Waaaaay back in 1999 (and I’m just now realizing how long ago that was) I spent five weeks in Israel. I was ostensibly studying film, and I did do a little of that, but I spent more time seeing the sights, traveling the length of the entire country. I went scuba diving in the Red Sea, I walked the stations of the cross, and I visited the Wailing Wall. I’m not bragging (ok, maybe I’m bragging a little bit), but telling you all this because the thing that made the biggest impression on me was the falafel. There was one falafel place in particular, near Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv, that I loved. There are a few things that separate the great falafel in Israel from most falafel you find here in NYC. One, the falafel themselves are heavily spiced and seasoned, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Two, they offer a huge selection of salads with which you can top your falafel. Three, you can get an oversized falafel wrap on a giant flat bread called lavash, allowing you to consume way more falafel than one person really needs to. Enter Maoz, a falafel chain from Amsterdam of all places, which gets two of those three things so, so right.
So perhaps I can be forgiven for going a little overboard with the toppings. My favorite were the tiny, lemon-y pickled eggplants, but I also piled on marinated carrots, tomato and cucumber salad, yogurt sauce, and spicy cilantro sauce. I should point out another thing they have in Israel — expert falafel constructors who can pack all kinds of salads into a pita with the falafel (and, for an extra charge, french fries as well) without it all spilling out. I wasn’t so lucky. The falafel was so good, though, that I didn’t mind making a mess. It was the first time I’ve eaten anything that even approaches the excellent falafel I had in Israel; I just wish I could have eaten it all together with the salads, instead of having to eat the salads first in order to preserve my dignity.