With a background as a computer programmer, Massar Rahma walked into Phoenicia Specialty Foods two years ago, looking for a stocking job that would tide him over until he found his dream job. Little did he know that dream job would be as general manager at Arpi’s Phoenicia Deli!
When Massar began working at Arpi’s, he fell in love with the food and the different kinds of coffees they make. He was eager to learn how to make them and worked diligently to learn from other baristas until he perfected his techniques. His favorite coffee drink is the Vanilla Dulce de Leche–and he gets many requests for this goodness in a cup!
At Arpi’s, he is the Massar of all! He can often be seen buzzing around the busy kitchen, helping on the registers, making coffee and always taking the time to help a customer who may be unfamiliar with Arpi’s delicacies. He laughs as he recalls one customer, who has since become a regular, who chastised him for making him taste an item. Now that customer comes in almost daily for it. The customer said, “It is your fault, Massar! You made me try it!” Massar loves the busy lunch times and has a following of regulars that come in so often, he knows their orders by heart.
You can hear the joy in his heart when he talks about busy weekends when families are relaxing at tables and kids are playing games and laughing. This is Massar’s favorite time at Arpi’s. He beams with a humbling sincerity we when he talks about Arpi’s and how he wants customers to feel like Arpi’s is their home away from home.
Come to Arpi’s and become one of Massar’s “regulars.” He will make you feel like you are home.
It’s a well-known fact that Phoodies pursue their passion at Phoenicia, but for one charming couple, the passion has grown beyond pita, pastries and pinot. What began as a chance meeting on a simple night out with friends, later transformed this pair into starry-eyed passengers who had unknowingly sailed aboard the Phoenicia love boat!
A friend of Dea Chincuanco and Carlos Go Boncan introduced them at MKT BAR during Valentine’s Week 2012. A short time later, the two become Facebook friends and chatted regularly. They eventually started dating and ultimately kindled a blossoming romance.
With the holidays approaching and a big celebration planned with Dea’s family, Carlos was extremely busy at work and confessed to Dea he had been unable to get her a Christmas present. Dea understood and the Christmas Eve celebration proceeded as planned. After everyone had opened their gifts, Carlos escorted Dea outside to a magical backyard setting, orchestrated with the assistance of her family. Carlos got down on one knee, presented a ring and proposed to an unsuspecting Dea. He professed that she had made him the world’s happiest man and in return, he wanted to make her the happiest woman. Completely surprised and delighted, Dea accepted. On behalf of the entire YUMMY! Crew, we congratulate the happy couple on their upcoming spring wedding and wish them a lifetime of delicious happiness!
Lovers in Italy and around the world exchange chocolate-covered hazelnut Baci Perugina “kisses” for Valentine’s Day. The chocolate-hazelnut combination is rooted in the history of chocolate production in Italy, and is full of tall tales and intriguing characters. No character is bigger in that story than Gianduia (pronounced zhan-DO-yuh). We know it as the irresistible, creamy smooth, spreadable combination of chocolate and hazelnuts (think Nutella). But in the mid-1800s, Italians knew Gianduia as a marionette of the Commedia dell’Arte theater.
Signifying good humor, honesty, and the pleasures of food and drink, Gianduia the puppet was a source of huge civic pride as a peasant of the Piedmont region, specifically the town of Turin in Northern Italy. In February 1865, at a time of much political upheaval, local citizens banded together and made their favorite character, Gianduia, the King of Carnival. In the excess and indulgence of these pre-Lent celebrations, the first chocolate and hazelnut confection — the gianduiotti, appeared.
Named after the patron of Turin’s Carnival, gianduiotti (zhee-an-DWO-tee) are plump, finger-sized soft confections of chocolate, hazelnut paste, and sugar, wrapped individually. Gianduia (the chocolate-hazelnut spread) and gianduiotti (the individual candies) were revolutionary for their smooth texture, given that chocolate manufactured at the time produced a gritty product. In fact, the chocolate bar as we know it had not yet been invented, and there was no such thing as a milk chocolate bar.
Today, choices of chocolate-hazelnut combinations abound, whether it is traditional Pernigotti Gianduiotti, in Italian sweet bread Balocco Panettone, or in the love-note-filled “kisses,” the Baci Perugina. The well-known modern version of gianduia, Nutella, came about more than 75 years after its invention as a luxury sweet on the streets of Turin. But unlike the original, the one we love today comes in milk chocolate.
Find all of these delectable chocolate-hazelnut combinations freshly stocked at Phoenicia. And for a legendary combo you’ll really love, pair these treats with a bottle of wine from Phoenicia’s extensive selection.
Quickly becoming everyone’s favorite reason to shop downtown, Milly always shows amazing enthusiasm and passion for Phoenicia, and possesses unrivaled product knowledge. She can often be found hunting down a certain spice or searching the shelves for a special food that the customer can only describe by appearance or aroma. She is truly a phenomenal Phoenicia Phoodie!
As she remembers fondly, Milly started eight years ago after first asking her brother, who was already a Phoenicia employee, if she could be hired. When he failed to get her an interview, she boldly walked right up to the owner and told him, “You need to hire me!” And we are forever grateful he did.
Milly was born in Higuey, Dominican Republic, a city known for its tourism and beauty. Growing up in Higuey gave her a passion for history and culture–both representing what she loves most about Phoenicia. Milly delights in the history behind the foods we sell and even though she is a self-proclaimed non-cook, she admires how dishes are made and what they represent to the cultures that enjoy them.
Heath, a resident of One Park Place, loves Milly’s energy and passion for the job. He recently stated, “Milly is the main reason I shop here. She has an amazing, positive energy and is one of the best things about Phoenicia.”
When she isn’t bustling through the store, Milly likes to relax by reading books, riding her bike, attending shows at Miller Outdoor Theater or zipping around on her cute scooter.
Milly was recently voted the “Yummiest All-Around Employee” by her coworkers and we wholeheartedly agree. Be sure to stop by Phoenicia Downtown and see all the products that make Milly’s heart sing!
It’s a charming coincidence that Peter is our “Big Cheese.” With much of his passion for food coming from his Armenian grandmother and her heavenly homemade Armenian string cheese, Peter hails from generations of foodies. His mother was a dietician at Macy’s and he beams as he discusses the dried beef and basturmas she created. Just a sniff of his favorite spice, coriander, reminds him of the dedication to food and the food lovers he has at Phoenicia. While he oversees accounting, billing and business negotiations, his romance with food can be seen in every aisle.
As Peter recalls his childhood days, he thinks of times when his mother would force him to play the piano. He absolutely hated it! His father, a physician, would often come out of his office to motivate young Peter to play. Although his relationship with the piano had a shaky start, Peter has since become an amazing musician. Often found playing the keyboard and piano with his band all over Houston, Peter frequently plays at his alma mater, the University of Houston, where he was a pre-med major.
Peter has been a member of the Phoenicia family for more than 30 years and is well-versed in every aspect of the store from finances to products. His passion for food is contagious and he can often be spotted with his sleeves rolled up in Phoenicia kitchens inspiring our YUMMY! Crew.
One day, Phoenicia’s Fun Committee might decide to put a piano in the middle of the grocery store so Peter can orchestrate the pita bread marching down from the ovens. But until then, know that Phoenicia values Peter for adding strength and passion with his big spirit, overflowing wisdom and eagerness to explore!
Nineteen years ago in a small Parisian bakery, our Executive Baker’s sweet inspiration was born. Fabrice Maraine was just 12 years old when he began working in a small corner bakery, helping and learning amazing techniques that appealed to his artistic eye, creative design and boundless energy level. He loves all the moving parts in a bakery and while he doesn’t paint or draw, baking lends Fabrice the important ability to create beauty. Also using carpentry as an outlet for his artistic talents, Fabrice has built amazing tables and chairs for his home.
Five years ago, Fabrice and his wife moved to Texas, where they are raising a beautiful little girl, Lucie, who loves to cook with dad. Lucie tries to convince Fabrice daily that it is her birthday so he will bake a cake for her! When her parents try to let her down gently by telling her it is not her birthday, she steadfastly insists, “Daddy I THINK it’s my birthday!”
Fabrice loves living in Houston, a big city with a small town feel, and especially likes that Houstonians are so friendly and helpful. When asked what he likes best about Phoenicia, there was no hesitation. The music. He loves the eclectic mix of music and we believe to some extent it inspires him.
Come be inspired by Fabrice’s magical creations at Phoenicia Downtown, his favorite corner of the world.
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.
Come explore the characteristics that make up a city as Gonzalez sheds light on the people and places that add character to their community. Admire the results of a process where he begins with photographs, draws extracted information using only ballpoint pens and marker, scans the drawings into a larger format, adds accentuating color, and transforms them into large-scale murals.
Exhibit: October 14, 2012 – January 2, 2013
Opening Reception: Saturday, October 20, 2012, 8-10PM