Back before Iran brought to mind ayatollahs, chadors, and heavy eyeliner, it sparkled as a global beau monde. I knew this even as a kid growing up in Detroit because Persian pastries rocked my world. By my way of thinking, any culture that fashioned desserts both refined and hearty had to be world-class.
Blessed with locavore heaven--pomegranates, walnuts, honey, roses, pistachios, and cardamom just for starters--the first Persian pastry chefs knew how to take a hint. As host to North America's largest Arab population, Detroit's Middle Eastern bakeries are treasuries of honey-slicked, rosewater-doused, pistachio-sprinkled goodies.
Eve M. Tai Plate full of paradise.
Fortunately, a jaunt down memory lane is right down the street in my Lake City neighborhood at Minoo Bakery. Cheerful orange walls and music redolent with finger cymbals greet visitors. On weekends Iranian families pull up by the carload to load up on boxes full of sweets and to catch up on local chatter.
You'd have to set aside a lot of weekends to sample all that Minoo has to offer. On one Saturday alone I counted around two dozen varieties of desserts.I chose a few nargili biscuits, a round puff pastry with shaved coconut and pistachio--perfect dipped in mint tea. It's layered six ways to Sunday and sticky with honey--delicate and sturdy at the same time. The baked half-moon called gotab houses crushed almonds and cardamom and comes in a shell brushed with rosewater. Baklava, crazy dense with walnuts and honey is here too, though with a slightly different spin, using pastry dough rather than phyllo and a smattering of cardamom. For gluten-free souls, try the berenji, rice-flour cookies with poppy seeds, or the pistachio bereshtok, a paisley-shaped chickpea flour cookie that literally melts in your mouth. (You'll see why bereshtok means "paradise.")
Each pastry, cookie, or cake has a descriptive label in English and Arabic. But really, why read and research when you can just point and gobble?