A girl walks into a nut store, and it's all it's cracked up to be.
I noticed Yossef Roasting Co. while cruising West Dixie Highway after visiting the neighboring Israeli deli, Etzel Itzik. Unfortunately, my first visit to this 4-month-old store was during Pesach (Passover), when most of the items weren't available for purchase. I got a whiff of the exotic spices emanating from the covered self-serve bins and was hooked.
When I returned after the holiday, I was greeted by Yossef himself. Naturally, I had a lot of questions about his nuts.
Yossef says the three most popular varieties are the enormous sunflower seeds -- like something steroid-jacked baseball players would spit -- watermelon seeds, and pumpkin seeds. Fortunately, swallowing watermelon seeds won't make you grow a watermelon in your belly, and they were unusually delicious.
The nuts are roasted in the back of the store. If you're expecting one of those circular roasters you see at fairs and carnivals, that's not what they have here. Those are automatic, and Yossef roasts by hand, checking on them and turning them several times.
There are plenty of gummy candies and imported chocolates, but when it comes to Israeli sweets, it's all about halva. The varieties of these sesame-seed sweets come direct from Israel, and a small piece is all you really need.
But if nuts, seeds, and sweets aren't enough, try the other trail-mix staple, dried fruit. The dried pineapple here is a real treat -- it arrives from Costa Rica via Israel.
Once at an open-air market in Jerusalem, I bought a collection of rice mixtures, and on my flight home, my whole suitcase smelled of fried shallots and herbs. Here you can purchase a collection in a tightly sealed container. There are Persian rice blends and varieties with dried cranberries that you can either add when cooking the rice or afterward. Either way, you have some pepped-up grains.
After sampling most of the goods in the store, Yossef pointed out his tea blends. An exotic tropical blend that smelled of mangoes and coconut caught my attention.
He brewed a cup, and it helped wash down all the samples. He also provided a spoon so I could scoop up all of the fruit like he does.
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The whole experience in this kosher wonderland of nuts and fruit was so fun and, as the Willy Wonka-like Yossef quipped, "it's all healthy."
Normally, he'd be right, but I left the store with a bag full of cracker-coated peanuts that I couldn't stop eating. In Israel, these sweet treats are a delicacy known as kabukim. At Yossef Roasting Co., I felt like a kid in a candy store.
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