Boureg, or börek, or burek, or any of the other numerous versions and spellings thereof, is a very popular food eaten throughout much of what was once the Ottoman Empire. In fact, these pastries, often stuffed with cheese, meat, vegetables, or a combination of them all, are also ideal to eat while watching a sporing event in someone's living room, crammed onto the corner of an ottoman. Just as with a simple sandwich or burrito, self contained foods are perhaps best enjoyed when they are inexpensive, and eaten in a situation where other items would be particularly inconvenient -- like a street corner or a poker table. So in honor of a really long tennis match, two World Cup games and the NBA Draft, today's food fight takes on two attempts at the Armenian spicy cheese boureg.
Boureg, like all Amenian bakery goods, can be heated up for you on the spot, or brought home and refreshed in your own oven (we prefer to do so on a pizza stone). Our first bite comes from Arax Bakery -- clocking in at the seemingly universal price of around two dollars -- and has a soft, pliable exterior. Its insides are only subtly spicy from the mellow red peppers, so as not to overpower the gentle flavors of the cheese. It is a relaxed boureg, not one to dominate you with aggressive flavors, but to be enjoyed simply and casually.
The one at Mush Bakery is surprisingly different, considering how similar it might appear at first. They slice it in half for you, which does lessen the chance of your long, thin pastry getting bent or folded in transit. The bread is less supple, though it does crisp more easily, and the spiciness is more pronounced, appropriately complementing the saltier, more robust cheese. As has been happening in a lot of our recent food fights, both versions are rather pleasant and more than adequate to fulfill your needs. So if you want a more understated boureg, definitely head over to Arax. But we, alas, will go for the more affirmative flavor punch, and be picking ours up from Mush.
Arax Bakery: 4871 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., 323 666 7313., Mush Bakery: 5224 West Sunset Blvd., L.A., (323) 662-2010.