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Chowing in New Armenia* (Fresno)


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Chowing in New Armenia* (Fresno)

Melanie Wong | Oct 20, 2008 10:45 PM

I didn’t get quite as early a start as I would have liked on Friday so hit town just before 6pm, checked in quickly, and then made a beeline to Karabakh deli to find some picnic fare. Luckily, it stays open until 7pm on weeknights. This leans more toward the Russian-Georgian influenced spectrum of Armenian eats. I bought a selection of cold cuts: four kinds of mortadella and Eureka bastirma from LA. I’d tried Ohanyan’s bastirma and soujuk before and wanted to taste another brand.

Then I headed over to Fresno Deli. Here I bought baba ganoush and stuffed grape leaves, which would hold well in the room fridge over night. They locked the door behind me.

The next morning I headed over to Viktoria’s Place, as the Bee had reported that it opened at 8:30am daily, but it was closed at that hour. I returned to Fresno Deli when we made our stop at Occasion Bakery for bread and picked up spiced braided Karoun string cheese, olives ($2.99/lb!), cucumbers, tarragon soda, and pomegranate juice.

Mediterranean Restaurant across the street wasn’t open in the morning. I’m sorry to miss out on trying the hummus, and wished I’d purchased it the night before.

My fellow travelers enjoyed our stop at Occasion Bakery. While we were waiting our turn, we had a peek at the bread baking in the oven and asked how much longer before the batch would be done. “Two minutes” . . . certainly worth waiting for the sesame topped berberi bread. I liked the spinach boureg better this time. But what turned out to be really special were the freshly baked mamoul cookies made with semolina, filled with dates and the even better, the pistachio ones. We also got the Saturday special of foul with garnishes. No tahini bread available this time.

In King’s Canyon we had a short hike (with a piece of the boureg in hand for sustenance) then picked a spot by the river for our Armenian repast. The bugs were fierce, so we grazed quickly and jumped back in the car. Our mortadella taste-off included the beef and pork Mikaelian mortadella, San Daniel plain mortadella from Canada, San Daniel garlic and pistachio mortadella, and a pale pink and rubbery Russian mortadella that no one liked. My favorite was the Mikaelian ($5.49/lb.), but the plain San Daniel was also popular. The Eureka brand bastirma had more garlic and spicing than the Ohanyan I’d tasted before. Interesting to try, but it just didn’t appeal to me either.

Other than those two cold cuts, we liked everything else quite fine. The stuffed grape leaves from Fresno Deli are different than any others I’ve had and I’ll certainly pick some up again. We were sorry that Occasion is closed on Sundays and that we couldn’t return for more. Thanks much to the ‘hounds for their advice.


* "I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of
unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have
crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go
ahead, destroy Armenia. See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or
water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia."

William Saroyan

Occasion Bakery
4573 N Fresno St, Fresno, CA

Fresno Deli
2450 E Gettysburg Ave, Fresno, CA 93726

Karabakh International Market
777 E Barstow Ave, Fresno, CA

Viktoria's Place
Herndon Ave and Ingram Ave, Fresno, CA

Mediterranean Restaurant
4631 N Fresno St, Fresno, CA 93726

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