We went to Café Natasha’s Persian Cuisine for dinner. Our occasion was a thank you to Joanie for looking after the house this summer. Dave joined us too. It was a lovely dinner, with good food and good company and an ulterior motive or two. Just the day before, I had got a text from Nink, asking for restaurant recommendations in Saint Louis. Her colleague and family are moving from Rochester to Oklahoma and wanted a place to dine, while passing through town. She asked for either Indian or Middle Eastern and Natasha’s came to mind and was one of three that I mentioned, but I think that I favored it over the others. It had made the Post’s annual top 100 list, which is always a good sign. Anyway, this recommendation put me in mind to take Joanie there too.
Harissa and my hunt for it was my other ulterior motive. We’re going to a 4th of July potluck and I wanted to bring my Moroccan carrot salad. I’ve been making this dish for potlucks for years and it has always been a big hit. I’d always used a Whole Foods recipe, until for our last Kaldi’s potluck, I switched to something spicier that used harissa. Our other Rochester friends had first turned us on to this spice and had given us some, which we had husbanded until that Kaldi’s potluck. The rave reviews that I had received motivated me to get some more.
Harissa is a Maghrebi hot chili pepper mix of Tunisian origin. The first place I tried was Penzeys Spices in Maplewood, but had no joy there. They knew what it was, but were adamant that they didn’t stock it. I next tried the Vine, which is right across Grand from Natasha’s. Last time I checked this establishment was a restaurant and market, but a call educated me that the market has closed and is now a juice bar. That left Jay’s International Market, only 2 blocks down Grand.
My previous call had elicited that they had harissa, but upon arrival finding it was a challenge. We first found a number of harissa infused products, but with the help of eventually three people, I found pure harissa. Small jar in hand and after rounding up the girls, I eventually headed for home, a happy man.
PS – Anne and I took over 9,000 photos on our western excursion. So, you can expect to see a lot more of these pictures for quite a while. This one is another pano from our sunset photo expedition in the Badlands, during the big wind storm that eventually blew us out of the park. The Prius is parked on the road’s shoulder and if you look closely, you can see Anne in the middle of the field.