Having a well-stocked pantry of spices is a must for the creative cook. But sometimes the cupboard is bare for that special ingredient for your homemade pho or a special Middle Eastern spice. Where do you go to find that missing aromatic substance if you can’t find it at Vons or Ralphs? We turned to the Superdiners to reveal their secret shopping spots.
Tina Luu, pastry chef, food lecturer at the Art Institute of California: Going to Mitsuwa Marketplace (4240 Kearny Mesa Road, Suite 119, San Diego. 858-569-6699 or mitsuwa.com) is like going to Disneyland for me. I can spend hours roaming the shelves for fun foodstuffs and poking through their dizzying array of ceramics and cool Japanese cookbooks. Between Zion Market (7655 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., San Diego. 858-268-3300 or zionmarket.com), the plethora of farmers and Asian markets, Whole Foods Market (711 University Ave., San Diego. 619-294-2800; 8825 Villa La Jolla Drive, La Jolla. 858-642-6700; 2600 Via de la Valle, Suite 100, Del Mar. 858-436-9800; 687 S. Coast Highway, Suite 101, Encinitas. (760) 274-1580 or wholefoodsmarket.com), Penzeys Spices (1274 University Ave., San Diego. 619-297-2777 or penzeys.com) and my family/friends’ gardens, I keep well-stocked.
Andrew Spurgin, consulting chef and event architect, andrewspurgin.com: The Whole Foods of Japanese markets, Nijiya Market (3860 Convoy St., Suite 109, San Diego. 858-268-3821 or nijiya.com). Everything one could want to bust out stunning Japanese nosh. They have their own organic farm, and much of their produce is from there. Think heritage pork and other meats of sound provenance. And, if you want quality seafood — sashimi and much more! Make sure you peruse the snack aisle, too, grab some squid “jerky” and crispy sweet mud crabs (yes they are really good!). Bon appétit — oh I mean Itadakimasu!
Joanne Bautista, human resources professional, avid Yelper, avid diner: Grocery shopping at Zion Market, 99 Ranch Market (7330 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Suite 112, San Diego. 858-974-8899 or 99ranch.com) and Seafood City Market (8955 Mira Mesa Blvd., San Diego. 858-549-0200; 285 E. Orange Ave., Chula Vista. 619-621-2050; 1420 E. Plaza Blvd., Building C, National City. 619-477-6080 or seafoodcity.com) are a part of my regular rotation. I also like checking out the goods at Marukai Market (8151 Balboa Ave., San Diego. 858-384-0248 or marukaiestore.com) whenever I want to stock up on Zippy’s chili from Hawaii in the freezer section. I have yet to brave the crazy parking lot where H-Mart (9440 Mira Mesa Blvd., San Diego. 858-577-0060 or hmart.com) is located. Thank goodness Zion relocated to a location that has a functional parking lot with a lot more spaces, that was its saving grace in keeping me as a customer.
Ricardo Heredia, executive chef at Alchemy Restaurant: I have many secret spots around the city like any good chef should, but I have to shout out North Park Produce (3551 El Cajon Blvd., San Diego. 619-516-3336 or northparkproduceonline.com). If you need the best feta, bulk grains and spices or just a lamb’s head, they’ve got you covered. From India to the Mediterranean, the products are top-notch, and the pricing is not jacked up, so get your tajine on this weekend and use some dried limes, which you cannot get anywhere else in the city.