Mezze–Middle of the Road Mediterranean

Truly, one of the crowning culinary achievements of the Mediterranean region has to be mezze, that eclectic wondrous arrangement of various delights, a veritable encyclopedia of what to do with lemons, olive oil and parsley. I remember the first meal we ate in Alexandria, Egypt, a few months ago, at a restaurant where the seafood was fresh enough that I got a lesson in the physiology of clam breathing. While the fish was the star (topped with an egg pouch filled with eggs to prove the freshness, according to a Facebook friend, since I’d never seen anything like it before), the mezze was the perfect opening act–engaging, delightful and making one consider whether it was time for the headliner to step aside.

Mezze Mediterranean Foods in the Reading Terminal Market is a fusion of both courses and cuisines. Rather than focusing solely on true mezze fare, it serves traditional elements alongside other food categories–big salads (as Elaine might say), and sandwiches, and hot entrees. It also incorporates those traditional flavors into comfortable global fare–nicoise as a sandwich, salmon with lemon and ginger.

On a recent Saturday, I waited on line at Mezze, considering such options. I’d been warned by Yelp that the design-your-own salad was a temptation that could lead one into penury, since each ingredient added an extra cost, so was inclined towards a sandwich or wrap (given the temperature, the hot entrees were out). Although I tend to stay away from mayonnaise, it was hard to do so at Mezze. I settled for the Salmon, Spicy Lemon and Ginger Mayo wrap, found my way to Nanee’s Kitchen for a repeat performance by their cardamom lassi, and then escaped the crowds in the Market for the even worse ones outside.

Pleasantly spicy, the wrap was extraordinarily creamy, probably from a few hefty dollops of mayo in the salmon. Whatever ginger flavor hidden in said condiment could have been manhunt champion, as it went by completely undetected. Could it have been camouflaged by the slightly brittle spinach wrap? Certainly not by the romaine, the only other component. A bit more mezze would have been an improvement. Chopped olives, or capers to add brine. Even some crumbled feta to tie this ladies-who-lunch style meal back to the nations where a certain way of eating is practiced on a daily basis. I leaned back, turning my face to the sun and tipping the sour, redolent remnants of lassi into my mouth. There was the missing ingredient, an elusive quality of playfulness bordering on flirtation.

Recommended: the salmon wrap was entirely satisfactory for a workday lunch.

About Mary Rizzo

No denying it, I like the sensual things of the world, especially good food and drink, though I'm no snob when it comes to either. A background in American cultural history and food studies makes me approach the world with a desire for contextualization and connection on the way to synthesis.
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