Damas (restaurant) dips and spreads (tartinades)
Perusing the weekly PA flyer, one of the items I circled to buy was Damas dips/tartinades. The label on the little plastic tubs was the same lettering as the restaurant of the same name, and indeed, they are produced by the same business owners.
At $3 a little tub on promo, they aren't cheap, but if commensurate with Damas restaurant quality, should be a good value. The site mentions:
Oh, if they have Mouhammara!!! Will try to get to PA tomorrow if I have time.
They are made a short walk west from where I live, in the old industrial area now known as "mile ex":
Distribution Alimentaire Damas - Trempettes et tartinades - Alimentation syrien
6795 Rue Marconi, Montreal, QC, H2S 3J9, Canada
Your point is well taken, SnackHappy. That said, Damas may well become the gold standard for Middle Eastern dips.
I've now sampled four of the products: hummus, beet mutabbal, eggplant mutabbal (aka baba ganoush) and muhammara. All were excellent, recognizable as coming from the people behind Damas, better than what you get in shawarma joints and superior to any of the competing packaged products I've tried (and I've tried lots). They all taste like the real thing and like they're made with high-quality ingredients. The hummus, for example, really tastes of chickpeas (duh!) but also of tahini, which they obviously didn't stint on and which may explain its remarkably silky texture. The eggplant has the succulence that comes from ripe fruit and its smokiness doesn't taste like it's from a bottle. The muhammara is as much about walnuts (pieces abound) as it is about red peppers; it's less fiery than some but also far more complex (Aleppo pepper) and earthy. And the beet dip is the best of the bunch.
What's more, the dips are nicely presented in clear shallow bowls and each comes with a different garnish: chickpeas and parsley (hummus), pomegranate seeds (eggplant), walnut halves (muhammara) and a black olive in a tiny puddle of olive oil (beet).
Downsides? The non-hummus dips are saltier than in the restaurant and than I'd like (2 tablespoons/30 g provides 8% of your recommended daily sodium intake), though that probably helps with shelf life. (Note that the same quantity of the hummus provides 0.1%.) Portions are smaller than for many competing products (250 g versus HanoBak's 330 g, for example). And, when not on sale, they're expensive: $4.49 at PA and $4.69 at Marché du Village, IIRC, which is partially offset by their being so rich and filling.
Hounds are right to be excited about the products' arrival on the scene.
The difference is that many of us know grocery store Schwartz's is bad, whereas none of us know about the Damas offerings yet. I'd argue that pre-prepared dips probably translate slightly better than pre-packaged brisket, but maybe I'll be proven wrong.
Also, has anyone check out the pre-prepared Jérôme Ferrer dinners at IGA ($11 for about 350g).
Someone try these and let us know!
Industrially made and commercially packaged anything is bad. Especially when compared to fresh versions of the same food.
Damas' dips may be better than other offerings in a grocery store, but there is no way that they are as good as what they make at the restaurant (unless of course they are now using the industrially made and commercially packaged versions in the restaurant).
If anyone thinks that the pre-prepared Jérôme Ferrer dinners at IGA are going to compare favorably to a meal at Europea, then I have a bridge to sell that you might be interested in...
Ha. Those are all fair points. But there are obviously degrees of better and worse. The IGA Ferrer tubs won't approximate a dinner at Europea, but they might do better than a box of Lean Cuisine.
Moreover, I can easily go to Schwartz's and pick up a pound of medium, so unless one lives in Ontario it makes little sense to buy a box of inferior grocery store meat. Dining at Europea or Damas, on the other hand, requires slightly more time and monetary investment.
You make a good point about what is deemed to be "acceptable" industrial production and what isn't... I just feel like one's purposes might be different when buying these pre-prepared grocery store products. Also Schwartz's sold for $15 million because someone clearly wanted to turn a profit on industrial meat. Damas wanting to distribute their dips feels, to me, somehow more honest. But don't ask me to back up that statement.
My take is that the fine folk who own Damas have decided for the very same reasons as the fine folk who own Schwartz's to make their dips industrially.
If I am wrong, I will be the first to admit it. But the only reason I can see to use an inferior process to make a product is is make more profit.
Yes, the amount of money Damas is trying to make might be significantly less than Schwartz's, but to me the rationale they are using is the same.