Whenever I'm on the Hell's Kitchen stretch of Ninth Avenue that runs below 42nd Street—a strip that still features a good number of culinary treasures, such as the Esposito Pork Store and the Manganaro Groceria—I try to find an excuse to stop into International Foods, a small spice and dry goods shop with a very grand name.
In the current foodie wonderland that New York has become, the store's wide array of imported spices, grains, beans, coffee, olives, nuts and whatnot may not be as unusual as it was, say, ten or 15 years ago. Still, it's pretty damn impressive. Sacks of wonderful-smelling, exotic goods sit it rows on the floor, and the walls are lined with jars and plastic bins of still more marvelous foodstuffs.
The store is owned by the two Karamouzis brothers. The family opened the store in 1970, but it looks like its been in business since 1900. You may indeed by served by one of the brothers, dressed in a white jacket and somewhat impatiently awaiting your request. (Don't serve yourself; let them do the scooping.) Prices are amazingly cheap and everything is fresh. I got a pound each of black peppercorns, basmati rice and dried cannellini beans, all for about $5.