I first knew of Sabato as the place being protested for stocking foie gras, as well as the importer’s name on my favourite paprika. I wasn’t expecting the gourmet food importer and retailer to be very vegan-friendly, and in some ways it’s not, particularly. Alongside the foie gras, you can find goose fat, olives stuffed with chorizo and all kinds of exotic unnecessary animals. The couple of times I’ve mentioned being vegetarian, reactions have ranged from sarcasm to curiosity, like I’m a rare foreigner with unusual customs.
But though their ethics around food differ from my own where animals are involved, in other places there are overlaps. Most of the products they stock are sourced directly from small producers in Europe and New Zealand, like number 29 table olives and Ringawera lavash, both from small Waiheke-based companies. A lot of stock is organic or natural, produced with care using traditional methods and real ingredients. The vegan products that they do stock are special, delicious and in many cases, hard to find elsewhere.
And it turns out that there are a lot of products on the shelves that are suitable for vegans, from fig vincotto to roasted marcona almonds to chestnut butter. My favourite discoveries include:
- Leone Gianduioso – thick dark chocolate hazelnut paste that you squeeze onto your dessert from a sparkly gold toothpaste-style tube.
- Ines Rosales Tortas de Aceite, traditional Andalusian flat pastries that I first wrote about when I found them at The Little Grocer.
- Tomato bruschetta topping ready to spoon onto toasted bread – the other flavours are pretty good too.
- Pinoli fresh pine nuts grown in Marlborough.
- Lapalisse Hazelnut Oil, delicious with bread and amazing drizzled on artichoke hearts.
Sabato’s retail showroom at 57 Normanby Road, Mt Eden, is a great place to find unusual European spices or grains, good quality essences and interesting pickles & preserves. A reason to visit rather than ordering online is the samples: little bowls and plates sit next to many of the products, inviting you to try them. If you shop on a weekend morning, you might even be offered an espresso to sip on while you shop (just don’t make the mistake of asking for soy milk!)
Yesterday morning, we walked down to Sabato and picked up a loaf of bread and a couple of other not-exactly-essentials including a jar of truffle salt for a friend. Breakfast was simple and perfect: an Ooooby avocado on thick slices of fresh bread from Sabato, with some of their Pronto Rosso sundried tomato pesto with basil, garlic and chilli.