Much Ado About Phyllo

Around ten o’clock yesterday I started craving b’stilla or bastilla or whatever you like. I know I’ve made a recipe very similar to this one more than once and am a little surprised I couldn’t find a picture anywhere. If you’ve never had it, it’s your basic “put it in a phyllo YEAH YEAH this is going to own” but it does have that sweet and savory element that is crack to me. And almonds, AND eggs AND chicken. Basically it’s perfect. If I was to make a food into a bed it would be this food. Would I be sad within ten minutes of laying on it? Yes. But not as sad as I would be if it was, say, ravioli. I dunno.

Strudel’s dad popped up on chat about something and I told him about my craving.

“I’m going to make one tonight. You in?” I said.

“Yeaaah…how about that lentil soup that goes with it?”

“Uhh yeah maybe I can find a shortcut to add that in…”

“And that salad they have with the eggplant!” He lost me at this point.

“Okay, I am making reservations to go out,” I said.

At the appointed kid-friendly hour of 6 p.m. we arrived at the restaurant and were seated promptly. I looked over the menu and picked out some entrees for the five-course meal, knowing with the girls along we would have leftovers later. Oh BOY bastilla. I have it maybe once a year, which is on the low end for something I love so much, but it’s a real treat I look forward to. I hadn’t been to this restaurant in forever, and was a little disappointed to see some changes had been made, like no hand washing before the meal, and there were no floor seating options, and they had added silverware to the tables. It looked like the restaurant had been shaped to the neighborhood, perhaps, which is more working-class and maybe not as foodie as other parts of town. Though really it’s hard to throw a bloated piece of seared goose liver without hitting a foodie in this town.

We ordered from someone who appeared to be the manager, since he was kind of herding the servers and barking orders at the hostess. Before he went he turned and said, “Is anyone a vegetarian here?”

“Oh noooooooo,” I said.

“So lamb is okay?” he asked. I thought this was a little odd since I had ordered a lamb entree, but I went along with it.

“Oh yes, we love lamb.”

At least, this is what I thought happened.

After the soup and salad course, I knew it was time for chicken bastilla. I was imagining cracking into the crisped, sugar-coated dough and getting a scoop of the fluffy chicken and egg mixture in the center.

“Pace yourself, girls, there’s a bootyload of more food coming,” I told them. I didn’t care if they got full, really. That was the point of going out. But I wanted them to have the chance to try everything if they wanted to.

One of the young servers brought the bastilla to our table. “LAMB bastilla,” she said, plunking it down. No sweet top. Hmm, ok, I like lamb…this isn’t what I wanted, but…hmm.

“Oh, I thought we were getting the classic chicken bastilla.”

“This was the only one in the oven,” the server said.

“Uh, okay,” I said. She left and I took a bite. It had…rice. And no sugar. I didn’t see egg. So this was some lovely lamb wrapped in pastry and was cooked very well, but wow was it not hitting the spot. I stopped after a couple of bites. Eventually the manager came over to check on us and made some noise about this being what we had ordered. Boy was I confused. I hate when things like this happen in restaurants, don’t you? I found myself apologizing like I had taken British pills or something. I didn’t want them to think I was upset, because it’s just some pastry for fuck’s sake and I am a very proud person. But I kind of felt like I wanted to cry. I hate being that person who is crying about the wrong pastry. I just thought it was a miscommunication.

He took it away and a server returned.

“Would you like a chicken one,” she said. “I can wrap it up to go.”

“Uhh…do they…save well?”

“Yes,” she said, and gave me a “this job would be great if it wasn’t for the customers” look.

“Okay,” I said.

The two young women who were bringing us food and refilling our water glasses started bringing out the tagines. My secret shame is that I have a kiwi-colored tagine from the Le Creuset seconds store that I have NEVER USED. In FOUR YEARS. That’s not like me, really.

One of the young women asked me if I’d like her to bring the bastilla with dinner instead.

“I mean, it’s going to be late, but it’s kind of like a dessert anyway…”

“YES THAT’S A GREAT IDEA,” I enthused. Let these suckers I was with have the succulent, melting lamb and the honey chicken thighs. More bastilla for ME. Oink, oink.

The bastilla did not appear…and it did not appear…boxes came for the leftovers…and then finally the bastilla came out wrapped in foil. The server plunked it on the table and walked off. I was starting to feel like a total dick. Ah well, the night was not going to quite be what I expected.

I opened the bastilla to peep at it and to let some of the steam out. It was calling me. “NOM ME. JUST A LITTLE.” I started to pick at it with my fork.

“And how is that?” said P.

“Incredible,” I said, and went back to it.

The manager guy came up again. “Did you want a plate for that?” he asked.

“No, it’s fine…it’s just so good. This is my favorite thing.”

“She said you wanted it boxed up.”

“Oh yes,” I said. “And then the other woman came back and asked if I wanted it *with* our dinner and I thought that sounded good sooo I just think there’s been a lot of miscommunications tonight and…”

“Well the servers are twins so you were probably confused.”

They were? What!?

You don’t want to point out that people are twins, because maybe people don’t want to be reminded there is someone they are often confused for, perhaps, but you also don’t want to point out that you didn’t realize people are twins. There is this attitude of “Well, are you sure about that?” I don’t know. I need twin sensitivity training or something. I did not know they were twins, honestly. They were wearing drastically different patterns and did not look alike to me. Maybe cousins.

“Okay,” I said.

We were allowed to sit for quite a while before getting the check, which was nice because the belly dancer showed up and completely delighted the girls and the other children who were at the early family seating. Then we paid and left, and BAM now I am eating my bastilla after bumping it in the stove. I think that place is crossed off my list due to sheer awkwardness from now on. If the pink-haired chick blows it someplace, she cannot return.

8 Responses to “Much Ado About Phyllo”

  1. I’ll cry with you over pastry. Disappointing food experience is disappointing.
    Glad you got to have it in the end.

  2. Brigid Keely says:

    I hate those kind of interactions. I cringe for years afterward.

    In my experience Phyllo doesn’t reheat “well.” But I also totally love things like spanikopta cold from the fridge with the phyllo all damp and wrinkly. If I could easily reheat spanikopita so it was crispy and awesome, I’d make it way more frequently.

  3. KellyQ says:

    Since you introduced me to the joys of phyllo and spanikopta last year I thought I would check out that chicken bastilla recipe and give it a go….yeah, far beyond me but sounds AWESOME. I am totally with you on the sweet and savory combination.
    Your restaurant experience sounds like many, many I have had. You’re far nicer about it than I would be.

  4. Halo says:

    You didn’t blow it, THEY blew it. You’re nicer than I am, I guess, but this kind of food service makes me angry, not abashed. I’m sorry you didn’t have a good experience, and the “I’m sorry you were confused” is just sheer assholery. He should have said he’s sorry they got confused. Customer service FAIL.

  5. SJ says:

    Yeah, you’re right, really. On one hand, I don’t expect anyone to kiss my foot if they forget to put a lemon in my water, but this was pretty redic. If they had any more skillz they would have seen how uncomfortable I was and tried to put it right. Really transparent gaslighting has been a theme in my life lately. By “blew it” I mean, regardless of whose fault it was, my patronage of this place is OVAH.

  6. AntMac says:

    Long time reader/first time comment sort of thing.

    Very glad you are back updating, I have missed your take on the world. Sorry that you had such a disappointing experience when you were so excited for it, that is such a bummer when it happens.

    Maybe your embarassment face is too subtle for them. ( I tend to think the best about people if I can, this isn’t always making my life easier of course. Maybe they would be gutted to know they failed so hard? I know I would, if I was serving someone. )

    I am glad that your life is about chickens, and gardens, and happy kids and pets and things like that now, buddy, keep smiling.

    Tony from New Zealand.

  7. ozma says:

    Oh, I am going to make a confession and I hope you don’t think I’m terrible but: I saw there was a recipe at the top of this story and then the story was long and I thought “I love SJ but I don’t want to read this looong story about cooking.”

    Not that I am saying that I have not read other posts of yours about cooking. Hang on, my point is different. I could also psychoanalyze myself as feeling guilty about not cooking, just like my mother doesn’t cook even though when I was young and determined not to be like my mother I cooked lots of complicated dishes. Now I never cook. So it was me, not you.

    But this was a great story. Gosh, I’ve missed you so very very much. I will operate on the general principle that all your posts are brilliant. How do you do that? You really are a brilliant writer. If I was going to analyze it, I would say that it is the way you use dialogue. You can put suspense or interest into any story. That’s rather remarkable.

  8. iasshole says:

    Hi AntMac and welcome!

    Ozma, long stories about cooking was the OTHER blog. I think it’s out of my system for now, heh. I still cook, though. Thanks for the kind words.