May 13, 2018

Baraka Cafe, Cambridge, MA. August, 2011

Each year, honoring a tradition I look forward to, I mark my friend Michael’s birthday by taking him to dinner at the wonderful Baraka Café in Cambridgeport. We can walk there from his house, allowing us time to cover many (not all) of the essential conversational topics we’ve been saving up. This tiny place (that we suspect was someone’s apartment at one point) offers Algerian-Tunisian cooking of the finest, home-style quality, with Madame (in full black burkha) at the stove, flames soaring toward the ceiling as she tosses those pans around. The results of her labors -- meze like these beauties: karentika (warm chickpea custard with harissa tapenade), spicy carrots in m’chermla sauce with raisins and onion jam, smoky eggplant salad topped with labna, North African merguez (lamb and beef) sausages with roasted peppers. We often say that the next time we’ll have a complete dinner made from all the meze on offer. But we always cave to the delicious-sounding entrees. This time: roasted, stuffed eggplant over couscous for Michael, seafood tagine for me. (Madame also makes, with 36 hours’ notice, the classic bastilla: filo pastry layered with almonds, cinnamon, saffron, parsley, figs, mint, orange blossom infusion and chicken or squab.) Cash only, no reservations, no alcohol, so good. Why do we only come here once a year?

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