How delightful that our tropical Gulf Coast boasts a plethora of exotic and earthy ethnic food markets, offering familiar items to some and introducing new taste sensations to others. From Latin America to Europe, the Middle East, India and Asia, proprietors are providing people of their own cultures as well as those from other areas an amazingly diverse selection of foodstuffs. A visit to some of our specialty markets could go a long way in helping to spice up mundane meals, while blending cultural culinary borders.
One of Sarasota's best known markets, Casa Italia, has been described as a gourmet Italian market (for more than 26 years). Indeed, the attractive establishment offers a smorgasbord of Italian products, including a vast array of cured cold cuts (prosciutto de Parma, jamon serrano ham, sopressata, capicola); about 50 imported cheeses (gorgonzola, parmigiano reggiano, buffalo mozzarella and a cheese torta with layers of mascarpone and gorgonzola); myriad oils, vinegars, sauces and other condiments; dried or fresh pastas, plus prepared entrees, sandwiches and desserts.
Raj and Nita Mathur, who purchased Casa Italia nine years ago, have added Indian products as well as several choices of Indian entrees on Fridays, such as butter chicken, lamb bhuna and vegetarian dishes. According to Raj, Casa Italia has food items from more than 40 countries and also offers Italian and Indian cooking classes.
The Latin Brother's Market, on Washington Boulevard in Sarasota, originated seven years ago. Gloria Reateguli is the owner of the busy food store, where both English and Spanish are spoken. The bright, well-organized market includes traditional and unique products from all over the world, which are identified by a system of colorful flags depicting the food's country of origin.
Cases and displays of meats, produce, breads, spices, sauces and other condiments appeal to the diverse clientele. Among the enticing offerings are regional foods from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, and Spain, to name a few. An international selection of wines also are available.
Ilia and Liliana Tasho's Greek Market is adjacent to Ilia's Greek Restaurant in Park Isles Plaza in Nokomis. The two grew up in a small town near Athens and have brought their native cuisine to the area. Their housemade or imported Greek delicacies include hummus, roasted eggplant and tzatziki dips; dolmades; Greek cheeses (fetas); olive oil; pastas; desserts and imported wines.
Entrees such as mousaka, spanakopita, pasticcio and gyros are made to order, as well as the sweet and classic Greek cookies, baklava and galaktoboureko desserts.
Oriental Food & Gifts market on Gulf Gate Drive offers all manner of Asian edibles. Noya Brigham, a native of Korea, opened her shop five years ago and continues to expand her range of products and services.
The proprietress offers customers fresh vegetables daily such as bok choy, bean sprouts, Japanese eggplants and Japanese (and Korean) white yams. Korean-style sushi is provided each Saturday, and Noya makes kimchee and wakame seaweed salad, plus a selection of seafood, meat and vegetable dumplings.
Shoppers may purchase various cooking sauces, including Patak's Indian curries, chutneys and relishes. There are shirataki, rice and soba noodles; dried spices; sakes and teas from around the world; specialty fish such as sushi-grade tuna, eel and more, plus candies and sweets. Noya has added cooking classes to her food-related services.
Geier's Sausage Kitchen, established by Karl Geier more than 25 years ago, has long been a mainstay for devotees of old-world German cuisine. Karl learned the art of sausage making while growing up in Germany. Located on South Tamiami Trail, Geier's is a meat market, deli and food store that prides itself on exceptional foods created in small batches rather than mass production.
Old-world Germany is the store's hallmark, but customers also will find food items from Hungary, Poland and South Africa. A large variety of all-natural veal, beef, poultry and turkey is hand-made into bratwurst, knockwurst, weisswurst, frankfurters, kielbasa and biltong, among others. In addition, you'll find meats, cold cuts, salami, ham and bacon. The extensive cheese case displays traditional cheeses as well as tilsiter, harzer kase, limburger and koch kase. For those with a sweet tooth, there are chocolates, such as Lindt and Mon Cheri, plus a nice selection of European wines.
These are but a few of the numerous international food markets with tantalizing aromas and well-stocked display cases available in our area. Whether you want to recapture foods of your own heritage, or are an adventurous cook, take a look at our market listings and enjoy the global culinary journey available in our own back yard.