Middle Eastern Catering/Take Out
I'm throwing a casual outdoor party for about 25 in two weeks and am serving middle eastern food -- think grilled kebabs, hummus, grape leaves, pita, etc. To minimize the hassle, I want to pick up some stuff rather than purchase (I'll make my own kebabs--finally have an apartment with a rooftop grill!). I want to serve mostly finger foods. Where do I go? I'm in Manhattan, but Queens, Bklyn, or Manhattan all are fine. By the way, the party will include some serious food lovers, so quality is more important than price (though I realize that the two aren't mutually exclusive).
Thanks in advance.
The party was a success! I think I did OK going through The Family Store.
First I must apologize for not providing pictures. I was too busy running around chasing after my kids and making sure my guests were OK.
About the proposed menu - I was mistaken about the grape leaves. I thought that was included in what he quoted me, but it wasn't. For a caterer's 1/2 tray I paid an extra $40. I'm glad I did, becuae it was the hit of the party!
But what an abundance of food! It was way too much much. We didn't finish half of it. If I go this route again, I would say the party was for a less number of people than is actually attending.
Mostly every item was perfect. The grape leaves were melt in your mouth delectable. The spinach pies were perfection. The meat pies were the best I've had.
The shish taouk (chicken kebabs) were delicious. We had them marinate and skewer them, and we threw them on the grill ourselves. This was the way to go, because we picked up the food well before the party started.
However, Humous was good, but standard. The babaganouj (which no one touched) didn't have that charred flavor I love. When I say no one touched it, I mean not a one. The tray wasn't disturbed. I guess with everything else to choose from, they didn't want to bother with the baba. My family is Lebenese, so I thought this was interesting, although I have often found this to be the case. I am not going to bother with ordering it next time. But I decided to try it myself to see how it was, and it was only OK. The texture was nice. They seemed to have added leban (yogurt), which some people do, some don't. I tend not to.
The tabouli was the other item that was only merely good, not stellar, like the rest of the menu. It was fresh, but not too finely chopped, and lacking in tomatoes. It was tasty, and a plus was that it wasn't soggy like most of the other store bought tabouli I have had - Karam comes to mind. I prefered it to Karam, but it would have been nice to just go the extra step of further chopping and tomatoes.
The tray of baklava was gorgeous. They claim they make their own sweets, but for some reason, I have a hard time believing this. It is my understanding that only a few select bakeries will 'bother' making them. The home cook doesn't usually make their own pastries, nor do restaurants. Granted The Family Store isn't a restaurant per se, but my gut feeling is that they focus on mostly savory items, and perhaps get the pastries made for them. They do offer a kneifa that is outstanding. That would be a killer party treat to splurge on for next time. I feel like that is a sweet offering they actually do make themselves.
Would I use them again? I think I would. I only called them and Tanoreen, and they were the cheaper quote. I may only order items individually rather than having them price out per person. I would skip the babaganouj, make my own humous and tabouli, since it really is very easy, and have them make the savory pies and the grape leaves, which definitely not so easy.
And I would try the kneifa next time!
Absolutely to die for delicious homemade Israeli hummus (made to order, arrives warm with fresh pita bread!) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, delivers individual servings (open late nights for midnight munchies), would probably be happy to cater a party too, Shlomi's World Best Hummus, 917-239-1418
OK, here's my update. I first called Tanoreen. Raiwa first quoted me $20 per person for basic mezza. I thought that was a little expnsive. I wasn't sure if it was because it was Tanoreen, or if it was because it was through a restaurant. So, I decided to try The Family store. I thought a take out place might be a little cheaper.
It turned out they knew my uncle, and we talked business right there.
This was the proposed menu:
Spinach pies (lebenese style)
Sfiha (open faced meat pies)
grape leaves made with lamb
shish taouk (chicken kebobs - 1 skewer per person)
chopped arabic salad
breads, olives, pickles
large tray of arabic sweets, baklava, etc.
For $10 per head! I thought that was a pretty good deal.
I don't know if he gave me a deal because he knew my uncle, or because they're normally this well priced. He made me give 1/3 down as a deposit.
The party is 9/30, so if you can wait that long for a review, check back. I will try to post something about it (maybe take a few snapshots).
Glad to hear you're party was a success skigirl. If I go the Middle Eastern route, I will report.
I will say that while i never used anyone to cater a party, my middle eastern family always ate at Sally & George's in Bay Ridge. I think it's the closest to what my Lebanese family cooks. I also can't say enough great things about the Mid East Bakery right across the street!
Im going to preface this by saying that Im no expert, but Id much prefer catering from Tanoreen to Sally & George's - the latter is really solid and good, but I find the cooking at Tanoreen to be more interesting and very tasty (definitely more ofa range in the vegetable mezes, too). I'd urge you to visit if you havent.
re: jen kalb
I should add that, because of this string, I actually
WENT to Tanoreen. I adored the mezes, particularly the eggplant salad and the cauliflower. I'm not a huge lamb fan, but had the kebab because I had heard that it great there. It WAS quite good, but now I know that I'm STILL not a big lamb fan, no matter how well its prepared. Oh well. Plenty else on the menu. I definitely will try get catering from them sometime. REALLY flavorful stuff, and the place is SOOOO friendly!
So, the party update. It was a huge success, but alas, although I completely planned to hit Tanoreen and Sally & George's, due to unexpected time constraints (my time management skills, it turns out, leave something to be desired), I didn't get out to Bklyn for the food!! Aargh!! After all of this planning!!!!
Instead, I made about 60 fab greek chicken/yogurt mini kebabs myself (picked up ingredients at Int'l Grocery on 9th), picked up some vine leaves from Taksim in Manhattan on 54th & 2nd, which were really, really flavorful and lovely. Some less than wonderful shepard's salad and hummus from the same place (I doctored both, so they ended up OK--but I wouldn't order anything but the vine leaves from them again), and got baked stuff from Posideon on 9th & 44th (amazing cookies!!)
I'm sorry that I can't report in on the catering from the places that you all recommended. I really do appreciate all your input, though, and, given the success of my this party, will be using your recs the next time, following far better time management.
I agree with the Sally and George recc. Delicious. There was also a wonderful little bakery across the street that made the freshest bread. People came from all over the Tri state area to pick up 10 and 20 pkges of their pita. I don't know if it's still there. I still remembering listening to people trying to arguing with the owner to sell them more bread, and hearing him say he had to keep some for his other customers. Sometimes they would get into a shouting match! Over bread!!That was really remarkable.
Also when I worked in Bay Ridge there was a terrific little Mom and Pop place on 3rd Ave just off Bay Ridge Ave (AKA: 69th St)that made all sorts of homemade Middle Eastern specialties.
Take out only. The cheese and meat pies were outstanding. The hummus and baba were great.The grape leaves, both veggie and meat were not mass or commercially produced. They had so many other things, daily specials, etc... All wonderful.
I recall that they would close for several months each year so they could go home to visit their family. I don't know if they are still around, but if so, it's a must stop.
I think it was called something odd, like The Family Store.
Middle Eastern food is a great, and economical catering choice
I hope your party is outstanding. :-}
Wow. A true embarassment of riches! Thank you all!!! I don't know which path I'll take yet--probably the Atlantic Ave trifecta due to time contraints, but I know that, regardless, there's a Bay Ridge middle eastern eating tour in my near future.
Here's a question you all can battle about--where in the Atlantic Ave vicinity do I get the best stuffed grape leaves. I like them vegetarian and NOT out of a can.
I'll certainly let you all know how the shindig goes. :)
More specifically, get the baba ghanoush at Waterfalls--it is the smokiest on the Atlantic Ave strip--and a few other salad sides like the carrot salad, green beans or muhammara. I'd do the hummus and some other basic bean salad from Sahadi. I used to get the lebneh from Hafanshali, but they are closed so I make my own because I don't like it from any of the above. You could also get mujadara (rice/lentil side) from any of these places if you don't want to cook your own. These places are all right on one strip so it doesn't take long to do it this way.
If you want to go a little beyond the typical mezzeh/fingerfoods, I cannot recommend Tanoreen in Bay Ridge highly enough. It's the only place in the city where I think you can find really amazing, homecooked style Middle Eastern food (yes, I've tried all those above and more), and the cook makes even the basics very special. I must also warn against buying stuffed grape leaves from any groceries--as an Arabic-speaking 'insider', counter staff at more than one spot have confided that the stuff behind the glass came from a can. People who know Middle Eastern food can definitely taste the difference.
For sweets, I can't recommend Laziza on Steinway Street in Astoria highly enough. It's in the opposite direction from you than Tanoreen, obviously, but they have the freshest sweets and the best variety. Sounds like your party is right around the beginning of Ramadan--call ahead and ask Laziza if they will be making the Ramadan 'ataif bil 'ishta (a sort of Arabic cream horn) on the day of your event, and order a box. I served these at a party I had during Ramadan last fall and they were swoon-inducing. Outside of the month of Ramadan you can always get regular 'ataif but the Ramadan variety with the fresh cream is really something special.
The Oriental Grocery on Atlantic Ave. across from Key food near the corner of Clinton has fantastic middle eastern food--much better than Sahadi's and on par or possibly better than Waterfalls. We have had parties catered by both places.The Oriental Grocery has wonderful stuffed grape leaves, they have a type with a delicious garlicky tomato sauce that I love and also the regular, more common type but homemade. They also have great spinach pies, and then all the other sort of "typical" stuff. One item we love from Waterfalls is the stuffed cabbages that are stuffed with bulgar in a lemony sauce--they are delicious. Their other stuff is great too.
I am middle easterner myself. The closest that I have found to real lebanese cuisine in new york is at Sally & Georges in Bay Ridge. Although the damascus bakery is very good, it is pretty much only very good if you are buying bread or bread with cheese and bread with zaatar, which is a a thyme like spice that is spread on bread along with olive oil. If you want fod for a party , I would buy hummous, grape leaves (cold vegetarian version with olive oil) tabulleh, falafel, kibbeh and cheese pies. These dishes were last ordered for a party over a year ago. The food was very good. I also ordered meat pies, but did not like them so much, although the cheese pies were very very good. The cost to feed about 30 people was about 150 dollars and the food was very very good.
Although Sahadi's is a great market, it is not all middle eastern and their dishes like grape leaves and tabouleh are not very good. I also liked sally and georges restaurant better than those that I have tried on Atlantic avenue. In general. I think you will get better quality middle eastern food in bay ridge than either astoria or atlantic avenue. Good luck ordering and hope the party is a hit.
Sally & George's
7809 3rd avenue brooklyn new york
718 680 4615
Have you ever eaten at Kabab Cafe, the beloved Egyptian place on Steinway St? Ali can make large amounts of baba ganoush, foul, and hummus, along with his great artichoke and beet salads (it's debatable about whether the two latter salads are as delicious cold as just out of the pan). The spreads keep beautifully in the refrigerator.
Ordering from Ali will be more expensive than from Sahadi's or the equivalent, but I think it's worth it (especially for the baba).
25-12 Steinway St., Astoria