Ninth Avenue international, the greek foods store right behind the port authority bus terminal, is filled with dazzling displays of nuts, legumes, grains, olives, spices, cheeses and olive oil at rock-bottom prices.
The grocery selection is wonderful - no questions - but for an immediate goodness fix, head directly to the counter and ask for a container of taramosalata.
Sam Karamouzis, the owner of the store and the creator of its dips, has acquired a cult following among both home cooks and professional chefs. Basing it on the traditional recipe, he has devised what the chef Rick Moonen calls "the world's best taramosalata". Mr.Moonen, an owner of the highly regarded Greek restaurant Molyvos, in Manhattan, got his recipe for taramosalata from Mr.Karamouzis. The restaurant version is similar - except in price. At Molyvos, an appetizer-size serving is $3.50. At the store, it's $4 a pound.
What makes it so special? "Well" Mr.Karamouzis allowed, " Maybe the secret is the seltzer." A spritz of seltzer transforms what can be a heavy, thick paste into a lightand creamy blend of yogurt, orange carp roe, potato, onions, bread, almonds, olive oil and lemon juice. The ingredients in this dip, like all in the store, are fresh and superb: they include extra-virgin Greek olive oil and fresh, Whole-milk yogurt that is a blend of cow's milk and sheep's milk yogurts. Add raw vegetables and pita bread and you have a party.
In the gritty shadows of the Port Authority terminal, this small Hell's Kitchen market specializes in imported spices, staples and delicacies for the adventurous home cook. On a table adjacent to the cash register, a ceramic jar of Indonesian octopus (a favorite of renowned foodie David Rosengarten) sits within tentacle’s reach of an open carton of bulk Israeli couscous, which shares floor space with a tall drum of lava-red Hungarian paprika, a contingent of wildly-hued Indian spices, and housemade platters of Greek baklava, spanikopita, halvah, yogurt and feta cheese.
The compact, easily-navigated store is owned by two Karamouzis brothers, offspring of a Greek clan that has presided over this real estate for more than 30 years. The brothers are knowledgeable and chummy, chiding loyal customers with well-traveled lines like, "Malabar peppercorn? What, American peppercorn not good enough for you?" The market's a primary neighborhood source for loose herbs, honey, pastas, olives, pitas and a limited array of cooking utensils and metal pans, which, strung from aged wooden rafters overhead, lend the room an air of a sparkling Mediterranean bazaar.