Farina used to mean Cream of Wheat to me. That was before tasting Farina Cake at All Spice Deli, in downtown Portland. The sweet, grainy cake, topped with an almond, is a lot more appealing than the cereal I loathed. Still, my favorite is baklava. The light pastry, layered on chopped nuts and dusted with chopped pistachios, is flaky, honey-sweet and messy. Don’t try eating it while driving.
As usual, I’m putting dessert first. Back to the lunch itself. Lebanese food is prepared in the deli kitchen from scratch, in small batches with fresh ingredients. Everything on my tray, chosen from the display case, is loaded with flavor: creamy baba gannouj, sprinkled with the beet-red powder of summac berries; tabouli; rich hummus; and dolmathes, filled grape leaves with cucumber sauce. Also a dish of dandelion leaves on spicy rice with lentils. This entire meal, which includes pita bread and hot lentil soup with Swiss chard, comes to $15 for two of us. (My daughter and I are shopping today and need sustenance.) There are plenty of leftovers for tonight’s dinner.
The deli’s owner, Eddie Attrash, came to Portland from Lebanon in 1970. He goes back to visit fairly often, but he’s busy here with two businesses–he also owns a service station–and family. He opened All Spice in late 2010 because he loves to cook for people. “It is my yoga, my passion,” he says. His enthusiasm shows in the quality of everything I’ve tasted, and there’s much more. For $5 you can buy garlic chicken or beef tongue panini, gyros, kabobs, and other sandwiches. Lunch and dinner plates, $7, are generous servings of roasted lamb, eggplant and beef casserole, kafta meatballs, and curried chickenand veggies. I’ll try one of thos next time. I hear the lamb is tender and perfectly done.
All Spice Deli is small and plain, with only a few tables. Customers stream in to order takeout, because the neighborhood has discovered the place. The deli is at 911 SW 10th Ave., Portland, Oregon 97205. 503-222-1255. Hours are Mon-Fri 11 am-8 pm and Saturday noon to 5.