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Mar 4, 2007 05:23 PM

Albany – Saffron Gourmet – Koofteh Tabrizi & 1001 Persian pleasures

Three big jars of whole garlic bulbs sit marinating in the window in balsamic vinegar, white vinegar and golden vinegar.

The owner says they are used as a condiment for kabobs. Big vats of preserved lemons are in the cooler … and a few other pickled items.

There are containers of torshi, Ashe Restech, Persian lentil soup, olives and house-made hummus. There are various cheeses like Sulguni Armenian cheese.

There are about 5 varieties of frozen filo.

They sell Golnazar Persian Ice Cream (San Ramon) in three flavors: saffron, walnut and pistachio. I think they are all saffron. The other two have nuts added. There’s a combo with half faloda noodles and half pistachio ice cream. There are also ice cream sandwiches made with thin wafers.

It is a lightly flavored ice cream. The ingredients: Whole milk, fresh cream, sugar, saffron, nuts … the plain saffron also has rosewater and sahlab.

I might give the Albi yogurt soda a try when I work up my courage. Another unusual drink is Sea Buckthorn. There’ also a nice selection of wine and beers including Hebrew.

Next to the register are Persian marshmallows with pistachios (25 cents). There are jars of unusual pickles the size of okra. Big bags of pretty green Persian dill are on one shelf. The owner says it tastes different from other dill.

I bought Koofteh (meatballs) Tabrizi (named from a region that boarders Russia and Turkey). These moist baseball-sized meatballs with ground lamb, greens, bastami rice, chickpeas have a lot of flavor going on. There’s a touch of sourness.

I will definitely buy these tasty, savory meatballs again … if they are available. The menu changes weekly depending on what the Turkish chef has in mind.

This week there was:
- Ghoeme Sabzi with lamb shanks
- Chicken breasts with preserved lemons and olives
- Pears poached in port and pomegranate syrup

There’s a mezze plate for $6.99 with a choice of 4 salads. There are quite a few salads in the deli case. One salad was red and gold beet.

It seems still a work in progress. They decided to stop selling sandwiches. The owner said serves good food and didn't want to be bothered with sandwiches.

The Turkish tea was ok. It was on the weak side and then I got into it. The spices are very background and by the end of the cup I was feeling warm and satisfied and comfy.

I haven’t even begun to explore this tiny store. There are some tables inside and others on the sidewalk.

As mentioned elsewhere on Chowhound, there’s a sign offering Persian cooking classes.

Previous Saffron Gourmet post with a little about the owner

Saffron Gourmet
1007 Solano Ave
Albany, Ca 94706

Closed Monday
Tue – Sat: 11am – 5 pm
Sun: 10 – 6

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  1. Thanks for posting about Saffron Gourmet, rworange. The owner is a very peppy and passionate fellow who knows his food. Unfortunately, the store is in a less travelled part of Solano Ave. so it doesn't get very much business.

    Anyway, back to the food. From the deli, I've tried the chicken breast stuffed with olives and preserved lemons and the portobello mushroom stuffed with lamb/beef? Both were fantastic (when warmed up!) and each item cost $6.99. The price seemed a bit steep at first but then I realized that I'd pay upwards of $12 or more for the same item at a sit down restaurant. And Saffron Gourmet does Middle Eastern food right--unmuted seasonings, perfect salting for my taste, and fine textures.

    Apparently, the owner used to own a business on College Ave. called 'Cornucopia' I've never seen the previous business myself.. I'm curious if Saffron Gourmet is a reincarnation of his old store?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Sophia C.

      I don't think there's been a restaurant or deli by that name in the East Bay since I've lived here. And Zand (which started in Saffron Gourmet's location) is the only other Persian deli I've heard of.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        "Cornucopia" was a restaurant on College Avenue in Oakland, near Harwood and Chabot. I know someone who was a cook there in the 1970's. The cuisine was "continental" with Persian influence. The chef/owner was Persian.
        The location has had several restaurants, lately a Chinese place, but now a place called Somerset I believe.

    2. It isn't just Persian. The sign in the window prior to opening mentioned food from "Persia, Italy, Lebanon, Israel, Monacco, Greece and Spain" So maybe the original store had a different focus.

      While it has the same products as Zand and Jasmine Market in San Rafael, there's also different items that I haven't seen in the other stores. Also, the deli / food is more diverse than most Mid-Eastern type markets ... it is not just in the dolma, hummus, baba ganoush rut.

      It is just there is a strong Persian focus from what I can see.

      Yeah, that's a tough location in terms of being noticed. It is a pleasant area to sit outside or indoors. Once he seems to have settled in more I'll probably drop hints he should put a sandwich board on Solano to attract attention. Not a far walk from the theatre and, if you think about it, for a matinee probably the best choice in a few block radius.

      2 Replies
      1. re: rworange

        Yeah, those entrees are more ambitious than anything Zand does.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Yup. I didn't dare ask about whether there would be falafel when he when into the mild rant about sandwiches bringing down the quality of the food he intended to sell ... they do hummus and dolmas though. Interesting loaf type of thingy I think I'll ask about next time ... it looked like some sort of meatloaf but maybe from chicken or chickpeas ... that color.

      2. If the loaf-type dish was green, it could have been coucou which could be considered to similar to a frittata without any cheese - lots of green vegetables and some egg - can be served cold or warm. Otherwise, could have also been something which I believe is called shahmi (my spelling cold be off). Another great place for similar food is Rose Market down in Mountain View.

        1. No green, just a chickpea color but a slightly deeper yellow. I keep meaning to go to Rose Market. If I am able to do my Easter Polish food shopping in the South Bay this year, I'll take a detour to Persia at Rose.

          Need to do a refresh of what's available Eastern European-wise in the South Bay. One Russian place closed I think and I always worry about The Polish Deli in Palo Alto.

          1. That sounds like it could be what I believe is called shahmi - I used to make it with my father when I was much younger. Rose Market is excellent and be sure to get a skewer of the joujeh kabob and koubideh while there. Any time I'm passing through the area I have to stop and load up.