European Bakery and Deli
160-515 17 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB T2S 0A9
Meat on a stick. Meat wrapped in dough. Every culture has some variation of these tasty treats, and I have to admit, I’ve never really found one I didnt like. While im sure anthropologists have some theory for why these managed to develop separately in countries with no trade, or historical contact, the end result is really all that matters. When attending a festival, or travelling abroad, you can always count on finding a new local variant of meat in dough. Something a little less exotic, and a little more familiar, on one of your less adventurous days.
Hidden in a small recessed storefront, underneath an apartment building on 17th Ave SW in Calgary – better known as the Red Mile – the European Bakery and Deli, from outwards appearances, seems to be another in the long line of independent convenience stores. “Porn, liquor, and smokes” my University friends used to call these ubiquitous stores. With one drastic difference: Bakery really means bakery. Inside is a treasure trove of breads and other baked delights. Including Burek.
The first Burek i ever had was the Bosnian & Herzegovina version – rolled puff pastry filled with spiced beef, and coiled into a pie and baked. This was an extremely tasty treat – each bite netting a great combination of pastry and spiced meat – no bite was left wanting. This was a dish truly worthy of the meat in dough tradition.
I first heard mention from John Manzo (by way of Chowhound) , frequent Foodosophy commenter, that fresh Bureks were available in Calgary at the European Bakery and Deli. I was slightly disappointed to discover that they served the Serbian version – rounds of pastry and meat that more resemble a Calzone, but i quickly put that aside and looked forward to sampling a new meat in dough offering.
European Bakery and Deli had two Burek versions available – meat, and cheese. Cut like pizza slices, a very large piece of each was laid out in a to go container, with the corners thoughtfully cut to allow steam to escape. These are probably better eaten promptly, than allowing them to cool, and get a bit soggy.
The verdict? Not bad. The meat one was quite good – the outside was baked to a wonderful golden brown, with a satisfying, crispy bite. The pastry inside was soft, not flaky, but contrasted well with the crust. The meat itself was a bit sparse, many bites missing the required blend of dough and filling. It was also a bit under-seasoned, and could have used with a few more spices, and salt. The cheese offering was a bit worse – filled with feta, it came out a bit mouth-blistering salty. Once again, some spices, or hot sauce, would have been a welcome relief from the blast of salty, sticky feta. However, at the price (~$3.50), it’s really hard to complain about something handmade, that can easily serve as a large snack for a hungry person. If you have no shame like me, next time, i would bring tomatoes, banana peppers, and some spinach, and stuff the cheese Burek with them, making a better balanced, tastier meal.
What have i learned from all this? Surprisingly, a lot. Im surprised that a few regional differences in a Burek would result in such a difference in taste. Considering these version both come from the former Yugoslavia. I never expected there to be such variation. After all, in Asian cuisine, a dumpling is a dumpling to me, and i love them all. While i will continue to search for Bosnian Bureks, the ones available fresh at the European Bakery and Deli are worth the occasional drop in.