Inhuman Swill : Kabab Cafe

RIP Mark Bourne (1961-2012)

| No Comments
            

mark-bourne.jpg
UPDATE: Mark's funeral service will be Thursday, March 1, in Seattle. (Details here.) A less formal celebration of his life will be held in a few weeks.
Growing older comes with a lot of unexpected benefits. One of those benefits, though, is most definitely not the way that more and more good friends seem to leave this life before their time.

I was stunned yesterday to learn that Mark Bourne passed away on Saturday. Given his history of serious heart problems, I probably shouldn't have been, but you're never really prepared to hear that someone as young as he was has gone.

Besides writing many very fine science fiction stories, Mark was a musical theater enthusiast, a film reviewer, and a writer of planetarium shows. If you ever went to planetarium star shows, you probably saw some of his productions without knowing it. (I did.)

It's funny. I considered Mark a good friend, even though we only met in person a few times. I think the first time I ran across his name must have been in 1994, when he and I turned out to have come in 9th and 10th place in the balloting for Campbell Award nominations. Our first actual interaction came during an unfortunate online flamewar a few years later. I sent him a note of apology some months later, which he very graciously accepted. This was entirely to my good fortune, as he had no good reason to do so. It didn't take long before we were fast friends.

Full entry

Cook like an Egyptian

| No Comments
            

Our friend Ali is on TV again. John Klima points me toward this clip from Jamie's American Road Trip, which just recently starting airing in the States. It features Jamie Oliver traveling from Manhattan to Queens to learn Egyptian cooking from Ali El Sayed of the celebrated Kabab Cafe:

(The actual arrival in Queens comes at about 3:28, and you can click here to jump straight there.)

I dragged a very willing Mr. Klima to Kabab Cafe back in 2008, when we both happened to be in New York, and a memorable night it was. If you find yourself in New York and want to get off the beaten path for a culinary adventure, the address is 25-12 Steinway Street in Astoria, Queens. Tell Ali that Bill from Chicago sent you.

Full entry

Infidel dog

| No Comments
            

Infidel dog
This morning,
with a high of seventy degrees in the forecast,
amazing for a November in Chicago,
I drove the dog to Warren Park.
That's where we go for a special treat
instead of our usual neighborhood walk,
because the squirrel chasing is most excellent,
and there are never any cops there to harass you,
a scofflaw walking his dog off its leash.

We like to run up the steps of the sledding hill,
which a parks department sign actually proclaims "Sledding Hill,"
and then charge down the slope,
after which we make our way around the skirt of the hill
where the squirrels rummage through the leaves
like so many bargain hunters.
We crunch crunch crunch across the orange carpet,
and if we're lucky we spot a squirrel far enough out
in the open that Ella can chase it full-bore
back to its tree.
She has never once caught one.
Or at any rate never killed one.

Next we like to follow the cinder jogging path
all the way around the little nine-hole golf course embedded
like an off-center yolk
in the albumen of the park,
and that's exactly what we did this morning.
I walked in the leaves at the side of the path,
trying to encourage Ella to do the same,
but unless she has a rodent, lagomorph or marsupial in her sights
she prefers to walk on pavement. Go figure.

We were on the south side of the golf course,
the tall chain-link fence meant to protect us from flying balls
off to our left,
when I saw two men coming our way along the path,
youngish men—younger than I, at any rate—
neatly bearded men dressed in long robes the color of wet sand.
It was already warm enough out that I was regretting
the heavy coat I wore over my hooded sweatshirt.
I snapped my fingers imperiously,
calling for Ella to return to my side,
to leave the path and get out of the way
of the two youngish men engaged in animated talk.

Full entry

Old shoe week

| No Comments
            

John eat BRAINS!
Going home to New York City is as comfortable as slipping on an old shoe. I flew there Tuesday afternoon with just a backpack and the parka on my back, and I was immediately at ease and confident in a way I don't yet feel in Chicago. The only bad part was that I was alone, since Laura was on a concurrent business trip to Rochester.

But I wasn't solitary for long. I took a cab from Laguardia to my borrowed apartment in Astoria, Queens, dumped off most of the contents of my pack, and headed into the city. After a quick stop at my old office, I met John Klima, in from Iowa way, at the Tor offices in the Flatiron Building. I acquired an advance copy of Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, I chatted with Patrick Nielsen Hayden for a minute or two, and John and I hauled his bags back to Astoria on the subway.

We had a full evening ahead, but before I tell you about it I have to back up several months and remind you of the segment of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" that Laura and I caught back in July:

Full entry
            

We thought we could beat the thunderstorms. That is why last Monday evening I walked thirty minutes to a showing of Live Free or Die Hard, while Laura biked to Pipers Alley to meet up with the running group she was attending for the first time.

I thoroughly enjoyed my movie, even the patently preposterous parts toward the end, and I emerged to discover that it had rained while I was inside. A lot. Laura, on the other hand, ran with the group and biked home in it.

So it was that when I arrived home I found her recuperating on the couch in front of the television. She had the Travel Channel on, and had paused the live feed. "You need to watch this," she said. "Before you do anything else. I guarantee it will make you happy."

This is what she showed me:

Full entry

Ali's well!

| No Comments
            

When last we checked in with Ali El Sayed at Kabab Cafe in Astoria, he was papering the doors and getting ready to light out for Egypt. We're pleased to hear, via [info]rajankhanna and the New York Times, that he's back in town and back in form, rumors of plans to join his brother's place down the street notwithstanding:

Pita with a Generous Helping of Quirkiness

Go keep him company for us.

Full entry

Waxing the camel

| No Comments
            

Last night was the end of an era. It was by only the most fortuitous of chances that we were there for it.

Laura and I had taken [info]curmudgeon to the incomparable Kabab Cafe before, to be entertained, charmed, and provoked by our friend Ali El Sayed's patter and transported by his food. With Laura and me moving soon, doing it again while Curmudgeon was in town was critical.

Turns out it was more critical than we knew. Ali told us, "I'm glad you are here tonight. Tomorrow I will be closed. I leave for 25 days in Egypt." He went on to explain that on his return, he will begin renovating Kabab Cafe—again. He will change the menu, begin serving breakfast in addition to lunch and dinner, and train chefs to take over for him. He will then take his menu over to his brother Moustafa's excellent nearby restaurant Mombar, where he will sometimes cook and sometimes help oversee operations of both restaurants. He will use his trip to Egypt to work out plans for the new venture.

The changes are exciting, since Ali finally won't be tied to his tiny kitchen. But it was also a poignant evening—the last night of the Kabab Cafe we've known all these years. There were only two other diners there when we arrived, but even with the pick of tables in the place, Ali suggested we sit in the niche near the door so he could talk to us over the counter of his kitchen. We drank too much Argentine Malbec while we enjoyed mixed appetizers of hummus, babaganouj, falafel, fried Swiss chard, apples, pears, and more; a more than appetizer portion of pumpkin dumplings in a spicy sauce; goat chops; beef short ribs; and an amazing dish of sand shark tail. I broke out a bottle of Balvenie Portwood 21yo I'd brought for us—Ali included—to enjoy along with dessert, which was a plate of selected Mediterranean pastries from the bakery down the street, together with yogurt and various fruits. I had thick coffee too.

Full entry

Hard times at Kabab Cafe

| No Comments
            

I was half-listening to WNYC this morning as I made the last preparations to leave, when suddenly I heard my friend Ali's voice on the radio. We had noticed that his restaurant, Kabab Cafe, has been closed since the blackout, and we keep stopping by to see if it is open yet.

Here is a transcript of the radio story.

I am going there for my birthday next week, should it be open yet by then, and would whether or not the place had had so much trouble. Those of you we've taken there will understand!

Full entry

Offer void where inhibited

| No Comments
            

I was just over at www.theglenlivet.com, signing up to join The Glenlivet Society. I've joined a few of these single-malt scotch societies online—which, honestly, are nothing more than fancy marketing campaigns—but the cool thing about this one is that as a member you can get free customized Glenlivet labels to put on gift bottles.

There's also an offer of free leather coasters, and whilst I was signing up for those I happened to note the "Offer Details" at the bottom of the page. The very first sentence?

Offer not valid in Utah.
Oh, well, not like it affects me. And thanks to Stuart Piltch, friend in single-malts, for putting me onto the Society in the first place.
In other scotch news, Laura and I managed to meet up with Andrew and Stephanie at Kebab Cafe Sunday night for Egyptian food and birthday presents. Both Andrew and I had birthdays in the middle of August, but this was the first chance to get together. (And there are other birthday celebrations with other folks out there that are still on hold, thanks to the damn work schedule—but soon!)
Full entry
            

At 10:15 pm tonight, over the protestations of my dog, I left the apartment and took a twenty-minute walk over to the Arabic stretch of Steinway Street where, thanks to Bloomberg's smoking ban, the men congregate with their hookahs on the sidewalk before the storefronts. I joined my friend Ali, the Egyptian chef, in front of his restaurant, where I met Manny the Indian-American computer programmer and Declan the Irish chef, and where we all enjoyed a glass of white wine. (Not the same glass.) Then Ali and I repaired to the Czechoslovakian social club where the delightful owner Daniela ("I'm not Czech, I'm not Slovak, I'm Czechoslovakian") served us after-hours pilsners and a sweet liqueur the name of which I couldn't tell you if you put a gun to my head. As we were discussing religion and politics and gender relations and smoking Cohibas, the Bangladeshi kid who manages the Kaufman-Astoria movie theater wandered in for a while. The African-American garbage man stuck his head in because the garbage wasn't out at the curb for his midnight pickup, so we all rushed to gather it up and carry it outside. And now I'm home again with the dog, and all is right with the world except for the fact that my French-American wife is in Texas with our Greek-Italian-American friend Stephanie.

Fucking Queens, baby. All the world should be like this.

Full entry
 1   2   Next »
The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

Signed editions
that even a
missionary
could afford.

Order yours now!

William Shunn

About This Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Kabab Cafe category.

Judaism is the previous category.

Kanab is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Archives