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Aug 1, 2002 04:50 PM

Armenia in Watertown

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I know this is old news, but I HAD to go to Sevan Bakery in Watertown to pick up a hostess gift for Abbylovi, who put me up (or put up with me!) during the NY Chowsocial...Okay, actually, I got it to prove that the Boston version of Tahini Bread beats the pants off the Queens verion!

Sevan Bakery's version of tahini bread, a truly underrated confection, looks like a big flat cinnamon bun...But the dough is rich and heavy with the tahini paste mixed INTO it, a hint of crispness that the fat content of the sesame seeds, and densely sweet with sugar and a little cinnamon. Imagine halvah baked into a pastry! I do not like cinnamon buns. It is NOT about cinnamon at all. Many people haven't heard of this treat, but we live in the hot bed!

Sevan also sells lots of nuts and snacks by the pound, spices in bulk, and the gamut of Middle Eastern deli items (baba, hummos, etc...) I bought a flat bread with cheese and tomato on top, but I wasn't as impressed. More impressive are their lamejun, flat breads with Za'atar, cheese, red pepper and/or meat..Lots of cheeses, lots of other baked goods.

While you're there, visit Arax Bakery..Not as neat and orderly, but the miasma of spices that hits you when you walk in the door will engender vaguely orgasmic feelings in your nether regions..It's a pretty jumbled mix of coffepots, pastries, canned goods, less than perky looking pickled things...

Don't be fooled by those less than perky looks! I bought what I thought was a pickled eggplant, a little wary of the rime of salt on the end...But I bit down, and into a stuffing of walnuts, onions, red peppers, all cooked in olive oil and marinated with a vinegary bite..What the hell??? I only bought ONE???? There were trays of cooked zucchini, felafel balls, and a cone-shaped felafel-ish looking thing that had ground beef..More baba, more chopped salads, more nuts....Both places had the widest variety of pita brands I had ever seen, in answer to a thread from a few months ago.

And pastry..Trays ranging from cookies and baklava, quite similar to Sevan next door...But the brownie-sized squares of semolina cake weren't just drenched with the honey syrup that I expected, they were infused with rose-water...Swoon, swoon..And the other square I ate(sorry, will go back and get names!) had a center layer of chopped pistachios soaked in a clove and honey syrup,(maybe some kind of black walnuts?).

I had just bought one of everything for a little taste test....Which was lucky, because the flavors were so intriquing and intense, that I would have totally lost control and not stopped eatting til every crumb was gone.

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  1. Sevan rocks, and it's new and improved at that location (used to be across the street and smaller). Both shops are less than a mile from my house, if I'm feeling a bit hungry, I stop by and grab an excellent spinach pie for $1 or one of the flat breads with black olives, red peppers and cheese. Delish and dirt cheap.

    1. Yup, those stuffed eggplants are wonderful! I think the Arax is also my source for the very best feta, bar none. It is Danish feta, it comes in a red and white plastic wrapper with almost all Arabic writing on it. Somewhere it says in tiny letters that it is "cream feta". It is not cheap, but it is feta raised to an entirely new level. It is creamy, just salty enough and sharp enough to let you know it is feta, and it must have a gazillion calories. You can now get it at several stores in "Armenialand" as we call it. It is worth searching for that red and white wrapper.

      1. Funny, I was just in that area on Monday. I had a few late-afternoon hours to kill and thought I'd do some boreg (sp?) comparison testing before dinner. I ended up spending upwards of $30 (mostly at Massis Bakery) on assorted mezze and general grocery items, calling the friend I was going to meet and informing him that I was bringing dinner to his house, and promising myself I would return *soon* so that I wouldn't buy *everything* that looked wonderful!

        As regards the boregs, I got spinach & cheese ones at both Massis and Sevan. Sevan won hands down on account of the absolutely lovely pastry, but I thought Massis had the better filling. At Sevan, get the $1.50 triangular ones, not the $1.25 D-shaped ones.

        Other highlights of our feast:

        Grape leaves from Sevan. These seemed "meaty" to me although there was no meat in them. They didn't have a meat taste or texture, so I'm not sure I can explain -- it's a purely subjective perception on my part. They were flavored with tomato, I think, and didn't have the usual sharpness. Not what I was expecting, but, I thought, better.

        Little, dark, sweet, slightly sticky D-shaped pastries stuffed with chopped walnuts. These were being sold at the counter at Massis for 99 cents. Sorry, I've forgotten their name.

        Fresh, sweet, unwaxed cucumbers from the produce store across the street.

        Other notes:

        Hummus from Massis was ultra-smooth and, again, not super-sharp.

        Marinated vegetables from the produce store ARE super-sharp.

        Labne, although advertised as "Kefir cheese", is nutritionally pretty close to sour cream. It's thicker and creamier, though, and I liked it.

        The Armenian pida bread at Massis was OK. The stuff at Sevan _looked_ better, and I'll probably try it next time.

        1 Reply
        1. re: C. Fox

          I never got to Massis, tho I hadn't heard anything about it, except some of their pastry wasn't as good as Sevan..Clearly, I led you down the garden path when I FORCED you to buy that tahini bread in Queens, I can only hope you will forgive my error and try the one from Sevan!

          Labneh is basically yogurt with the whey drained out; yogurt cheese.

          The produce store is K's; noticably less variety than they used to have..Go for that pickled stuff at Arax!

        2. a
          AGM/Cape Cod

          I read a recommendation for a Greek yogurt called Total. I am making a tzatziki for a party later in the month and read that this yogurt was incredible smooth and vastly superior to American yogurts. Do you know if the Amenian Grocery stores carried this brand of yogurt? Thanks.

          1 Reply
          1. re: AGM/Cape Cod

            None of them had Total yogurt; I checked. I had read about it on the NY and General Boards, and I bought some at Bread and Circus (probably Whole Foods down there...)

            Let me tell you, I AM A CONVERT TO THE CULT!!! I didn't try it for a long time, because I actually LIKE yogurt, any yogurt, even sh***y yogurt, so I saw no reason to try something overpriced that would change my yogurt world view...

            Wrong, wrong, wrong! I bought the fat-free. It was made with no gelatin, no stabilizers, no food starch...The fat-free tasted like full-fat sour cream; so tart, creamy and rich. It tasted like no yogurt I've ever eaten, more like labneh, or yogurt cheese. I kid you not..It cost $1.69 for a 5 oz. serving. Worth every penny.