Religious festivals provide new and fun ways to torture Australian sheep!  »

Because Australian sheep don’t suffer enough (see mulesing), Australian farmers ship them live to the “Middle East”* so they can be brutalized and then killed for Eid al Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice. For this year’s festival, Animals Australia investigators were onsite in Kuwait and Bahrain to document the cruelty, and caught some really effed shit. Shipping live animals is awful all on its own, but then once they get there, these sheep are sold on the street and chained to cars and whatnot to bring home to “sacrifice.” The picture above is one of many shocking photos; here we have sheep being forced into the trunk of a car to transport to someone’s home to be killed. Seriously, this picture makes me ill.

The Jerusalem Post has a really great article on Muslim vegetarians and how they view the holiday. It seems people question whether one can be Muslim and be vegetarian but the Post writes, “Liberal clerics, such as American scholar Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, point to Islamic oral traditions to justify vegetarianism. ‘Traditionally Muslims were semi-vegetarians,’ Yusuf claimed in religious audio tape. ‘Umar [the second Muslim Caliph] said: “Beware of meat, because it has an addiction like the addiction of wine”.’” And Muslims are generally pretty down on wine.

In a bit of good news, it looks like vegetarians aren’t the only people skipping the sacrifice; according to the article, some meat-loving people are forgoing the sacrifice for purely economic reasons—meat is expensive and prices have gone up. Still, they say 800,000 sheep were shipped from Australia this year for the festival. If they really want sheep, can’t someone raise them closer to Kuwait or something? And if they really want to sacrifice sheep, can’t they treat them with some decency before they kill them? If an animal is being murdered for you, you could at least be grateful.

*I don’t think we call it that anymore? I couldn’t find a definite preferred term. [Ed. The term has become pretty firmly entrenched, even in the area itself. Maybe West Asia as a substitute?]


Review: Baladie Gourmet Cafe  »

The lentil soup at Baladie is one of the best deals in the Financial District. A mere $3.25 for 16 ounces of delicious, hearty, spicy-if-you-want-it vegan lentil soup, plus toasted pitas, should you care for them. You know what you get for $3.25 at the wretched San Francisco Soup Company? NOTHING.

I had falafel in a pita once and it was all right; the hummus was good but the actual falafels were giant and dry. The dolmas are tasty. There’s a guy in the kitchen who wears two thin braids at the top of his forehead stuck straight up like antennae. Service is fast, even when they’re crowded. There is a big mural of Petra, the ancient rose city of Jordan, on the righthand wall; it is a little bit garish and absolutely beautiful. What I mean is, do not pass by Baladie on your way to Boxt Foods Co. or some other place to eat an overpriced salad on restaurant row (Kearny Street. You know). You will regret it in an hour when you are starving again.

What you should’ve ordered, especially on cold, bright, windy days, or foggy days, or rainy days, is LENTIL SOUP. It is so, so good. Everything you could want in a yellow lentil soup: carrots and potatoes and crispy little pita chips, and enough spice to break a little sweat along your hairline. I’d compare it to the first lentil soup I ever loved, namely my mother’s, but they are so different you couldn’t really compare them. And you can’t buy my mother’s soup from friendly people in an adorable little nook of a restaurant for $3.25, so Baladie it is.

I mean, I really love that soup.

[lentil soup photo via yelp; Petra photo by Shelby PDX]


Review: Sabra Grill!  »

You climb a narrow staircase to get in here, and the noise from Chinatown/FiDi/Union Square fades away. The walls are covered with Jewish and/or Israeli art/photography/iconography (the DalĂ­ print is a highlight). The owner is a big, friendly, intimidating man. The last time I was there, the waiter’s yarmulke had Mario (as in, one of the Super Nintendo Brothers) embroidered on it.

Important note: They close two hours before sundown on Fridays for the sabbath, and they close for Jewish holidays, too. I recommend checking an online calendar before getting your hopes all up for the food. I have made this mistake, and it’s crushing.

I have eaten there about 10 times now, at first during my painful FiDi lunchbreaks, and most recently with my cousin who had never had falafel before. Sabra probably ruined him, as it is doubtful he will ever find such divine little falafels outside of the Holy Land. The service is not the fastest, but everyone is so polite, and I think the prices are quite reasonable. One of my omnivorous friends got the lamb sandwich, and sang its praises to the heavens.

The lamb, friends, is not what I am here to tell you about.

THIS IS THE BEST FALAFEL I HAVE EVER EATEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE. It has ruined me for all other falafels, and I have eaten a lot of balls of fried chickpeas in my life. I had NO IDEA that falafel could be so fucking moist and crispy and delicate and goddamn, just thinking about it has started me salivating like Pavlov’s dog, the falafel is just so fantastic. Not kidding.

If this is the standard, I will never eat any other falafel but Israeli falafel ever again. In this city, it is Sabra or nothing.

But! I completely forgot about my other favorite part of Sabra: the pickles. I am barely a pickle person; sometimes I can choke down a few bites of a sweet pickle, and I generally have no problem with relish in and on the many things you can put it. Real pickley pickles, though, much like raw cherry tomatoes and soft grapes, make me absolutely gag. Biting into one of those things is one of my worst food experiences ever. This is why I like sweet; they’re teeny, unintimidating, pleasant every once in awhile. What Milka is to Lindt 70 percent, so is the sweet pickle to the dill.

Sabra’s pickles are no wussy-baby sweet pickles: they are thick slices of juicy, salty dill pickles that they give you on a plate before bringing you your precious falafel. And I love them. I could, and once almost did, eat myself sick on them. It’s hard to share them. Just these lovely pickle slices in front of you, calling your name. Sabra changed my life, or at the very least, changed my palate.

If you are visiting the city, it is just inside the famous Chinatown gates on Grant Avenue, and after an hour (read: more than one minute) wandering around that neighborhood, an hour of quiet upstairs at Sabra with the city’s best falafel is exactly the remedy for your case of exhaustion/overstimulation. Tip: If you only want a falafel-in-a-pita lunch, order the falafel sandwich. It is not on the big menu, but sometimes they forget to give you the small sandwich menu, so be sure to ask for it.

[external photo by Brett L.]


Review: Ali Baba’s Cave!  »

OK, what genius/saint thought it smart to grind, spice and fry chickpeas into little fried balls of perfection? I’d like to shake that man’s hand and then possibly simulate oral sex on his fingers. Was this man Jesus himself? I’m not one to speculate on whether or not Jesus invented falafel balls but whoever did most likely can do other crazy shit like turn water into wine and start enormous holy wars based strictly on the debate of his existence. To you, sir, I say, BRAVO. I also say, PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST!!!

The falafel at Ali Baba’s Cave is really very yummy and you can add fried eggplant and fried potatoes and fuck if that isn’t the trifecta of fried deliciousness. However, I’m gonna be forced to take one demerit point because these fools NEVER listen to you and I think it’s worse if you’re a woman. Listen, I understand that I’m the weaker and stupider sex,* but if I say no fucking hot sauce, I mean no fucking hot sauce this whitey will DIE. And I know you don’t value my life because I am a woman but um…I don’t know what to say. I really have no ground to stand on when who I fundamentally am is a second-class citizen at best and a wretched, whiny, bleeding, nagging, hooker beast at worst. What can you do? The falafel is REALLY good.

It’s so good, in fact, that the other night, I exited Ali Baba’s Cave on a complete falafel cloud of happiness. I was so excited and happy about everything that I yelled, “Cute dog!” to a guy and his super-cute dog as they drove by. The guy gave me a puzzled look and as he rounded the corner, I noticed that what I saw in the back seat was not in fact a dog but rather, a very old and very short lady with curly white hair. Presumably his grandmother. I am an asshole. Also, this falafel? Possibly magical as it creates illusions of the eye. Also, I am an asshole.

There are two locations for your falafel pleasures, one in the Mission and one in the Lower Haight!

*This is a proven fact. Please don’t argue with me about “Right to Vote” and “Able to Show Face Flesh in Public,” Lucy Liberal and Esther Equality. Just get back in the kitchen and finish my pot pie, bitches! And if you forget the carrots like last time, there will be hell to pay. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, I will murder your whole family.

[photo via yelp]

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