After the little conversation below about finding Asian and other markets, I thought I should mention again (the last time got buried deep in a thread on another topic, and besides, I'm much more sure of it:)
I trust Zagat's Market Guide. This is entirely distinct from the Zagat's restaurant guide. Actually, a lot of people don't even know this thing exists. This is their guide to cheese shops, delis, ethnic groceries, regular groceries, cooking supply shops, etc.
Let me note: I hate the Zagat's restaurant guide. I despise it. The LA version at least. Relentlessly astray. Burn. Etc. No need to say more.
Zagat's Market Guide, on the other hand, is consistently on the money. I was just noting that, after the cheese shop thread and the asian market thread, every thing mentioned I'd found a year ago as recc'd places in the Zagat's Market Guide.
Theory as to why Zagat's Market is great and Zagat's Restaurant is terrible:
1. Zagat's is a survey. Only as good as the taste of the people. (That's why LA Restaurant) Zagat's is the worst of any I've used. This leads to:
2. Sample selection: most restaurant goers in LA are trend-happy numbnuts. But hard-core cooks? The people who would write in to express their favorite spice shop? Tend to be a much more hard-core crowd.
3. Markets don't get caught up very much in the Scene.
4. Less subjectivity in judgment. A well stocked cook-ware store is a well-stocked cook-ware store. Fresh spices are fresh spices - it's hard to miss the difference between fresh and unfresh.
5. Smaller # of things to judge.
And, in the end, while one might disagree with their fine-grain distinctions between one and another, there's pretty much only a handful of Italian markets in town, and they're all in there. So yeah.