Local Vendor Spotlight: Tara’s Mediterranean Almond Cookies
Tara, a local vendor from San Jose, makes the No. 1 selling cookie at Sigona’s…plus, they’re gluten and cholesterol free!
Think chewy, sweet, light and fluffy yet dense at the same time…it’s a short but fitting description for the No. 1, best-selling cookie at Sigona’s. Longtime customers are no doubt familiar with them; in fact, a handful of reviews on Yelp were written as a tribute to these very cookies.
Yes…they’re that good!
They’re Tara’s Mediterranean Almond Cookies made by local vendor Tara Partovie of San Jose.
“They were my favorite cookie as a little girl,” said Tara. “When I moved to the U.S. from Iran my family would mail the cookies, but of course after traveling such a long distance they weren’t the same, so my sister, Taiab, suggested I try baking them on my own.”
Baking cookies may sound easy, especially if your favorite is chocolate chip and you can follow the recipe on the back of most chocolate chip bags, but Tara’s almond cookies are not your average cookie. The recipe is difficult to master.
The ingredient list is simple and includes items Tara purchases at our store, such as the pistachios which are chopped and sprinkled on top to add a more traditional Mediterranean feel. Besides the incredible taste, one of the cookie’s key selling points is that they are gluten free and cholesterol free! Two of Tara’s friends, local business owners Davoud Khoshkbariie and Hassan Jabbari, knew there was a demand for gluten free products and encouraged Tara to try selling the cookies once the recipe was perfected.
“I tried and tried, day after day,” said Tara. “I would call my sister to describe the outcome to her and we’d work on tweaking measurements together over the phone. She would give me tips and encourage me to keep baking. I’ll never forget the day I opened the oven and knew right away I had done it. It had taken more than a year and a half of practice. I called my family right away to tell them; they couldn’t be more proud!”
Davoud and Hassan were also among the first to receive a call announcing the long-awaited perfect cookie. They did as they had previously and encouraged her to connect with local retailers about selling her cookies. The two friends graciously shared a few business tips with Tara and have continued to encourage and support her through the years.
Tara first landed shelf space at specialty foods boutique in Macy’s at the Valley Fair Mall and sold there until the little shop closed a few years lager. While at the specialty store, Tara received praise from world-renowned chefs, such as Martin Yan of “Yan Can Cook” and French Chef Jacques Pépin, who complimented Tara individually during book signings at Macys. She’s even won over star as star athletes such as Roger Craig, a former 49er, who loved Tara’s cookies so much he took a picture with her one day while picking up his cookie supply for the week.
It was John Bagoye, the former owner of the boutique in Macy’s, who suggested Tara to Sigona’s, a suggestion for which we couldn’t be more grateful!
“I was working at the Stanford store the day we were to meet, but she ended up at the Redwood City by mistake,” said John Nava, specialty foods buyer for Sigona’s. “Missing the appointment wasn’t as stressful as a local vendor may fear at first because Tara met with Paul [Sigona] while at Redwood City before jetting over to Stanford to meet with me. Paul called to let me know she was on the way and when I asked him what he thought of the cookies he said, ‘well, I already ate the whole box!’
“The cookies were just as delicious as Paul had said so and when I asked her when she could bring in the first batch she said, ‘tomorrow,’” said Nava. “She brought 120 boxes and sold out the first day! We held an exclusive agreement with Tara for five years and her cookies were the first non-produce specialty item people would call the store for and make sure they were in stock. It’s the No. 1 selling non-produce item in the store, per square foot. Now, that’s a good cookie!
The modest and grateful smile that graces Tara’s face as she reminisces about perfecting the almond cookie is priceless. “If it weren’t for John Bagoye and John Nava I wouldn’t be where I am today,” said Tara as she patted Nava on the back. “Sigona’s is like my extended family and I can’t say thank you enough to them, to my sister who made life easy for me in the U.S., or to my two friends Davoud and Hassan who encouraged me and helped me with my business.”
Tara’s cookies are perfect at any time of day or for any event. From a treat to serve at tea time to an after (or before!) dinner snack, you can’t go wrong. Because they’re made fresh almonds and egg whites, they’re light enough that they won’t completely ruin your appetite. I like propping two cookies up in a bowl of vanilla bean gelato! In addition to giving away Tara’s cookie’s for free (see the coupon in the e-news), we’re offering $1 off the regular price Jan. 20-26 should you want to buy more! They’ll be marked as such in the store from Jan. 20 to Jan. 26th.