in my search for Rt 17 haunts - last week I stumbled on Jim Leff's article "The Most Amazing Food Store in the World" on the International Food Warehouse in New Jersey - so decided to make a stop this past Friday - here's my report...
I've driven by this place 100 times and always thought it had bulk quantities of the type of items National Wholesale liquidators on Broadway and Houston have on their food isle (overstock, or cancelled stock items form mostly euro chocolates and biscuits companies) - boy was I wrong! Jim Leff's article describes my first 30 minutes exactly. overwhelming does not describe it. although I was determined to stick to a hand basket - this idea was abandoned in 10 minutes. I had to quickly decide on a strategy because you simply can not take it all in in one visit. my plan was to focus on snacky/package ready food items we could try over the weekend versus cooking items (and save all the spices, curries, masalas, hot sauces, tomato sauces, canned stuff, etc for the next visit) just to give you an idea of the time warp you go into when you enter this store... since we have a 2 hour ride upstate, we planned to spend about 30 minutes here and quickly get back on the road; 2 hours later at 9:30 we got back in our car (we did not have a watch on and really though we had only gone a little over a plan...) 2 hours had disappeared!?
- about half of what I got was awesome, and unusual or hard to find, and I would go back for again. but next time I will do better because I learned some lessons
- some amazing stuff to be found - but you have to look hard, shop smart and be selective (avoid impulse buying)
- avoid bulk/large quantity items that are very cheap (all our "misses" fell in this category, large tubs of jam from Poland for $3, for example, but we could have been smarter - the experience, and cute packaging took over our senses)
- some hard to find American items can also be found at great prices
- seemed like I saved at least $1 on every familiar item and lots of great deals on new finds!
Here's our favorite finds:
- Mors Original Wonder Berry (Russia) - $2.99 for large carton (couldn't find weight) Wow, a delicious fruit juice made only out of "the fruits of the forest" in Russia - Cranberries, Blueberries and Blackberries: rich, tart and fruity with a subtle earthy taste of the forest (as promised on label). I'd have to go back for this alone if nothing else!
- Lazzaroni Bittersweet Chocolate bar with Amaretti di Saronno Crumbles (Italy) - $1.39 for large 3.2 oz bar - this item also guarantees my return to the warehouse! an excellent dark chocolate with crushed amaretto cookies (gives it a slight almond flavor and delicate crispy texture, like a gourmet nestles crunch!) I'm a dark chocolate freak and this about the best bar I've ever had! and I'd never seen this brand/flavor before.
- Baliene Sea Salt (France) $2.97 for large 25.5 oz container
- Sylvia's Flapjack batter $ .99 (had it for breakfast, an EXCELLENT pancake batter, just add water. going back for 10 more!)
- Toschi Sour Cherry Syrup (Italy) 19 oz large bottle - $4.59 - beautiful package. a splash in seltzer makes the best cherry soda I've ever had!
- Dried Apricot paste from Damascus, Syria (just like a giant fruit roll up) - $1.97 for 17.5 oz! (about 1 ft by 2 ft when unfolded). great packaging! simple ingredients but nice bright apricot flavor and soft/but chewy texture - apricots, Sugar, Glucose, Olive oil, and sulfur dioxide for preservative (US dried apricots always contain this)
- Vanilla/Plain Malt Flavor Ovaltine - have not seen this in 20 years! $3.29 for large
- Apollo Tyropita - 3 cheese filo appetizers/frozen - $3.97 for a package of 12 (very good, crisp filo, not oily, tasty cheese inside, would serve at party).
- Gundelsheim Choucroute au Vin Blanc (sauerkraut with wine, from Germany) $1.47 for a 10.5 oz can (ingredients listed as "sauerkraut and wine" ) best canned sauerkraut I have ever had, very thinly sliced, crisp and a wonderful flavor
- Hengstenber Mustard (Germany) - $2.77 for medium sized jar. this is a yellow, sharp, German mustard (very simple/basic ingredients) but the kicker is that it comes in a very nice white ceramic crock with a stencil in green of the town of Hengstenber going around the entire jar!
- Roland Sliced Mangos (Thailand) - $ .99 for 15 oz can (ingredients: mangos, sugar, water) - tender and good mango flavor, has canned fruit taste (like all canned fruit) would be nice in marinade or salad
- Cortas Pomegranate concentrate (Lebanon) - $2.57 10 oz bottle (ingredients: pomegranates) - excellent concentrated pomegranate syrup. very tart and flavorful - reminds me of tamarind concentrate, but tastier, good in drink or sauces
We also picked up a bunch of well rated wine in under $10 category (nothing much else to be found) each were about $1 cheaper than we've paid at discount wine stores, like...
- Parallele "45" Cotes du Rhone - $7.97 (usually around $9)
- Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir - $5.97 (usually around $7)