By David Nelson / Photo by Jeff "Turbo" Corrigan
In a 2011 auction held at Christie's New York, a photograph of a 99-cent store fetched more than $3.3 million. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but who knew those words could be worth more than four thousand bucks each?
Inspired to recreate photographer Andreas Gursky's multimillion-dollar "99 Cent II Diptychon," we headed to the aisles of Balboa International Market in Clairemont.
The photo may not bring unlimited wealth, but the selection here sure is rich. this is where Lady Macbeth would buy all the spices of Arabia, but while the market does have a distinctly Middle Eastern-Iranian feel, it's essentially an Ali Baba's cave of fine foods from around the globe. Exploring it should delight any foodie, as will lunch at the terrace cafe.
Shopper-friendly prices include $10.99 for 10 pounds of aged basmati rice grown in the Himalayas. Dozens of other varieties from various countries present unique flavor profiles -affordable ones.
Green, black, cracked, spiced and oil-cured olives in cans and jars hail from Turkey, Greece, France, Bulgaria, Israel and Jordan. Other specialties include imam Bayeldi (a famous Turkish eggplant dish), elephant beans in oil, pomegranate molasses and an educational encyclopedia of vinegars.
The butcher counter bans meats not in keeping with Islamic food laws, but the deli bursts with unexpected finds like Bobak's smoked hunter's bacon from Chicago and Hungarian-style paprika salami.
Indian canned goods include deadly looking hot Bengal chutney; the produce department impresses with unusual fresh herbs (savory for $.69 a bunch); and the bakery turns out hot, fragrant breads.
Friendly staffers make returning a pleasure.
Balboa International Market
5907 Balboa Ave., Clairemont