Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Martians and Peace!

Several months back, R and I decided it was high time we met up for a movie and grub fest. Yeah, I am way behind in my blog entries, as I’ve been writing an ebook:
MIXED MEX: OLDMEX, TEXMEX, NEWMEX. Favorite Dishes from Regional Mexico, Texas and the Border, and New Mexico. You’re gonna love it. The movie selected was The Martians, which we both enjoyed immensely. Spoiler alert: it was regrettable that Matt Damon had to die so miserably in the end, at the hands of those repulsive and vindictive aliens on that angry red planet, but Martians are known for their short tempers and fast trigger fingers. And just for the record, although it has effective comic relief, I wouldn’t classify it as a comedy, like the studio did for the Golden Globes. Since we were both heading north from the theater and we had a hankering for Middle Eastern food, we settled on Peace Deli, the Palestinian bakery and cafeteria-style deli on the southwest corner of Braker and North Lamar.

The way it works at Peace is you grab a tray, scan the big menu plastered on the wall, grab a drink and eating utensils, and start cruising down the gleaming cafeteria rails, paying at the end of the line. Most of the sides are in hotel pans displayed before you, hot and cold, and the entrees are cooked-to-order. Entrées don’t take long to prepare, and the crew calls out your name for pick up at the end of the counter when they are ready. The beauty is that you can start eating the minute you sit down, while your entrée lags behind five minutes or so. A great system, by my book. There is a big basket of warm pita on the line, and you help yourself to the fresh flatbreads.

L to R: Hummus, Beetroot Salad, Eggplant Salad, Mint Cabbage Salad


Fried cauliflower with tzatziki

I went with a mixture of items, so that I could try several dishes. The cabbage salad with mint is a nice, subtly spiced Palestinian style slaw. If you’ve never had slaw with mint and Middle Eastern spices, you should. The savory beetroot salad is an absolute must, as is the garlicky hummus topped with chile-infused olive oil. Their warm eggplant salad is outstanding. Think of it as a rich, Middle Eastern-spiced ratatouille. That juice on the bottom is a real plate licker. We split a side of falafel, just because I had never tried their falafel before. It is excellent (and I’m not that big a fan of falafel). The fried cauliflower with garlic tzatziki was better the first time I had it, simply because it was right out of the fryer, while this visit it had been sitting a short while and was only lukewarm. The star on my side of the table was the minced beef kabob, which they cook to perfection. It has a rich, beefy flavor and every bite is juicy. For some reason, Middle Eastern kabob cooks have a tendency to overcook kebabs. Not here.

Minced beef kebab

Cheese flatbread

I ordered a cheese flatbread, which looks pizza-like, but tastes more like a flatter, more rolled-out version of the pita with some mild, non-descript cheese melted on top. Rather than a manakeesh za’atar-like herb bread or lavash with cheese, it tasted more like it was meant to quell the din of obnoxious, hungry children. Live and learn.

L to R: Babaghanoush, Beetroot salad, Chickpea salad

R opted for the beetroot salad, the chickpea salad, and their excellent babaghanoush. The chickpea salad was okay, but it didn’t really excite me. The flavors weren’t as dynamic as the other dishes. Their babaghanoush is superb. The flavors are complex, yet no single element dominates. For her entrée she went with the chicken kebab. Normally I avoid chicken kebabs like the plague in a Middle Eastern restaurant, because they are usually overcooked, chewy, and dense. Not here. The cubed meat was yogurt marinated, juicy, and tender. Fantastic.

Chicken kebab

I’ve said it before, and still haven’t done it yet, but the next time I go to Peace, I will get the whole chicken. It looks very tempting and juicy. And as always, the desert counter is loaded with all kinds of Middle Eastern sweets and baked goods. Peace Deli and Bakery…..I’ve never been disappointed.


Mick Vann ©