Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Contrary to What You Might Think…

I don’t spend the entire day watching food programs on TV. Yes, my default stations are the Food Network, Cooking Channel, and Travel Channel but, since I don’t do that much cooking these days, I am less interested in what are called in the TV biz as “slice and dice” programs and more interested in learning of new and funky places to find food.

So there we were one night watching Adam Richman on the Travel Channel’s Man v Food, and he is eating a giant gyro someplace in Ohio (I think). As a result, Chuck now craves a gyro. As a rule I would go to the computer and Google gyros in Napa, CA. One problem. The computer is at the computer hospital.

What to do? Ask Tony the wine man at Trader Joe’s if he knows where in Napa one finds a good gyro, of course. And he directs us to Small World Restaurant. What a find.

This is a small café with two tiny dining rooms and perhaps six sidewalk tables. It is a combination of love, peace, and rock ‘n roll meets the Middle East meets the surfing culture.

I am sitting facing an ad (not photo-graphed) for Red Bull Energy Drink that reads “Peace the only way toward freedom.” Hanging near the ceiling are flags from what I believe are countries in the Middle East. One wall sports a mural representing the café. The archways between the two dining rooms are painted with Arab scenes. And high on one wall is this ad for Landshark Lager.

From some follow-up research, I gather that Small World has a devoted clientele among the Napa locals and is a particular favorite of those working at the nearby courthouse. And I can understand why. With good food, low prices, and friendly staff, what’s not to like?

You enter the front doors and standing to your right is a gentleman who takes your order after you have studied the hanging menu board. What you don’t see in this photo is the list of eight or so side items, one of which—the hummus taco—was intriguing. You place your order and find a seat after hitting the self-serve beverage station. Paying? You do that after you’ve eaten, and you tell the cashier what you ordered. Trusting folks, here.

We started by sharing an order of very good hummus that came with two warm pitas. While not as silky as the hummus we ate at Mazza in Salt Lake City, it contained neither too much garlic nor too much lemon and had a nice toasted sesame taste.

And I took myself off to the condiment bar near the kitchen and returned with a sampling of each. There was a corn and jalapeno relish, spiced pickled tomatoes, spiced cucumbers, pepperoncini, and spiced croutons. And when I say spiced, I mean SPICED. I know that there is a spice common to Middle Eastern cooking called harissa that has a reddish color and packs plenty of heat. Is this what seasoned the condiments? I will probably never know.

Chuck had ordered the beef gyro. “Where’s the beef?” you may be asking yourself. Believe me, beneath the blanket of red and green cabbage was a heaping portion of good garlicky beef strips (think the lamb and beef gyro meat you see in Food Courts everywhere but without the lamb), romaine lettuce, sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, and tzatziki sauce.

I decided to live dangerously and ordered the falafel pita. I am not sure why since my previous encounters with falafel have been less that successful. But I am sure glad that I took the risk.

“Falafel is a deep fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas and/or fava beans… usually served in a pita, which acts as a pocket, or wrapped in a flatbread known as lava. The falafel balls are topped with salads, pickled vegetables, hot sauce, and drizzled with thin-based sauces.

“The beans are not cooked prior to use. Instead they are soaked with baking soda, then ground together with various ingredients such as parsley, scallions, and garlic. Spices such as cumin and coriander are often added to the beans for added flavor” (www.

In addition to the same crisp veggies stuffed into Chuck’s gyro, my pita was filled with six good-sized falafel balls plus a good portion of hummus for moisture. The falafel balls were crusty on the outside and moist on the inside and had been seasoned with something that provided just a little kick.

Thanks to Tony the wine guy at Trader Joe’s, Chuck satisfied his craving for a gyro, and I developed a new appreciation of falafel at this cute 4.0 Addie café.

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