The other week, it was my birthday.

We met some friends at Mezzaluna where we enjoyed their $7 happy hour plates.

Delightfully non-greasy, fried fish served with flavorful mushy peas, spicy seared tuna, an overflowing cheese platter, and the best burger I have tasted since I don’t know when.  Jake thinks it’s as good as HoDo Lounge’s Bison Burger, but I think it’s better.

We returned to the Twin Cities the following weekend.  Between appointments, I stopped at one of my favorite NE Minneapolis haunts, Emily’s Lebanese Deli, and savored my own plate of raw kibbe nayyeh.

Kibbe is an elusive food for me.

In college, my roommate occasionally treated us to tastes of her family’s triangles of baked kibbe and pungent garlic sauce.  Once, she invited us to taste little packets of both raw kibbe and vegetarian kibbe made with potatoes.  This was my first taste of raw meat and I liked it.

Kibbe brings to mind an afternoon soon after my college graduation where I spent much of a day trying to replicate her family’s baked kibbe in my tiny, studio kitchen on Dupont Ave.  It was a time-consuming version of kibbe of which I stuffed raw layers of meat with a cooked filling before baking.  Unfortunately, it did not turn out well.  A few steps above terrible.

My last taste of raw kibbe was at Beirut in West St. Paul, where I shared a small dish with friends.  I tried to be as polite as possible by taking gentle, unhurried bites, in order to hide my intense craving for it.

But not this time.

For lunch, I chose a half order of kibbe nayyeh along with sides of tabouli, flat bread, and garlic dressing which totaled about $10 including tax and tip.

The half portion was more than substantial.  For once, I took my time and enjoyed my very own plate of kibbe nayyeh.  I read a book and watched people stroll the farmers market across the street while I used flat bread to scoop olive oil-drenched dabs of kibbe and swipe them through garlic dip.  The kibbe had a buttery texture and clean flavor.  It was nicely salted and tasted of onion, parsley and cumin.  And I liked how it contrasted with the tart tabouli.

This was my happy birthday present to myself.  Not only the whole plate of kibbe, but also the realization that I can just go order my own plate of kibbe nayyeh when the craving strikes.