As holiday season approaches, “date cities” increase everywhere as dates, date pastes and date syrups figure into special cookies, sweet breads, rolls and other baked desserts. Even the retro hors d’oeuvres of cream cheese-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon can put a gleam in the eyes of a holiday partygoer.
Dates, like peppermint, ginger, anise and orange rinds, may remind many people of the holidays. But for many others, dates are an everyday food; a staple of the Middle Eastern diet. Muslims observing Ramadan break their fasts by eating dates. Date sales peak at Ramadan, but then again at Thanksgiving and Christmas when they figure into baking, said Haig Tcholakian, spokesman for his family’s Phoenicia Specialty Foods stores where consumers can find many types of dried dates (as well as fresh dates) and other date products.
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When our Wholesale Operations Manager arrived in the U.S. 12 years ago from Turkey, she was discouraged by the not-so-fresh food selection she found in her new country. Upon eating some heavenly cucumbers at a friend’s house, she asked where they had been purchased. The friend promptly transported her to Phoenicia and at once, Esin was no longer in a pickle over food!
She became a regular customer, enjoying familiar foods as tasty as those back home. Like other staff members, her Phoenicia shopping “addiction” evolved into employment. And now, ten years later, Esin oversees the daily transactions of Phoenicia’s wholesale accounts, assists customers ranging from small and large grocery stores to restaurants by filling orders and managing the shipping and receiving of goods, and grades and selects international products. She’s looking forward to another ten years.
“I feel like a member of the family,” she says. There’s a mutual respect; everyone is very appreciative of one another. I like the rush that comes from being here, working with friendly faces. I really look forward to coming to work every day.”
Phoenicia’s 1,000+ wholesale customers benefit from Esin’s motivation, dedication and firsthand knowledge. She has personally tried nearly 70% of the store’s products, saying she tries to avoid saying “I don’t know.”
“I want to help,” she says. “What better way to do that than to offer my personal recommendations?”
And what does Esin specifically suggest? She states everything at Phoenicia is YUMMY!, but praises anything from the bakery. By opening the store every day, she enjoys freshly-made goodies right out of the oven. Try the simit–a delicious, round, crusty sesame bread. It’s what’s for breakfast.
In her spare time, Esin enjoys cooking, travel and outdoor sports.