Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Taste of Lebanon at the Toum NYC Food Truck

It is the waning days of the food truck season. There’s a slight chill in the air, tourists are beginning to stream into New York City for the holidays, parking is tight, and it’s getting tough to find a truck to satisfy a food craving.

Food trucking – by its very nature – can pose logistical problems. Indeed, traffic patterns, police activity, pedestrian clutter, bad WIFI and U.N. General Assembly activity can all conspire to impact the quality and accessibility of one’s lunch. 

Zany and I have agreed that the perfect antidote to a routine workweek is the chance to pig out on international cuisine. I’m working my connections like mad – Twitter, Facebook, and even some street reconnaissance – and I’m coming up empty. Trucks rumored to be on certain street corners are missing in action, some have migrated downtown to the Financial District (those lucky bankers) and some have apparently folded. I truly fear that the closest we’ll get to international dining is the foot long Chicken Parmesan sub served at the Subway shop in the lower level of my building. 

Just when I am ready to throw in the towel I get a solid lead – a Lebanese food truck on 47th and Park that specializes in garlic and cured meats. I signal Zany and we head for our respective elevators. 

Zany’s culinary world has been rocked by the recent World Health Organization report that cured meats (including bacon???) could be a health hazard. She is convinced that our only response is to face the enemy head on.

“Bring it,” she says with a steely glint in her eye. 
We rendezvous on 47th Street just East of Park Avenue where the Toum Food Truck is doing a brisk business. For the uninitiated, “toum” is the Lebanese word for garlic, and toum is the national condiment in Lebanon. I take note that the truck’s mascot is a bright and perky animated clove of garlic.  You kind of just want to hug him. 
Zany, our Queen of Condiments, seems to approve, not only of the vast garlic theme, but of the selection of cured meats.

We queue up and order three items to share. The Makanek Platter features Lebanese beef sausage mixed with pine nuts and sautéed in pomegranate molasses lemon sauce, served with tabbouleh salad, hummus, French fries a side of toum sauce and Pita bread.

The Kafta Platter is two patties of minced beef mixed with parsley, onions and Lebanese spices and served with babaghanouj, rice pilaf, tahini sauce and Pita bread. 

The Lahem B’ajeen is a Lebanese style pizza of minced beef, tomatoes, onions and Lebanese spices spread on homemade dough and grilled. 

We adjourn with our Middle Eastern feast to one of our favorite dining plazas – the Park Avenue-facing patio of a large bank. Zany goes right for the sausage, a fire-grilled revelation with a bright kick of lemon.  She nearly swoons with rapture.

“That is well worth any possible carcinogenic risk,” she declares.

We revel in the buffet of flavors. The hummus is rich and sensual and the signature toum sauce is fresh, sharp and biting, perfect for dipping crispy fries.

The Lebanese pizza is a savory concoction of meat and onions. This raises a brief debate.

“Can you truly call something a pizza if it doesn’t contain cheese?” Zany asks. 

As usual, Zany is divvying up the food and eating with her fingers – probably the way they would in Lebanon – and when she catches me using a fork, it is an anathema to her.  At this point she decided to question my selection of rice pilaf as one our sides.

“You do know that rice is not a finger food?” she says pointedly.

We feast to our heart’s content, and slather up that garlic toum. After all, when in Lebanon…

But, short of hiding out in my office, I’m already certain that any human interaction scheduled for the afternoon will be severely impacted by my lack of restraint. 

So, as we return to our offices we do what any responsible business people would do – invest in a little insurance.  

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