I found Al Meida’s delectable Algerian pastries while at the Detroit Second Annual Holiday Food Bazaar held at Eastern Market. The name on the advertisement for the event attracted my attention, but I was not prepared for such a sweet, elegant woman selling sophisticated pastries beyond my experience. She laid out half-moon pastries on beautiful, inscribed plates and had mysterious, spice-infused cookies spread over her table. The sweet, exotic scents unlocked the doors to the southern Mediterranean and the culinary crossroads of Africa, French and Italian influences, and Arabic elements.
At once I was hooked, and divested of all the cash I brought in one go.
I had to try a little of everything as I bought a little of this sticky cookie and a bit of that lemon-brushed pastry. Names were unfamiliar, but the tastes immediately opened up a sun-baked world on my tongue. The surreal touches of citrus and dates blended together on my palate. My beau, a lifelong Detroiter, had significantly more experience with the Chaldean, Iraqi, and Arabic bakeries in Dearborn. We rationed out our purchases in small bites while sitting elbow to elbow at a rough bench which faced the glorious skyline of Detroit. This, in a nutshell, embodied the spirit of the city.
Al Meida’s crowning confection is the kaab el ghazal — “gazelle horns” — which are an almond paste-filled crescent moon “cookie” (but rightly they’re a pastry) wrapped in orange blossom and rosewater infused pastry. The first bite taken a few steps away was an explosion of flavours and sensate impressions. My beau and I shared the kaab el ghazal in the mute silence brought by contentment, appreciation, and trying to experience how good something is. We only bought three and should have gone back for the rest.
The baked products, their appearance, and the savoury flavours are good enough to wax poetic upon. I sailed off to a distant shore and discovered an unknown craving for orange blossom and other newly found subtle tastes. Al Meida has made her way out to Ferndale’s Rust Belt Market on Sundays, thankfully sparing me trying to wend my way out to Ann Arbor’s farmer’s markets. An hour on the freeway on Saturday morning I could do without.
This is another of Detroit’s many gems, and I cannot laud the exotic delights waiting to be sampled care of enchanting Algerian recipes and considerable care for quality.