We have another good place to eat! Nancy and I finally had a chance to try the Little Sesame pop-up at Sugar Fox, the sweet shop associated with the Red Fox, next to Buck’s and across the street from Rosemary Bistro and I’m Eddie Cano. That’s quite a block.
Little Sesame’s pop-up is very popular. I tried ordering at 6:00 or 6:30 on a Wednesday night and they were already sold out. That automatically bumped my order to 5:30 Thursday, to my consternation. I called and they patiently noted that when they are sold out, the web page clearly states, to anyone paying a modicum of attention, that orders would be fulfilled on the following day at 5:30. I’ve resigned myself to a life of such surprises.
Nancy and I had ordered a chicken schwarma dinner with a half chicken. It came with our choice of two sides, two sauces of our choice, hummus, and pita bread. All of that for $25 plus tax and over-tip. I like that price.
For sides, I chose the cucumber salad and Nancy opted for the carrots with maple. The choice of sauces gave me pause. The sauces are not described on the menu, at least anywhere I saw. There’s simply a list of the various options — Green Shug, Harissa BBQ, Labneh Ranch, Roasted Onion Tahini, Cilantro Jalapeño — again including no descriptions. I could figure out most of them offhand except for Labneh Ranch and Green Shug, so, ever eager to learn, I ordered those. I could have googled Shug and Labneh, which I think is some sort of cheese. I guess I still could, but I was disinclined to do so mid-order.
Thursday at 5:30 I was outside in the cold and wind, watching a stream of customers pick up their orders and drivers coming to pick up batches of orders for others while the staff filled bag after bag with food in a coordinated frenzy. It’s quite an operation.
I got out of the wind and into my car and was bowled over by the smell of the chicken. Little Sesame makes what may be the best smelling chicken on earth. I might buy it just to sit in my car and breathe it in. Was that fragrance from the za’atar? I’ve never used za’atar, but I’ll buy some now. What brand should I buy? The chicken smelled of, what, cardamon? Ground coriander? Cumin. Garlic. And roast chicken. Whatever, it’s a lovely combination. And the chicken tasted very good. It was tender and flavorful. Even the breast was moist. And the Old School Cucumber Salad was terrific, fresh and with a bright peppery taste. That’s two big wins for Little Sesame.
The carrots, however, were … bland. My fears of a strong maple taste were unrealized, and they were nice enough carrots, coming in different colors rather than the usual orange. They simply lacked flavor. Nancy and I perked them up with a bit of the sauces, which the chicken didn’t really need. The Labneh Ranch is very creamy with a bit of tang and some garlic, while the Green Shug seems to be cilantro and parsley with jalapeño in oil. Maybe I got the Cilantro Jalapeño by mistake. If so, it as fortuitous.
Next trip I’ll push for the potatoes with chicken drippings as our second side. The other choice is “Marinated Peppers Sweet-N-Hot. Not that Hot”, which would attract me more if they skipped the “not that hot” part. And the potatoes with drippings bring back memories of those tall rotisseries in France with the chickens dripping lovingly on a pan full of swooning potatoes….
Sigh. Where was I?
Oh yes, the hummus. The Little Sesame hummus was very good, far better than any supermarket hummus, including those brands sold at Whole Foods. It was not as good as my hummus, see recipe, but it’s the next best thing in Washington. I say that in all the humility I care to muster at the moment. That’s three wins for Little Sesame.
The pita bread suffered from the trip home in a plastic bag and from sitting around for a half hour or so before we ate — and probably from sitting in that bag for a while at the pop-up. The exigencies of a pop-up with very high demand, very limited space, and a limited serving window militate against having everything hot out of the oven. I should have reheated the pita a bit, but I was hungry. Indeed, I had one of the pita pieces that I reheated two nights later in the toaster oven to go with the rest of the hummus. It came out fresh and hot and pillowy. It was great, as good as I’ve had. Win #4.
Little Sesame’s pop-up does a very good job, remarkably so given the limitations facing a pop-up I’ve noted. I would love to have them in a proper permanent spot in our neighborhood. Especially if they would sell chicken by the piece so I could buy a wing every few days to hang from my rear view mirror to perfume my car, like one of those little pine tree things some people use.
Give Little Sesame a try, remembering to avoid my mistakes.
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