Thursday, March 09, 2017

Casablanca in Ypsilanti, MI

Bistilla -- A Moroccan dish I have wanted to try for a long time:
"Herb saffron chicken, orange blossom water, honey, almonds powdered sugar, and cinnamon."
Yesterday we had lunch at Casablanca restaurant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, a few miles from our house (Casablanca website here). I have been curious about the Moroccan pastry called Bistilla for quite a while, and immediately ordered it as an appetizer. I found it delicious, though Len said it was a little too sweet for him. Carol, who joined us, described it as "chicken baclava." OK.

Chicken Tagine, one of three entrees that we ordered. We also tried sweet lamb tagine and a merguez (sausage) sandwich.
A shelf of tagines.
The word "tagine" refers to both a pottery vessel for cooking and serving, and to the special stewed meat, fish, and vegetable dishes that are made in this dish. Casablanca Restaurant has had some problems with the health department inspectors, and they are no longer allowed to use these easily-cracked clay dishes to serve the tagines. I admit that I was waiting for their inspection reports to improve before I ate there. Fortunately, the problems seem to have been resolved recently. Am I crazy because I check the health inspections of places I go for the first time? Maybe.

Inside Casablanca.

Casablanca Restaurant is in a former Taco Bell location. Painted in grey and deep sky-blue, the Taco-Bell architecture doesn't seem in particularly unexpected for a Moroccan restaurant. There's a reason: the Mexican or Southwest US style adopted by Taco Bell has its origins in Spanish colonial architecture. Remember that in the Middle Ages Spain was occupied (or partly occupied) and governed by Arabs from North Africa, who influenced Spanish culture, language, and architecture. In 1492, the same year that they funded Columbus's voyage, the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella succeeded in expelling the last of the "Moors," that is Arabs, from Spain. So the colonization of the Americas -- including the colonial architecture we now associate with the Southwest and Mexico -- immediately followed the era of Arab influence. Interesting.

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