Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Homestead Gourmet Shop
Forest Hills, NY
A MEMORY LANE REVIEW | CLOSING COMMENTS
Review by SuSu

Forest Hills used to be a German neighborhood; things have changed radically since the post-war years, and the German style shops and eateries are mostly gone now, replaced by mall-style stores (Eddie Bauer, the Gap, Banana Republic, etc.) and fast-food style restaurants (McDonald's, Boston Market, various diners, TGI Friday's, etc.). But occasionally, you'll find a store that's been there for decades, and for some reason, it just hasn't changed in all that time.

The Homestead Gourmet Shop is a tiny, cramped space, with a painted tin-paneled ceiling and dark varnished wood on the walls. They have a marble table by the window, where strudels and tortes are displayed, then a cheese case with another marble-topped table in front of it, where your order is cut or sliced to order, then wrapped in brown butcher paper. Deeper in the store there is a bread case mounted like a medicine cabinet on the back wall with glass sliding doors holding loaves weighing 10 lbs. a piece, sold sliced by the pound like deli meats. In front of that is a long line of traditional glass-enclosed refrigerated deli display cases. There are deli meats, smoked sausages and fish, more pastries, cold cuts, and hot food like barbequed chicken and lasagne. They make lots of sandwiches.

On the opposite wall of the long, narrow room is lined with shelves and a frozen foods case. The latter is filled with such things as frozen pirogies, quiches and ice cream. The shelves have German and English powdered classics (dumpling mix, custard powder, stew seasonings, etc.) There are also chutneys, mustards, honeys, jams, jellies, preserves, teas, cookies... lots of stuff from floor to ceiling. If you have a hankering for European condiments and such, this place will likely have them.

My favorite thing is the sugar-encrusted cheese strudel; they also have apple and cherry strudels, many different pies and cakes galore. I bought a sacher torte, that Austrian masterpiece. They put it in a cake box, tied up with string, just like in "The Sound of Music's" My Favorite Things -- so very nostalgic!

The staff is overhelpful sometimes, but they do a nice job. They are clad in white coats and lemon-squeezer style paper hats, like in the old days! The prices are very reasonable -- $13 for a whole sacher torte, strudel is about $4 a pound -- and the evocative atmosphere feels very European. The staff tend to be recent immigrants, perhaps friends or relatives of the owners. They have neatly tied back or slicked back hair, wear metal-framed glasses, and bowties ... sometimes it feels like you're in inter-war Berlin! Very surreal. But even if it feels a bit like a ghost story, try them out. You'll enjoy the mood as well as the food!

CLOSING COMMENTS — R.I.P.
When a shop has been in one place longer than you or nearly everyone you know has been alive, you just kind of assume it'll be there forever. Alas, all good things come to an end ... I walked by and did a doubletake! No strudel or pies in the window? What did they do with the huge marble cheese cutting table they purportedly shipped from Berlin? What happened to all those beautiful bottles of mustards, spices, preserves?? I hope they threw a big party with all the food that wasn't sold on the final day. The food would have been leaden but delicious. The owner had died or taken a turn for the worse, apparently. How could such a place not make concessions for succession?? Plan ahead, is the lesson -- either for someone to continue what you'd built, or at least plan ahead to live without such places eventually ... so sad! Well ... that stuff isn't good for you anyway ...


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