Once upon a time when James and I just moved in together, we lived in the pre-gentrified neighborhood of Inglewood. Just to the east side of downtown it was still a bit run down, a little seedy, and full of dusty antique shops and tiny eateries, before the upscale chocolatiers, restaurateurs and designer furniture stores moved in. The yeast factory added a brewers aroma to the air, as did the poultry trucks rumbling through the truck stop in the summer heat.
Our proximity to seventeenth avenue afforded a great deal of shopping and eating experiences that the suburbs simply don’t have, and we often drove the streets looking for a little place that may have something good to eat. Being dedicated night owls we often drove the streets at the later hours, being faced with a lot of closed signs since Calgary has a penchant for dining early. One night cruising the streets looking for a quick dinner to go, we drove past a little donair shop that always had an open light glowing. Tired of searching and quite hungry, I persuaded J to pull over, despite his reluctance to do so, since it looked like any other donair shop with generic food of dubious quality.
I went inside and chatted to the owner behind the counter. Not feeling like choosing I asked him what his favorite dish was, and he instantly replied the steak kabob in a pita. Not one to turn down a recommendation I said ‘I’ll try it’, and amended ‘make it two’ as J was frantically waving from the car, deciding to brave the shop after all. Ten minutes of idle conversation later, we grabbed two bundles of full toasted pitas and went home. Really hungry by now, I dug into the pita the moment we walked in the door, and had a revelation. Tender, juicy cubes of steak in a tangy marinade replaced the traditional ground pressed meat of a donair, tossed with a garlicky sauce and the standard veggies – lettuce, tomato, onion and hot peppers. Wrapped in a pita that was pressed and toasted until crispy the bundle was so much better than a typical donair that I marveled how I’ve never seen this before. Washed down with mango juice it was one of the best quick dinners I’ve had in a long time.
Toasty and crispy
Delicately grilled steak cubes
Since that momentous occasion we went back to Eat A Pita an embarrassing amount of times. We got to know the owner and chatted about his home country of Lebanon, his children, his hope to return there one day, and his love of cooking. Even when we moved to one end of town and then another, we still make our way down there at least once a month. Since then the owner, Ali, sold his shop to another great family who expanded the cooking area a bit, but kept the menu and the quality. Ali purchased an apartment in Lebanon and moved his family there for his children to get to know his homeland, and unfortunately had to come back as the civil war broke out. I hope he opens another shop, but in the meantime I’ll keep driving back for the steak in a pita that changed my views on donair shops.
Mmmm mango juice
The restaurant is small with a half dozen tables inside, and if you go, get a large steak in a pita. It gives you two skewers of that wonderful meat, and is the best value. They will cook the meat to order, so f you’re a carnivore get medium rare, and if not, get well done. Get a mango or a guava juice too, and perhaps some great baklava, not made onsite, but still quite good. They also have the usual assortment of marinated and stuffed olives, stuffed peppers, small meat pies, and a variety of sweets. Sadly they are no longer open until ten, which was one of their huge draws, and now they close at eight like many others. All their meat is halal.
Eat A Pita
2-4602 17 Avenue SE
Calgary, AB T2A 0V1
Mon. – Fri: 11:00 – 8:00
Sat. – Sun: 12:00 – 8:00
This weekend I braved the heat of the oven that added its special ambience to our south facing overheated house, because I had some tomatoes to cook. Some people sit by the fireplace, I sit by my oven, to each their own I say.
Heat notwithstanding, summer is a great time to make the recipe below, and it happened to coincide with a huge bag of gorgeous, fragrant ripe tomatoes that had to get eaten, as well as Serious Eats’ Weekend Cook and Tell theme of tomatoes.
I’ve wanted to make this recipe ever since I read this article by Molly W. of Orangette fame, because it sounded delicious, and the reviews were adoring. We eat a great deal of tomatoes year round, typically in a pasta sauce with a hundred variations, and this recipe read like the elegant version of plain simmered tomatoes. Requiring literally five minutes of prep, it took no time to get rolling.
Wash, slice in half, and seed some tomatoes:
Pour a generous quantity of olive oil into a baking dish, line in tomatoes, pour more olive oil, sprinkle oregano and salt. I totally skipped sugar as the tomatoes were at their peak of freshness and were quite sweet themselves.
Bake, flip and bake some more.
About four hours later (I forgot about them), layer in a bowl with minced garlic and parsley. Drool for two hours.
At this point the fragrance was incomparable. It reminded me of grilled tomatoes at my favorite Persian eatery that I adore. Inspired by said Persian memories I made some rice to serve them on, since that’s how I eat them at the restaurant. Baguette and goat cheese would be awesome too, but I was hungry at that point, and needed more substance than toast. I served them over rice, cutting up the tomatoes and mixing in the juices. It was the greatest lunch of all time, and the tomatoes are everything they say and then some. Perfectly chewy, sweet and smoky, pungent with garlic and parsley they were a feast for all senses.
For the record, my SO is not enamored of the softness of baked tomatoes, and said these would make an incredible tomato sauce if they were quickly pureed. Weirdo. But he loved the flavor and ate every bite anyhow, so that tells you something.
Go forth and make Pomodori al Forno while the tomatoes are at their peak!
When we moved into this house two years ago, it was during March. There was snow on the ground and not a single green leaf was to appear anywhere for weeks. This was our first fully landscaped house, as our very first home was sold before we got sod, and our second house was a townhome with a small patch of grass mowed and maintained by the condo management company. Which helps to explain our cluelessness about flowers, gardens and yardwork in general. We’ve simply never had to learn.
As spring finally arrived we were greeted by the sight of tulips which popped out unprompted and glorious, all without our help, and we watched fascinated as the flower beds came to life. All summer long new flowers appeared, some blooming for weeks others for days and added spectacular colors and shapes to the yard. None of which we planted, knew the names of, or knew what to do with. And truth be told, we still don’t. But we’re learning. And as we’re watching these new blooms appear and proliferate all over our yard we feel nothing but gratitude at the previous owners who knew what they were doing and created such an amazing landscape for us to enjoy.
So here’s to the start of a new gardener joining the ranks, spurred on by the desire to maintain beauty and learn about life in the yard. Thank you wherever you are Mr. and Mrs. Dixson, creating a new garden somewhere no doubt, for inspiring us with your efforts, creativity, taste and eye for color. Next time you sell a house though, please feel free to leave instructions…