For My Dad…

MoreGhormehSabzi

I’m going to do things much differently this week.  And it’s absolutely necessary.  I lost someone close to me last week.  I lost someone so important to me.   You only get one parent, one mom, and one dad in this lifetime.  It’s a blessing.  But yes, all things must….

I’m heartbroken to say that I lost my dad last week.   I’m still sad, numb, grieving, overwhelmed, and in a state of disbelief.  And he passed just eight days before my birthday.

The timing is never good for these things.

This post will be seen my most on May 31st, which is my birthday.

For my birthday, his birthday, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, other family members’ birthday, and often no particular reason at all, we would share in delicious food from all over the world, and more often times than not, from our native Iran.

That hasn’t happened in quite some time, and it hurts.  And it will no longer happen in person.  That’s a hard thing to accept, but accept I will have to at some point.  I’ll have to make some kind of peace at this at some point.

However, I can still celebrate his honor and spirit by sharing with you some our favorite dishes.   He’s still with me in spirit and I know he’s watching, and I hope he appreciates the foods I’m about to share with you.  I’m sure he’s either having some of this right now, or will be shortly.  It feels weird typing this out this way.  It’s good therapy I guess, but it just feels so weird.

This is over a collection of meals, locations, and times.  Not one in particular.  I could recommend a few places in the DC and Baltimore area if you would like to contact me.  There’s a lot of good Iranian and Middle Eastern food in the area.  I’m grateful my dad and many of our family got to share in many experiences, and created some amazing memories.

I can only hope there’s more memories to come, albeit they’ll be different…

Ghormehsabzi

First up, is one of the first meals I remember as a kid, prepared by both of my parents, Ghormez sabzi.  I won’t elaborate on every ingredient, as links have been provided.  But this is an absolute gem.  The combination of beef, herbs, and dried lime may come off a bit sour or bitter at first, but that won’t last.  I loved this immediately.  I loved this more to this day.   And I particularly love it that much more today.

Morgh&Tahdig

Next, is Zeresh Polo Morgh, or more specifically just Morgh, in this case. This is a favorite of both of my parents.  It took me years later to appreciate chicken off the bone.  And in the last few years, I would prefer it when ordering food with my dad.  Something about the taste off the bone is such a great contrast to simple pieces of grilled (more on that shortly) chicken.  Both are great, but there’s something about it this style of chicken I now love so much.   The carrots, tomato sauce, and potatoes are the perfect complement to this.  Whoever invented this recipe is a genius.

Bademjan&Gheymeh

What you see with that is the Tahdig (crispy rice) next to it and in the picture below is Gheymeh, which goes with the Tahdig, or goes fine just by itself.  Ah such memories of piling at Gheymey on top of that crispy greatness.  It’s the perfect appetizer, or an amazing dinner all by itself.  Even if you don’t love Persian food, Tahdig is univerally loved.

The Bademjan, is another one that took a long time to grow on me.  But now I find eggplant to be divine and a joy to eat.

Another favorite of mine, which is traditionally eaten at Nowruz, which is Iranian New Year (First Day of Spring).  is the Ash reshteh.  The melange of noodles, beans, lentils, and chick peas is perfect for the cold winter months.  During the summer it may not feel right, but it doesn’t matter.  It’s what feels right to you.

whitefish&kuku

To go along with Nowruz is the kuku and whitefish.   I mean what else needs to be said.  You might be able to tell that the kuku is egg based and it’s glorious.  I’m craving everything I’m writing about, right now.

Kababs

I would be foolish to leave out the kababs, so there you go.  Koobideh makes everyone happy, and so does grilled chicken, onion, and tomatoes.  I know right?

The pastries is the one I’ve shared with friends and pals.  I’ve been requested to bring baklava, bamiyeh, jalebi, and all these other delights to parties and gatherings.  Who am I to say no?  I’ve also had friends request it if I ever stop by a store and I’m happy to oblige.

These are the memories that I love.  Food brings people together.  And it bonds us like not many other things do.  I’m grateful I shared so many experiences with my dad, and now hope to share new memories with family, friends, and of course my dad in spirit.

Every story was different, yet me might have shared the same exact dish.  But not everything is going to be same, or what’s the fun in that?

ghormehsabzi2

Our moods may have been different each time, different company may have joined here and there, the soul and spirit behind the food can vary, yet the constant was me my father.

I’ll miss that.  I know he’s still here,  I know somewhere he’ll be reading it.  I know he’s now relaxing and at peace.  I think he was at peace for a while, but not it’s all official, and that just feels weird.  But it’s time.

Everyone will have their time.But for now it’s time appreciate the ones we love, we care about and adore, whether it’s family, friends, our pets, or anything that raises our spirits.   Surrounding ourselves with the best spirits makes us better ones as well.

I’m so grateful I had one of the best spirits of all, my father.  He was a great a man, he was the man,  I love him and miss him so much.

I know I’ll see him and dine with him again soon.

I love you dad.

Ideen

My Favorite Mexican Restaurant

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That might be a bold statement but La Tolteca has always been so good to me, and to my friends who live(d) in the Bel Air, MD; Harford County; and now Baltimore County and City.

Warning – their website has music, so turn it down if you’re at the workplace or a library. The music is fun though.

LaToltecaFront

But my first was the Bel Air location and it will always be my favorite.  I’ve been to others but this has the look of what an original and authentic Mexican restaurant.  I sound like I’ve been to a bunch of restaurants or Mexico itself, but it’s just a feeling.  Bel Air will always be my favorite and home base restaurant.

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That’s why I chose home to finally write about their Mexican Pizza.  I meant to do this two years ago for Cinco de Mayo and then again last week but well, things happen, life happens, and the timing wasn’t right.

I figure a week a later isn’t going to hurt anything.

What you might find humorous is their Mexican Pizza is on their Children’s Menu.  So kids and kids of all ages are invited to try this.  I say this because at first I was afraid there was some protocol about a grown up ordering from the kids’ menu but no questions were asked.  I did feel a bit awkward for a second when ordering.  No I didn’t, because…

LaToltecaPizzaDisplay

It’s also on the grown up lunch.  In hindsight I wish I got both to do a comparison but as someone once said, six in one, half dozen of something.  Right.

Let me first say I love their food.  I’ve never been disappointed.   I’ve ordered burritos, tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, salads, soups, and everything else under the sun.  I want to focus on the pizza but I also want to focus on the soup.

LaToltecaPizzaEaten

First, the pizza.  I honestly can say I didn’t love it.  It wasn’t good or bad.  It was good enough to eat but nothing I would go out of my way to order again.  I didn’t have grandiose expectations of eating something amazing or life changing.  Not at all.  But I was hoping for something with a bit more pizzazz.  Yes I know what I just typed and it was no accident.

The crispy tortilla which acted as the dough seemed a bit too crunchy for me.  And I know other people will love it.  It just work out for me.  The beef tasted life beef, the cheese, tomatoes, jalapeños (which had a kick to it), and onions all completed the pizza. It was fine but nothing memorable.

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Honestly, that’s as class to a negative thing I’ve ever said about La Tolteca.  Now I want to shift to something magnificent.

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That Mexican Chicken Soup is worth going in for alone.  I don’t know all that is in it. Actually maybe I do but my mind is wandering and my mouth is watering at the thought of having this soup.  As I type this the restaurant is closed or I’d be having some right now to draw a little more inspiration as I write.

LaToltecaSoup

My love comes from the combination of the shredded chicken, random vegetables, and the tomatoes becoming a part of the soup.  Oh my goodness this soup is ecstasy.  I know this is a pizza blog but I had to make mention of this.

LaToltecaDisplay

And if you’ve been here before, you know habit forming the free tortilla chips, salsa, and that white sauce is.  Yeah that white sauce will get you.

I’m glad I waited a week (and two years) to get around to this.   But if you’ve never eaten here don’t wait any longer.   Don’t wait a year, two years, or another minute.  This place is fantastic.  If you live anywhere near a La Tolteca I highly recommend it.

Their website is as inviting and accessible as it gets, so you should have no problem finding a location near you and something inspiring of their inspirational menu.  Yes loads of inspiration.

And as inviting as their site is, you will see how more inviting the staff is when you walk in. I’ve usually ordered food to go.  But when I’ve sat down with friends we’ve always been treated like family.

I started writing this as a way to end up suggesting trying a Mexican Pizza at your local restaurant or making it at home but this went in a different direction entirely.

And I’m not only suggesting, but also encouraging going to La Tolteca if you’re in Maryland.

And I wish you all a Belated Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Ideen