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Talin Market Brings International Foods Home

By Polly Summar
Of the Journal
    Picture one of those light, spacious natural food groceries— but filled with ethnic foods from around the world. That's Talin Market World Food Fare, where you can shop your way around 32,000 square feet.
    And while in most grocery stores, you'll find the goods grouped by categories liked canned good, baking foods, seasonings and the like, at Talin they're arranged by country.
    "We're trying to do various regions all together— it's very important for immigrants who don't speak English," says Victor Limary, the store's operations manager. The marketplace, at the southeast corner of Louisiana and Central, is in a neighborhood of international residents.
    "Immigrants will instantly recognize the brands we carry, but other people will also know that the food is ethnically pure." (That would be grocery speak for "the real thing.")
    About five years ago, Limary recalls, the city approached the family about wanting to promote the international quality of the neighborhood. "We at first were apprehensive, but they wanted to celebrate the international spirit," he says, and the city promised $500,000 in landscaping.
    That was just about the time Limary, 31, was contemplating leaving his job in computer engineering.
    His parents, immigrants Bounphom and Phouthone Limary, had run the old Ta Lin Super Market for some 25 years. They sent their son to Albuquerque Academy and then to the University of Texas, where he studied computer engineering. But he found office work boring, compared to the sights and smells of an ethnic grocery.
Broader market
    So as Limary contemplated a career change, his parents evaluated the future of their grocery store.
    "There's so much competition in the grocery business," says Limary. "We knew if we wanted to keep the store going, we'd have to appeal to a broader market.
    "This is the most ethnically diverse part of town and the most densely populated. We would like to see it become as socially popular as Downtown and Nob Hill." (With that in mind, there's a large parking lot behind the store; the entrance is from Louisiana. The old Ta Lin market is in the back of the parking lot and used for storage.)
    Limary says that when his father immigrated here in 1976, there was no Asian food. "They went to California on a regular basis to get it," says Limary.
    "But we would get friends and family asking us to get orders for them, too. He finally decided to quit his regular job and do this full time." At first, the store was primarily Asian, Southeast Asian and some Chinese.
    It soon became apparent, though, that there were trends they could count on in the grocery business.
    "My dad found that in the tropics, most people eat similar foods— they're just prepared differently," says Limary. "Like yams, roots, bananas."
    On a recent weekday, Limary was giving a tour to a group from OASIS, part of a national educational organization for seniors. Giving tours is one plan for making the market friendlier to shoppers, who quickly notice foods they're not familiar with: the green banana leaves stuffed with sweet rice, for example, just across from the front door.
Shop by city
    To counter that unfamiliarity, the store's regional sections are identified by various cities, from Havana and Milano to Taipei and Manila.
    Entering aisle No. 1, Oaxaca, you'll find New Mexican, Mexican and Brazilian foods including authentic sauces and spices, local brands like Santa Fe Olé, others like Rosarita. There are pleasant surprises for natives and aficionados of Brazil like Guarana, a popular soft drink of apple juice and spritzer, and Brazilian soy sauce.
    "The Japanese have been in Brazil for a long time and soy sauce has become a staple there," says Limary.
    Aisle No. 3, Milano, is a new venture for the Limary family and includes European foods from Italy, France, Germany, England and Sweden. (Pay attention, all you fans of Mestemacher pumpernickel bread from Germany.)
    Behind all these beginning aisles is a frozen foods section with products like yuca, a root popular in South America, Indian vegetables called drumsticks (that look like okra) and snake gourd (a zucchini-looking vegetable).
Fresh fish
    In the middle of the store is a fresh fish section, including tanks of live Maine lobsters and farm-raised tilapia. (This is where the little kids and their dads seem to be congregated.) Just past the live tanks are piles of whole fish.
    "We believe in selling our fish whole, so people can see the eyes, gills and see how fresh it is," says Limary, pointing to a case filled with carp, mahi mahi, catfish, mallet, crab, grouper, halibut and mackerel.
    There's a separate coffee and tea shop, with international products, and a cookbook and cooking equipment section, a fully stocked liquor area with goods ranging from $115 Rémy Martin (down from $135) to wines (with ongoing specials) from areas as diverse as Australia, France and Italy, and beers from countries such as Thailand, Japan, Germany, Mexico and India.
    The produce section is stocked with items such as red and green Thai chile, broccoli (yes, even the ordinary), cilantro lime leaves, galanga (a root similar to ginger), Chinese okra, Calamansi limes (from the Philippines), fresh coconuts, baby duck eggs, Thai eggplant, plantains and baby bananas.
    "Most of the produce comes from the West Coast," says Limary, "but in the off season, a lot comes from South America."
    And then there's the cheese section with whole Parmesan rounds, brie, goat cheeses, fresh ricotta. It's right across from the deli section where you can get a cafeteria-style selection of stir-fries for lunch or pick up a whole Peking duck for a party (don't worry— they'll cut off the head for you).
Cooking classes
    Besides the produce and groceries, Limary has launched the Talin World Cuisine Cooking School with chef Gilda Latzky as its director. The cooking school has a space worthy of its own TV show on the second-story overlooking the store.
    "I've always shopped at Talin," says Latzky, who moved her catering and cooking school business here from New York City a decade ago. "It was such a natural for me to do these classes."
    Her goal is to introduce shoppers to the market, showing them how to take full advantage of what's available, no matter what cuisine they're interested in. The following is a list of classes and events designed to do that:
  • Thursday, Nov. 4, noon-1:30 p.m.: Lunch and Learn, $15 plus tax. Latzky takes you on a shopping trip to identify ingredients and produce a quick Italian lunch: Pasta Primavera, Antipasto Salad, Strawberries with Zabaglione Sauce.
  • Thursday, Nov. 11, 6-9 p.m.: Sushi Workshop, $35 plus tax, taught by Chef Greg Meeker, previously with the Westin, Hyatt and Wyndham hotel chains. Ever wonder why your homemade sushi falls apart, why the fish is chewy or the rice just doesn't taste like what you get in a Japanese restaurant? Learn the secrets.
  • Thursday, Nov. 18, 6-9 p.m.: Shop and Supper, $25 plus tax. Latzky takes students on a quick tour of the store to select seasonal ingredients and the freshest fish to prepare a simple and delicious dinner for sampling. A great way to increase your knowledge of products you may not use every day.
  • Saturday, Nov. 20, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.: New Ideas To Accessorize the Turkey, $35 plus tax, taught by Latzky. If you want something a little different for Thanksgiving, here are some recipes that can be made ahead (if oven space is a consideration): Crostini With Goat Cheese and Roasted Peppers, Cream of Mushroom Soup, Wild Rice Pecan Stuffing, Green Chile Whipped Sweet Potatoes, Cranberry Conserve and Brandied Walnut Pie with homemade pie pastry.
  • Saturday, Dec. 4, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.: Free Cooking Demonstration. Latzky will present easy, elegant hors d'oeuvres for holiday entertaining, including: Smoked Salmon Mousse, Skewers of Prosciutto and Melon, Shrimp With Snow Peas and Vegetarian Liver Paté.
  • Thursday, Dec. 9, 6-9 p.m.: Comfort Foods for Cold Weather, $35 plus tax, taught by Latzky. Delicious foods to keep you warm and make the kitchen smell wonderful: Green Chile Stew, Meatballs and Spaghetti, a new twist on Macaroni and Cheese, Best-Ever Caesar Salad and Apple Crumb Pie with homemade pie pastry.
        Advance registration is required; call 268-0206 or sign up at the customer service desk at the store. After you complete two cooking classes, you're eligible for a free membership to join the Talin Market Cooking Club, which entitles you to: access to a hot line with Latzky for cooking information and a bimonthly newsletter about new products, classes, recipes and special promotions.
    Store hours are 8:30 a.m.-8 p.m., Monday-Saturday, and 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday.

    Let's clear up some of the confusion regarding the new Talin Market World Food Fare.
        We asked Victor Limary, operations manager, to explain some of the confusion over the new store name and the family's name. At the old store, Talin was two words as in Ta Lin Super Market; now it's just one. "Ta means big and Lin means forest," says Limary.
        As for the name Limary, it's a family creation. "The family name is Lin," he said. "We're from Laos, but we're ethnically Chinese. The region of China my grandfather came from is pronounced Lim," and at some point, someone in the family added the rest, the a-r-y.