Visiting America in 1794, the exiled French minister Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord declared, “The United States has 32 religions but only one dish.” The contents of that singular dish are lost in the mists of time, but if he vacationed in New York today, Chuck might be pleased to learn we’ve branched out a bit, aided by the introduction of goods and groceries from numberless other countries, even France: FAUCHON (1000 Madison Avenue, 212-570-2211) trades in bottled duck confit and boxed fleur de sel. In fact, specialty markets crowd us now.
In Manhattan, gourmet warehouses such as Zabar’s, Garden of Eden, and Fairway feature all sorts of importations—Scottish salmon, Belgian chocolates, Turkish delight. But more-compact stores concentrate on the victuals of a single nation. English cuisine may be a punchline the world over, but West Village provisioners MYERS OF KESWICK (634 Hudson Street, 212-691-4194) aren’t in on the joke. Aside from importing all manner of Cadbury chocs, thick-cut marmalades, and brown sauce, they also hand-make British foodstuffs. Cumberland sausages glisten in the display case, abutting steak and kidney pies, and Scotch eggs—those deep-fried amalgams of hard-boiled egg, ground meat, and bread crumbs.
Vegetarians in search of further terrors should make haste to Chinatown’s KAM MAN FOOD PRODUCTS (200 Canal Street, 212-571-0330), where hungry shoppers can be seen nibbling on spicy cows’ sinews. Besides doing a brisk trade in porcelain ware and ginseng varietals, Kam Man stocks a multitude of Asian groceries and prepared foods: Gourmets in search of Mt. Ali Grass Jelly (“It’s jelly for your belly”), lotus root starch, whole dried scallops, or fresh Singapore noodles and sweet-and-sour chickens’ feet will not leave empty-handed.
Chickens, footed or otherwise, are conspicuously absent at DOWEL QUALITY PRODUCTS (91 First Avenue, 212-979-6045), though sweet and sour are in abundance. In addition to stocking a full range of bottled chutneys and canned simmer sauces, Dowel packages legumes and seasonings under its own label, from the familiar (cinnamon, lentils) to the esoteric (dried rose petals, star anise, valerian root), all inexpensive. Costlier treats dwell in the depths of the Chelsea Market at BUONITALIA (75 Ninth Avenue, 212-663-9090). Pearls of great price such as fresh black and white truffles jostle with imported olive oils, organic pastas, artistic anchovies, and gleaming tapenades. As Talleyrand-Périgord might have said, “Bon appetit.”