This is utterly obvious, but fine, let’s be obvious today: It’s interesting to me that when you pay attention to life, you begin to recognize patterns … and once you start recognizing patterns, you begin to have expectations … and when you have expectations, you’re a little more discerning … and the more discerning you are, the more likely you are to experience disappointment.
Pay attention = become a snob. Is that true math?
Is developing “better” “taste” a bad idea? Does it only ultimately make you disappointed? Or maybe it’s good–maybe taste and expectation lead us to a new ambition: we want good things, so to get good things we better figure out a way to afford said good things.
But maybe that’s problematic, too: if all you’re doing in life is experiencing self-curated goodness, is it even good anymore?
Maybe … we need ‘badness’ to experience and recognize ‘goodness.’
Also we went to a show last Thursday at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, where we saw a band that calls Tucson its home (though they’re not from Tucson). That band is Calexico, named after a border town whose name, along with Mexicali, was invented about a hundred years ago by an LA-area developer named Luther M. Holt (the guy who helped accidentally create the Salton Sea) … and if you know our area, Holt Avenue (named for Luther) is basically the main drag in Pomona and the surrounding towns (pun not really intended). So at the Calexico show we had a strong Tucson/Holt/Pomona connection … plus, we stayed the night in Encinitas, where we’re pretty sure Steve Kerr lives, the very same Steve Kerr past whose Tucson house in the late 90s my friends and I would drive by very late at night, shouting Steeeeeeve …. Kerrrrrr! in the same manner and intonation as the UofA basketball PA announcer did every time Steve made a three-pointer during his late 1980s college career.
- Calexico is an amazing band.
- I would like to send Calexico my Tucson-set collection of stories so the band can maybe write a song inspired by my stories.
- But I don’t know how. Help appreciated.
- Steve Kerr is thanked in the acknowledgments of that same book.
- Steve: sorry for shouting at your house.
- Also: Vieve and I went to Tijuana!
- Did you know that you lose phone data the second you cross the border?
- We didn’t!
- Now we do. We learned. And learning is half the battle.
In Tijuana, we ate at one of the best taquerias we’ve ever been, Tacos Mike, a stand on the side of the street a few blocks east of downtown, just south of Costco. We ordered a chicken milanesa taco–literally a full-size breaded chicken milanesa folded into a tortilla–and a chile relleno taco.
The optional sauces included beans (very saucy), many different salsas, and stewed chicharron. (Yes, as a sauce. Amazing.) These were A) the largest tacos we’ve ever eaten and B) huge messes and C) utterly amazing and D) we feel a little embarrassed about being stupid Americans wandering in another country with only the faintest grasp of that country’s language and speaking of stupid Americans wtf with the Supreme Court and it’s
morally corrupt and dubiously legally correct majority opinion that right now feels to me like terribly white and sexist and racist good old fashioned American Puritanical repression being inflicted on non-Christian women for enjoying sex and a second wtf for continuing to tear down the separation between church and state and doing so by relying on the really terribly deceptive and idiotic theory of “originalism” to justify their decisions. Originalism is not a sincere theory of judicial interpretation. The justices know they aren’t trying to follow the Founding Fathers’ intent (which is a dumb enough notion anyway but also did you know that Ben Franklin published instructions for getting abortions?). Originalism is simply rhetorical sleight-of-hand that allows fundamentalism to rule the day.
Ah, right, FalafelQuest©. On Sunday the 26th of June, we did our Pasadena falafel trip. Bizarrely, apparently every falafel place east of I-5 is located on old Route 66 (Foothill out here, Colorado in Pasadena). Our plan was to go to three places: Father Nature Lavash Bistro, Hummus Labs, and Famous Shish Kebab. But Hummus Labs that very morning decided to stop being open on Sundays, so instead of Hummus Labs we tried to go to Sahara, a very esteemed restaurant … that, it turns out, is also closed on Sundays … so INSTEAD we went to that old so-and-so, Zankou Chicken. More on that in a minute.
Our first stop was Father Nature Lavash Bistro.
We ordered the Double Pleasure, an enormous falafel+chicken wrap in lavash ($11.75). At our request, they took one falafel and put it on the side (that’s it above). We also got both their regular and spicy tahini sauces, which were sort of insanely good, easily the best tahini sauces of the summer. The falafel itself? Also good:
- Texture: 3.5/5: a great size and shape: whiskey ice ball, check and check. The filling wasn’t overly tight, either, which is a good thing … but the falafel actually could have been fried a little longer or in hotter oil: the exterior had a fairly thin crunch, so the textural contrast wasn’t as great as it could have been.
- Spice: 5/5*: fantastic. The falafel at Father Nature Lavash Bistro is a blend of chickpea and fava bean (the latter a fairly common base ingredient for falafel in Egypt–where falafel originated about a hundred years ago), and the spice blend is fantastic: these have a little kick and a ton of flavor … *but, discerning as I am, I asked what they put in the falafel and was told, with a bit of a shrug, that “it just comes like that.” I asked what? and was then told that they use a pre-made dry mix (which I now suspect to be Tarazi). Does this make the falafel taste less good? No, of course not. Does it mean Father Nature Lavash Bistro doesn’t get all the street cred it would if it were making its own falafel? Of course it does. Bummer. (Um, get your mix on Route 66?)
- Herbaceousness: 2.5/5: spice-forward, not herb-forward.
- Value: 5/5: $4.75 for six pieces of falafel and a killer tahini sauce is a great deal.
Our next stop was
Hummus Labs Sahara Zankou Chicken. Maybe you know about Zankou because its name is amazing. Or because of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Or because of its sad and grisly past. We’ve always sort of half-liked Zankou. It’s solid, not spectacular, and the Pasadena location is always a bit overwhelming. We ordered a side of two falafels ($2.99) and requested garlic sauce on the side in place of tahini–sure, no problem. Then they handed us two falafels and tahini sauce. Yay. But the falafel! Our first green-bombs of the summer!
- Texture: 1/5: the shape was fine if not our preferred, your standard falafel-puck … but these were very over-fried (and given the enormous size of the tub they were fried in, the oil likely isn’t changed out with the greatest frequency). So they were already pushing being too hard on the exterior .. and then the interior was a weak wet mush, which is fairly apparent in the picture. Nope.
- Spice: 1/5: the only spice we tasted was salt and also salt and also burned oil.
- Herbaceousness: 2/5: look at that bright green falafel! How can it not taste like anything green? It’s like an evil magic trick. Probably blame Originalism.
- Value: 0/5: if it’s not worth eating for free, it gets a zero. No Zankou!
Our final stop was Famous Shish Kebab … or more like Meh-mous Shish Kebab.
(As in meh.)
- Texture: 3/5: a nice exterior crisp, actually (and our favorite shape), but the inside was awfully dry and grainy.
- Spice: 1/5: oh, wow, these were a bummer. They look good–look at the full chunks of parsley!–but we chewed our first bites thoughtfully and one or maybe both of us said, Why don’t these taste like anything?!
- Herbaceousness: 2/5: again, the flavors just didn’t come through. When I’ve made falafel, it’s admittedly hard to get the right textural balance with too much parsley and/or cilantro … but without enough of the herbs, their flavor gets lost quickly, easily overwhelmed as it is by spice and frying. I’m thinking a dry herb route is likely the way to go: more intense flavors that don’t sacrifice the fluffy texture … and I suspect this explains the tastiness of the
TaraziFather Nature Lavash Bistro falafel.
- Value: 0/5: six crumby falafels for $8.99. Mehmous indeed.
That’s our update for the week! We’re hoping, again, for better future results–either Hollywood (Saffy’s, Falafel Arax, Ta-eem) or the Glendale area (Skaf’s, Dune, Joe’s) will probably next on our list. More to come!