stands out because it's well stocked and clean and yes, parking

Middle East Bakery & Grocery* (Middle Eastern) - 1512 W. Foster Ave
For: fresh breads, dips, nuts and dried fruits, spinach pies, baklava
Why: extensive spice selection, world class bread

Rogers Park Fruit Market (Latin) - 7401 N. Clark St.
For: specialties, fresh produce including many South American root vegetables
Why: uncommonly seen items and great spice selection

*These guys have supplied local Whole Foods stores with fresh baked breads, spinach pies and other Middle Eastern specialties since the early '90s. They sell the same items for a fraction of the price.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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