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Everything posted by zora

  1. Hey Sarah-- Zmorod is in the Armenian quarter, kind of on the northwest side (I think, if I have the whole area laid out right in my head). If you're in the main plaza in the Armenian quarter, walk off the corner with the antiques store on the second floor, and I think make the first turn to your right. The street leading off the plaza has shops selling almost nothing but ridiculous handbags. And if all that doesn't work, pretty much any hotel in the area will known how to get you there. Have a great trip! I'm so envious! Would love to hear more about your Zmorod meal (and anything else) when you're back!
  2. Good to know--thanks! Atlanta is one of the places our publicists want to send us, but I know so little about the food scene there. Thanks again!
  3. I do speak Arabic, but kind of badly. When I first went to Syria in 1999, very few people spoke English, but now there has been a noticeable increase. And Syrians are incredibly helpful. I think you'd be able to get around pretty well, especially in restaurants, where you can always point! (And most restaurant menus I saw were translated.)
  4. Surprisingly enough......on the Left Coast here, we do, sort of. But here in SoCal, it's in the lower echelon, cost-cutter (read *upscale ethnic*) markets and only one chain. The large, mainstream chains do not. The first time I'd ever seen such an arrangement was at a Food-4-Less in southern Oregon when I was visiting a friend. Don't remember if it was in Medford or Central Point where she lives, but it was definately a Food-4-Less. At that time, Medford/Central Point (this was about 15 years ago......) was very rural, and very lower socio-economic scale. I remember watching in awe as Judi bagged a HUGE order of her groceries (she has a passel 'o' kids......). I was like........wow......at home we have "people" to do that. That's funny--now I remember bag-it-yourself was a "feature" of the early warehouse-like grocery stores, before Price Club/Costco/etc. Wish I could remember the name of the one we went to in Albuquerque when I was a kid. But yeah, it seemed exotic and kinda fun (for a kid).
  5. Just realized I've been a little delinquent in reporting on this tour (though I know melamed, who originally asked, has seen my blog posts already), which I took back in May, and now all the details are a little hazy. If someone has specific questions, please ask--it might help trigger my memory! In short, great time and great food. The only real drawback was my personal frame of mind--I'd been approaching this as a major vacation, but the travel (and eating) schedule was very busy. And I'd never really been on a group tour before, so had to wrap my brain around that (I have to be at the bus _when_?!). The real highlights of the trip for me were: 1) a cooking demo at a woman chef's house in Aleppo, which was very down-to-earth and practical, to balance out a lot of the fancier dinners we had 2) a visit to the kitchens at a pastry shop, which was totally mind-blowing and Willy Wonka-ish. Oh, and 3) a passionate lecture from a man who insisted seasonal eating is the only healthy way to live...and don't get him started on artificial fertilization of plants! Best meals were probably at Zmorod, a new restaurant in Aleppo, and at the Club d'Alep (sorry, you regular travelers--it's private!), though it's hard to pick... The trip confirmed my suspicions that Aleppo is where it's at when it comes to food--everyone there just seems to care a wee bit more (which takes them often into crazy-passionate territory). I ate some good things in Damascus, but they were fewer and farther between. I'd also never really heard the theories before that Syrian food--especially in Aleppo--is influenced by Chinese, what with the sweet-sour and fruit-meat combos, and the spicy heat. Intriguing, and helped me pinpoint a little better what distinguishes Syrian food from Lebanese or Turkish. Also interesting: the woman chef we visited talked about how different things are used as souring agents depending on the season--lemon juice, verjuice, pomegranate syrup...as well as the perennially reliable citric acid. I knew these things were all used, but never quite grasped why/when you'd use one or the other. Citric acid, apparently, is often used in restaurant cooking because the flavor is stable and consistent over a day in a way that lemon juice is not. I also noticed that the "lemon juice" served with the fuul in the (very traditional, very beloved) Aleppo joint we stopped at was actually citric-acid water. Not in a bad way. (In fact, since coming home, I've bought my own bag of citric acid--goes very nicely in iced tea.) We ate desert truffles, which were satisfying in a richer-than-a-potato way. They were apparently all imported from Morocco this spring, because it had been a bad year in Syria--but this was lucky for me, because ordinarily they would've been out of season in mid-May. We saw akub (gundelia), which melamed asked about on another thread, but never got to eat any. Anyone have any recipes? I am intrigued by anything artichoke-like... It was also the season for rose-petal jam, served with salty string cheese. Yum. Oh, and now I can clearly say that Syrian sweets are the best. Why? They're just not very sweet--so your baqlawa and what-have-you are more a nut-and-butter experience, with a hint of sugar. Remarkable restraint. And maybe they're also better because I got to see them being made by giant burly men and a small army of 14-year-old apprentices! I packed my bag home with Aleppo pepper paste and pomegranate molasses, both semi-homemade (bought at the produce market), plus a bottle of mulberry syrup, which unfortunately is now all gone. This was my third trip to Syria...and instead of making me feel like I "did" Syria, now I just feel like there's so much more try. A nagging problem! Oh: photos and a couple of videos from the trip are here and here (pastry kitchen).
  6. I usually bag my own stuff, but my local supermarkets (in a rare grocery-centric neighborhood in NYC) have a handful of very attentive cashiers. Occasionally when I'm bagging, I'll get a little frantic because the stuff is piling up and everyone in the line is kind of glowering in that New Yorky way, and start packing a little haphazardly. One time this happened, and the cashier--one of the attentive ones--started tsking, and took the stuff out of my hands and repacked it for me, very carefully. Very nice! (This is the same woman who, years ago, complimented me on buying so much fresh produce!) Not quite the same, but there's an excellent high-school-age girl at my other store who stopped me as I was laying things out on the conveyor belt. "I have a system," she said, as she unpacked my basket for me. Then she said, "Stand back. I go fast!" Whoa, she did! Her system involved putting all the like with like, and scanning _incredibly_ fast. So fast that I couldn't even begin to keep up with the bagging! So slightly counterproductive, but if I were in her shoes, I imagine I'd develop a similar game, just to keep the job mildly interesting. I wish, now that we're using more non-disposable bags here in the US, stores would install the little swinging dividers at the end of the belts like they have in Europe. All your stuff gets channeled down one side of the divider, so you can stand there and bag in peace while the cashier moves on to the next customer, whose stuff rolls down the other side of the divider. Does anyone have those at their stores yet?
  7. I live in New York, and here in the city of hype, it's hard to tell what's really happening anywhere else. I'm curious what the rest of the US--mostly the non-coastal parts--has got in the way of underground restaurants / supper clubs / whatever you want to call them (by which I mean people cooking in their homes for friends and strangers, and charging money). To hear the media tell it, this trend is all over the place...or is it? A friend just forwarded me a newspaper article from St. Louis, about the first underground restaurant there. Do you have them where you live? Do you wish you did? Are you sick and tired of them? Or sick and tired of hearing about them being the next big thing? Are you thinking of starting your own? This sounds like I'm doing some fishing for a trend piece of my own, but I'm not. But the question is slightly self-serving. I just finished writing a cookbook based in part on a supper club a friend and I have had for years. So I'm just trying to mentally prepare myself for the book's probable reception beyond my little bubble...
  8. Ooh, I loved that too! I didn't realize Eno was into food in any way. It all starts to make sense...
  9. Rogelio, just wanted to say huge thanks for the Casa Joaquin recommendation! I had the best teensy garlicky clams there, and fried monkfish liver. Still one of the standouts of my trip. Unfortunately didn't get to Alejandro or FM, but am going back to Granada next month, so can at least make sure I hit the latter.
  10. How fuddy-duddy of me...I've done all my research on Syrian food in books! Thanks for these sites. I'm hungry now!
  11. That Guardian story is how I found out about her tour in the first place! I feel like I'm wading into a swamp, talking about the difference between Syrian and Lebanese food. Not sure how to pinpoint it, but I definitely feel like I've eaten differently in each place. Maybe figuring out how to articulate that is my goal for this trip!
  12. I know her only through her cookbooks. I'll definitely post here after my trip. The Gaziantep trip sounds great too...
  13. And can I just add that I'm super-depressed to hear about the lack of butchers out there? I knew it was bad, but not quite so bad. This is really tragic... Wandering OT, but I wonder if the carnicerias will wind up filling the gap? Mexican butchering is sooo different, though. I could tell when they started hiring Mexican guys instead of Egyptians at my fresh-kill poultry place--my chicken came out in totally different pieces!
  14. Slightly OT, but one of our enterprising recipe testers made her own pomegranate molasses, by boiling down 4 cups pomegranate juice, 1 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup lemon juice until it was super-syrupy. I haven't tried this yet, but it's worth a shot! ← Which you should try and, if it works, add to your book. ← Oh, I definitely will! She just emailed me with her testing notes--so haven't had a chance yet to try...
  15. I lived in Bloomington 12 years ago! It most definitely did not have a slow-food scene then...but I sure did appreciate the international food stores.
  16. Slightly OT, but one of our enterprising recipe testers made her own pomegranate molasses, by boiling down 4 cups pomegranate juice, 1 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup lemon juice until it was super-syrupy. I haven't tried this yet, but it's worth a shot!
  17. Wellll, if you can wait till October, I'll have two pomegranate-molasses-using recipes for you! (Hint: goes great with lamb. Also with lentils.)
  18. Gah, I love the Trade Fair! It's one of the reasons I moved to the neighborhood. Now, for the record, the rival Key Food has kosher chickens, just to even things out....
  19. Anissa is giving a culinary tour in Syria in May, check it out in http://www.anissas.com/travels.html hope this didn't come too late, Did you find anything interesting in your search? A nice book is Poopa Dweck's Aroma's of Aleppo ← In fact, I'm already scheduled on the trip! Unfortunately, I haven't found anything else yet. (Though I have bought the Aromas of Aleppo book...)
  20. Right. If I pick up a cookbook and browse through it, and the majority of the recipes look appealing and do-able, I'll buy it. Sometimes it even helps if there are some ingredients with which I'm not readily familiar. And if I have good luck with the recipes I try first, I look forward to sampling those with more intriguing ingredients. If they look good and interesting enough, I wouldn't mind ordering a few things from the internet. I would suggest, though, that you include the definition and resource section at the back of the book. I think they're helpful. ← Yes, we have already put in some Internet sources for the rarer stuff, and we explain just about everything. (One of our recipe testers pointed out that she didn't know miso was a refrigerated item, for instance.) The book is partially aimed at curious-but-new-to-cooking types, so we don't want to scare too many people. But from everyone's feedback, I'm encouraged that people in bookstores won't slam the book shut in despair at the sight of some of these ingredients. Back to the butcher question--does anyone use one regularly? If you don't go to a dedicated meat guy (gal?), is the one at your supermarket useful? Can you order custom cuts?
  21. I gotta say, I'm surprised that sherry vinegar is so common. That's the one thing I cannot consistently find in my own neighborhood!
  22. Thanks, Rogelio! I'll be driving around both provinces--so out-of-town recs are just as good to know! And I love "unfashionable but superb"--sounds perfect!
  23. I like that kind of resourcefulness!
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