We started first at Shalizaar in Belmont––a wonderful Persian spot with a bevy of pickled appetizers and spicy spreads. No dice––they were booked for a wedding.
"Don't worry," I told my wife, "There's a Lebanese place on 25th Avenue." I didn't even bother taking El Camino north, choosing instead to meander through the backroads, continuing our post-work lust for Middle Eastern fare through the half-light of the old Americana neighborhood.
I observed the darkened police car poised patiently at the end of the street; a serruptitious sting perched to nab the unthinking driver who would dare make a U-turn into the available parking port side. We drove to the end of the street, parked safely to our right, and walked the extra blocks to Tannourine.
"Closed for a private party," read a hand-written note taped hastily on the inside of the door.
"You've gotta be kidding me!" I cackled.
"I'm hungry," my wife added.
Across the street laid a set of open doors, a homey atmosphere, and an unfamiliar destination: Fassia––fine Moroccan cuisine; a menu of spice-laden meats and an array of available seating.
"Why not?" we said to each other.
For about ten minutes, we were the only customers dining at Fassia that evening. I watched a family of six walk down the avenue, make the same attempt at Tannourine we had made, and stare across the street towards those same open doors we had noticed just moments before. They walked in awkwardly, all clad in similar garb, and sat down solemnly. They were immediately inquisitive, so much so that my wife thought it had to be Fred Armisen with a camera crew staging another hilarious Potlandia skit. It might as well have been.
As the waitress took their order, inquiring into their beverage of choice, the patriarch raised his hand and asked, "Do you have anything distinctly Moroccan?"
The waitress mentioned the surprisingly fluent list of Moroccan wines on the table, but the man shook his head and said, "Non-alcoholic only. I'd like something that would be typical when dining in Morocco."
The woman smiled politely and said, "Usually when I'm in Fes we drink Orangina."
"Ahhhh....interesting," the man replied, his family quietly engaged to his every word. "Is that some kind of special Moroccan orange concoction?"
I almost spit out my water.
"It's just a kind of soda," the waitress replied.
"What about Tej?" the man interruped, "you guys don't serve Tej, do you?"
"I don't know what that is," the woman said, starting to get a bit antsy and confused.
"Oh no," I thought to myself. Not only was this man looking to lecture, he was confusing two completely different North African cultures; Tej is a sweet Ethiopian wine made from honey.
"Tej is a typical North African sweet wine," the non-African man began, proudly sharing his knowledge about North African culture with a woman from North Africa. "It's almost a mead of sorts, made by fermenting the actual honey. One usually drinks it with a meal."
"I'm not familiar with that," the woman said, faking courtesy at this point, looking back towards the kitchen at our food, which had just come up on the hot bed. The man sputtered off a number of other facts about the non-Moroccan cultures of North Africa and where one might find a glass of Tej if ever in the region. I told my wife we should go to a Vietnamese restaurant after this and lecture the hostess about Japanese sake.
I couldn't help but eavesdrop for the rest of our meal. When the waitress finally brought our food (which was absolutely delicious, by the way), she carried the plates past the inquisitive man who extended his hand into the air and said, "There's something else I wanted to tell you," as she walked past.
"This guy needs to start a blog," I said to my wife. "If nothing else, it would help alleviate his desire to use public interactions as a pulpit; and it would give people the choice of whether or not they want to listen."
"Do you think that would stop him from lecturing to waitresses?" she asked.
"I think so. That's really what blogs are for," I said. "They're for helping loud, self-centered, talkative people to feel important. Why do you think I started one? You'd be listening to me blabber all day if I didn't write that thing."