April 7, 2011

Brighton, MA. March 2010

Sometimes you want to get away but you don’t have the time, the money, the energy. And that’s when my favorite substitute seems a perfect solution: a local ethnic restaurant. Living as I do near Boston, I can sit down at any number of places, tuck a napkin under my chin, and dig into a foreign country pretty much any time I want to. Last night, for example, I took birthday boy Michael for a mealtime trip to Algeria and Tunisia courtesy of the treasured Baraka Café in Cambridge. Four mezes (spicy carrot puree, smoky eggplant salad with labne, grilled merguez sausages and the best: chickpea custard with harissa), two entrees (potato and cauliflower cake on spicy olive tapenade, North African marinated skewers of lamb, sausage, chicken and beef over deep-fried shredded carrots with greens and cucumber/yogurt salad) and a split dessert (seven-spice flourless chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and mango sorbet), plus tax and tip: $66! Imagine what the airfare to Tunis alone would have cost! Madame Chef, grace itself in full burkha, cooked up a firestorm in the tiny kitchen and remembered us (love it!) from our visit a year earlier. The smells and tastes of Istanbul, too, are less than three miles away at our beloved Saray (pictured above) where a heavenly meat-heavy “special” combo plate (grilled shish, chicken and adana kebabs, kepez kofte, two lamb chops and lahmacun, yogurt, salads and rice: $16.95) whisks me back to Beyoğlu without my having to pack, pass through customs or even fasten a seat belt. Because the next-best thing to being there is “eating there.”

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