Results tagged labneh from David Lebovitz

Zahav

Zahav restaurant hummus

I didn’t believe them when they told me, but when I was in Washington, D.C. a few months back, when having dinner with my friends Carol and Joe, they swore that if I stopped at Zahav in Philadelphia on the way back, that I’d have a life-changing experience. While I wish that at least several times a day I’d have a life-changing experience (sometimes I wish for them several times an hour…), I was a little skeptical. Both of them are pretty knowledgable about good food, but I’ve been steered wrong on many occasion. And getting off of a train, taking a taxi, and having dinner before hoofing back to the train station later on in the evening, then dealing with getting back safe and sound while navigating late-night Manhattan, wasn’t exactly an enticing idea. Especially for a bowl of hummus.

Zahav restaurant fried haloumi

While on that trip to Washington, D.C., my friend Judy and I went to a Middle Eastern restaurant that everyone had said great things about. Even people I trust. Note: I later found out the place was known for wild dips in quality, so the ones who recommended it are off the hook. (However if any of them are reading this, I’m setting up a PayPal site where you can pitch in to reimburse me for dinner.)

Zahav restaurant  salatim

That place was mobbed, which is usually a good sign. But nothing we’d had during our dinner knocked our socks off, or excited us. Even the hummus was ho-hum, and hummus isn’t all that hard to get right. You just need to taste it and add some lemon, salt, perhaps more tahini, and maybe some garlic, until you get the taste where it belongs. For heaven’s sake, it’s not like a cake where you have to start all over again. Get it right, or don’t serve it. And we left disappointed.

So when I was heading to Charlottesville to give a talk recently, Joe, Carol and I made plans to meet in Philadelphia, because I had been thinking about that hummus they had said would change my life. And while there are a number of things I’d like to change, but can’t, eating good hummus is one of them that I can. So let’s do it, I said.

Zahav restaurant hummus

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Eating Around London

London Beef

I never really “got” London. It was always this hulking city that I struggled to navigate, overwhelmingly large, with a subway system that seemed like a tangle of routes and directions that I just couldn’t unravel. But part of it is my fault as I never really spent a lot of time trying to figure it out. I just accepted defeat early on. So this time, I decided to walk from one side of the city to the other, to get a feel for it. And I have a London-sized callous on my foot, but it was worth it. I got to see the neighborhoods and the districts while I wandered and stopped in cafes and coffee shops, and just sat and watched snippets of everyday life in London. And now, I “get” it. London is pretty fun – and delicious.

Spending nearly a week there gave me some time to make a few discoveries – finding some new places, and revisiting some old favorites. Such as the pastries at Ottolenghi in Islington and a trip to Neal’s Yard (where they happily hand out samples, which – of course, makes you powerless to resist buying slabs of – well, everything), all accompanied by a pleasant friendliness and efficiency.

pear cakes at Ottolenghi

And I even mastered the Tube (subway) and managed not to get lost during the entire time that I was there, which is a first for me. All of it is – as the French like to say are (although they should probably tweak it a bit, to comply with grammatical rules) – “So British!”, such as black cab drivers opening the door for you with a peppy greeting, and getting dairy delivered in glass bottles for a spot of milk in your morning coffee.

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Labneh

labneh 1

I have always loved Middle Eastern foods. The fresh vegetables, the liberal use of herbs and seasonings, including a touch of spiciness at times, and the casual way of eating that the food encourages. Meze is the term that’s used to define all the “little plates” that get brought out to begin in a meal, served in little bowls often with pools of olive oil in the middle, waiting to be sopped up with soft pita or other flatbreads.

When I wrote about the Lebanese meze I’d had on a trip to the Middle East, I didn’t realize that a number of people were all that interested in what vegetables went into it. (But who can blame them? I wanted to remake it, too.) Like a lot of those foods, people aren’t necessarily following recipes – they’re following their nose, and yup, you got it – they cook by taste.

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