subject: The Balkan Bakery Cafe
take-out vehicle: styrofoam box, paper bag
Despite what you make think of my interest in take-out food, I'm no slouch in the kitchen. I cook dinner for my wife almost everyday when I get home from work, and I very much enjoy doing so. It's relaxing. It's fun. And now that our deck has been built, I look forward to hosting and cooking for others even more. Simply put, the act and the art of preparing food are two of my favorite things.
That being said, there are some things that I will probably never want to make for myself, and phyllo dough is one of them. Having worked with the freezer variety just days ago, I cannot imagine the patience it must take to create something so fragile. As awesome as I'm sure it would taste, I just don't have the desire to do it.
So, as you might imagine, I was most impressed when The Balkan Bakery Cafe lady told me she makes theirs from scratch. In fact, that statement alone gave me all the information I needed to decide on my order.
After a brief menu item show-and-tell (she was obviously very proud of her work, but I think she picked up on the fact that I was mentally drooling over the idea of fresh phyllo because she quickly brought out examples of her made-that-morning stuffed-phyllo pies), I chose the meat pie, which she told me was her favorite. It was not a small item, yet as she boxed it up, I stared at the trays of desserts scattered around me and winced as they twisted my willpower's arm. Defeated again (damn you, willpower!), I ordered two powdered sugar-covered, cakey-looking desserts which she described as honey, walnut, and cinnamon cookies.
Let me tell you, that meat pie (which consisted of ground beef, potato, onion, and plenty of black pepper rolled in phyllo, which was then shaped into an oblong coil) was scrumfattylicious. The phyllo wasn't as thin as the stuff I bought at the grocery store, and I'm glad it wasn't. To its advantage, it was thick enough, and had enough butter in it, to create and absorb a silky, creamy, beefy, but barely-there sauce inside the pie. Besides tasting great, it kept the inner dough soft and a little chewy, which contrasted very nicely with the flakier outer dough. Mm-mm-mm.
The potatoes and the onions also added quite a bit to the moist interior, as they were both shredded and incorporated into the meatballs. The liberal use of black pepper pretty much covered up their taste, but being a pepper fan, I didn't mind a bit. If I had one suggestion, though, it would be to add a hint of a strong, whole-grain mustard. I think that would've cut the richness a little better than the pepper.
After finishing the pie, I questioned (again) whether or not I should have a cookie for dessert, but their aroma (again) overpowered my good sense. I'll be honest, I smelled them for a good minute or two before even wanting to take to bite. The scent was a divine blend of toasted walnuts, cinnamon, honey, and baked goodiness. Then I took a bite, and literally, it disintegrated in my mouth. It felt like I had a mouthful of chunky dust. The taste was just fine—pleasantly sweet, nutty, cinnamony—but the texture was...unpleasant. Still, I might buy one again, if only for smelling.
As for the meat pie, I'll certainly buy another one, just as soon as I've recovered from the marathon it'll take to rid my body of this one.
update: I brought home the second cookie and gave it to my wife, who quite liked it. She favorably compared it to traditional Greek cookies. Apparently I just don't like Balkan ones.
update 2: I was also reminded by my wife that she was born of a Greek mother, and is therefore, by default, an authority on Greek cookies. So when she said they were good, I guess she knew what she was talking about.