As I'm sitting here hearing about the horrors surrounding the Iraqi elections (in Iraq I mean; the western Canadian polling place in Calgary is a big party with electors coming from everywhere between Vancouver and Winnipeg), I cannot help but think about what gracious, welcoming people the Iraqis I have met in Canada are. It makes me sad.
I've recently discovered what I think is the best Middle Eastern resto in Calgary, and it's Iraqi: Babylon, in the plaza that also has Tiffin Curry and Roti House and De Dutch Pannenkoek, at 28 St and Memorial Drive SE. Even though it's "SE" it is still NORTH of Memorial; NE starts when you cross Centre Avenue, north of Memorial. I mention this because I was under the impression that Memorial was the N-S divider, and it's not, not in the east side anyway.
What makes Babylon special is that it is not limited to the shawarma-donair-felafel combined with hummous-tabbouli-babaganough and the predictable baklava variations that defines just about every middle eastern place in this country.
Babylon has an amazing selection of hot foods done cafeteria style: Stews made from fava, chickpea and chicken, eggplant, potato, beef and spinach, and at least three kinds of rice (we like the "spicy" rice, like a jambalaya almost), as well as two different kinds of kebbe (one has a potato shell instead of wheat), various fried veg, and a much larger selection of sweets than any other place I've been to in town. Everything is deliciously seasoned, and despite the fact that the stews all appear to be bathed in the same tomato-esque sauce, all are different; some have sweeter accents with clove or allspice; others are spicy, others more savoury and neither sweet nor spicy. We get to-go containers with four different stews, some kebbes, and rice, and one great option is to make a kind of matlubah (a kind of rice casserole that you find at lebanese places if you're lucky, with eggplant potato chicken and whatver else you can scare up) with all the leftovers: Cook basmati rice halfway, take rice off the heat, stir in your leftovers, finish cooking the rice- you will thank me.
Peace and love to the Iraqi people, assalam alleykoum y'all.