By Merv Hecht
In the middle of the 12th century, in a small village in the South of France near the Dordogne river, the town fathers called a meeting. The village was at the base of a huge sandstone wall, with a monastery at the top, and dozens of caves and stairways carved into the sandstone.
The subject of the meeting was the deteriorating financial condition of the village.
One member suggested hiring someone to see what might be done to attract travelers to the village. Another mentioned that a traveling Jew was in town looking for work. And so they decided to hire this Jew to see if he had any good ideas for the village financial condition.
For several weeks the Jew searched the many caves in the sandstone wall, and then announced that he had made a great discovery: he brought out a basket of bones and declared that these were the bones of Saint Amador, famous for being the saint that washed the feet of Mary Magdelaine.
Some were skeptical, and so it was decided to send an emissary to the Vatican and ask them to send someone to either authenticate or debunk this claim. The emissary arrived, and after a careful examination declared the bones to be authentic, and a true and extremely important relic. Soon thereafter the town, then called Rocamador, became the second most visited site in the world (after Mecca) for religious pilgrimages.
People from all over the world, including Kings and Queens, came to Rocamador on their knees, covered in purple capes. For the last part of the journey, they would pass dozens of vendors with charcoal brasseries selling various kinds of kabobs. This tradition is still in effect, and Rocamador remains a major tourist destination in France. And for Kabobs.
But you don’t have to go all that way to get a great kabob. My favorite restaurant (at least at lunch) for Kabobs is the International Flame on Santa Monica just West of the 405 freeway.
But you can enjoy a very good kabob right here in Santa Monica at the Panini restaurant.
While really good marinated meat is essential for a great kabob, the coup de gras is grilling over a charcoal grill. These kabobs taste just right. And you can select beef, chicken, steak or salmon. I’m tempted to say “or one of each” but the helpings here are so large you will be happy with one order.
From the name you would expect the restaurant to specialize in Italian style sandwiches. And they do have them, and they are good. They also have a hummus plate with three kinds of hummus. I can’t recommend that. The standard hummus in the middle is way too creamy and without sesame flavor. The other two are downright awful. But the pita bread is good.
There are a few other reasons people like this restaurant: they have good lentil soup, an excellent selection of salads and vegetarian foods, and—most importantly BAKLAVA for dessert. A half size or full size helping. Yummy!
Panini Kabob Grill
312 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Phone: (424) 744-8854
(Merv Hecht, like many Harvard Law School graduates, went into the wine business after law. In 1988, he began writing restaurant reviews and books. His latest book is “The Instant Wine Connoisseur” and it is available on Amazon. Or you might like his attempt at humor in “Great Cases I Lost.” He currently works for several companies that source and distribute food and beverages, including wines, internationally. Please send your comments to: email@example.com.)