Tag Archives: ethiopian


Didn’t Injera Used to Be Sour?

Used to be, you’d mention Ethiopian food to someone and receive a passionate response of “Oh, I love Ethiopian!’, or “I really can’t stand injera.” Spongy and slightly sour from fermentation, injera, the Ethiopian flatbread, was the great divider.  Either you were on board with it or you weren’t.

The last few times I’ve had Ethiopian though, there’s been a change.  The familiar tangy sourness is gone.  Did the Ethiopian restaurants modify their injera recipes en masse? What happened to the sour?

Take the injera at Meskerem in Adams Morgan, where my friend Melissa and I shared the vegetarian platter. As is the norm, the various stews were served on a giant piece of injera, with several extra pieces on the side.

No tang.  Neutral taste, really. Still an effective vehicle for picking up the food, but I missed the zing.

Maybe the restaurants decided they needed to alter the recipe to appeal to a wider range of people. I would have rather they made customers adapt to their taste, not the other way around.

It appears injera in the U.S. has been neutered, and that’s a shame. Bring back the sour!

2434 18th St. NW
Washington, DC


NYC: Ethiopian at Queen of Sheba

This post is a lot more pleasant to write now that the NY Jets have been knocked out of the playoffs. You see, my friends and I ate ate this meal the night the Jets beat the Patriots; it was only thanks to good company and an Ethiopian dinner that the night was salvaged. We’d just watched the game at Lansdowne Road in Hell’s Kitchen, and a little drunk and a lot unhappy, headed to Queen of Sheba where we shared two combination samplers.

The meat sampler included different preparations of beef and lamb, while the vegetarian sampler consisted of collards, lentils, split peas, green beans and cabbage.  This may be one of the better Ethiopian restaurants I’ve been to in NYC.  The injera was appropriately tangy, and each dish had a ton of flavor. A few were pleasantly spicy, too.

I left in a brighter mood than what I’d arrived in. The lesson: after your team suffers a crushing loss, go eat Ethiopian. It’ll make you feel better.

Queen of Sheba
650 10th Ave. btw 45th & 46th
New York, NY

Lalibela on the Spur of the Moment

Word of advice: Never discuss food after exercise. Burning calories leaves a person vulnerable and exceedingly susceptible to suggestion.  For instance, I’m so loopy and ravenous after a hard workout that if someone were to say to me, “Let’s drive to Montreal and try that new French place,” I’d probably respond, “Let’s do it!”

That’s how my friend Emily and I ended up at Lalibela (not Montreal).  We were in the parking lot after a workout chatting about getting some people together to go for Ethiopian.  I drove home, with Ethiopian on the brain and a craving that would not be denied. A few texts later, we were racing to Mount Kisco before Lalibela closed.

To start, a couple of glasses of the wonderful Ethiopian honey wine that was chilled and slightly sweet, but not cloyingly so.

We split this appetizer of avocado salad on injera (Ethiopian bread).

Injera usually has a faintly sour tang to it.  I noticed that this injera lacked the sourness — perhaps a deliberate attempt to tone down the distinctive flavor for the suburban Westchester masses?

Emily and I were both hungry and plowing through the cooling appetizer.  The danger with injera is that it’s spongy and can fill you up quickly without you realizing it.  We made sure to save room for the main course, the Taste of Lalibela combo.

Four veggie dishes — lentils, split peas, collard greens and string beans, and three meat dishes — Siga wat (slow-cooked beef), Gomen besiga (shredded beef) and Yebag wat (lamb).

Such a relaxed and experiential form of eating.  No utensils — just tear off a piece of injera and use it to scoop up a mound of veggies or meat.

Everything was tender, flavorful and well spiced (one of the beef dishes was a hair salty).  We both relished the wine and the dinner. Somehow Emily managed to keep her hands relatively clean, whereas mine required several napkins and resembled a four year old’s in finger painting class. How’d she do that?

I cannot express how happy I am to finally have an Ethiopian restaurant (and a good one) in Westchester.  It’s something I’ve been pining for for years.

To the staff at Lalibela: I apologize that we were still eating a half hour past your closing time. I know you probably wanted to get home.  But just know that we enjoyed your food, and we will be back.

37 South Moger Ave.
Mt. Kisco, NY

Almaz Cafe in Philadelphia

One of the many fun things about blogging is that if you need a recommendation and throw a question out there, someone will respond and help you out.  Like when I went to San Francisco last December and ate at the reader-recommended Cordon Bleu, a tiny Vietnamese restaurant I probably wouldn’t have discovered on my own.

Good luck struck again in Philadelphia. Thank you to Courtney for recommending Almaz Cafe in Rittenhouse Square.  Quick, ethnic, inexpensive, easily accessible — and Ethiopian, one of my favorites!  Exactly what I was looking for.

I had the foule, a mashed bean stew with injera (Ethiopian bread), cabbage and sour cream.

The foule was delicious — creamy, hearty, piping hot, flavorful with spices and perfectly sopped up by the spongy injera. Eating it put me in a content state of mind for the drive home.

The staff at Almaz were also very friendly, and I got a good vibe from the place all around.  Great recommendation.

Oh, and if you’re planning a trip to Philly and are hoping to see the Liberty Bell, I’m not sure it’s viewable right now.  There’s some major construction going on at the Liberty Bell Center, but I drove by too quickly to see what it was.

Almaz Cafe
140 South 20th St.
Philadelphia, PA

Ethiopian in New Haven and Michael Phelps

Random notes for today:

My co-workers John and Kristen told me about two Eritrean/Ethiopian restaurants in New Haven, CT: Caffé Adulis and Lalibela.  Ever been?  I keep hearing how amazing New Haven pizza is—- now I have to get up there to try their African food too.

Kristen also made Ethiopian at home recently and sent me links to the recipes.

Chicken Stew
Spiced Butter
Spice Mix

She said the kitfo was especially good, and actually, these don’t look as hard to make as I would have thought, provided you have the ingredients.  Berbere may be tough to find in a store, but you can always make your own modified batch of it.  
Okay, on an unrelated note, did anyone watch the profile on Michael Phelps last night when he said he ate between 8,000-10,000 calories a day?!    I’m putting away a decent number of calories right now for triathlon training, but crap, 8K-10K is outta hand.  Forget swimming, Phelps eating should be its own Olympic event.  They could pit him against the marathoners, cyclists and triathletes, set up a time lapse camera, and see who could put down the most pasta, eggs and steak in a single day. People would watch that.  Or at least bizarre people like me would.