Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Cafe Spice

The mystery goat.

Met up with Dai and Marco across the street from The Spro at Cafe Spice - the relatively new Indian restaurant where the Korean place used to be. Outside of Indian "favorites" such as aloo gobi and chicken tikka masala, I really don't know much about Indian food. I know some of it is hot, some of it is vegetarian and typically none of it is beef. Lots of lamb, goat and chicken.

In the few circumstances I've gone out to eat Indian food, it's been with friends for the lunchtime buffet. Depending on the restaurant, a literal smorgasbord of Indian foods - much of which we don't pay attention to beyond the "hmm, that looks good so I'll put it in my mouth" factor.

Which leaves me in a bit of a predicament when actually trying to order Indian cuisine off the menu. I don't have a clue and I refuse to get stuck in a rut of ordering only what I know.

Luckily, Marco is half Indian, half Italian and a subject of the British Empire (he's from London) which means that (happily) he's doing most of the ordering.

We start off with a couple of appetizers: samosas and fried balls of vegetables held together with some sort of batter. Both were quite tasty. The best thing about eating with someone who actually knows the food is that you get a real picture of what the cuisine is all about and how best to eat it. Marco downplays the rice and demonstrates how to tear a piece of naan (the very nicely done traditional flat bread) by using your right hand only to carefully tear a piece then drag it through your dish, sopping up the sauce and pieces of meat. No left hands! Evidently in Indian culture the left hand is used for washing your backside and you never use it for anything else. Lefties beware.

Each of us ordered a main course. Marco had a lamb course, Dai had chicken and I had goat. I would tell you the names of what we had but since they don't have an online menu, I can't recall their names. All I know is that Marco knew what he wanted and I asked the owner what she thought would be the best way to present the goat and went with her recommendation. Whatever it was, it was good. Lightly spicy, rich, complex and slightly sweet - a melange of flavors that went beautifully with the goat.

Indian meals come with side dishes of which I've never understood what to do with them until now. According to Marco, the yogurt is offered to mix in with your spoonful if the spice gets too hot and the weird-looking pickled thing actually is meant to be cut into small pieces and eaten with the main dish, it's pickled and spiciness adding a complimentary tang to the mouth.

Overall, we had a good time and the food was delicious. As someone who's experience with Indian cuisine has been quite limited, it's good to dine out with someone who knows their food. And according to my tastes, and confirmed by Marco, Cafe Spice offers a tasty and quite authentic Indian meal at decent prices.

Cafe Spice
321 York Road
Towson, MD 21204

Bubba's Breakdown

Bubba's half cheesesteak with everything, no "hots".

The problem with suburban living (or perhaps modern day life in general) is the plethora of crappy places to eat and a dearth of good places. Unfortunately today, I fell prey to the former.

Back in high school, oh some twenty-two years ago, I used to like Bubba's Breakaway in Towson. Back then it was cheesesteaks and pierogies. I hadn't eaten anything from Bubba's in at least twenty years and it's still there in the same nondescript brick building on York Road, with the very same sign that they had in high school. The difference then was that Bubba's was brand new and today's Bubba's looks exactly like the Bubba's from 1986.

Desperate for something different and perhaps a taste of nostalgia, I rang them up and ordered a half cheesesteak sub with all the toppings except for "hots." The "hots" being sweet hot peppers in pickling juice - never my favorite add on, and an order of fries to go with it.

Heavy rains passed through the area and finally, after an hour and twenty minute wait, the driver appeared with my bag of food in tow.

Sad to say that it would have been better had I left Bubba's to the nostalgia of memory.

The meat was the sliced beef you typically find - bland, rubbery and not very exciting. Topped with random vegetables, slathered with mayonnaise and completely engulfed in a enriched white sub bun. Nothing remarkable. Nothing tantalizing. Just crap piled upon crap. Simple, cheap food designed to satisfy the blandest of palates and fill tummies with nothing good for you. It was just bad.

Now, I'm no locavore nazi. I'll take bad for your body so long as it nourishes the soul. This sub was just bad. I felt pangs on the right side of my tummy as though my body was begging for me to stop.

So I did.

I couldn't finish it. Just couldn't. I was hungry and soldiered on through the first half but stopped in the second because it was just too horrible. At least the fries were decent enough (for frozen fries) but served with El Cheap Foodservice Distributor grade ketchup. A ketchup so thin and runny that it's not even worth the effort to cut open the packs and squeeze it out.

I need to stop subjecting myself to suburban sprawl...

Bubba's Breakaway
905 York Road
Towson, MD 21204