I’m not really a blogger or overt food-chaser, but simply a writer and eater, but if I was the former then I would feel like I struck gold with The Barbary Fig’s bastilla. The bastilla, or b’stilla or pastila or bisteeya, however you wish to spell it, is a traditional North African dish complicated by a lot of regional influence. I remember making it in a hurry in culinary school, swearing all the while at its foreign and elaborate preparation, I didn’t finish it in time. However, it’s one of those dishes I remember for its unusual flavors, sweet and savory, and absolute deliciousness. Curse those laborious dishes that do, in the end, deserve patience and devotion.
I forget about this dish, it is only up the hill and to the right from where we live in St Paul, a simple walk for Nate and me on a chilly day. When you get nearer to The Barbary Fig you are flushed with guilt since you know it’s been too long since you’ve tucked in there. But you can remember how good the food is, it’s just one of those quiet places you forget and then remember again. Look at the menu and notice the basitilla isn’t there. You have to remember its name and order it from the cheerful server who corrects your pronunciation.
Soon, after a perfect bowl of bulgur and chickpea soup in broth, the bastilla arrives. Wrapped loosely in a thin and crispy phyllo-type pastry is shredded chicken in the traditional custard with gentle spices like cinnamon. The best bit however is the play between the delicate flavors of the pie and its spooned-over sautéed vegetables and homemade chutney. It’s a complex and dynamic dish, filling and warming, a perfect dish after an autumn walk. Eat slowly since the atmosphere demands it and finish with a cup of sweet red tea with mint.