Sunrise Deli

I have to say I came a bit late to learning about falafel, but when I did I happened to find the best place in the city to get it and that is the Sunrise Deli. They specialize in Middle-Eastern cuisine which means it could be based on just about any country there so expect to see a few variations [definitely not Egyptian based as those falafel are made with fava beans]. Opening in 1984 at 2115 Irving Street this location has expanded to serve a total of three locations in San Francisco and one in Berkeley.

Falafel tends to be on the greasy side and should be eaten as soon as it comes out of the fryer. I’m not sure what type of oil they use here, but it not greasy compared to other places and the taste holds up even after it’s sat for awhile. I know this because we were looking for an inexpensive way to serve up food to people at my daughter’s first birthday so we decided to go to the Sunrise Deli.

There is a lot more to this place than just falafel, but that’s what brings you into the store usually. I’ve gotten a lot of my friends hooked on the fried paste that’s made from dried chickpeas [garbanzo beans], onion, garlic, parsley and a few other spices and fried up into little hockey pucks as my cousin who’d never had them before called them. I like to dip them in hummus which is actually a little like falafel that hasn’t been fried with more olive oil mixed in, but they can be stuffed into pita bread with a host of other ingredients and served as a sandwich.

Speaking of sandwiches, I tried the shawarma one day that in some places looks more like a middle eastern burrito rather than the way they are truly made, but stuffing the contents into a half a pita bread. There’s usually some chicken or lamb involved with onions, tomatoes and other grilled vegetables topped with some tahini sauce and pickles and these are wonderful. Their vegetarian plate will appeal to vegans since there are no animal products involved at all.

The best part about the Irving Street location is the price. I won’t knock them because I know that downtown rents are expensive, but a half dozen falafel is less expensive on Irving Street than it is downtown and since they’re so close to us that makes it an even better bargain. When we called in the order for my daughter’s party we had more than enough to feed a crowd of about 30 people for a little over $50. Of course we had the tabouli, babaganoush and olives as well as the pickled turnips [those are the pink strips in the picture that if you don’t tell someone what they are they’ll try them and tell you they’re quite good]. We rounded it out with several of their fresh sesame seed bread rings.

On a weekend when you want something that you can say it fried, but light the falafel at the Sunrise Deli is the place to go.

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Squeezing the Cucumbers @ Parkside Farmers Market

If you live in San Francisco you learn quickly that big chain produce needs a major overhaul. Thanks to my wife who gives me a kick in the head everyone once in awhile she got us to go into some of the local produce marts in San Francisco. I’m going to just talk about one, but they’re in every part of the city and the best thing is that not only is the produce fresh, but it’s cheap.

My wife, hereby referred to as wife, one day suggested we pull over and check out the Parkside Farmers Market. It’s at 16th and Taraval. I figured we didn’t have anything else to do so why not. We’ve traveled into a fair amount of stores that we wouldn’t have normally gone into just to see if we were missing anything. This place was pretty cool. I learned a lot from our trip in there.

The Parkside Farmer’s Market has in addition to produce a lot of rarely seen Mediterranian fare, Russian fare and some Asian fare [Irving street is better for Asian fare]. For those of you familiar with a candy called Aplets and Cotlets, they actually come from a candy called Turkish Delights. If you like them, then you need to go here as they are better and cheaper. You can also find lavash bread which is used in making wraps and shawarmas and pita bread and god knows how many types of feta cheese.

Then as you travel down the aisles you’ll find odd spices and grains that I had no idea what they were, but the people working there had no problem explaining to me how to use them. This was one of the places that turned me on to cacahuates, those Mexican candy coated peanuts dusted with chili powder. I learned about pickled turnips and how actually while the name doesn’t sound so good they’re pretty tasty.

Now wife is a stickler for fresh produce since I brought her out here from back east. When she sends me out to the store for produce I receive proper instructions on how to check if the produce I’d getting is fresh. This is a big point when it comes to cucumbers since it’s a food our daughter loves. I have learned that you have to squeeze the cucumbers to make sure they’re good and hard. A cucumber that isn’t is kind of squishy when you eat it and you don’t get the crunch. So I walk in and head to the cucumbers, specifically the smaller persian cucumbers and pick one up and start squeezing it. As I’m standing there squeeze the cucumber I suddenly hear a woman’s voice, can I help you? This is one of those points where you realize that you’re standing there squeezing a cucumber when a woman walks up and you start hearing this 70’s waka-waka music [Let’s Get it On, by Marvin Gaye if you need some help] in your head and think you’re in a really bad porn movie. I replied, no just checking that the cucumbers were fresh. To which I received in reply, our cucumbers are fresh and hard. No need to worry. OK, cue the waka-waka music again. [I’ve been really tryin’, baby. Tryin’ to hold back this feelin’ for so long]

I was able to shake off the fact that my mind was telling me that Larry Flynt was in charge of directing this portion of my life for a minute and got to continue shopping. Persian cucumbers, like regular cucumbers are best when they are fresh and hard, all jokes aside. I bought ten of them for about $1.69. I also picked up some of the finest English peas at $1.29/lb that were huge and also fresh. The Parkside Farmers Market only takes credit cards if you are buying more than $10 and it’s been hard for us to reach that amount sometimes.

If you get a chance to drive out to the Sunset definitely check this place out and make sure that even though it’s a small store to take your time to look up and down. You’ll be surprised at some of the things you’ll run across….and now I have to go wash out my brain with soap.

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