Monday, May 14, 2012

In the Nut House

Posted By on 05.14.12 at 04:20 PM

Turkish Delight, the Nut House
I'll say it again. The south suburbs are where it's at for Middle Eastern food. Here's another reason. Last August Moneer Shujaeih opened the Nut House in a strip-mall storefront across West 87th Street from the great Al Bawadi Grill in Bridgeview. Shujaeih is the scion of the founders of a small nut roaster and confectionery that opened in Amman, Jordan, in 1953, but quickly grew into a supplier of fine roasted nuts to luxury hotels across the Middle East.

The Bridgeview store is the company's first U.S. outpost, and though it's tiny, stepping through the doors is like beaming into a small corner of Istanbul's Spice Bazaar. To the left: glass display cases sheltering pyramids of multicolored rolled and cubed lokum, or Turkish delight. To the right: a case loaded with all varieties of roasted and flavored seeds and nuts, everything from smoked watermelon seeds to Turkish hazelnuts. In the back there are shelves of the store's proprietary chocolate brand, Amore, and a coffee roaster turning over Turkish beans.

Turkish delight in the nuthouse

But the lokum display in particular is arresting. You can find stale, boxed, and beaten-up versions of this elastic gummy treat around town, but I've never seen this variety or freshness: sugar-dusted and cubed or rolled up around nuts, sliced to order, and weighed out by the pound (b/w $7-$15 per). Shujaeih flies it in from the town of Safranbolu, on Turkey's Black Sea coast, in typical regional flavors like pomegranate-pistachio and rose-walnut, and more surprising ones like banana-caramel and chocolate-apple. Chewy and fruity, these sweets are likable precisely because they don't have a painful sweetness, tasting more like the essence of their particular flavors.

Nut House nuts

And newly in this week: four varieties of the thyme-and-sesame-based spice blend known as za'atar. Usually you have to buy this smothered in plastic bags, but these are potently fresh and lemony. I'm particularly fond of the brown-colored nutty grind from Gaza known as duqqa. To breathe in the scent of these, which wafts over the shops and mingles with the roasting coffee and sugary air, can trigger an out-of-body experience.

The Nut House

The Nut House, 7281 W. 87th, Bridgeview, 708-233-6887

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