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Good Taste: Pereg Gourmet
January 23, 2005 by Howard Blas

69-66 Main Street, Flushing, New York Tel: (718) 261-6767 Open: Sun.-Wed.: 9am-7pm; Thurs.: 9am-9pm; Fri.: 9am-2pm.

All products are kosher.

The Pereg Gourmet Spice Store is a stone’s throw from Shea Stadium and the U.S. Tennis Center in Queens, New York. Located in a strip mall in a predominantly religious Jewish neighborhood, it is also a world away from Tripoli, Libya, where Victorio Pereg first established Pereg Gourmet in 1906. It’s a family business these days, with its own “professional secrets and formulas” passed down the generations. Pereg products are available in supermarkets all over Israel and one in the Five Towns on Long Island, but this is the only shop with the Pereg name. A 12-inch mezuzah, the dazzling smells of fresh spices and, on the day I visited, free samples of hot rice dishes using Pereg mixes welcome casual browsers and those in search of the one ingredient they need for that evening’s dinner.

After a visit to Pereg’s, you can demystify Middle Eastern cooking with, among others, spices for shwarma, chicken, fish dishes and kebab, as well as four flavors of seasoned bread crumbs. There are also Pereg’s red-topped jars of sweet red paprika, sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil and herbs, coriander and za’atar; loose spices including mint leaves, melissa (lemon balm) and hibiscus; and refrigerated condiments like baladi pickled lemons, Yemenite s’hug and Tunisian harissa.

Filling out the store are coffee beans (at least a dozen varieties and not all Middle Eastern), dried fruits and nuts, jellies, seasoned mixes for rice (including pine nuts and blueberries, and almonds with cranberries), as well as Hebrew cookbooks, loofah sponges and lily and rose water. Sampling the merchandise is encouraged ("We would like you to taste, but please don’t touch with your hands”). And lest you forget you’re in Flushing, there are the mysterious blue crystals, labeled “Against the Evil Eye.”

Howard Blas
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