April 30, 2008
Searching for Falafel

A Lincoln reader just back from France says he found the best falafel ever in Paris. Falafel isn't a dish I associate with France, but given the country's shifting demographics it makes perfect sense that an outstanding falafel should be found in the city that still reigns as the capital of fine cuisine.

His appetite whetted, he wants to know where he can find a fine falafel around here. His question reminded me that many years ago the falafel was one of my favorite foods. Basically, a falafel is patties of mashed garbanzo beans mixed with herbs and various Middle Eastern spices, then fried and served with a tahini sauce. The patties, both wholesome and intense, can be served on their own or slipped into pita bread, which is the way I customarily have preferred them. In recent years, that's how we have prepared them at home, and only rarely have I gone out looking for falafel.

With my curiosity newly aroused, however, I've started a search for notable cafe falafels, and need your help. So far, I've sampled the falafel at Maalouf's Taste of Lebanon along Fulton Avenue (big, hot, fresh, rustic and about as salty as they were spicy) and at Cafe Morocco along Alhambra (rich, coarse, grainy, a bit dry). Both were fine, but I suspect better may be out there, and would appreciate some guidance.

Based on those visits, two things about the falafel sandwich seems to have changed over the years. For one, they're much bigger than they used to be. Secondly, the pita hasn't appreciably improved, and in fact seems to have exchanged some of its character and flavor for its more substantial size.

At any rate, if you have a favorite falafel, or have heard of someplace celebrated for the dish, please let me know.

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