Tuesday, April 12, 2011

IEM Session #16.4

Inhuman Eating Machine official rules and guidelines

(Continued from 16.3)

Eating Day: March 19, 2011, what else?

MAOZ VEGETARIAN- 2395 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, 1:15pm- Salad Box w/Ice Tea- $8.00

Photo by Tigerlily
Three salads down. Nothing. Combined, the first trio of salads weighed at least 2 lbs., I'd reckon, but I may as well have eaten three pretzels. They just had not registered yet. I knew I had some serious contenders to come, but this voyage seemed even easier than I could have imagined.

I had wanted to try Maoz for a while since I spotted the joint while walking from Amoeba to Rasputin's in the midst of a dollar record sojourn. Yes, Maoz is a chain. They're an international chain, even, with stores in both the U.S. and Europe. In most cases, a chain this big would have fallen outside of the scope of the IEM by-laws, but the next closest Maoz to the one in Berkeley is roughly 3,000 miles away. I decided I would allow it in the session.

Maoz has kind of a weird system. If I came here on a day when I was in a hurry, I was grumpy, or I didn't feel like dealing with a restaurant's unique food formatting and policies, I might have walked out without ordering. The whole set-up seemed unnecessarily confusing. The "salad box" works like this. You start out with a round plastic bowl, not a box.) The bowl comes with a bed of lettuce (50/50 romaine and greens) and five falafel balls. Then you get a choice of a few different add-ons. I chose hummus and avocado. These steps are assembled by the counter guy. After he finishes this part, he hands you the box and then you can add more things from the salad bar. You can add all that you want into the bowl on a single trip. They make it abundantly clear that this is not an all-you-can-eat buffet-type salad bar a la Fresh Choice. So, you had better pile it on during your lone trip to the salad bar. If I was eating eight salads in a single day, I could have piled on an ungodly amount of salads into that box, but I decided to keep it plentiful but sane. The bowl had no more than a pound of plant matter inside. A fair amount, I felt. To the aforementioned ingredients I added the following salad bar items myself- carrot salad, beet salad, coleslaw, veggie salad (carrot coins, cauliflower, etc.), tomato wedges, sliced onions, and yogurt sauce.

If Maoz would have been around during the falafel session, it would have destroyed the competition. Today, only Oasis and another place I stopped later on the salad session are in the same falafel league as Maoz in the East Bay. The balls are extra crispy and seasoned correctly. The falafel were cooked to order here, still hot and crunchy on top of the salad, like the world's greatest crouton. The hummus was okay, but still somewhat out of balance. I've said it before. Getting the perfect garbanzo:tahini:garlic:lemon juice ratio is nearly impossible.

The salads from the self-service bar were gorgeous with their vibrant hues, but they tasted like their core vegetable without any zim or zam. And the yogurt "sauce" was just liquid yogurt. I could not taste anything in there other than plain old yogurt. I know they have spices at Maoz. The falafel was a taste explosion. Why dish up such neutral-tasting salads? Perhaps they don't want the falafel to be upstaged. I can understand this line of thinking, but it would take more than a little vinegar and black pepper on a beet salad to overpower these mighty balls. Maoz is worth a return for the falafel alone, but I may have to employ some of their other dressings if I try the salad box again. The falafel stifled its supporting players like Lee Marvin showing up on an episode of Hogan's Heroes.

After the Maoz salad, I felt only a slight semblance of a trace of fullness setting in. Gas had not even begun to develop in my entrails. I was riding high in the saddle. Unfortunately, the next stop was the 500lb. gorilla in the room.

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