Sunday, 4 February 2007

satisfying her sweet tooth.

The pilgrimage to the Adelaide Lebanese Bakery was something Heidi and I had been planning for a while. I'd been once before after Heidi's friend Abdullah suggested I might find some cherry syrup there, something I'd been looking for for absolutely ages, for a Persian drink recipe I found called Pouloudeh Sib. I didn't find the cherry syrup that time, but I did notice that they had a huge open wood oven and made pizza, and so planned to go back to sample them at a later date.

It's a pretty interesting place, the ALB; it's on Ann St, kind of next to and behind the West Thebarton Hotel. It looks like (and basically is) a big shed, and the carparking out the front is completely chaotic. Inside it's quite dark, and blessedly cool, and functions as a mini-supermarket (about the same size as your average petrol station shop) as well as a bakery. Heidi and I went on Friday and spent our first few minutes inside looking at all the Middle Eastern 'supermarket' fare - big bags of herbs, exotic teas, huge bottles of rosewater, cheap home-grown looking veggies and much much more. I picked up a strange looking fruit to smell it, hoping that this way I might guess what it was. Usually I'm pretty good with my fruits and veggies, having worked for a fruit shop for 4 years. This time I had no idea. A few minutes later I realised I had glochids in my fingers. Upon talking to a friend later that day, and consulting the wikipedia, I found out that the strange fruit I had picked up was, in fact, a prickly pear. A sign to that effect probably would've prevented my itchy sore hands. But adventurers shouldn't complain.

After this, we moved on to the pizza counter and ordered a meat pizza and a herb pizza. They make the pizzas from the same dough they make the bread, and they bake the pizzas as long as they still have dough for the day. They're open til 7 most nights, but as it's anyone's guess when the dough will run out, lunch is a better bet. You can, however, ring and pre-order a pizza to collect when you like. There is a small range of flavours - meat, herb, and cheese are the only ones I remember, but I think there were 5 or 6 choices. One ordered, your pizza is slid into the gaping mouth of the oven, and then served to you a couple of minutes later in a paper bag. The value is absolutely astounding. The pizzas provide a good single serve, and one pizza will cost either $1 or $2.

While our pizzas were cooking we wandered over to the sweets counter. They had a range of different pastry sweets - about 6-8 different types. Kind of like baklava, these sweets were all a variation on the theme of layers of filo pastry baked with honey and different kinds of nuts. The men behind the counter were extremely friendly and fell over themselves to help. One of the things that I loved about the place was the friendliness of the staff. Often in non-western grocers I feel quite out of place and ignorant, but the people here were obviously really proud of their produce (quite rightly too) and took great pleasure in introducing us to it. Certainly there were people of all different cultures in the shop - during our visit, there were white, African and Asian as well as Middle Eastern shoppers. In the end, I chose the sweet that the man said was his favourite (I neglected to ask what it was called), and Heidi had a Bird's Nest, a pastry in a round nest shape. Again, these were a bargain at $1 each. They were small-ish single servings (each about the size of two matchboxes perhaps) but so sweet and delicious that one (or at most two) would satisfy.

We took our booty home and feasted. The pizzas were great, although the name 'pizza' is slightly misleading. If you went expecting the soft bases, tomato spread and plentiful toppings of Italian pizza, you would be disappointed, as the pizzas are thin with crisp crusts, and tasty but sparse toppings. The herb pizza was basically what it sounds like - a Lebanese bread base with lots of dried herbs on top, and the meat pizza looked like it had bolognese sauce on top, but tasted distinctly Middle Eastern rathern that Italian. The sweets were luscious and delectable; crispy and cruncy and sweet and nutty, but without being oily and soggy as these sweets sometimes can be.

All in all, it was a pretty successful excursion methinks. The place is full of interesting fare, and the staff are friendly and hospitable. And oh, the value. If only I worked within walking distance - it's pretty amazing to be able to have a lunch of pizza and sweets for between two and four dollars. Margit, I trust you will be going soon! But perhaps the best bit about this trip, was that I found the elusive cherry syrup! Hurrah!

1 comment:

Margie said...

Sounds very delicious. Darn my stupid wheat intolerant intestines!

Although I suppose the groceries might be worth a look when I am feeling adventurous....