Friday, December 18, 2009

REVIEW Bergama Cafe Durham NC [Closed August, 2013]

Bergama Cafe
3520 Hillsborough Road
Durham NC
(919) 383-0300‎

In a word, delish!
3.5/5 stars - $$ (to use Greg Cox 's shorthand ratings)

Recorded 12-17-09

[After dragging myself to the finish line on a very burdensome writing project last night, I was exhausted, unkempt, grizzled, and hungry. I took son Jon to Tommies for smokes and a Coke, and easily determined we were both hungry, and a Middle Eastern supper at a new neighborhood restaurant was appealing. About 8:30 we were seated. The place was empty. Sad, and so unfitting. They have wonderful food and are lovely and interesting people. He's from Chechnya  and his wife is from Turkey.}

The venue: Was a Burger King for many years on heavily traveled Hillsborough Rd near I-85 and US 15-501. Was converted to a "serious" sit down place a few years ago, and has yet to foster a place for a great restaurant, although the need is real for that part of town.

Me: Dolmas and Roasted Potatoes with vegetable gravy - Excellent $12, including sides. Glass of Sutter Home White Zin, $4.25,
$20 with tax and tip.
Sides Pizza Bread Sticks/herb-seasoned EVOO - V. Good
Salad Bar One Trip - Limited but Excellent

The stuffed cabbage rolls (5 were presented) were lovely, as were the roasted potatoes. The whole was covered with a flavorsome gravy of cooked cabbage, onions, and the pan gravy. The seasonings were subtle, peppery, and aromatic. The salad bar was limited in offerings but all the ingredients were fresh and crisp. Very tasty ranch dressing. The bread sticks were baked from pizza dough, and so were nicely chewy. A plate of flavored oil on the side for dipping was provided. More bread was offered later in the meal. Service was friendly and attentive (we were initially the only diners) although our waitress seemed new and knew little about the menu.

Wine list (on a Corona placard!) is brief and laughable with the odd surprise. Greek vin ordnaire at $8/glass. "Straight from Greece" it says. Where else for Greek wine?

Jon: Gyro platter. Very attractively sliced and folded roast meat, arranged on a bed of grilled pitas. $10.95;
$16.00 with tax and tip. Sides: Bread sticks, salad bar, rice pilaf,  steamed vegetable medley - Jon pronounced it all excellent. He drank ice water. A Best Buy.

This place needs some changes to succeed. It would be a shame if tasty ethnic fare doesn't succeed. Bergama needs menu design advice; a better web presence; a better street impact to attract diners from heavy traffic on street. Better wine list. Ethnic clarity of offerings. Pizza? Italian? Greek? Turkish? "Middle Eastern". Menu needs to educate better.

Home Fries

Recorded 2-10-07

2 lbs Russet potatoes, whole
2 tsp salt
1/4 medium onion, blossom-cut into thin pieces
1/8 cup low-fat margarine
1/8 cup canola oil
onion powder, paprika, salt, pepper as seasonings
Put the potatoes in a pot, cover with water, add salt, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a slow boil for 15 minutes. Test with a sharp knife. Potatoes should be part-cooked. Turn off heat and let stand covered 20 minutes. This lets the heat penetrate evenly. Pour off hot water and shock with a few changes of cold water until not too hot to handle. Slip off skins under running cold water, dry, cut in half lengthwise and then crosswise into 1/2 inch slices. Heat fat in a skillet over medium-high heat and add potatoes and onions, and seasonings to taste. Turn every few minutes, taking care not to burn them. They should brown and crisp. Fry about 15 minutes total.

Yields four generous servings. Loaded with calories! Goes well with poached eggs (see recipe).

Perfectly Poached Eggs

Recorded February 2, 2007. Adapted from Julia Child's first TV series on PBS. A family favorite and SIGNATURE DISH.
12 inch non-stick saucepan with 1 1/2 inches water
1 oz white vinegar
2 eggs, at room temperature (freshest possible, USDA grade AA if available)
English muffin split, toasted, and buttered [Thomas™ is best]

Add the vinegar to the water and over medium heat bring to a fast simmer. Crack an egg carefully into a small bowl with a flat edge. Lower the edge the bowl under the water and gently tip the egg into the hot water. Repeat for the other egg. Let them both sit undisturbed in the hot water until the whites begin to set up. Gently loosen with a spatula so they are floating. Spoon hot water over the eggs to help them cook on top. After the whites are set and the yolks are beginning to thicken (about 3 minutes), lift each egg out with a slotted spoon. Blot bottom and top with a clean towel. Put a muffin (or biscuit) half on top of the egg and holding it in place with the free hand, invert and place on the serving plate. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serves one. May be doubled but don't overcrowd pan. Goes well with a side of home fries.

Eggs Benedetto

Prepared and recorded December 18, 2009. Substitutes prosciutto de Parma for Canadian bacon, and uses a commercial, but authentic, Hollandaise.
Eggs Benedetto with a side of Hash Browns
2 Perfectly Poached Eggs
English muffin, split and well toasted
butter, softened
prepared Hollandaise sauce (Trader Joe™)
1 thin slice prosciutto
Start the muffin toasting and the water boiling. Prepare two poached eggs. Warm the prosciutto in small skillet in a little water to rinse out some salt. Assemble stacks when eggs are done: muffin, lightly buttered; then a small pile of prosciutto; then an egg; top with a generous covering of Hollandaise gently warmed in the microwave.

Brandy Alexander

Recorded December 18, 2009. Made according to the recipe of Merry's mother. First experienced circa 1961 in their living room in Pleasant Ridge, MI, as an annual yuletide wassail.
150 ml (about 5-1/3 oz) each:
cheap but decent domestic brandy (e.g., E&J™, Christian Brothers™)
creme de Cocoa (cheap is fine)
half and half (fresh and sweet)
Gently mix the liquids together in a one-pint bottle and chill before serving or shake with ice to dilute alcohol content and reduce the sweetness. Yields 4 4-ounce servings. Caution: These are not chocolate milk!