Recently, I met a friend out for lunch. The cafe we had intended to go to was closed, so we walked two doors down to one that had nice outdoor seating. I am not even going to even go into the confusing concept of this cafe because it’s beyond baffling. Suffice to say, the menu had a decent description of Dolma, stuffed grape leaves, that led me to be curious and order them. There are two things I never order out at a restaurant: Baklava and Dolma. Here, I felt compelled to order both and it made me pretty darn grumpy that cafes still insist on selling cheap, junk food at high prices. Before ordering the Dolma, I read the reviews on the restaurant, specifically on the dolma. They were raving about them. “Let’s try them!” I suggested. When they came, I immediately knew that they were canned because they were rectangular due to being packed so tightly together. They were disgusting: soggy and tasted of vinegar.
I made up my own batch of dolma, just so that I could deconstruct both and show you what REAL dolma should look like. Homemade dolma is filled with cinnamon, spices, dill, mint, pine nuts, and currants. They are variegated in size and are cylindrical. If you see dolma that is a soggy white mass of over-cooked rice, run away..run far far away!
Deviating from my normal baklava blogs, I felt compelled to demand decent Middle Eastern food from these cafes! There are big distributors who send these cafes everything pre-made and packaged for the gyros, baklava, etc. All the cafes have to do is heat it up. Demand real food, dammit! These new Middle Eastern cafes are dumbing down the food to feed mainstream. This is not what that culture tastes like.
You should taste the dance of spices mingling in all corners of your mouth. Extremes of spicey hot to oozing sweetness should permeate the experience. There should be a sense of time and family in each bite. Middle Eastern food takes time, hours of simmering deepen the flavor. It takes a family gathering together, talking or drinking tea while they make the meatballs or roll dolma.
I am not going to even mention the baklava I attempted to eat. I understand now how come some people are afraid of trying my baklava. They have had such horrible baklava that they are scarred for life.
If you take a look at the photos below, you can immediately see the difference between the fresh vs. canned. Save your tastebuds and your wallet by not ordering canned dolma out. Just ask if it’s homemade or not if it’s on the menu. If it’s not, stay away!