We recently went into the kitchen at one of our favorite local eateries to learn how to make falafel. The foodie tot and I frequently lunch at Cava Grill on her days off from preschool. When I was explaining to her recently that both hummus and falafel start out from the same ingredient, chick peas, it seemed like a cooking lesson was in order. Fortunately, the kind folks at Cava Grill welcomed us into the kitchen to learn their secrets.
Cava Grill makes their falafel and most other ingredients fresh in house each day. They work with a number of local farms to source their ingredients, including naturally-raised lamb, beef and chicken, and are working to ensure every item is GMO-free by the end of the year. Later this year, they’ll transition to baking pita in-house as well. Cava’s hummus and spreads are made in a central commissary and delivered to the restaurants three times a week; you can also find them at local Whole Foods, MOMs Organic Market and other natural grocers to enjoy at home.
But back to the falafel. It turns out their recipe is the result of a miscommunication when they started testing recipes. A cook didn’t mash the chick peas first and when the falafel were mixed, whole beans remained in the balls. This happy accident results in falafel that isn’t as dense as many others, and tastes fresh and flavorful.
The foodie tot was eager to get into the kitchen and mix things up. There’s just seven ingredients: chick peas, salt, cumin, parsley, cilantro, onion and flour. The Mosaic District location, where we were cooking, goes through 100 pounds of chick peas each day — just making falafel!
Take a look at the video to see the foodie tot — and Cava’s director of operations, Rob Gresham — in action.
While I couldn’t entice her to write this blog post herself, the foodie tot did consent to a post-visit interview.
Q. What did you enjoy about making falafel?
A. Putting everything in!
Q. Were there any surprises in the kitchen?
A. How big the cans of beans were. (6 pounds each!)
Q. What’s your favorite thing to eat at Cava?
A. Fawaffle! (i.e., falafel )
In addition the the tasty falafel, we love Cava for its healthy and customizable kids meal. The meal comes with a mini pita, choice of brown or white rice, choice of proteins, carrot sticks and hummus. The girl gets her falafel, while the foodie boy prefers the lamb meatballs. Kids can choose fresh toppings too — the foodie tot gets either the cucumber or cucumber-tomato salad and kalamata olives. I love the “super greens” salad blend, myself, which includes kale and brussels sprouts; I get it fully loaded with toppings and usually go for the spicy harissa or sriracha greek yogurt dressing. Perfection. Drink-wise, kids can get organic milk or choose the freshly-made juice. It’s strawberry season right now, which means strawberry mint lime juice is our beverage of choice.
Just look at that colorful, fresh, veggie-loaded meal!
A casual spin-off of the original Cava Mezze restaurants, there are currently 5 Cava Grill locations in the metro DC area, with five more on the way within the next year. The newest location, Chinatown, will open early this fall. Visit their website to find the location nearest you. They have a fun Tumblr, too.
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored review, but we did receive a free lunch. As always, all opinions are our own, and we really, really love Cava! Many thanks to Nikki, Liz and Rob at Cava Grill for welcoming us into the restaurant.