Archive for the ‘Middle Eastern’ Category

Amsterdam Falafel Shop – A Red Light District for Chickpeas

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

Location: Somerville, MA

The Foodie Says: Cosi-Cosi









Anyone who has been to Amsterdam and ventured outside the famed red light district will tell you that there is much more to this beautiful city than x-rated window shopping…great food, a beautiful riverboat tour, one of the skinniest buildings in the world, and lots of Van Gogh (best enjoyed after a few space cakes).

Similarly, there is much more to the world of falafel than Amsterdam Falafel Shop – but for an area starved for good fried chickpeas it’s a start.

AFS is a falafel shop with roots in Washington, DC that has decided to branch out and open a shop in the area where most future presidents get their Harvard degree and where most future diplomats pick up a few classes at the Fletcher School. Might as well feed your future leaders well as they feed their brains, right?

Here’s how the assembly-line format at AFS works:

  1. Order your falafel sandwich or falafel plate
  2. Load up on a wide assortment of toppings that include: pickled everything, cucumber + tomato, tahini, cabbage, hummus, yogurt sauce, spicy red stuff, etc.
  3. Devour

The falafel sandwich is pretty good, but I’ve had much better elsewhere. I take issue with the hard, crunchy, and slightly dry variety they are serving here. The toppings really save the day along with the pillow-soft pitas that they serve the falafel with. But the main event is a bit lackluster.

Amsterdam also boasts fries with a variety of interesting dipping sauces. Again, the fries are seriously lacking but are saved by an especially good curried ketchup dipping sauce.

So it appears a trend is surfacing here – AFS dresses-up their fare pretty well but misses the mark on the main events.

Like a tourist making a beeline for the red light district, AFS needs a better map of falafelville. But until better eats in this genre hit the area, I’m sticking with my Chickpea Fritter from Clover Food Lab.

Oleana – Better Stats Than Your Favorite Ball-Throwing Sport

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

If you’ve been a reader of the Foodie for long, you’ll know that I like to stay hip with the newest, swankiest grub parlors in town…but every once in a while I like to throw a shout-out to one of my long-time favorites.

That shout for this week is going out to Oleana.

This is an all-star restaurant with stats like [insert your favorite jock here]. Here is what the back of my “culinary card” would look like for Oleana:

  • A.N.R. (Average Notice for Reservation) – 1 to 2 weeks advance call-ahead for party of two
  • G.M.R. (Good Meal Ratio) – 100% (4 out of 4)
  • All-Star Chef Award Winner – Ana Sortun has been one of my favorite local kitchen-wizards for years and deserves praise for legitimately expanding my palate as an eater.
  • K.A.M.L. (Kick-Ass-Meals-Lineup):
    • Fish filet cooked sous-vide in paper with butter, truffle, and cauliflower.
    • Awesome little greek sausages
    • Delicate fish and chorizo in broth
    • Fresh burrata with zucchini fritters with greens and a spicy sauce
    • Filet of halibut in mild broth with crispy prosciutto and couscous “cubes”
    • Y.I.B.C.H.  (Years I’ve Been Coming Here) – 7
    • Gourmet Food Sourcing Award – Sortun owns a farm that supplies a good many ingredients incorporated into the meals here and at her bakery, Sofra.
    • A.P.E. (Awesome Patio Eatery) – Oleana’s outdoor eating area is spacious and beautiful – adorned with herbs, plants, and Mediterranean pieces of flair. Heck, they’ve even got a pear tree back there.
    • U.D.S.P.R. (Ubiquitous Dollar Sign Price Range) – $$$ (25-30 per entrée)

Beyond these key stats, I’ll throw in a lil’ narrative here as well to guide your next meal at Oleana. Looking at my patented “K.A.M.L.” metric above, I’ll say that these guys definitely know how to cook their fish. I have never gone wrong with a dish harkening to the sea here. Also, there are always a ton of well-appointed appetizers rich in exotic spices, purées, veggies, and cheeses. So, load up on the front end, order yourself a baller main plate, and sip a little vino from the always-excellent wine list. Finally – Oleana has some bench strength in the kitchen and always has a pimpin’ pastry and dessert lineup spearheaded by the pastry chef.

With stats like this – what’s not to like? So choose Oleana this winter sports season along with the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins (that is if they’re not extinct due to bickering between millionaires and billionaires)

Sofra – A Slice of the Middle East in Eastern Mass

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Recommends








In a court of food, a raw-yer (get it?) could argue that Ana Sortun is the chef to most successfully bring Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine to Eastern Massachusetts and the North Atlantic.

So a few years ago when I discovered she had opened a bakery and café in a remote corner of Cambridge to build off the success of Oleana I was particularly jazzed.

I’ve been over here several times and never left disappointed – they manage to squeeze fistfuls of culinary delights into a small space. Think amazing falafel and shawarma, a slew of baked goods, spices for purchase, and even fresh eggs (presumably from the farm that Sortun and family runs).

A recent trip here brought joy upon joy in the form of Turkish coffee, a little sausage and broccoli rabe sandwich, a nice quiche-like pastry and the ever-famous egg shakshouka (find out about that one on your own).

Sortun offers you all this and more in a well-designed (yet tiny) space. Sofra is best enjoyed in the following formats:

  • Order a sandwich for take-out. Sip a Turkish coffee while you wait.
  • Bring a slew of pastries home to gorge upon
  • Come with a small crew and hover over people to grab a seat for weekend breakfast
  • Experience Sofra in warmer weather and chill in a small space for outdoor seating

In any form of edible excursion here however – you will be found guilty of gluttony.

Eat on,

Nick the Foodie.