Ladies Lunch in Afghanistan

The Ladies Who Lunch ride last Saturday visited Khyber Pass Kebob in Dublin after a leisurely roll down the Contra Costa Canal and Iron Horse trails. This easy meander brought out seven folks including the Den Daddy Derek Liecty, Adrienne Ratner, Roy Schachter, me, and Roger; Derek also brought along two of his friends, Fred and Bryan. As if to underline the relaxed nature of this ride Roy rode his forty-pound bike equipped with a large lock and an unusual noseless saddle, which several curious folks had to try (“Why, you can swivel your hips while pedaling!”) The Iron Horse trail’s north origin actually begins some distance away up near Highway 4, so we started at the Concord BART station because, well, it’s just easier, and because it’s a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Contra Costa Canal trail, which intersects the Iron Horse. Those of you safely ensconced in Babylon probably are not aware that Contra Costa county actually has several canals and quite a few multi-use paths other than the Iron Horse. And, all of them are dead flat (well, almost). Because they crisscross the county locals use them not just for sport but for getting to where they need to go; they’re highly functional.

Chopan Kabob
Chopan Kabob

Saturday was warm and sunny, not unusual for the East Bay, and it brought out the masses: walkers, doggers, joggers, bladers—the usual gamut. As we got closer to Danville the crowd homing in on their popular farmer’s market made slaloming on the trail necessary. We stopped for coffee at the Peet’s nearby, which is the local cyclists’ hangout. Since the Amgen tour was going up Mt. Diablo that day, a huge crowd of local butchy racers and pseudo-racers were gathered to fuel up for the climb, talk smack, and preen before the horrified normal café regulars. Lest we forget, everyday people are generally either amused, bemused, or aghast at all that flab (or conversely, patent anorexia) in Lycra.

We made our escape and continued south to our lunch. And oh, what a lunch it was! Situated in a nondescript strip mall in Dublin, Khyber Pass Kabob is easy to miss and looks like any of the thousands of low-rent ethnic restaurant starving for clientele that populate odd corners of the Bay Area. Unless you live in the Fremont or Milpitas area, Afghani food is rather rare to find (the big exception being Helmand restaurant in San Francisco, which has been around since the 90s). Most of us have to live with the middling stuff purveyed by East West Foods at farmers’ markets and also sold at Costco.  But not today. Khyber Pass is a small, semi-hole-in-the-wall but the food is exceptionally yummy. Although they have quite a few vegetarian dishes, their lamb is really the bomb. The best is their chopan kebob, lamb steaks with a tantalizing rub, served with basmati rice and tomato. I had the quabuli pallow, which is a tender lamb shank in basmati rice with raisins and carrots.

Lamb shank in basmati rice
Quabuli pallow

Along with lunch came a mixed salad and an Afghani pudding, firni, which was interesting. Haagen Dazs will not need to be looking over its shoulder for this threat. We also ordered doogh, a yogurt drink, to share around the table. Seasoned with cucumber and mint, it was refreshing but because it wasn’t sweetened it was more like a thin summer soup than a beverage. Khyber Pass Kebob’s bolani bread was heavenly—I could have eaten a couple of plates of it alone. Theirs is far better than East West’s; in fact, they’re just two different animals. Khyber Pass Kebob spices theirs and can adjust the heat to your preference. Plus, it’s fresh out of the oven.

Spiced bolani bread

In contrast to a typical Different Spokes mid-ride lunch, which tends to be as hurried as a triathlon transition zone, we stopped for a full hour to relish our food, chat, and relax. After lunch it was less than a mile to Dublin BART—easy on the digestion. Several of us forwent BART and returned on the Iron Horse at a slightly higher clip—Derek at nearly age 81 was clocked at 23 mph—but not too hasty a pace as to have us get a second unintentional serving of our lunchtime repast.

Where will the Ladies go next? Stay tuned…