SOS Chefs: The Most Interesting Shop In New York Sells Spices, Teas & Honey Of The Highest Quality

It's getting hard to tell the difference between the shopping streets of Manhattan, Greenwich, Palm Beach, Paris, you-name-it --- the same stores are everywhere.

The one-of-a-kind shops, the small boutiques? The FOR RENT signs tell you where they used to be.

So when I walked into SOS Chefs, I wanted to weep for joy.

The store doesn't bother with merchandising sizzle. It's old school, functional, serious. The walls are lined with shelves, the shelves are laden with products. the floor is concrete. And the proprietors --- Atef Boulaabi and her husband, Adam Berkowitz --- don't jump up to schmooze you. But when Atef, who's from Tunisia, sets her work aside to help you, you are transported to Foodie Heaven.

Atef and Adam started SOS Chefs in 1996 to provide top-quality spices, oils, grains and more to professional chefs. They added civilians a few years later. They don't advertise --- I heard about SOS Chefs from a friend --- and the shop is well off the beaten path: 104 Avenue B (between E. Sixth and Seventh streets; Mon-Fri, 7am-7pm; Sat, 9am-5pm; Sun, closed.) Most orders are phoned in (212-505-5813) or ordered from the web site.

SOS stands for "Save Our Spices," but spices are just the beginning of the shop's offerings. If you want esoterica, it's all here: argan oil, almond syrup, white cardamom, dried mushrooms, truffles, heirloom beans, manuka honey, distillations of 50 flowers and spices. But that's just for a few of you. If you're like me --- a home cook who likes to dazzle friends and family --- some basics are more to the point.

WARNING: Do not go to this site if you only have a minute. Do not visit the store if you don't have 30 minutes.

[cross-posted from]