Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Slow Chew

"That was a slow chew" were the words my friend Akane used to describe my first bite of the homemade, spongy Injeri bread used in Ethiopia in lieu of silverware. But lets start at the beginning of the evening, because every great adventure has a prelude.

And our prelude included setting up this dinner at Empress Taytu's numerous other times and having to cancel for one reason or another. Then on Thursday night as Sondra and I were only minutes from the restaurant Akane called and said it was closed, the electricity was out throughout the neighborhood. Unsure of what to do but knowing we wanted to still spend time together, we told Akane to stay put and we'd find her. After driving aimlessly down Superior looking for Empress Taytu in the darkened neighborhood we spoke with Akane again and told her to meet us at Wendy's (Wendy's will play an integral part of the story later). After Sondra and I turn around to head back to Wendy's, the lights flickered and then went on, just as we were driving by Empress Taytu!!! Akane was called and drove over to meet us there!

Me, Sondra and Akane

There was traditional Ethiopian music playing (great rhythm!) and the restaurant was gorgeously decorated with authentic Ethiopian art, maps and just superb 'Ethiopian' decor.

We chose to sit at a messob, low basket-style table, to keep with Ethiopian tradition. And after perusing the menu for a beyond acceptable time friend we chose appetizers and main courses.
Our appetizer of Sambusa was delicious. Sambusa is a meat or lentil (we tried both) filled pastry. It was served with a spiced red dip and was divine. Our hopes were high before our main courses were served.
beef and lentil sambusa

After finishing the sambusa our main entrees were served:

Sondra and Akane both ordered the beef t'ibs which were delicious. And, well I don't remember the name of what I ordered but it looked a bit like Sloppy Joe's! It was not quite as good as the t'ibs but I was not disappointed by the unique flavor of spices and meat.
The caveat of the whole dinner was the injeri. Our 'injeri' surprise was two-fold. First it when we touched it we were expecting it to be warm, and it was not. Second, and I think the bigger surprise was the fact that it wasn't tortilla like I (all of us) were expecting. It was very spongy and a little sticky. Honestly, it was probably the most unusually textured food I've ever had and since I'm definitely a texture eater, it was my biggest challenge.e
Injeri for me, will certainly be an acquired taste.
Our plate of injeri. Sadly that's how much was left when we finished; the people at a table near ours finished their plate of injeri and the injeri their food was placed on. We certainly made a poor showing.

Akane and Sondra's demonstration of the sponginess of the injeri.
Our "Americana" shined through as we stopped at the aforementioned Wendy's on the way home to pick up the traditional dessert of Frosties!
While the injeri was a surprise, the atmosphere was fabulous, the casseroles good, the spices divine and the experience memorable.
Honestly, I can't wait to go back and embrace our future babies culture a little bit more. And I feel quite fortunate that there is such an authentic and traditional Ethiopian restaurant so close to home.

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