I love hummus. I have since childhood; I remember my father and me eating it straight out of the container with blue corn chips, while my mother opted for something less hummus because she doesn’t really care for it one bit. I’m not quite sure from where it is that I developed such a love because my father’s tastes aren’t something I would have genetically picked up, and I don’t know that they eat a lot of hummus in South Korea, but I could be wrong. Maybe hummus is a big deal.

I like the tanginess of the lemon juice and the depth of flavor from the tahini. It’s creamy and delicious and you can eat it on nearly everything. Sure, I’ve had some sub-par hummus; it’s too tangy or too garlicky or too thick, but for the most part you can’t go wrong with it.

When Husband and I had been living with my parents for few weeks (yeah, that went about as well as you can imagine) we went into downtown Portland with them and our best vegetarian friends (yep, same ones as the Mother’s Bistro friends) to McMenamins Kennedy School. It’s a fun, funky place to eat, and it’s exactly how it sounds: a school that has been renovated into a restaurant, hotel, and theater. Because it’s Portland and also, why not. Admittedly we didn’t care for any of the food we had except for the appetizer, but I will say their hummus plate is so remarkable that it’s entirely worth the drive, the wait, and the remaining meal. It’s the hummus plate to beat; the one that I think about on a pretty regular basis, and the one that I’d like to re-create when I finally take the time to make my own hummus.

First, it’s a well-balanced plate. You get pita triangles, marinated red onions, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, thin cucmber slices, tomato, and feta. I love the combination of fresh and bottled vegetables; the marriage of crunch and soft in your mouth. Second, the hummus comes out warm. Warm hummus, people. It’s probably the creamiest, lightest hummus I’ve ever had, with a divine flavor that’s perfectly tart and deep and there’s just enough olive oil to make it extremely smooth. You take the grilled pita, spread that warm hummus on the entire thing, top it with all those crunchy (and marinated) vegetables, and the sharp, crumbly feta, and gobble it up. And then you do it again and again till the entire plate is empty, save a small container that once housed the hummus and maybe some edible garnishes that you leave because, you know, they’re garnishes.

Perhaps it’s controversial that I choose a hummus plate as the best appetizer I’ve ever eaten, but it’s the one I think about time and time again, sometimes when I am eating other appetizers that simply don’t make the cut.