Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Indo Snack Attack: Roomali

I have a new favorite sandwich shop. It's not what you think - no mouth watering kosher deli, not an italian hogie joint. It's actually Indian. I know, I'm still a bit surprised at that too. Roomali specializes in wraps of Indian flavor, rolled into - you guessed it - a roomali roti. They're scrumptious. Too bad the NYT's Julia Moskin missed this jewel among sandwich shops.

The only drawback? It's nestled in midtown New York, all the way across the country.

Roomali rotis, fyi, are a special type of roti that's large and super thin, almost like a handkerchief. Roomali makes theirs a bit thicker, just a touch thicker and chewier - and certainly more flavorful - than a burrito tortilla. For you brave folk, you can try to make these at home using this recipe, but half the secret's in your roti throwing technique - you may need this instructional video too.

But the real magic here is in Roomali's sandwich fillings. They're unusual - egg and reshmi kebab, chicken tandoori, chickpeas and potatoes, super spicey paneer. So many to choose from! I recommend the kebab, and the chili paneer ones. Each is accompanied by the crunch of raw onions and tomatoes. And some flaming cilantro sauce coupled with cooling raita too. A veritable Indian meal rolled into one. Not to mention, the menu is vegetarian friendly.

A wrap will set you back about $4, and theyre small enough that you'll want 2. Feeling really nostalgic for India? Get a glass of chai with it too. . . and you can practic your Hindi in Roomali's Curry Hill neighborhood too!

97 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10016
(212) 679-8900

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

NY vs SF Round 2: Spice Shops?

This round isn't terribly fair. My favorite spice store in the whole wide world is in midtown Manhattan. It's called Kalustyan's and its the stuff of culinary fairytales. Jars of every type of dried fruit or nut you can think of - Turkish Almonds, Tamari Almonds, California almonds, guava, kiwi, Medjool dates. The list goes on. And then rows upon rows of any oil you could desire to cook with, all the Indian and Middle Eastern spice or lentil or grain you could ask for. Jars of Indian pickles, enough to make Salman Rushdie happy. Arcane japanese chili threads on your recipe list? Kalustyans has them.

And that's just downstairs. Upstairs has another entire floor of delights. There are cooking vessels from various corners of the world - copper kadais and clay tajines. Hookahs if you need one. And an array of dried teas so vast, any Englishman would feel right at home (they have over 180 varieties).

The deli upstairs at Kalustyans is pretty special too. You'll get some middle eastern and Armenian specialties, like Mujhadarra, a curried lentil dish, delicious falafel and mouth-watering dolmades. Eat there and eat often - for just $7, you'll get enough food to keep yourself fed for days!

I haven't found anything that can come close to comparing in San Francisco. Any of you Bay Area buffs out there know of something I've missed??

123 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10016

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

NY vs. SF Round 1: Pizza

New York versus San Francisco. It’s a contentious, polarizing debate. Two different cities, opposite sides of the country, totally distinct vibes. I have a love affair with both. In the realm of food especially. New York has a vast array of restaurants and a meld of world cuisines. You can find just about anything there at any hour. San Francisco fare is fresh, cutting edge, healthy – although there’s less of it and perhaps less selection. And while I love my SF taquerias, I definitely still miss my New York pizzerias.

But all is not lost! You don’t have to give up beautiful weather, Tahoe and a (more) gorgeous city for perfect pizza. Where to go in SF to quench that craving for a piping, crispy, mouth-watering pie? Pizzeria Delfina, near Dolores Park in the Mission, is a nice place to start.

The lines, especially on weekends, are annoying. But the fare is worth it (if you’re waiting less than an hour at least. Nothing except Mama’s is worth waiting longer than that). Delfina’s magic lies mainly in the dough. It’s slightly crispy, delightfully chewy and doesn’t get soggy under the weight of tomato sauce and chunky topics. Most of Delfina’s pies also showcase a delicious tomato sauce as a base, which is tangy and rich.

The Salsiccia pizza is a classic – pork sausage with fennel, cheesy mozzarella, pan tossed red bell peppers to add a bit of crunch. Worth getting an extra pie to take home for the next day’s hangover. I was less a fan of the clam pizza – too fishy tasting for my taste. It was like having a piece of a salty lagoon on a pizza pie, if you’re into that. One of the Delfina special pie that day, Speck Pie, was a white pizza that offered an unusual combination of flavors – spring garlic, leeks and harder Italian cheeses with some prosciutto on top. Check out the menu for other cool topping combos.

So, while I fully plan on enjoying a slice or two of New York style heaven during my visit to the Big Apple this weekend, Delfina should be a nice surrogate for the rest of you staying back in Baghdad by the Bay. . . Just don't park in this dude's garage.

Pizzeria Delfina
3611 18th Street
San Francisco

(photo credit: Nik)