Fried: Spicy Harissa Fries at Fez on Central

When Joe Lieberman is speaking, ya need a little spice ...

by Sarah Fenske

I was gonna order the salad, I swear.

Everyone warned me that once I turned 30, my metabolism would suddenly take a nosedive. This did not happen: I continued to eat like a horse and never gained an ounce. But then I turned 31 -- and oh, the humanity! Suddenly all those fast food lunches turned straight into ponch. Suddenly none of my skinny jeans fit. Blech.

I briefly considered liposuction, or diet pills, or crystal meth, only to decide on a more sensible course: Why not just eat less? And healthier?

Hence, the thoughts of salad. But then I was perusing the menu at Fez on Central, the swanky nouvelle Moroccan joint at Central and Indian School. This is my favorite place to go for a pomegranate martini, for a hearty lamb kisra, and (I'll admit it) a burger. I tried, but failed, to talk myself into a nice tomato-and-mozzarella salad. Hey, the heart wants what it wants. (This might explain why none of my skinny jeans fit.)

So I ordered Fez's marvelous douxelle burger, which is soft and meaty and mustardy and mushroomy, and a literal basket of the spicy harissa fries. I had to get everything to go because I was running late and wanted to watch the Republican National Convention -- and I was actually fretting as I drove home that they wouldn't remember to include the special garlicky mayo the fries come with. Ha! They gave me two containers of the stuff. I love Fez.

I can't say it was the happiest night of my life: After all, it was me in my jammies with Joe Lieberman. But having that basket of fries and that awesome burger definitely helped. The fries are the perfect comfort food: firecracker hot, with a soft flavorful potato taste. They're less crispy than I usually like 'em -- but I keep coming back to these because they work perfectly nevertheless. I think it must be the harissa. I learned thanks to a li'l googling that harissa is a middle eastern sauce made from smoked chili peppers and garlic and coriander -- yum. Really, it's so spicy and the flavorful that you actually don't want a crisp potato. All that spice requires a bit of softness, I think, if only for contrast. (The mayo helps, too. Yum.)

Tearing through the basket, it was easy enough to forget that my metabolism is broken and I didn't have a pom martini and I was at home watching TV. That's what all good meals should do -- and that's why, sometimes, you just can't order the salad.

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