Cafe Reviews

Bringing Up Baba Ghanouj

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Guido's kitchen also turns out hot foods. Calzone, lasagna, eggplant parmigiana and sausage and peppers are the real thing.


Haji Baba, 1513 East Apache, Tempe, 480-894-1905.

You don't need a magic carpet to take a ride to the Middle East. You just need wheels and enough gas to make it to Tempe.

Walk down the aisles of this well-stocked place and you'll get a tour of the region. There's fig jam from Lebanon, Tunisian harissa, Moroccan sardines and Persian spices. The shelves are filled with olive oils, exotic fruit juices and rose water. I even spotted sugar-coated chickpeas, popular candy in Syria. You can pick up henna and molasses tobacco, as well.

Hungry? Haji Baba is a market and restaurant. The koubideh sandwich -- grilled ground beef marinated in onion juice and spices -- is especially fetching.

Yusef's, 15238 North Cave Creek Road, Phoenix, 602-867-2957.

This spiffy shop demonstrates that, at the very least, the foods of the Middle East can live peaceably together.

The crowded shelves are lined with everything from canned Israeli olives and Persian wax hair remover to Lebanese green beans and Bulgarian eggplant dip. Choose from French, Greek and Bulgarian feta cheese in the refrigerated case. (Bulgarian, the sharpest and saltiest, is my choice.) You'll find the regional breads to go with them, too, like lahvosh and barberi.

Yusef's also carries essential paraphernalia. Pick up a hubba-bubba (a tobacco water pipe) or a tea set.

Take a load off and enjoy a homemade cashew baklava, washed down with strong Turkish coffee or hot mint tea. Then come back for an inexpensive dinner featuring kebabs, kafta and kibbi.


India House of Spices, 5054 East McDowell, Phoenix, 602-244-1166.

Step into this Indian market and you'll say, "Ghee, wiz." (Ghee is a form of clarified butter, essential in Indian cooking.)

Indian food is noted for its complex blend of spices, and you'll find just about all of the ones Columbus was searching for here. You'll also run across a range of achar in jars and cans, hot pickled condiments that complement India's dishes. A small produce section houses veggies you don't see in most neighborhood supermarkets. In the freezer case there's kulfi, exotic ice cream flavored with saffron or figs, as well as microwaveable chickpea snackies.

Out of Brahmi oil? It's supposed to cure everything from dandruff to insomnia, and it's on the shelf. And the large selection of home-country videos can help keep up your Hindi language skills.


Cactus Kosher Foods, 8005 East Indian School, Scottsdale, 480-970-8441.

The proprietors here have to deal with more than picky customers. They have to answer to a higher authority. I don't think either party will have any complaints.

You'll find jars, cans and packets of all the familiar Lower East Side brands -- Manischewitz, Rokeach, Hebrew National, Goodson's, Mother's and Gold's -- offering the full range of products: borscht, schav, gefilte fish, pickles, matzoh ball mix, horseradish. Stop at the freezer case and pick up kishka, a heart-stopping mix of grain and fat. The meats are glatt kosher -- even more strictly supervised than ordinary kosher. Naturally, you'll find yahrzeit candles (to mark the anniversary of a loved one's death) and shabbas candles, lit just before sundown on Friday to welcome the Sabbath.


Edelweiss German Deli & Cafe, 13439 North Cave Creek Road, Phoenix, 602-482-8608.

"Dieters Beware" reads the sign on the door of this tidy little shop. That won't keep me out.

This is the kind of place that can make you spontaneously break out into "Deutschland Über Alles." The cases are filled with more than two dozen kinds of meats and sausages, imported from New York and Chicago. Check out the German cheeses, herring and jars of pork fat.

The owners do some cooking of their own. The homemade sauerkraut, studded with bacon, is nothing short of magical. Vinegary German potato salad and smoky ham salad are also irresistible. You'll also be tempted by the cherry strudel -- go ahead, give in to temptation.


British Gourmet Ltd., 7901 East Thomas, Scottsdale, 480-994-3837.

We kicked the Redcoats out more than 200 years ago. But they've still got an outpost in Scottsdale.

This funky storefront shows you why the sun never sets on the British culinary empire. Look for familiar names: Crosse & Blackwell condiments, Cadbury chocolates, Colman's mustard, Major Grey's chutney, Walker's shortbread, Robertson's jams, Lyle's treacle. In the refrigerated cases you'll spot Devonshire cream, English butter and cheeses, crumpets, meat pies and frozen kippers. Stiff-upper-lip types will be pleased to know they'll never have to do without Marmite and mushy peas. And if you want to know what's going on in Parliament, or look at pictures of seminude women, you can grab a home country newspaper from the rack.

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Howard Seftel