Mediocre restaurants used to litter the streets of Capitol Hill. They still do, in fact. What has changed during the past decade is the addition of neighborhood eateries that offer memorable dishes, served in pleasant surroundings. Cava Mezze, a Greek tapas restaurant that started in Rockville, is among the newest spots on 8th Street, an area, I might note, that was once a good food desert, but now has more tasty high-end restaurants than fast food joints.
I ate at Cava Mezza a couple months ago, splitting a few small plates (saganaki, hummus, baked shrimp, and calamari) with a friend. The dish that keeps coming back to me is one that we did not order. Before the meal, our waiter dropped off a small plate of harissa and pita. Zoinks! The plate was an outstanding stand-in for typical bread and butter basket, and this particular harissa was like none I had tried before. Cava's harissa, made from tomatoes and peppers, is mild, with a spicy bite layered with olive oil. I'm now a junkie, a harrissahead, desperately in need of treatment, who spends a lot of time thinking about how to get my next fix. It's that good.
I don't get over to Capitol Hill much, so my cravings have been left unattended. Recently, a little bird (@cavamezza) told me (after I begged for the recipe over twitter; yes, it's true, I have no dignity) that Cava's harissa is available at Whole Foods. It's on the expensive side (I plopped down about $6 bucks for the 8.5 ounce container), so it's a special treat. And, yes, it's as good as the plate I had in the restaurant.
Cava Mezze also packages an item called Crazy Feta. I avoided eye contact with that container, since I am on a harm reduction program, after all. Careful, you might get addicted, and my guess is that your therapist will not look like Gabriel Byrne.