Get Baked is in New York City this week, a sobering task. Choosing among hundreds, if not more possibilities here ain't a pretty prospect - even when you're talking about baked goods. Luckily, my yoga teacher took me to one of her favorite spots in Hell's Kitchen a few years ago and I've been wanting to head back ever since.
So off I go to Gazala's Place, an Israeli diner (709 9th Ave., New York). It's one of those places that make New York New York - sized and shaped like a shoebox awash with amber lighting, the smell of pickled cabbage and music heavy on the finger cymbals.
I used to think that the diner's name was Gazala's Palace - not Place - for good reason. Gazala's is a treasury of breads and rolls mixed up in various permutations with chopped beef and lamb and tahini and fava beans and stewed tomatoes. But as I peruse the menu with the sepia-toned picture of a couple from the old country, the waitress approaches me. A tall blonde with frighteningly erect posture, she orders me to put the menu down.
"You don't want anything on there today," she states. "We have burekas and they are delicious. They come in goat cheese & spinach or goat cheese & sun-dried tomatoes. Which one do you want?"
This being New York, I know not to argue. Whenever New Yorkers deliver tough love you can't go wrong. I don't even know what a bureka is, but from my vantage point I can see a cafeteria tray piled with rows browned mounds of Rubenesque buns sprinkled with sesame seeds. The waitress is right.
I. Want. Now.
She takes care to toast the bureka until it is warm and crusty. Served alongside a generous heap of the aforementioned cabbage mixed with corn, the bureka becomes my own private heaven. The toasted shell crunches slightly before the whole thing collapses into a flaky pillow of phyllo dough and goat cheese and more phyllo dough and more goat cheese. Every now and then, the sun-dried tomatoes deliver a piquant zing.
Can't wait for my next lesson in tough love at Gazala's.