My very first apartment in NYC was in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, in 2002. Although the exact area has been redubbed today by developers as "South Park Slope", it was pretty grimy back before the hipsters swarmed in.
The famous Greenwood Cemetary is up the street (where Basquiat, among other important Americanos, are buried), sex shops align 3rd Avenue, and the neighborhood hangout was the way-too-brightly lit Dunkin' Donuts, open 24/7. Ah, it was the good life. Going to the corner grocery store for the first time was quite a traumatic experience-- rotting fruits, flies swarming in the dairy aisle, browning meats. As a little girl from California, I could have sworn I made the worst decision of my life by moving to across the country to New York.
I lived in the neighborhood for over a year, and became quite close with the owners of my apartment, Kumiko and Troy. We've kept in touch throughout the years, and we're basically like family at this point.
Kumiko is an avid collector of all things culinary. She's got amazing dishware, utensils, copper pots, Le Crueset, obscure pans that she lugged back from Paris, wine glasses from the Barney's Warehouse sale, you name it. Upon opening these custom made cabinets in the kitchen, you feel as though you just stumbled upon a trove of cookware treasures.
Along with awesome cookware, Kumiko has an incredible pantry of condiments, sauces, and canned and dry goods from around the world. She literally brings back all sorts of stuff from her travels to Japan and Europe (or the local Polish Middle Eastern or Mexican markets). You'll see she shops in bulk-- she's so smart.
We'll start with the salts.
Dashinomoto aka MSG!!! This is the fancy kind.
Instant asparagus soup from Japan.
Beef stew roux.
La Morena canned chipotle peppers.
Dried mushrooms from Poland.
Above all else, Troy and Kumiko are connoisseurs of hot sauce, and other mouth-burning powders and such.
Scary looking togarashi (red chili flakes).
Garlic shichimi (7-spice togarashi).
The much tamer sansho (Japanese pepper)-- this is from Hararyokaku, a very special spice company from Kyoto that I will write about soon on Condiment Crack.
Troy's beloved hot sauce collection. This is only a small portion that I managed to dig out of the pantry.
El Yucateco Chile Habañero.
Togarashi sauce. This stuff is AWESOME, and Kumiko had about 10 bottles of this in the cupboard that she lugged back from Japan.
Kalustyan's hot sauce. This is a staple item for any fridge.
Garlic rayu (spicy sesame oil).
Kanzuri-- a chili paste made with yuzu.
Balsamic pepper sauce from Italy.
Boxes of tubed wasabi, karashi (Japanese mustard) and ginger.
We'll finish with some rum raisin chocolates from Japan called Rummy. These are the best.