Sunday, January 13, 2008
Due to our dependence on good Middle Eastern yogurt -- none of that hippy-dippy Mountain High (snort) stuff for us! -- I hit the Middle Eastern market on a regular basis. It's also a great place to buy cheap herbs, nuts, and lamb, to say nothing of weird-ass Mediterranean products that once you've tasted you can't live without (sour cherry syrup, carrot jam, turnip pickles, dried barberries...).
My usual place is the Upland Farmers Market at the corner of Mountain and Foothill. Don't let the name fool you; it isn't a farmers market by any stretch of the imagination. Only when you get inside do you realize that it's a Middle Eastern grocery, complete with a halal meat counter, a full range of Middle Eastern cooking implements, and a corner of the store devoted to dried spices you never heard of.
The same goes double for Basha, on Arrow and Sunflower in Covina: double the size, double the meat counter, double the everything (although their produce isn't as nice -- the UFM owner grows some of the tomatoes himself). Both stores are conveniently close to a Big Lots, aka the Palace of Heavenly Crap.
Yesterday I was in a rush. I'd told friends I'd bring a veg and a dessert to dinner, and I hadn't really left myself enough time for everything. There I am, driving up Garey toward Target, thinking, "Dang, do I have time to get to either UFM or Basha?" when I look over into the Aladdin shopping center (on Garey between Grove and Drake) and notice a sign for halal meat. Screeching brakes, sharp turn, full speed ahead!
Food Bargains is about as unprepossessing looking as a market can get from the outside; the Pomona Ranch Market on White and Arrow looks more inviting (and that's a real cesspit inside). But once you get inside, it's a decent little Middle Eastern market. The selection is really small (only two brands of yogurt), and they don't carry much in the way of the usual fresh herbs, but it will meet all your basic Middle Eastern needs -- and the prices are good.
I should note that the selection is small with one exception: dates. They got 'em comin' out the ears. I'd guess a full quarter of the store is dates of various sizes and species, fresh and dried. All I can guess is that the owner has family down in Indio along Highway 111 on the way to the Salton Sea, where there are all those date farms and date-shake stands.
The pikkie is of barberries, aka zereshk. Delicious in rice.