Not every collision ends with a crash and clash.
Some things combine as seamlessly as lazy beach waves.
Others swirl in complementary motion like oil in water.
This however, is another surprising yet likeable combination.
The flavorful Middle East and the wild wild West.
Utah, I thought. Great for audacious hikes and succulent photo shoots with the ready-to-pose Gastronomypix; but for food? I really thought my anti fast food pledge would meet its demise. But even reactions like ‘surprised’ and ‘wonderstruck’ are an understatement to describe my chop-licking experience, which makes me want to mark Salt Lake City as a definitive destination for foodies, too.
And so, in the desert and deserted Americano, we ironically landed up at a Middle Eastern claim to fame for the town, Mazza (Hindi for fun!). Wooden décor with construction style metal overhang and slightly kitsch Turkish tiling and lanterns belonged to a sepia world, but were nevertheless inviting. The upbeat waiter’s comments on my favorite boots (that had made him instantly jealous when I walked in) showed me that perhaps this was a cool town after all!
The best thing about eating with a foodie is that one doesn’t need to be coaxed or reminded to not eat their food when it arrives. The opportunity to photograph with abandon without the urgency of a self-digesting stomach is unmatched. Toast to more escapes with Gastronomypix!
The dishes on the menu like tabbouleh, fateer and fattoosh reminded me of my Dubai-an exploration with I Live in a Frying Pan at a restaurant whose scripture logo still reminds me of the word Ugly, despite being the exact opposite.
The good thing about the menu was that it entailed stories of ingredients in each dish, and clearly symbolized vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options.The homemade lemonade came with a toxically potent shot of gooey lemon syrup in an Aladdin style mini pitcher, a few drops of which quenched my dusty skinned desert safari thirst.
The appetizer was alarmingly fresh, even more than it looked or sounded. The muhamara was a rust colored exotic scented sauce of sorts, accompanied by freshly picked bathed lettuce. It was an oxymoronic child of pomegranate molasses, bread, olive oil, roasted bell peppers, walnuts, and a seemingly fistful of spices, all pasted in dipping format, and garnished with celery and shaved beets that gave it an earthy, inviting hue. The flavor was supremely refreshing and hit the right salty, bitter and sweet notes all at once, so much so that it had me going for multiple helpings. The extra lettuce elevated us to a rabbit like status, nibbling incessantly.
Gastronomypix’s chicken shawarma looked fresh, with greens and a pink sauce floating like a damsel atop a bed of meaty love. She claimed it was better than her recent Turkey excursion, thus successfully comparing Mazza’s global standards and elevating the city’s its wild west location.
My entrée was un-inventively titled Cheese and Zaatar, but surpassed its title with taste. The slices of Mediterranean cheese tasted like richer, filling mozzarella, lying lazily on a heap of lust worthy steaming basmati rice. On the side was a cup of olive oil and a heap full of an envious spice blend: zaatar. This consisted of dried thyme, oregano, toasted sesame seeds, salt, garlic and more, all dried and powderous in an earthy green hue. The combination of a spoonful of cheese, rice, olive oil and zaatar was a layered construction that hit the palette with a burst of flavor and prickly texture, leaving me simultaneously salivating and gobbling. The salad added to the healthy element, earning the right to consume sugar.
The endless dessert menu was puzzling, so much so that we ordered multiple desserts, including some to go.
The Samantha’s special (titled again in a non Middle Eastern way which turned me off, momentarily) was a creamy pudding with orange liqueur, glistening with caramelized fig and apricot slices, where the tart flavor contrasted well with the creamy base. Though missing a crunch factor as both the figs and apricots were tender and the cream and liquor made it overly slipper slimy, it was a well-balanced dessert with fascinating flavors that were not overpoweringly sweet.
Naturally I cannot part from anything Middle Eastern without baklava. On sharing the humungous flaky square with walnuts and orange blossom syrup, we each had a to-go roll which was far more petite and individually sized, stuffed with cashews instead, but retaining the syrupy flavor. While not the best baklava I’ve ever had, it was perfectly cooked, with a slight flakiness of the phyllo and a lack of off-putting butter and sugar overload.
Content with a remarkably flavorful Niddle Eastern meal where we least expected it, the adventure for the wild wild west thus began to on a full, wondrous and highly optimistic start.
It is said that if something is important, you find a reason for it, and if it is not, you find an excuse.
We love good food.
And it finds us, anywhere.
No reasons, no excuses.