Just a quick update. Somehow, I went from being completely unsure about when I would return to work in Baghdad, to suddenly waking up in a plane over the Mediterranean. One minute I was introducing myself to new DC coworkers with Iraqi flag cupcakes (ooo, just wait for that post), and suddenly I was sprinting back to my apartment to pack.
So with loose ends tied up, apartment (mostly) clean, and leftover baked goods photographed and distributed, I hopped on a plane to Montreal (my first trip to Canada!) to catch a connection to Amman, Jordan. Landing in the afternoon gave me an opportunity to roam around the city a bit, though, being a lonely American girl, I limited my roaming to an area I knew well, the first through third circle area, Rainbow Street, and Books@Cafe.
Books@ (pronounced “books at”) was my favorite internet cafe back when I studied abroad in Amman in 2007, though it did sometimes get to me that it’s so…Western-style? I was craving some Arabic food, which Books@ doesn’t really offer…but I knew it would be open and full of people on a Friday night (unlike many places near my hotel), so I knew it was a safe choice. I sat out on a terrace overlooking the rolling hills of the city, and even got to witness a girl’s half-hearted attempt and picking up a cute boy, by placing a note with her contact info under his drink.
I say half-hearted because after he proceeded to look her up on Facebook, send her an email, and text her, she ignored him until he left… and yes, maybe I sound like a creeper, but I had front row seats to the drama, and it was sort of entertaining! (and heartbreaking! She didn’t even wave goodbye!)
Anyway…the road in front of Books@ is notoriously bad for catching a cab, and the more well-lit road from the cafe back to the traffic circles are one-way in the wrong direction, so I hiked all the way back to the third circle, stopping along the way for various reasons.
Well…I had to have some sort of Arabic food! The place where I got this awesome shwarma sandwich is called Cafeteria Reem. It’s nothing special, just a food stand right off of the second circle, but it’s so good and so well-known that it was even featured in the New York Times. When I lived in Amman, I was near the third circle so I frequented this stand, not only because it’s good, but because it was so cheap. Now? The portion seems a bit smaller than I remember, and the price has gone up from 45 to 65 piasters (both are less than $1), but the taste was still there. Warm pita bread with juicy lamb, fresh tomatoes slices and some sort of delicious gravy all rolled up inside. So so satisfying.
Oh come on! Like I was going to skip dessert?
Delice is also located on the second circle, and I also shopped their two years ago. I remember some friends and I stocked up on little snacks before walking to a film festival. The great part about that day was that the walk turned out to be sooooo long, it made the pastries totally worth it! And the films were pretty good too. My favorite one was an Italian film called “The Night Before Exam”.
And the pastries? Nothing extraordinary. The circular one was covered in nuts and had a slight cardamom taste. The cake part was airy and the cream was especially light. The chocolate piece could’ve had more of an actual chocolate flavor, but the apricot accents on top were nice. The cinnamon roll had a hard shell of apricot glaze that was kind of difficult for me to understand at first, but the middle was soft and went well with the glaze. My absolute favorite one was the shortbread tart.
It seemed so unassuming, but I figured something that looked so plain couldn’t possibly be bad, right? My Arabic skills were barely enough to purchase the sweets without a ridiculous number of headshakes (which mean, “I have no idea what you’re saying” in Arabic), so I didn’t even venture asking about what could possibly be inside. Sure, the filling may not look pretty, but it’s the only thing I wish I had more of right now. It was cinnamon, coconut, and roasted pistachios, bound together with something sticky sweet, and it was perfect. The crust wasn’t the typical flaky tart crust that I’m used to, but really was closer to a shortbread cookie; stable, buttery, and not too sugary.
Ahh, Amman. This officially marks the end of my strange and unexpected break from Baghdad. Hopefully the next six months will be spent in the same place (except for actual vacations), though what I gain in stability, I’ll lose in my capability to bake. Lucky for my readers (and for me too, I guess), I have plenty of posts just waiting to get up here, so the food focus of this blog won’t be lost for a while.