A few year's ago my friend, Sarah, visited me in Ann Arbor. Her friend and her friend's college friend (both Penn State alumni) happened to coming to Ann Arbor that very same weekend to watch Penn State play Michigan in football. Having a big house all to myself I invited them to also stay at my house and the four of us had a lot of fun making dinner together and hanging out.
Knowing that I love to cook, one of ladies, who was from New York, mentioned that next time I was in New York I should really go to Kalustyan's as she was sure that I would love it. Of course I went on my next trip to the city and ever since I've made it a tradition to stop there every time I am in New York.
Kalustyan's is a specialty food shop that has all sorts of wonderful goodies, especially from India and the Middle East. The narrow aisles are lined floor to ceiling with just about every dry good imaginable. On top of the wonderful selection the prices are really great as well.
The best part of Kastulyan's for me is the amazing selection of bulk spices sold by the bag. The store smells amazingly fragrant with all of the spice smells mingling together.
Frank likes Kastulyan's because it is the only place other than a few expensive online sites that he has been able to buy smoked paprika, which is a staple in his cooking. Just as an example of the extensive selection of spices, the picture below is only showing different types of paprika that Kastulyan's stocks.
Although we could have easily bought out the store, Frank and I settled on getting two large bags of smoked paprika, pickling spice and some chia seeds. I've never made anything with chia seeds before but I thought they would be fun to try.
Before leaving Frank and I headed upstairs for a stop at the deli. Along with olives and cheeses, they also have a selection of vegetarian and meat options that make a great lunch.
Frank and I shared a combination plate of chick peas, grape leaves, a samosa and kasseri cheese. We enjoyed our delicious food while sitting in the window overlooking Lexington Avenue.
The most surprising thing happened after we had paid for our spices and headed outside to hail a taxi. Although I have been to Kalustyan's several times I never noticed before that there was a New York Historical Society plaque outside providing a little background to the building.
It turns out that at that spot on September 20, 1881 Chester A. Arthur took the oath of office to become the 21st President of the United States after President James A. Garfield was assassinated. William Randolph Hearst (inspiration for the famous movie, Citizen Kane) also later lived in the building. Fabulous spices and some history, too!
If you are in New York and love to cook I would definitely recommend a stop at Kalustyan's located at 123 Lexington Avenue. At the time of this writing the hours are Mondays - Saturdays 10am-8pm, Sundays/Holidays 11am-7pm.