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Middle eastern "spreads"?

italia84 Jan 12, 2011 12:05 PM

We were in Amsterdam last year, and stayed in a predominantly Turkish area. There was an outdoor market just up the street where one could buy just about everything from meat to cheese etc. There was one stall that offered about 15-20 different types of spreads--everything from the common hummus to all sorts of things that I've never tried before or since.

EVERYTHING was fantastic and I yearn for it now. Is there any good stores to buy this in DC/Baltimore?? Not a restaurant, a more grocery type store when I can bring some home and eat in my snuggie.


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  1. f
    ferret Jan 12, 2011 12:14 PM

    This won't be too helpful since I'm not in your area but a lot of the dishes you'll find in these types of places tend to spread across a number of cuisines and can be found in Lebanese, Syrian, Israeli, Persian or Turkish places (and even Greek). Everybody likes to claim the dishes as their own, but it's a regional cuisine with some country-specific variations. I suspect you had baba ghannouj, tabouleh, muhammara, matboucha and one of probably half a dozen variations on eggplant dishes.

    Bottom line, don't restrict yourself to Turkish.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ferret
      italia84 Jan 13, 2011 03:34 AM

      Oh yes, definitely not restricting myself...the place we went to in Amsterdam was Turkish, but that's why I asked about Middle Eastern in general. It's ALL good!

    2. ktmoomau Jan 12, 2011 12:39 PM

      Do you want to narrow your area a bit? In Arlington I bet you can find a good bit of what you are looking for at the Lebanese Taverna Market. Also when the Lebanese Butcher store is back up and running they would probably have a good bit too.

      Lebanese Butcher & Restaurant
      109 E Annandale Rd, Falls Church, VA 22046

      Lebanese Taverna Market
      4400 Old Dominion Dr, Arlington, VA 22207

      2 Replies
      1. re: ktmoomau
        Dennis S Jan 12, 2011 05:30 PM

        I *think the Butcher is back open, just a bit East. But I didn't stop so don't take my word just yet.

        1. re: ktmoomau
          italia84 Jan 13, 2011 03:33 AM

          I'm going to have to check that out! We live near the DC line, but really, it can be anywhere within a 2 hour driving distance! So Falls Church is definitely ok by me :-)

        2. s
          spinachandchocolate Jan 12, 2011 01:54 PM

          Cava Mezze--the restaurant--makes a line of spreads that can be bought at Whole Foods and a few other stores around town. Not cheap but good.

          1. i
            Indy 67 Jan 13, 2011 04:14 AM

            From your description, I can't tell whether you're near the DC line on the Montgomery County side or on the river side close to Virginia. If it's the latter, you could drive west on Lee Hwy and come to Lebanese Taverna Market (LTM) in less than 20 minutes. In the category of spreads, I can recommend their hummus, baba ganough, hindebeh, shakshouky, labneh.

            I've never seen one of my favorites, muhammara, a red pepper, walnut, and pomegranate spread at LTM, but you can find it at close by. About a block away, in the site of the current Portabellos, used to be a place called Pasha Cafe. That place moved about 100 feet away, and took a new name. (Sorry someone else will have to supply the name.) At any rate, this unnamed restaurant has a fabulous muhammara on its menu, and this can be bought for take-out so it meets your snuggie requirement.

            Old Dominion Drive branches off from Lee Hwy in the vicinity of the places I've already mentioned. If you follow Old Dominion into McLean, head to The Gourmet Basket, another Middle Eastern take out market. It's hummus has less tahnini and lemon juice than does Lebanese Taverna Market's version and my husband actually prefers GB's style. GB will do muhammara on request. In fact, there's a huge menu at Gourmet Basket that can be ordered.

            Perhaps a little heavy to be considered a spread but Gourmet Basket sells a not-to-be-missed dish whose name I can't remember. Here are some clues: Koshary is a famous Egyptian dish. This unnamed dish is the Syrian version (or Lebanese -- I never remember). A touch of pommegranate juice in the recipe makes the difference.

            Definitely not a spread but worth noting: GB's current chef is Moroccan and you will always find Bastilla available by the slice. In a nod to local tastes, the bastilla is made without the typical heavy sugar crust of true Moroccan versions. (Count me as someone who prefers this Americanization. Bastilla includes plenty of sweetness in its essentially savory chicken filling.)

            And while I'm on the topic of not-spreads, I can't resist the chance to recommend the cous cous salad at Gourmet Basket. It consists of cous cous tossed with a vinaigrette dressing and liberally studded with beans, pistachios, and dried cranberries. Yum.

            This area will definitely be able to satisfy your Middle Eastern yen.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Indy 67
              italia84 Jan 13, 2011 05:09 AM

              I'm in PG county, but seriously willing to drive just about anywhere.

              muhammara, YES, that one was my favorite!!!!! Never knew what it was called.

              Ok, now I'm STARVING. And it's 9am and I'm at work. This is going to be a loooong day. Thank you, chowhounders. I expect to be visiting ALL the places mentioned next weekend (out of town this weekend) and will report back. I'm drooling.

              1. re: Indy 67
                Steve Jan 13, 2011 11:57 AM

                "That place moved about 100 feet away, and took a new name."

                I've never heard that. There is still a Pasha Cafe, but it is the same American chef/owner as Portabello's. it is no longer run by the Egyptian family. The food is not the same.


                2109 N Pollard St, Arlington, VA 22207

                1. re: Steve
                  Indy 67 Jan 13, 2011 02:20 PM

                  Your post is jogging my brain. I'm confident the place re-opened as Pasha Cafe and Pizzeria. Not an overwhelming change of name, but definitely one that sent a different message than just Pasha Cafe.

                  Shortly after it opened, when my husband and I visited the new incarnation because we missed our muhammara. We asked and were told that the recipes for the appetizers were the original recipes in spite of the new ownership. I can't comment on the food recently or anything on the menu other than the various dips. When we ate those dishes at our lone visit years ago, I couldn't tell the difference between the Egyptian family's version and the American chef's version. Since then, we've learned about ordering muhammara at Gourmet Basket so we've never had an inclination to go back to Pasha Cafe.

                  1. re: Indy 67
                    italia84 Jan 14, 2011 06:55 AM

                    At Gourmet basket, is it on their regular menu or is it an off menu item? I know that seems like a silly question LOL

                    1. re: italia84
                      Indy 67 Jan 14, 2011 07:35 AM

                      Gourmet Basket has a large number of dishes that are prepared and available at all time. The baba ganough, hummus, cous cous salad and bastilla I mentioned all fall into this category. Unfortunately, muhammara does not. On a rack near the front door, you'll find the menu which lists an amazing number of dishes all of which can be ordered in advance. That's the way you'll get your muhammara fix. Once, I got lucky and discovered someone else had placed a special order that had resulted in a bit of surplus available for immediate sale.

                2. re: Indy 67
                  Indy 67 May 15, 2011 05:19 AM

                  I'm in Gourmet Basket one a week, but seeing this thread get bumped reminded me to add some information about their food.

                  I've been able to buy muhammara the past couple of visits to Gourmet Basket without a special order. As I explained in my previous post, this is the result of excess from a large special order. Apparently there are lots of muhammara fans since I've been finding it with reasonable regularity. I wouldn't travel from the PG County line on the random chance muhammara is available, but I live near-by so I shop there regularly.

                  I've been told the name of the koshary-like dish, but it's quite long and I never remember it. The owner supplied a handy code for ordering the dish. Koshary is a lentil and rice mixture. While I like Gourmet Basket's koshary, the version is love is a lentil and pasta mixture. This second version contains lemon, garlic, and pommegranate juice.

                3. h
                  hotel Jan 13, 2011 05:11 AM

                  IMHO Shemali's on New Mexico (near Chef Geoff's) makes the best baba ganoush in the area. Their hummos is also pretty excellent. They don't have a website, but here is a link to the urban spoon page (it's not really in Cleveland Park, more like American University):


                  Chef Geoff's
                  3201 New Mexico Avenue, Washington, DC 20016

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