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February 10, 2009

Best Bites: Café Mediterano

Fall 2008 213 Best Bites: Café Mediterano
17 Park Street, Essex Junction, 878-9333

By Alice Levitt

Last fall, chef/owner Barney Crnalic of Café Mediterano introduced a savory deal. For $25.95, you and a friend (or two) will be treated to beer and wine, plus a table-sized serving of practically everything on the Bosnian/Mediterranean menu. Order his off-menu “special platter” and be prepared for the glorious battle ahead.

Start with the Greek salad, spiked with quality feta, black olives and transparently thin ribbons of onion. Then you're ready for the plate’s raison d’etre: the meat. Carved right from the spit (as it should be), the blended lamb and beef kebab (gyro) is powerfully redolent of oregano. It blends extraordinarily with the fresh sauce, which is somewhat like the yogurt-based Greek tzatziki, but thinner and more acidic.

Crnalic’s chicken is lightly seasoned, tender and pairs perfectly with ajvar, a red-pepper condiment common in Bosnian food. Bosnian "hot dogs," called Sudzukica, are long, thin sausages that are finely ground and rolled in a natural casing. They effortlessly balance salty and sweet. My favorite offering, however, is the cevapi. The tender lamb-and-beef mini-sausages are handmade, adorable and simply delicious. There are not sufficient words to describe the wonders of the little bites, especially when they're eaten between layers of ethereal homemade lepinja bread, sautéed in butter before serving.

Did I mention Crnalic serves up his own battered fries, too? If you end up losing this epic fight against the meat, never fear. There are always doggie bags.

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