For countless centuries now, mankind has been looking for a way to end war, with little success. I’m not one to boast but I think I have finally solved the problem, and the solution is simple. Instead of settling disputes by force get each side to prepare a meal and decide the argument on the basis of that. Ever since I had this revelation I begun my quest to travel back through history and settle the world’s great wars; no violence, just food. Now I urge you all to join me, put down your guns and pick up some buns. Trade the Bay of Pigs for pigs in a blanket. We can make a better world together. Once a fortnight I will be here, putting an end to fighting in the only way I know how.
The first war I needed to settle was of course The Trojan War. The Greeks still exist, despite EU efforts, but the Trojans do not own restaurants these days so I had to go to a Turkish place.
Off I headed to Seven’s Turkish Grill on the Upper West Side. Most of the clientele are well-to-do couples in their late middle-ages. It is more the kind of place that Trojan nobles would dine, not their rank and file soldiers. The price tag, accordingly, is reasonable but not cheap, around $7-10 for starters and $15-20 for the entrées. (They do, though, have a weekday lunch menu for $12.99 plus tax for starter, entrée, and a free glass of wine).
I started with Findik Lamachun (“Turkish pizzas”). They tasted subtle and fresh but I felt they could have done with some cheese (like a normal pizza!). As for seconds, I think that if Helen was as delicate and chaste as my Beyti Kebab there would have been no Trojan War. The two kebabs were well cooked but the sides (rice and salad) seemed more of an afterthought. As I tucked into the coffee and Baklava, I could not help but feel that this was more the type of food to fuel a night on the dance-floor with Paris than a day on the battlefield with Hector.
Agnanti in Queens the opposite of this. Hearty is the only word that can accurately be used to describe this fare. It is authentically Greek, from the food to the staff and clientele. It is so authentic that when I started by pointing at something unpronounceable on the menu I was told they did not have it in today. It was just like being in a Cretan mountain taverna.
When I tucked into my huge cheese filled croquettes, I realized this truly was food for soldiers. Though that much cholesterol in one mouthful almost guarantees you won’t be living long past your fighting age. The chicken souvlaki was so rich and flavorful that I could have closed my eyes and imagined I was eating lamb. All of this washed down with flagons of retsina is a true warrior’s diet. Even the dessert, of yogurt and stewed fruits, was more robust than anything at Seven’s. The price tag is also slightly friendlier ($6-10 starters, $10-20 entrées).
All of this can be summed up in the post-prandial coffee. “Greek-Coffee” and “Turkish-Coffee” are essentially the same beast. However, at Seven’s the coffee came in a dainty oriental style cup and saucer. Then, at Agnanti, it came in a stout and sturdy vessel emblazoned with the Greek flag and the word “YASOU” (Hi in Greek). This is all you need know.
As we are all aware, in war there are no winners, only losers. Fortunately for me in this competition there are no losers only winners (particularly me). Perhaps the might of Greeks was destined to burn the “topless towers of Ilium” but the Trojans still must have had fun eating their tender kebabs and dancing the night away.