Captivating Culinary Tours

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One of the most intriguing facets of Turkish culture is the dedication to stunning presentation alongside a perfected foundation. This trait is eloquently showcased at Istanbul’s most famous baklava emporium, Karaköy Güllüo?lu. Trays of meticulously crafted pastries seduce customers at this bakery established in 1949 in the Karaköy district of Istanbul, by a family that has been honing exemplary baklava in Gaziantep, Turkey since the 1800’s.

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This Turkish sanctuary of multi layered wonders, is known by locals for uncompromising dedication to tradition and quality which oozes from the depths of each morsel.

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We were lovingly guided to Karaköy Güllüo?lu by Turkish gastronomy expert, consultant and writer, Hülya Ek?igil on Context Travel’s Beyond Baklava Tour. Hülya’s expertise and organic streaming of relevant information, storytelling, and joy flowed effortlessly, adding exponential value to our explorations. Insider tips, hidden treasures and historic tidbits poured forth, keeping us spellbound as we savored our way through a tasting walk that covered much more than the title suggested.

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Our journey went far beyond baklava and deep into the heart of smooth milk puddings, gooey Turkish delight, thick fruit jams, almond paste candies, Turkish sesame desserts, to a tiny hole-in-the-wall coffee shop that roasts their own beans and lays claim to the best cup of Turkish coffee in Istanbul. We traversed fascinating, funky, and lively old neighborhoods where historic sweet shops, artisanal bakeries and hip cafes abound.

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Tucked between organic markets and artist studios we explored local cheese shops, traditional bakeries, and small restaurants, sampling unique cheeses, fresh baked breads, and thick rice flour puddings made with chicken. We learned about the history and significance of these diverse culinary gems, and the Ottoman Empire’s mixing of cultures to create a distinct and significant cuisine.

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At our last stop we savored layers of buttery filo, chopped pistachios and a perfect balance of honey while reflecting on the enjoyment of the day. It was difficult to tear away from our little group as Hülya continued to fascinate to the end with animated tales of Turkey, the owners of Güllüo?lu and Istanbul’s growth and transformation over the decades.

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We cannot overemphasize the value of a passionate and knowledgeable guide in a new city. We feel as guests with limited time abroad, we now have a basic understanding of the Turkish people, cuisine and culture that would have taken months if not years to gain on our own. Thank you to Hülya Ek?igil, Context Travel, Karaköy Güllüo?lu and an abundance of small shops and businesses that granted us an overwhelmingly hospitable and luscious peek into the heart of Istanbul. We have fallen deeply in love with Turkey’s culture and cuisine and look forward to returning at the earliest possible opportunity to delve deeper into your warm, creative and inspired soul.

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Karaköy Güllüo?lu Factory and HQ : Karaköy, Mumhane Cad. No: 171 34425 ?stanbul / Türkiye        T: +90 212 249 96 80 – F: +90 212 244 71 17

Karaköy Güllüo?lu Shop:Karaköy, R?ht?m Cad. Katl? Otopark Alt? No: 3-4 ?stanbul / Türkiye   T: +90 212 293 09 10      E-Mail: info@karakoygulluoglu.com

Context Travel offers intimate (six participants or less), local expert led walking seminars in some of the worlds most stunning cultural capitals of Europe, Asia, Australia, North and South America .

 

Chefs’ Toys Rocks Kitchen Equipment and Gadgets All Over LA

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We are always looking for ways to make our time in the kitchen simpler and more fun. We were beyond thrilled when we heard about the hidden warehouse called Chef’s Toys.

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After receiving inspiration from their chef on how gadgets work, we ran right over. Chefs’ Toys is the place restaurants and caterers throughout Southern California rely on for honest and reliable guidance, restaurant equipment and supplies. Featuring all the major professional cooking appliances, smallwares, and clothing, they are open to the public as well as the industry. Keeping an appreciation for the importance of quality and value is paramount and with the volume they purchase they can offer the best prices to customers.

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We were surprised to find a branch conveniently located on Sepulveda, just south of Olympic. We must have driven by there a thousand times and never saw it. They also have branches in Fountain Valley, Torrance, Anaheim, Corona and Van Nuys.

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With over ten thousand products to choose from, on line and at the stores, especially the fountain valley super store, we were bound to find toys we liked.

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Professional equipment not traditionally found in retail outlets is displayed at great prices, making Chefs’ Toys our kind of shop.

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White is the color of the day for most ceramics, with a wide variety of delightful shapes and sizes.

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Toys big and small for every budget and desire abound.

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Or maybe just a little extravagance, because who doesn’t love waffles?

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Whisks in every size from tiny to jumbo give us a new appreciation for those that crank out meals all day long for hungry Los Angelenos.

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We fell hard for the little frying baskets, too cute.

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And of course all their products make great gifts for our friends who love to play in the kitchen.

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We highly recommend a stop at Chefs’ Toys for an in depth adventure though the culinary landscape that is usually reserved for professionals. We can’t wait to stock our kitchen with more of the toys that make cooking beautiful, easy and fun.

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Chefs’ Toys, 2233 S Sepulveda Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90064
Phone 310-477-7107          web site – chefstoys.com

or

Chefs’ Toys, 18430 Pacific Street, Fountain Valley, CA 92708
Phone – 714-435-922

or

Chefs’ Toys, 1230 North Kraemer Boulevard, Anaheim, CA 92806
Phone – 714-683-2650

or

Chefs’ Toys, 20100 Hamilton Avenue, Torrance, CA 90248                                    Phone – 310-400-3550

or

Star Restaurant Equipment & Supply a Chefs’ Toys Company,
6178 Sepulveda Boulevard, Van Nuys, CA 91411
Phone – 818-782-4460          web site – starkitchen.com

or

Chefs’ Toys, 231 Teller St, Corona, CA. 92879                                                                                                            Phone – 951-739-9222

Ethnic Diversity Is Celebrated Everyday At Jons Market

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One of our favorite markets is Jons. The mix of ethnicities, products, produce, imports, and communities served, makes a trip to Jons an international adventure of epic proportions.

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Every section is filled with fantastic bargains, unusual delights to taste and helpful staff to locate or explain whatever is needed.

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We love the fresh produce aisles, not only for their wonderful sales but also for their unusual and exciting offerings that we seldom find in traditional American markets. Of course all the basics are here, but we also encounter humongous banana leaves useful in steaming and serving a number of South American and South East Asian dishes.

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Nopales or cactus pads, are some of the typical produce found for those interested in making cactus salads.

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Latin spices sell at just over a dollar a package and come in small quantities so we can use them at the peak of their freshness.

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Middle Eastern and European goods abound. Such as the famous Turkish hot pepper paste supplied from a variety of companies, allowing customers to chose the brand that most suits their taste and needs.

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Honeys from around the world come in an assortment of forms from nut filled to fruit infused to raw.

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Even water is imported from all parts of the globe, offering an opportunity to taste some of the most exotic versions on the planet and we love those options.

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A stellar meat, fish and deli department showcases cuts at substantially lower prices than we have seen in main stream stores.

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USDA certified traditional cuts show beautifully next to more exotic ethnic slabs.

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Italian, Argentinian and other Latin sausages provide a chance to spice up the dinner table in completely new ways.

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Marinated chicken parts make dinner a snap to buy and cook.

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Be sure to get on their e-mail list for weekly mailings about what’s on special, you don’t want to miss a Jons sale. A couple hours at Jons market is an exploration into the diversity that exists in numerous Los Angeles neighborhoods and gives everyone a chance to try new cuisines at prices that are surprisingly easy to swallow.

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Jons Marketplace, 5311 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90029
Phone- 323-461-9382                web site – jonsmarketplace.com

or

Jons Marketplace, 3667 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90020
Phone – 213-382-5701

or

Jons Marketplace, 3334 West 8th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90005
Phone – 213-383-6891

or

Jons Marketplace, 1601 North Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Phone – 323-660-0220

or

Jons Market, 6655 Van Nuys Boulevard, Van Nuys, CA 91405
Phone – 818-781-1772

or

Jons Marketplace, 18135 Sherman Way, Los Angeles, CA 91335
Phone – 818-758-3422

or

Jons Market, 20151 Roscoe Boulevard, Winnetka, CA 91306
Phone – 818-576-0477

German Treasure Trove in Woodland Hills

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Down an alley in Woodland Hills lies a treasure trove called German Cold Cuts International. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t find it right way , it’s there. Look for the big sign in the parking lot and then head back down the alley and there she is.

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The name appears to cause a bit of confusion, although there is a deli counter filled with cold cuts, the main attraction for us, are the wonderful imported and locally crafted German and European products that fill every nook and cranny.

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The deli puts out substantial sandwiches of fresh German salami, garlic baloney, wurst, etc. for the reasonable price of approximately $6.00 each.

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While the friendly and helpful staff are always there to explain the goods or assist in finding the perfect gift.

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Cookies, cakes, bread, chocolate, drinks, condiments, jams and little tastes of all things German, require a bit of time to explore and savor.

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We couldn’t resist the pretzels, and purchased a recommended jar of Lowensenf spicy mustard, which has the smoothest texture and a vinegar twang that is a perfect partnership with the thick doughy pretzel.

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We were most impressed with a dazzling pastry called bienenstich, that translates to bee sting and is a sweet little slice of heaven. The honey drenched thick creme filling is surrounded by dense cake layers, all topped off with a slivered almond filled glaze. We had never heard of a bee sting before our visit to German Cold Cuts International, but we will never forget this perfection in pastry and will be on the lookout whenever our travels take us anywhere near the vicinity of a European or German bakery.

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Then of course there is beer, consult with the staff to get the lowdown on which brand will be best for your tastes.

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Don’t be put off by the name, this is a German smorgasbord of a store that is best savored slowly while consuming something delicious from the deli or aisles.  Enjoy a traditional taste of Germany right here in our neck of the woods.

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German Cold Cuts International, 6019 Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Suite C, Woodland Hills, CA 91367          Phone – 818-883-8051

Rainbow Acres Brings Health And Wellness Home

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Always on the lookout for exciting options, we find Rainbow Acres, a local institution since 1981, to be a great education. They are a locally owned, full service food and lifestyle store offering healthy options for almost every area of life.

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The body care section is staffed with trained team members to assist in sorting through products, ensuring customers choose the best remedies for their needs.

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By purchasing from manufacturers and businesses dedicated to raw, vegan, gluten free, organic, healthy, wholesome and sustainable products, we are able to contribute not only to our own health but also the health of the planet.

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A certified organic produce section beams with colorful fruits and vegetables.

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Bulk items allow us to purchase just the amounts we need from canisters of grains, nuts, cereals, snacks, coffee, spices and more.

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We are also excited by the concept of cleaning products that are all natural and do their job without harming us, our family or the environment.

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A full service deli provides breakfast Monday through Friday plus a daily juice bar, salad bar, sandwich bar and hot food case. Everything is clearly labeled if gluten free, free range, etc, and lists ingredients so patrons can make informed choices.

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We love the juice bar which is always busy cranking out wheatgrass shots, fresh juices, smoothies, milkshakes and non dairy shakes.

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We couldn’t resist a kale, green apple, ginger and cucumber juice that radiated hot and spicy from the ginger and pure refreshment from the organic greens.

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For a serious immersion into the world of health and wellness for home and daily life, Rainbow Acres is a great spot to ask questions, try products, learn about healthy brands, eat fresh and nourishing cuisine and drink a shot of wellness in a cup. Not a bad way to spend an hour of our time.

Rainbow Acres Natural Foods, 13208 West Washington Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90066
Phone – 310-306-8330           web site – rainbowacresca.com

Thrive Market Offers An Education On What’s Healthy For Us And The Planet

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We love buying organic, non-GMO, local sourced, sustainable, nourishing food and healthy products. However these goods are often expensive, difficult to find and we honestly don’t have the time to research and substantiate their claims. Then we saw an ad for Thrive Market, whose tag line is, wholesome products, wholesale prices. They believe nutritious food and sustainable items are a right and not a privilege and they are on a mission to make it easier for us to buy what’s good for us, our families, our communities and our planet.

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By going directly to the leading brands, they eliminate mark-ups on the highest-quality products, and then pass those savings on to members. For every membership they sell, Thrive Market donates a membership to a low-income American family so we can all thrive together.

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We love the concepts, and with the 30-day free trial membership and gifts offered, they made it easy for us to give it a try.  Membership offers access to natural and organic products at wholesale prices as well as special promotions, contests and educational content. The membership is $59.95 for the year, which comes out to just under $5 a month. Free trials begin upon placement of the first order and roll into a paid membership 30 days later.

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Excited to get started, we went shopping online and were pleased with the accessible ways goods are presented.  We chose from categories such as gluten free, Moms, paleo, raw, staples or vegan. We were also able to scroll through food, beauty, bath and body, health, home, pet, babies and kids sections. We learned a lot just browsing the site, because each item showcases pertinent information including a description, ingredients, nutritional information and values each item possesses such as, fair trade, non-GMO, certified organic, etc.

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Our first order came in just two days and was sustainably packed in alignment with their philosophies.

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There is free shipping on orders over $49.00 and we took advantage of that little perk.

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Our first order came with both a 25%  and a 15% off coupon. We used them both, one to stock our pantry and one to set ourselves up with green cleaning and household products.

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Our free gifts for trying their service included a 15 ounce jar of Nutiva organic coconut oil and an Exo protein bar made with cricket flour. At least we know where the protein came from.  Haven’t worked up the courage to eat that one yet.

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We just started our relationship with Thrive Market and are currently checking prices on goods and doing the math, but it looks like $5 a month to have access to wholesale pricing, easy online shopping, free delivery with $49.00 orders and daily updates on products, recipes, and advice on living cleaner and healthier lives is going to be a good investment for us.

Thrive Market – thrivemarket.com

 

 

 

 

 

Snacks And Sweets In Little India

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Little India in Artesia, is home to some of our best Indian food and a little sweets and snacks shop called Ambala, has been serving these favorite bites to the community for over 24 years.

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Mithai (traditional Indian sweets), namkeen (Indian savory and salty snacks) and chat (Indian snacks prepared with a mix of savory ingredients), are all made with fresh and natural ingredients, free of preservatives and artificial flavors.

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Masala Chai, the warm, rich tea made with milk and spices is a superb drink to accompany the sweet or savory snacks.  Chai is $1.00 here and is enjoyed at all times of the day and evening.

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We sampled fried dumplings coated in honey.

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The puffed pastry was engorged with a mix of cardamom scented, coarsely ground, sweet nuts and fruit mix that is rich and satisfying. A bite or two of the intensely flavored sweets is all that’s needed.

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When we are in the need for spicy, savory or salty Ambala has us covered as well.

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Trays full of crisp, crunchy, baked and fried snacks enhanced with Indian spices, and if desired with spicy chili, are available to munch on alone or within chat. Chat street bowls mix the savory, crunchy snacks displayed with chutneys, yogurt and in other presentations that can be a full meal or just a appetite appeaser after a long day of shopping in Little India.

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The shop is 100% vegetarian and has a number of vegetarian plates, if a meal is what’s called for.  Ambala takes care of you no matter which end of the peckish spectrum your on and does it with panache, tons of flavor and low prices.

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And don’t forget they also have kulfi, a milk and ice product cooked down to its thick, rich, sweet essence that blows most American ice cream out of the competition.

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For a taste to go, a snack, meal, sweet with tea or any other combination or Indian themed event, Ambala has a long standing tradition of being a leader in the sweets and snacks arena and worth a visit to partake of their colorful and fragrant nibbles.

Ambala Sweets & Snacks, 18433 Pioneer Boulevard, Artesia, CA 90701
Phone – 562-402-0006         web site – ambalasweets.us/index.html

 

 

A Taste Of Japan in Mar Vista

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We love ethnic markets and at the corner of Centinela and Venice is one of our favorites, Mitsuwa Marketplace.  The food court rocks with Santouka serving some of the westsides best ramen and Hannosuke plating wonderful tempura bowls.  We tend to sit down for a meal here before we shop.

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Back in the store the produce section offers beautiful fruit and vegetables.

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Including some exotics such as dragon fruit and horned melon.

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They also have a small organic section for those who prefer that choice.

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Traditional Japanese foods abound, from a wide variety of tofu to pickled plums and Asian snacks.

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Stunning cuts of meat and fish entice customers with their bright, fresh sheen.  You won’t find tired looking anything in this store.

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Packaging is important to the Japanese and most products come beautifully labeled and wrapped, making these imports all the more special. We recycle Japanese wrappers and paper in all kinds of decorative ways including as gift wrap and in art projects.

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Large displays of Japan’s favorite mayonnaise, Kewpie, showcase the famous condiment that has now become a staple of local chefs for its use of strictly egg yolks, making it a creamier and richer version that American brands.

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Quail eggs are always an option at Mitsuwa and can be prepared just like chicken eggs, except they are much cuter and make the perfect sized picked egg popper.

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A wide selection of soju and sake are available in charming bottles that we rescue and reuse as vases, for single or a small smattering of flowering stems.

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Rice of every type makes shopping for exactly what you need in Asian recipes a snap.

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Our favorite section, is the prepared foods which go on sale in the evenings.  We were at Mitsuwa Marketplace around 8 PM and found an abundance of discounted Japanese bowls and dishes.

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Tofu, octopus balls, fried fish and dumplings are some of the appetizers and meals that can be scored on sale in the evenings.

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Unique deserts, are part of the array of exciting Asian sweets laid out and an easy way to sample Japanese delicacies at reasonable prices.

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We noticed that the sushi and raw fish bowls were not on sale, but we think some gracious inquiring and offering to take the “needs to be eaten immediately” raw fish off their hands, will most likely lead to discounts. Although the prices for the quantity and quality presented are quite good.

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For an exploration into Japanese culture and cuisine, a trip to Mitsuwa Marketplace is an inexpensive way to visit a Japanese market that may inspire a flight to Japan to see the real deal.

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Mitsuwa Marketplace, 3760 South Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90066
Phone – 310-398-2113          web site – mitsuwa.com

Dripping With Honey, Nuts and Butter

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We have been fans of baklava since we had our first bite. Now we keep an eye out for the sweet, savory, flakey yet firm, nut and honey amalgamation that make up this stellar dessert.

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Traipsing around North Hollywood we happened to fall upon the Baklava Factory, a shop mastering this art form and were thrilled with the sweet pastries we sampled.

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Tray after tray of rich, buttery goodness cover the counters and not only look appealing but also melt in the mouth with delightful proportions of ingredients, none overpowering, each complementing the other.

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Nuts, cinnamon, honey and filo dough form the basic building blocks that are folded into rolls, triangles, squares and floral patterns, occasionally drizzled with chocolate or sprinkled with chopped pistachio nuts.

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The resulting sweets are an enticing treat for the eyes, nose and tongue.

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We love to share the Baklava Factory, which puts out one of our favorite hostess gifts at $11.50 pound and these delights are an indulgence whose delicate textures and Middle Eastern flavors are well worth the few extra calories.

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Savoring life is part of the journey as much as keeping healthy and the Baklava Factory is one of the places we will continue to savor and feel great about the indulgence.

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Baklava Factory, 12909 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, CA 91605                  Phone – 818-764-1011       web site – thebaklavafactory.com