on the Cooking Channel?
“Eden Grinshpan is a world traveler and culinary adventurer on a mission to eat around the world without using a passport. In each episode, Eden travels to a new American city taking only 24 hours to uncover the global culinary scene. She discovers authentic recipes and incredible stories from the locals who make up the backbone of every city and come together to create some of the most delicious food in the world” (tvrage.com). The market and cafes visited are owned by recent immigrants to the United States who bring with them their culinary traditions. But we’ll leave Eden for now and revisit her later.
Lunch one day found us at Alforon, a Lebanese restaurant located in the San Diego State University neighborhood. “…Rarely is it thought of as a food destination, other than late-night taco shops. But this part of the city is working hard to revitalize its restaurant scene, and if you know where to look, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to take your tummy for a ride.
The menu was full of dishes with which we were totally unfamiliar. Dishes like Lahm Bajeen/lahmajune, Kaack “el Asrouniyeh” and
And while the restaurant is small, the pile of wicker trays on which the flat breads are served is only one indication of the café’s popularity.
We decided to start with something familiar—balilah. We first tried this at Pita Vera in Blacksburg, VA, and it consisted of warm chickpeas in their cooking liquid with lemon juice, olive oil, and chopped tomatoes and onions. Alforon’s was served at an even warmer temperature and didn’t contain any of the chopped vegetables.
And here is where we return to Eden Eats. I am sure that it was on an episode where Eden Grinshpan visits a Middle Eastern market in Phoenix that I learned that children in the Middle East are often served zaatar spread on a pita for breakfast, and it is thought that this helps them study better. desertcandy.blogspot.com seems to confirm this when it states that “Children are often given za'atar sandwiches before a test because it is thought to awaken the mind.” So, knowing that we were never going to finish all of the food we ordered, I took the remaining zaatar flat bread home for breakfast the next day. Did it “awaken the mind?”…I can’t remember.
And now we venture into the unknown with the first of our topped flat breads—the Chicken Tawook. (Since tawook is a variant on the Turkish word tavuk, meaning chicken, this dish’s name is a redundancy.) When “googling” tawook, all the references were to a shish tawook or marinated chicken cooked on a skewer. Here, the cooked chicken was chopped and placed on a flat bread that had already been spread with a garlic paste (or toum). And on top of the chicken were sprinkled a few Middle Eastern pickles.
Finally came the dish that we found the least effective—the beef shawarma flat bread. “Shawarma (Arabic: شاورما) is a Levantine Arab meat preparation, where lamb, chicken, turkey, beef, veal, or mixed meats are placed on a spit (commonly a vertical spit in restaurants), and may be grilled for as long as a day. Shavings are cut off the block of meat for serving, and the remainder of the block of meat is kept heated on the rotating spit. Although it can be served in shavings on a plate (generally with accompaniments), shawarma also refers to a sandwich or wrap made with shawarma meat” (wikipedia.com).
Lunch was, to use a cliché, a mixed bag. Perhaps Alforon was too authentic for us. But I can’t award more than 3.0 Addies.
To review the role of Adler and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.