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Monday, August 13, 2012

Columbia Eats: Mediterranean Tea Room

I've been pretty eager to try out the Mediterranean Tea Room since A. Mediterranean food and B. I love tea, so it was only a matter of time before I got off the bed and head over to Shandon eatery. Located in a charming spot across from all the shopping on Devine St., the Tea Room is a pretty cute and enchanting little spot. Colorful walls, and a large, bright tea room highlight the inside, making for a welcoming experience right off the bat, particularly on the drizzling week day it had been in the Capital City.

The vegetarian plate. THAT FETA.
The menu at Mediterranean Tea Room is on the light side all things considered, featuring all the Greek and Middle Eastern dishes you'd come to expect, including hummus, baba ghannouj, falafel, kebobs, and chicken in every healthy way you can imagine. It was dinner with my favorite this night, and after a long week of heavy eating we decided to go with some vegetarian options for the night, including the tea room vegetarian plate as seen above, and the mijadarah, a lentil and rice dish. The vegetarian plate was huge, filling, and wonderfully packed with a gigantic pile of the best feta cheese I've had in ages. The hummus and tabbouleh weren't the best I've ever had, but tasted very fresh and fine. The falafel was crispy and flavorful, and a nice contrast with the rest of the dish.

I wasn't sure what to expect out of the mijadarah being just a rice and lentil dish, but it turned out to be a real knockout. Cooked in cumin and spices, and topped with caramelized onions, it was a really hearty dish that really delivered on taste. The mijadarah came with a heeping side of falaheen salad, nicely covered in good olive oil and lemon juice. The two together definitely made for a really balanced and filling meal, particularly with a pot of English Afternoon tea on the side.

Mamuul. Pastry filled with dates. Amaaazing.
 Despite feeling pretty full by the end of our meals, we decided to venture for a little desert anyway, especially since they were only $1.50 a piece. We got the pistachio baklava and a mamuul, this ultra-flaky cake with a date filling. The pistachio baklava was flaky and just the right amount of sweet, but a bit on the small side, which may not have been worth the $1.50 entirely. The mamuul though, I was prepared to order 15 of. Buttery, rich, and sweet, with a super date-packed filling, it's what I wish Fig Newton's really tasted like. I'd consider stopping by on occasion for a cup of tea and this any day of the week.

Overall, we were pretty ecstatic about our meal. The portions were huge and the food was satisfying. And the mamuul! You have to get the mamuul. My only gripe would perhaps be the fact that for a place called the tea room, there wasn't necessarily a very generous amount of tea options available, although certainly more than most places in Columbia. That wouldn't deter me from coming back though.

Mediterranean Tea Room on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Columbia Eats: Paradise Ice

Main Street's restoration continues to get more amazing with its latest addition, Paradise Ice, an Italian ice and organic frozen custard shop. While Columbia has a lot of great things going for it food-wise, handmade, local icy treats are one of the few things the capital city has been missing and in dire need of in my humble opinion. Paradise Ice, however, solves that issue with some innovative ideas and just flat-out wonderful flavors.

Tangerine Lime Italian Ice. Wonderful.
I wandered in with some friends this past week and was immediately in struck in awe at the bold flavors on their always-rotating menu. We sampled just about everything that could be sampled, from the rich coffee and cinnamon and decadent apple pie custards to the refreshing, sweet and tangy pomegranate blueberry Italian ice. We even had a scoop of their curious concoction of the week, an Adluh grit and berry custard which had the strangest, yet unusually wonderful texture and taste I have had the pleasure of trying in a long time. Everything at Paradise Ice really popped in flavor and had a wonderful homemade quality to it that made decision-time a real challenge. I ended up going with the tangerine lime, which exploded with huge tangerine flavor, along with some really nice subtle lime. You could see all the bits of lime rind in the cup, which made for a really refreshing afternoon snack to cool down with during another hot and humid Columbia summer day.

Overall, I'm ecstatic about Main Street's new addition. Along with the Mast General Store and the Nickelodeon's grand opening coming in September, downtown Columbia is finally starting to look like a place to be for once, and that's really exciting news. Support local by heading over to Main St. and helping Columbia become a real place to be!

Paradise Ice on Urbanspoon