… and now I falafel.
Groan. I think that ‘joke’ was in a Garfield comic around 1984 … but it’s memorable, if stupid–and ANYWAY we’re back! It’s a new summer, which means a new summer food project. We’ve done local tacos (yay!) … local-ish pizza (nay!) … last summer was summer of sandwich (yum!) … and now?
Why falafel? Well, why not falafel? It’s plentiful, for one, and for two, we both realized that we’re not really discerning when it comes to falafel. We love Middle Eastern/Mediterranean/Levantine food in general (everyone: find a recipe for and make and eat htipiti; you’re welcome) and we’ve always loved falafel…but not so enough to know what makes for particularly good falafel (and, ideally, how to make our own delish falafel–which is a goal for summer’s end). Plus we get to read up on falafel and sprinkle in new knowledge throughout the summer–like this gem: the word falafel might have come down to us from the Coptic word for “this is a great way to eat beans instead of meat during Lent.” (Or, well, not.)
Since we’re not sure about the qualities of good falafel, we’ll probably be feeling out our rating system, but here’s our early plan (everything on a five-point scale):
- Texture: size, crunchy exterior, soft/moist interior, not overly oily.
- Spice: complexity and depth.
- Herbaceousness: fresh/aromatic/green flavors.
And why not start with THE BEST FALAFEL WEST OF THE MISSISSIPPI? (Allegedly.)
We were going to start in June, but then we were down in Claremont for poetry and cheese and realized it’d been a long, long time since we’ve been to Saca’s Mediterranean Cuisine. So we picked up a “Maza Platter” ($10.50), featuring two ‘full-size’ falafels on a bed of lettuce (mmm…bed of lettuce?), two slices of pickled turnip, two vegetarian dolmas, a ‘Mediterranean’ salad of cucumber, tomato, scallion, and dressing, a nice dollop of hummus, two pitas, and a some ‘sesame sauce.’
This was a so-so platter. The dolmas were mush, but the salad was fresh, well-cut, nicely dressed, the pitas were pitas, the sesame sauce was basically a thinned tahini, the turnip was great if you love pickled turnip (I do), and the falafels … were damn good:
- Texture: 5/5
- Spice: 3.5/5 (?)
- Herbaceousness: 3.5/5 (?)
- Value: ? (too soon to tell, but you can get an order of three falafels for $3.50, which seems eminently reasonable to us)
We’re not totally sold on our scoring system yet, hence the question marks, but Saca’s was quite good, especially in terms of texture. The flavors were very strong, to be clear–very balanced, very even; these were quiet falafels, not attention-seeking falafels. So is it the best falafel west of the Mississip? We’re skeptical that downtown Claremont is going to be the place to find such a gastronomical prize–Glendale is going to have something to say before this adventure ends–but this was a good start, and we’re looking forward to finding more!