My favorite HEB was a bust on Saturday. So Sunday I headed to Fiesta, where I (surprisingly) struck out again. Although a bit frustrated at this point, I was determined to find that silly spice and not to drive all the way in to town in the process.
I had seen a little place called Cedars Mediterranean Grill and Market just up the road, so I decided to check it out, thinking that surely they would carry harissa. Not wanting to draw a lot of attention to myself, I was thrilled to see that the 'market' section was near the door. My plan was to unobtrusively scan the shelves and if I did not see what I wanted, I could make a quick exit.
Great plan...in theory.
I had no idea the people who own the cafe would be so friendly. After making two hurried laps around the shelves, a young man spotted me and came to ask if I needed help finding anything in particular. I guess the very light colored eyes and skin, along with the look of utter helplessness on my face suggested to him that I was a little out of my element. I told him I was looking for something called harissa. He took a second to think about it and enthusiastically responded, "Oh yes, we have that right here!"
I excitedly followed him around the corner to a shelf of ... baked goods??? I'm a little confused at this point, because all along I have been looking for a spice of some sort and he is pointing to a cake. And I suppose the confusion was evident on my face because before I could say anything, he picks up the container and begins to give me a helpful lesson on how this cake is called 'harissa' in some dialects, but goes by many different names.
I think I just smiled and nodded.
I was completely frozen, unsure how to politely get out of the situation. Then, to make matters worse, he noticed that the pan of 'harissa' was dull looking (evidently, glistening almonds signify freshness) so he assured me his mother would package a fresh batch for me. How could I say no?!?!
By the time Monday rolled around I had resigned myself to the fact that I was probably going to have to drive all the way in to town to find this elusive ingredient. On a whim I checked the closest HEB Plus and lo and behold... I found harissa!