It's a bit tiresome to hear a critic gripe about all the food they're forced to eat. (There are worse ways to make a living.) After reviewing near back-to-back Southern comfort restaurants, though, I felt pretty pummeled with fat and meat. I needed a break.
While interviewing an Italian chef back in D.C. who seemed significantly more svelte than most chefs, I asked him how he maintained balance while surrounded by extreme amounts of incredibly beautiful food. His answer was unconventional, but makes sense.
Cesare Lanfranconi, from the recently shuttered Spezie, told me he'd walk through a grocery store and smell fresh ingredients: the cool sweetness of an apple's skin, the oily citrus of an orange peel. He claimed his body would tell him what he needed when he was running low on this vitamin that mineral and the fruit or vegetable that smelled the most attractive did so because it contained what he was missing. It sounds a little hokey, but I think there's something to it.
Enter Ali Baba's tabbouleh, which I had delivered to my office last week. It called to me like a siren when I opened the white Styrofoam container. The smell of lemon juice and parsley shifted my focus and altered my mood. I'm not sure I've ever devoured a parsley salad with such enthusiasm.
That it's put together properly doesn't hurt. Heavy on the parsley, light on the bulgur wheat and tomato, with enough lemon to make the whole thing sing. If you spent your weekend eating bacon cheeseburgers, fried-egg sandwiches and barbecue, you should devote a meatless meal to Ali Baba's tabbouleh. It eats like a new beginning.