A giant flashing spider surrounding oils and sauces forces me to say: "If the economy has you SPOOOKED" but you can't give up the tasty life, make your way to Sahadi's Specialty and Fine Foods in Brooklyn.
First, I'll admit Sahadi's certainly is not my "discovery." The store has been around for many decades. And in fact my sister got me hooked. But it IS hidden to many people who don't live in Brooklyn. At least, until the Food Network airs its program featuring Sahadi, which they were filming when I was there.
My friend always laughs at the big bag I invariably bring back to her place, until she tastes the tabouli, zatar (Arabic bread coated with olive oil and a spice mixture including tangy sumac, sesame, thyme, and other spices), stuffed breads, and kibbe--a delicious meat, wheat and pine nut ball that happens to be as common in Brazil as bread. Arrive around lunch or take out for dinner.
Head down to the Promenade for your picnic.
Favorite Things to Buy
If you'll be taking a trip home, stock up on food for the voyage. Huge variety of spices, nuts, bulk candies, cheeses, olives, peanut crunch, coffee (starting around $4.95/lb), chocolates. Blocks of Guittard chocolate go for around $4/lb, great for nuking and mixing with your new load of nuts to make bark or clusters. Bags of organic lollipops for $1.25 were another nice find.
If you're checking your luggage and don't have a good international market near you, make sure to comb through each shelf for interesting oils. Even Margaret Palca sells rugelach (my favorite New York indulgence) at Sahadi, at a good price. OK it's embarrassing to admit but I even knew the price was lower than the bakery price.
Getting to Sahadi
(Directions) From Manhattan, take the 4 or 5 trains, or whichever makes sense, to Borough Hall, or another nearby stop.
You might want to check out the Syrian bakery next door. Atlantic Ave. is a hotbed of Syrian stores, which you don't see much on the West coast especially.
Note about buying online: The coffee is the real bargain.
How to Be a Good Customer
You'll find a helpful, cheery staff. Take a number for help with the olives and other bulk items. Know what you want before your number is called. It's fast and furious--and fun.
PS - Of course Zabar's rules as well, especially for their vast cheese selection.