Our final food-related destination was Nina's Armenian Deli at Shaw and West. You can get a sandwich, a cup of coffee, or those one of those decadent filo dough pastries that make strong coffee taste so good. This is definitely the place to go if you're in Fresno and need ingredients for your own Armenian cooking.
D was particularly looking for lahmajoon, which is popularly called "Armenian Pizza." I haven't tasted it yet, but D bought stacks of them, frozen, and we are invited at the end of the month to enjoy some with her.
Nina's is a bakery, a deli, and a small grocery store of Armenian and other middle eastern foods. The "general store" aspect of Nina's offers the expected, like grape leaves and bulgar in bulk, and then the surprises, just like an Asian market does. On a shelf of apricot and fig preserves, I also found mulberry preserves and young walnut preserves, and I bought a jar of each. I've been eating the mulberries in yogurt this last few weeks for breakfast.
The young walnuts are ... interesting. The thing-that-will-be the shell is just a bit tougher than an olive and the fruit are just little flower-petals inside. But the taste. Young walnut preserves remind me of the time when I was a kid and I ate a candy at some old person's house and was sorry. Perhaps if they were stuffed with a pungent cheese they would taste better. I'll have to do more research. Maybe you're not supposed to eat them straight out of the jar.
Nina's sells the "lavosh hearts" baked by the Armenian bakery downtown, but I was told that the hearts don't taste as good as lavosh in the traditional shape. Nina's has plenty of normal lavosh, should you need your own.
Which reminds me, Nina's ships food all over. Just call and ask for what you need: basturma and other meats that I don't remember, cheese, preserved fruits and pickles and grape leaves and grains.
I got hungry again while we were shopping at Nina's, so I bought a yogurt drink with three alphabets on the label, and sat at a little table in the deli.
Here's what the inside of Nina's looks like from my table.
While I was drinking my yogurt drink--which was delicious--and Donna decided if she was going to buy Armenian cheese or not, I started chatting with a man who appeared to be a regular at Nina's. He was from Armenia, the last of his family to emigrate. He had served in the Soviet Army, and had fought in the Afghanistan war. "I was in Special Forces." For seven years the Soviet government delayed his emigration when the war ended "because I knew Special Things." He told us about Armenian coffee, and how good and strong it is. He ran a truck stop on Highway 99 for a while and everyone loved his coffee. His relatives work at Nina's and he visited there often.
As we were checking out, Donna asked for instructions for how to make Armenian coffee. Nina's not only told her how, but took from a shelf bedecked with Armenian flags a little coffee pot that holds just the right amount of water for that strong Armenian coffee. Yet another pleasure that awaits me in the future.
If you look carefully, you can see "lahmajoon" written in the window of the deli. I would guess then that other Armenians like lahmajoon too. I can't wait to eat one.
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