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Photo Essay: Shopping at Nature's Pride

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International markets are like a culinary Disneyland. I can waste hours wandering the aisles, peeking into jars of unfamiliar grocery items, buying things that I don't know how to cook, and exploring brave new worlds of snacking. Nothing beats a Saturday afternoon at the Armenian market, Nature's Pride Golden Farms. Most of the products are Russian, with a few British items thrown in amongst the American and Mexican groceries.

Let's take a look around!

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How can you not love a store that has an arrow for "Dis & Dat"

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Russian candy is one of my favorite treats. I especially like the turquoise-wrapped chocolate with a squirrel on it. Unsurprisingly, "Squirrel" is filled with delicious nuts drenched in dark chocolate. As sophomoric as it may be, I just love it when Russian women say "sk-whirl". It's too bad there isn't a chocolate called "Moose". Shoppers here are not shy about critiquing your choices. A lady insisted that I try the chocolate with camels on the wrapping because they are, "better than sk-whirl." The "Camel" chocolate has little bits of wafers mixed in with the nuts, and actually was the better choice. "Polar Bear" is pretty good too.

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I like the Eastern European pastries because they aren't too sweet. I especially like the sweet bread called Nazoug, made by Oasis Bakery in Glendale. This heavy gingerbread is a sure-fire cure for anyone suffering from an upset stomache. The ginger settles the stomache, and the heavy bread is bland, delicious and comforting enough that it tempts the lightest of appetites.

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They also have gigantic monster bread.

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If you like to buy your feta by the bucket and your tahini by the gallon, this is the place to go.

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For you Canadian ex-pats, they stock back bacon, as well as unusual Greek keilbasa and cheese. This "homemade" Hungarian bacon comes heavily coated with garlic and your choice of red or black pepper.

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Their meat and fish departments are outstanding, with huge cuts of fresh, pink meat and fish with clear, bright eyes.

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They carry unusual cuts, including "lamb fries". I didn't see pizzle, but I wasn't really looking.

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If you need a strong drink after that last photo, no worries. These are just the refrigerated vodkas. There are even more on the shelf.

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You can also but vodka in cute little nesting dolls. I wish they came in graduated sizes so you could fit one bottle inside of another as you polished them off.

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There is a large deli department with kabobs, lavosh sandwiches, soups and some interesting savory pastries. You have to be somewhat assertive about your place in line here. The Italian Chicken didn't really impress me. I ate the Khachapoury with no idea what it was. It turned out to be filled with a salty, crumbly cheese - probably sheep's milk.

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They have an entire aisle of pickles, interesting vegetables and hard-to-find items like turtle beans and broad beans.

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They also stock your standard pigs feet and cueritos.

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This nonalcoholic beverage is extremely popular in Russia. The first two ingredients were rye malt and something that sounded like street paving material, so I left it on the shelf.

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The most perfect gag gift in the world is tucked away in the freezer department.

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The well-stocked produce section carries a large selection of greens, and even the little tiny bananas I fell in love with overseas.

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But the real draw here are the huge bins overstocked with dried fruits and nuts. It puts Hadley's in Cabazon to shame.

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Are those all the walnuts you have? Maybe there are more in the back. Could you check?

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It's kind of like the vat full of balls at Chuck E Cheese...

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I could swear there was just a little girl here a minute ago. How did she disappear so fast? Little girl? Hellooooo?

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For the sake of convenience, you can get your photos developed, your hair trimmed, your eyes checked, and even buy a new rug at the little shops inside the market.

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They even have a smoke shop, with a nice cigar selection, hookahs, and pipes for smoking your "tobacco".

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So smoke up, and be glad you bought the Squirrel candies.