07.31.08: we ate a sheep head.

3 08 2008

entrance to djemaa al fnaa.

and it was good.
i’ll admit, we must give a little bit of credit to andrew zimmern. if we hadn’t seen the morocco episode of bizarre foods i don’t know if we would have been entirely enticed into eating a whole sheep head, but that episode was a deal maker.

ok. that’s not entirely true. we did roast half a baby lamb on easter, which of course came with half a head, half a brain, half a tongue. you get the gist.

anyway, before we get to all the fun eating, i have to tell you about our little adventure trying to find the square. it was already dark out, and this was our first time trying to make our way around the souk and to the square. our riad’s manager, cyrus, recommended that we go around because it’s pretty easy to get lost.

i think we walked around in circles for about a half hour before we finally found the square.

i expected djemma el fnaa to be two things: large and chaotic.

it was big, but it wasn’t as large as i expected it to be. it was definitely chaotic. tons of people, all being pulled at and goaded by touts trying to get you to eat at their stalls. were they abusive? a little. but you don’t take it too seriously — after all, if they can’t get you to dine, if they can make you feel like you’re the one who’s being rude, it’s a small victory.

but enough on the touts. time for some sheep head. there are four or five tables that make roasted sheep head. we chose one of the many stalls named hassan. i think it might have been hassan 113. but who’s counting?

row of sheep heads.

row of sheep heads.

like any proper sheep head stall worth its salt, there were four roasted sheep heads on display. we ordered the big head. on first sample, the meat is, fatty, fragrant with a rich meaty smell. dare i say sheepy? the skin is a bit too fatty for us, but that’s not a problem. there are lots of little bits to tear at, like the tongue, the glands, the chunks of meat clinging to the face. we stopped at the nose. too funky.

sheep head meat.

sheep head meat.

more bits of sheep. . .topped with glands!

more bits of sheep. . .topped with glands!

after we got our fill of sheep head, we made our way through more touts trying to lure us into less crowded stalls selling everything from harira to salads. we found a crowded grill stand (also named “hassan”) and ordered some lamb sausage and pancreas. mmmm. . .

more food pics later — wireless is still a bit weak.


07.31.08: riad meriem, marrakesh

2 08 2008

we landed this morning at around noon.

we’re staying at the riad meriem, an 8-room riad in the oldest section of the medina. the medina is foot, bike, moped and donkey traffic — no cars on these windy, cobbled streets.

the riad is quite stunning. it’s located off of the street azbezt on dar el kabi, a narrow alleyway that i wouldn’t trek down if it were in nyc. but this is morocco, and some standards simply don’t apply. it’s inevitable that you’ll find yourself in a dark, seemingly empty alleyway in the medina. thankfully, the city is pretty safe.

that said, the riad is pretty cool. it was designed by thomas hays, an nyc-based designer a couple of years ago. tonight we’re staying in the star room. for the rest of the trip, we’ll be in the red room, which has its own terrace.

okay. onto the reason why i travel: the food.

our first meal in morocco was prepared by the riad’s private chef. again, since this is a small hotel, meals outside of breakfast are usually ordered a day in advance so that the staff can pick up enough supplies during their morning market run.

najett whipped up a simple, but satisfying kefte with a chopped tomato, onion, and pepper salad. our meals on the flight were pretty lackluster (no shock) so we plowed through all 8 skewers.

after a short catnap, i explored the riad. the roof terrace has a couple of tented areas set aside for breakfast and sunset drinks. for me, the coolest part of the roof was the plants: jasmine, pomegranates, bougainvillea, and olive trees. pretty cool. . .

i’ll add pics later.  my wireless here is good, but slow on the upload.  time to grab a glass of wine downstairs before heading out to dinner at djemma el fnaa.