Crunchy Bottoms

Striking the caloric balance. Barely.

Tag Archives: pita

New York City 2012: Taïm – Best Falafel Sandwich

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The pair of degenerates featured in this picture of Taïm’s shopfront refused to step out of my camera frame. They also happen to be my accomplices – or, well, ‘friends’ if I must be so kind as to admit – for a falafel getaway in West Village. My friends clearly get treated to a healthy dose of my special blend of humour, and fortunately for them, my affection takes the form of sarcastic, deadpan remarks, with the occasional tongue-in-cheek comeback. I only give my friends the best.

Now, on to the point of this post: Falafel. Deep-fried rounds of ground chickpeas or fava beans of Middle Eastern origins. It’s hard to directly attribute any one country for this marvelous creation, so let’s just skip the historical commentary.

The last time I had falafel so good that I was convinced that I could give up meat was in Paris, at L’As du Fallafel (I do plan to write about my European foodscapades before the turn of the next millenia). The falafel sandwich I had was messy and wholesome. Skills in serviette management were crucial. The falafels themselves were amazing. Those were the best I had had in my life up until then. The operative words being ‘until then’, because I have found the best since then.

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These are the best falafels in New York, as voted by countless reliable food snobs, the NY Times, Serious Eats, and me. Not to promote Bobby Flay any further, but I also happened to watch how these chickpea fritters bowled him flat on his back in yet another staged Throwdown on the telly.

I run the risk of gushing, and no one likes digital diarrhoea, so I’ll keep this short.

The falafels are freshly fried, deliciously nutty and fluffy. If you order the Green Falafels, split them open and you’ll be stunned to see a vibrantly green core, bright and dewy with flecks of parsley, cilantro, and mint. I don’t have a picture. I spent only a second admiring them before I stuffed my face.

The Falafel Sandwich ($6.25) is Taïm’s ultimate crowd-pleaser from their extensive menu of other crowd-pleasers. The pitas (wholewheat or white) are unbelievably fresh, made in-house perhaps, warm and soft, yet reliable enough to support the weight of copious amounts of hummus, israeli salad, pickled cabbage, and creamy tahini. This sandwich is warm and cool, luxurious yet light, crunchy, smooth, and so darn tasty. Almost every possible component of a great sandwich is embodied in this one. I’m not ashamed to say that I ordered a second.

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What’s interesting is that Taïm’s falafels come in three flavours: Green, Harissa (with Tunisian spices), Red (with roasted peppers). Think of the Green as a classic falafel, the Harissa as fragrant one, and the Red as the sweet one. I had friends ordering the Mixed Falafel Platter ($12), which comes with all three types of falafel, israeli and tabouli salads, and sauces.

I had to skim through Taïm’s menu again for this post, and let’s just say that I’m beyond frustrated right now. If I wasn’t limited by stomach capacity and time back then, I’d have tried their babaganoush, their French Fries with Saffron Aioli (I know!), Fried Eggplant, all their salads and smoothies, and the falafels, and falafels, and more falafels.

I did get a bite of the Baklava ($3), but I wasn’t sure what I was comparing it against since I don’t think I’ve had good baklava, ever.

Everything is freshly made. You can taste it, smell it, see it. This outlet at West Village is small, a hole-in-the-wall. There’s another outlet at Nolita, and – if social media is on your side – there’s their food truck, cruising through NYC every day feeding its lucky, lucky people. Follow them on Twitter…

…while I unfollow them, to spare myself the agony of receiving updates on something I can’t have, three oceans away.

Taïm

Address: 222 Waverly Place, New York 10014

Phone: 212-691-1287

Hours: 11am-10pm Daily

Twitter: TaimMobile

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artichoke cafe + bar: Brunch!

It was about time that I popped by Artichoke again. It’s the rainy season, and the last I remembered, I left my umbrella at the restaurant. That was last November. I’ve gotten drenched more times than I care to remember since then.

No, I’m only joking. I missed the place, and going Food Geek-y chatting with Bjorn. I have been meaning to drop by for brunch before heading off to the cows in Switzerland for my summer study. Perhaps then I’ll finally get round to putting up recipes again. Who knows?

The last time I was at Artichoke for dinner, Bjorn brought out an unassuming slice of toast with a dollop of his homemade labneh (yoghurt and double cream) and drippy chunks of peach jam – one of the new products of his tinkerings in the kitchen. It was sensational, and I all but declared that such a beauty should only be savoured with a cup of strong, bitter coffee. You know, the perfect pairing for a brunch dish and that whole jazz.

Crunchy toast and sweet, syrupy jam to mellow out the tangy bite of the labneh. This was an unnamed, mysterious concoction that surprisingly worked. This is comfort food.

And then this was introduced proper to the brunch menu under an equally unassuming name of Cheese & Jam Toast ($14.00), and served up with a couple of slices of freshly made pita bread, and a thick slice of toasted sourdough. It was great, although less tangy than what I previously tried. Hopefully it’ll regain its kick. It’s a unique combination. Try it.

This is the Brunch Special ($24), also known as Artichoke’s take on the Ploughman’s Platter, with chicken terrine, labneh on the side, eggplant jam, homemade pickled vegetables, green olives, and thick slices of sourdough. It’s one of those iconic English dishes, so you can imagine that I was rather surprised seeing this among Artichoke’s Moorish influences.

I tell you, the chicken terrine is fantastic. It’s a lot lighter than most terrines, flaky, and certainly not mushy. It is seasoned perfectly with a dash of some spices for a beautiful fragrance. This isn’t pâté though, so while you should schmear some on a slice of bread, it is not going to spread like butter, but add a small bit of that sweet eggplant jam (I tasted the caramelized onions more than eggplant, so haters needn’t worry) and you’re good to go. This is essentially a cold dish, so if you’re hankering for one of those belly-warming brunch dishes that’ll send you back to bed right after you wake, you might want to consider their ever-popular scrambled eggs (with sides of mushrooms and feta cheese, or maple-glazed bacon chop, or Moroccan sausage).

Or you could check out the Ful.

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Homemade Naan

Homemade Naan

Following up on my impassioned spiel about fluffy Middle Eastern flatbread: No, I have not gotten the chance to revisit Sofra to bully and harangue the chefs into handing over a recipe, or better yet, their oven.

I did, however, throw together Pita dough the next day, you know, for Pita bread. And Pita bread isn’t Pita bread without its ability to turn into a handy semi-circular pocket with which to stuff all things chunky and drippy and tasty, like so.

No, this is not a mistake. And no, I did set out to make pita. I can differentiate Pita from Naan, thank you very much.

So what in Hummus’ name happened?

Well, they didn’t puff.

And so they went the way of all disobedient Pitas and became Naan.

Very, very yummy Naan at that.  Read more of this post

Sofra Turkish Cafe & Restaurant

Sofra Turkish Cafe & Restaurant

Turkish cuisine remained much of a mystery for the better part of my awareness, since I must admit that I carelessly bunch Turkish, Moroccan, Tunisian and Lebanese all under the gigantic umbrella of Middle Eastern cuisine. I’m horrid, I know. It’s like how Chinese food is no different from Japanese, Korean or Thai to plenty of people. But I have an excuse, and you must grant me this at least: I have never had Turkish cuisine in my entire life, because if I had, I would have been making pita bread all my life had I known that homemade, freshly made flatbreads were just so darn good.

Doner Kebabs roasting on vertical spits.

We have some pretty good Middle Eastern restaurants scattered over the island, most of which I’ve heard are congregated in Haji Lane and Arab Street, some in East Coast, and a couple others on Bussorah Street. And I’ve never been to a single one. I know! What’s wrong with me?!

Well, Sofra is located in the unobtrusive and dowdy-looking Shaw Towers along Beach Road. It’s a reasonable, 8-minute walk from Raffles City, or cut through Bras Basah complex to shave of a couple of minutes. Here, I’m telling you that it’s just 8 minutes to exotic and affordable food (‘exotic’ because anything and everything else is shiny and new outside of Koufu and Kopitiam).

Chefs.

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