A Guide To Specialty Food Stores

From Andouille To Ziti

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Looking for andouille sausage, fresh hoja santa leaves, pickled ginger, coating chocolate or pomegranate molasses? It's all available here in Albuquerque at one of our many specialty purveyors. These little mom 'n' pop shops allow us to dip our toes in the cuisines of the world without spending a fortune on airfare. Clip out this handy directory and refer to it anytime you find yourself agonizing over where to find Rocky Mountain oysters.

Talin Oriental Grocery

TaLin is the grandmother of all ethnic grocery stores in Albuquerque. Though the store once stocked exclusively Asian ingredients, the merchandise has become decidedly more global over the years. On our most recent visit we discovered an abundance of Indian, Latin American and Middle Eastern Ingredients alongside familiar Chinese candies, Japanese snacks, Korean condiments, Vietnamese noodles and Thai sticky rice. The freezer section and produce departments are unbeatable for the breadth and depth of unfamiliar ingredients so set aside at least an hour for your first trip. Soon TaLin will move into a new home, the big International Marketplace the owners are building at the corner of Louisiana and Central.

Din Ho Oriental Market

You'll have to look closely to spot Din Ho in the row of shops at Montgomery and San Pedro, but do look because you won't want to miss this little store. The focus is on sushi and here you'll find the city's best selection of imported ceramic tea sets, serving plates, wasabi bowls and ginger/wasabi graters. The chopstick shelf alone will plunge you into indecision with an overwhelming number of sets. And who knew there were so many different kinds of nori (the dried seaweed leaves used to wrap sushi rolls)? Stock up with a tub of pickled ginger and a tube, tin or packet of wasabi. Throw some sticky sushi rice, barbecued eel and sushi-grade frozen tuna into that basket. It's time for a sushi party! On your way to the register consider picking up a couple bags of rice cracker snack mix and a box or two of Pocky sticks for dessert.

B. Riley Fresh Herbs

Owner Dawn Garcia Tran says that she when she took over B. Riley about a year ago she was a little concerned about trying to fill the shoes of the company's late founder, Dale Porterfield. But she says she's learned a tremendous amount in the past year, becoming familiar with the array of exotic produce and ingredients that the company specializes in. From fresh herbs (basil to hoja santa), exotic mushrooms (French horns, morels), fruits (star fruit, persimmons) to heirloom beans, chiles, oils vinegars and cheeses, B. Riley is the source New Mexico chefs count on for hard-to-find edibles. Because they do more wholesale than retail business the place feels more like a warehouse than a shop but if you need squash blossoms, a cup of Anasazi beans or absolutely fresh passion fruit call Donna and see what she's got.

The Specialty Shop

It's a wonder this place isn't made of gingerbread with candy cane columns and poured-sugar windows. Because inside you'll find everything you might ever need to make magically delicious sweet things. They've got cookie cutters, cake pans, sprinkles in every color of the rainbow, doilies, lollipop molds, candy boxes, wedding cake supplies and pretty much anything else you can think of. The best part is that you can go up to the counter with a random object and say, “Hi, I'm thinking of making [insert name of wickedly difficult, obscure sweet here]. What do I need for that?” They'll hook you up with all the proper ingredients and then ask if you need a recipe. If you do they'll tear it out of a three-ring binder and give it to you for free. Now that's service.

Tully's Italian Deli & Meats

This small Italian delicatessen is jam-packed with enough imported and domestic meats, cheeses and specialty items to turn any kitchen into an authentic cucina Italiana. At the meat counter you'll find fresh prosciutto, salami, house-made sausage, a variety of veal, beef and pork cuts, while the freezer holds rabbit, lamb shanks, veal bones and delicacies like New Jersey's favorite Taylor Pork Roll. Their cheeses run the gamut from humble staples like parmesan, pecorino romano and fresh mozzarella to fancier formaggio like fontina, gorgonzola and locatelli. They also make their own prepared food items like pesto and cannoli filling. But what really sets Tully's apart from other places is the eager-to-help, super-knowledgeable staff.

Alpine Sausage Kitchen

Ya gotta love a place that makes its own hot dogs. Properly known as Vienna sausages, they're just one of the more than 25 different kinds of sausages made at this 30-year-old neighborhood shop. Also popular are the andouille (used for gumbo) and white bratwurst (made with pork and veal), though you'll naturally be curious about Alpine's head cheese (not nearly as gross as it sounds) and blood and tongue sausage (ditto). Look for house-smoked hams and bacon, several kinds of Black Forest ham, roast beef, pastrami and European cheeses. If you have to wait in line use your time to scan the shelves for gooseberry jam, German pickles, Norwegian breads and other Northern European delicacies. Don't forget to ask about the beef jerky and beef sticks.

Keller's Farm Store

Why do we love Keller's? For starters, they have an abundance of weird cuts of meat from a menagerie of animals. We're talking Rocky Mountain oysters, hearts, tongues, sweetbreads, brains, gizzards, neck bones, shanks, livers, ox tails, tripe and feet. Then you've got your beef, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb, veal, quail, pheasant, ostrich, rabbit, goose, duck, Cornish hen, elk and bison to choose from. All of the meats they carry are natural, meaning that most of the animals were raised here in New Mexico or Colorado without the use of antibiotics, hormones or growth stimulants, and were fed only vegetarian feed. The funny thing is, despite their wild abandon for all things meaty, Keller's also sells an impressive variety of foods that cater to people with special dietary needs. Appealing items for vegans, vegetarians, diabetics and those with wheat allergies are tucked away into every corner of the store. England, France and Germany are well represented in terms of cheese and specialty dry goods and, yeah, they've got lots of organic products, too.

Middle East Bakery

When Mustafa Musleh bought this grocery, bakery and restaurant last summer he not only gave it a fresh look, he updated the menu and the grocery selection. In the front of the store you'll find unusual dried beans and spices sold in bulk, across from shelves stocked with Middle-Eastern fruit jams, vegetables, pickles, pomegranate syrup and flower waters. Refrigerated cases offer tubs brimming with olives and imported feta cheeses. Farther back, freezers contain halal meats. Halal meats (similar to kosher meats) are produced by slitting the throat of an animal, a process that should calm any lingering Mad Cow fears. Look for ground beef, beef stew meat and all sorts of cuts of lamb. The bakery also bakes pita in house. It's freshest right before lunch so try to do your shopping around 11 a.m. when you can enjoy a piece of the puffy flatbread with some chicken shawarma and zippy tabbouleh.

Also Check Out:

• A-Ri-Rang Oriental Market (1826 Eubank NE, 255-9634) for Korean and Japanese staples and a lunch counter where you can pick up a hot snack while you shop.

• 99-B Supermarket 5315 Gibson SE (268-2422) rivals TaLin for its huge selection of produce, seafood, oriental groceries and housewares. Don't miss the deli.

• Zenith African Market (4514 Central SE, 792-3221), a tiny place with a few shelves of mostly West African imports. Ask about goat meat from the freezer.

• All the Americas (6001 San Mateo NE, 883-0994) offers foodstuffs from Central and South America, most notably a freezer full of frozen tropical fruit purées.

• India Palace restaurant (4410 Wyoming NE, 271-5009) has a little grocery section to one side where they stock Indian spices, lentils, rice, frozen goat meat and more. India Kitchen (6910 Montgomery NE, 884-2333) has a smaller selection of the same.

• Nantucket Shoals (5415 Academy NE, 821-5787) is just down the road from Whole Foods but often stocks items that the big store's seafood department does not. Call or stop in for fresh fish, soft shell crabs, roe, compound butters and more. Ask about the house-made fish stock.

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