Friday, August 17, 2007

What Is It About Feta Cheese?


Yesterday, Sarah, Martha, Ron and I went to lunch at Aladdin's Bakery, a lovely little hole-in-the-wall about 15 minutes' walk from our office. It was a beautiful summer afternoon, but the sun was very bright. Unfortunatly, for me, the only sunglasses I had were Riley's Strawbery Shortcake glasses, which are pink, glittery and cat-eyed. The glare was so strong, I was forced to wear them, though Ron said they looked good.
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When we arrived at Aladdin's, the place was filling up. It's a lunch counter attached to a small Middle Eastern grocery and they bake their own pita's in a small factory at the back of the bakery. Actually, they bake enough pitas to stock stores all around the region. We scanned the menu and placed our orders. There were tables, but they were pub height and there were no chairs. Sarah had set sights on one of the four tables and laid claim. We gathered over there and began taking in our surroundings.
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On one wall was a refrigerated case with all the things you'd expect to find at a Middle Eastern grocery: hummus, milk made from incomprehensible sources, chick peas, etc. Toward the back was a separate room for dried goods and behind us was a bakery with pitas in every variety you could think of.

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We hovered near the table trying to absorb it all, while trying to hear our names called, announcing our food to be ready. At one point, Ron, Sarah, and I were inexplicably and simultaniously drawn to a refrigerated display case near the bakery. It contained three large, clear plastic bins, about double the size of the bin at the airport that you put your stuff in to be X-rayed. These bins were half-full of water and sitting in the water were giant bricks of feta cheese, one in each bin.

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The three of us were transfixed. I'm not sure what the others were thinking, but I was staring in horror. Because the cheese was sitting in water, it kind of wobbled a bit when the guy behind the counter reached in. I felt a swoon of nausea as this brick of goo shook menacingly at me, like it was a mad scientists experiement gone bad and planned to slink off the counter and begin consuming us.

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"Uh, what are y'all lookin' at?" Martha asked, mystified, thinking maybe there was something truly exotic in the case. As she peered over our shoulders and saw blocks of cheese, she gave us the stink eye.

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"That's it? Feta cheese?" She wrinkled her nose at us, disappointed.

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We sheepishly returned to the table as she mocked us goodnaturedly for our fascination. Ron had admitted being overcome by seeing so much feta. He's a big fan and claimed the display "a thing of wonder and joy." Sarah was equally impressed by the amount of feta before her. Of course, I told them that it looked like an experiement gone bad and they all agreed that only I would see feta cheese in that way.

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As we ate our lunch we continued to examine the foodstuffs around us, peeking with avid curiousity at the exotic cookies on display at the bakery counter, many of which included pistachio...mmm...pistachio. One of the owners noticed and went behind the counter to fix up a plate of samples.

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"Here," he said, "sliding the plate onto our table. There were four different cookies and pistachio date roll of some kind. "I noticed you looking at the cookies and I though you might like to sample some." We always get free stuff when Martha is with us; she's could be a supermodel, if she wasn't so nice.

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We must have looked like a bunch of star-struck tweens at a Justin Timberlake appearance as we thanked him and began breaking off pieces and sampling the goods. Oh. My. God. There was one cookie that was just like a shortbread, only much sweeter and it was accented with three pistachios on top. It was heavenly. We immediately rued that we had taken so long to try this place out and vowed to return often.

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Ron and Sarah began buying pitas and Ron got a dozen of the shortbreads to take to his grandma's birthday party that night. I told him his cookies would be a hit. By the way, the food was also very good and very fresh. I recommend it, if you ever find yourself in Cleveland, craving a meat pie and falafel.

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We made our way back to the office slowly. Ron and I discussed the evils of Strawberry Shortcake and why the creaters of Veggie Tales chose vegetables as God's spokespeople (we agreed that no Bible-thumpers would ever want fruits advocating God). It was bittersweet. Such a lovely lunch, but it marks about the half-way point until Sarah departs us. There are very few lunches for us at Aladdin's in our future.

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But nevermind. Nothing so wonderful can't be savored again in memory.

19 comments:

  1. I think you got freebies because you wore Riley's Strawberry Shortcake glasses, and looked so hot!

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  2. You should come grocery shopping with me when you visit. I go to this multi-ethnic grocery and there's a whole case full of feta!

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  3. Tenacious, "A whole case full of feta" is just a kick-ass name for a blog!

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  4. Or perhaps "Feta by the Case", or a "two-four of feta".

    Doc

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  5. I've always found "Prone2Whimsy" to be just like shortbread but sweeter.

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  6. THe market we go to has about 6 kinds of feta, and they'll let you sample before you buy.

    Mmmm. Feta...

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  7. I love huge blocks of any sort of cheese.

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  8. I just finished 2 samosas filled with spinach and chunks of feta. It's one of my favourites. Feta compli.

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  9. is it the "stink eye" or the "hairy eyeball"?? H.E. is from "Alice's Restaurant" and I'm all for pinching phrases offa' Guthrie.

    A big-ass block of something white n' cheezy in a tank of water IS a mad-scientist sort of thing: think brain-in-a-vat.

    Finally, *I* pronounce it FEH-teh. Heavy emphasis on the FEH part.

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  10. SD: Oh, yeah...Strawberry Shortcake glasses are my secret weapon!

    Ten S: I would love to!

    Sd: Indeed!

    Doc: More like a 2x4 of feta!

    Beckeye: I just don't get it.

    Grant Miller: I'll take that as a compliment.

    Deadspot: I'll take your word for it. \

    Bubs: Jeez! You guys are all feta freaks! Is this some kind of cult?

    Evil Genius: Cheese, glorious cheese! There are only a few cheeses I can eat. I'm allergic to molds so cheese causes me much trouble.

    Dale: God, you're cute.

    BO: Thank you for seeing it my way, whether through the stink eye or the hairy eyeball. I'm sure there's a difference.

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  11. Sorry you're not able to fully enjoy the glory of cheese!

    I don't eat feta often, but my wife makes a lovely cucumber/onion/feta salad in balsamic vinegar. It's heavenly.

    Hey, can you shoot me an email? I have a zipfile of your mix songs uploaded and ready for you to review.

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  12. It sounds like Elizabeth is using Feta Blockers. For shame.

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  13. I'm always craving meat pie. Who knew I could get it in Cleveland?

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  14. Dale,

    Feta is stinky and it makes me double over in pain. Think of the movie "Alien" and maybe you can give some sympathy.

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  15. I can think of at least 6 other Mediterranean restaurants named Aladdin's Something.

    I enjoy a good feta, but most cheeses are too stinky for me.

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  16. I never knew you were in Cleveland. I've totally been there, or at least to a restaurant in Cleveland named Aladdin's. I'll be back in town for Labor Day, so I thank you for the pistachio cookie recommendation. I never have to work hard to talk my good friend in Cleveland into going for Mediterranean.

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