Ethiopian Diamond, Chicago, IL

It is VERY rare that there is a cuisine I’ve never tried before. I am an extremely adventurous eater and I never say no to a new opportunity!

This afternoon, I got to experience Ethiopian cuisine for the first time. I went to Ethiopian Diamond on Broadway in Edgewater with Erica, Kate, and Anna. While it seems like a little hole-in-the-wall place, it is SO worth it to head inside! You must try this place!

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We made sure to go all out. We ordered vegetarian sambusas, two veggie combos (we tried 6 out of the 7 options on the vegetarian list of watt & alicha), and a pot of Ethiopian tea.

Sambusas are very similar to Indian Samosas. They are fried and filled with all kinds of goodies. We tried the three different vegetarian types: Spinach, Potato and Carrot, and Whole Lentils served with a sweet sauce.

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Ethiopian food is eaten entirely with your hands. They serve it on a giant tray covered in these spongy flat breads called “injera” that are almost crepe-like and have a nice tangy taste.

Injera is a very symbolic aspect of the Ethiopian dining experience – eating the bread all from the same plate symbolizes the bonds of loyalty and friendship. It is especially encouraged that those eating from the same plate should express these bonds through “gursha” and feed each other different bites.

Atop the injera, they put different blobs of stewed goodness called “wat” or “alicha” (wat is spicy and alicha is mild) in different spots with a little salad in the center.

All of the foods we ordered were vegetarian. The restaurant states: “all vegetarian dishes are cooked in vegetable oil and contain no eggs, butter, milk, or honey!”

Specifically, we got (starting from the middle right and going counter-clockwise):

Yemisir Watt: Red lentils simmered with onions in a spicy homemade sauce.
Kik Alicha: Split peas cooked in a mild sauce of onion, garlic and ginger.
Quosta: Chopped spinach simmered in a mild sauce of onions and fresh garlic.
Tikel Gomen: Sliced cabbage and carrots cooked in a mild sauce.
Yatkilt Watt: String beans, carrots and potatoes cooked in a mild sauce of onions, garlic, ginger and Ethiopian spices.
Dinich Alicha: Potato cubes and carrots cooked in a mild sauce of onions, garlic, ginger and Ethiopian spices.

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Along with eating the breads that are the base of the platter, everyone also gets their own plate of a giant flatbread to scoop up those delicious tasty blobs.

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Overall, I’d say the first thing I thought of after my first bite was: “YUM! Whoa, mushy texture!” Everything is all stewed and so it’s all pretty gloopy, of course. Gotta be careful not to make too big of a mess. Luckily, Anna had her trust tide to-go stick!

All the different flavors were unique. Some had a nice spiced flavor while others were on the sweeter end.

I think my favorite of all the globs of “wat” and “alicha” would be the Yatkilt Watt. The different vegetables were extremely flavorful and cooked quite nicely, plus this wat had the most diverse textures. But all of us had different favorites!

To wash down our delicious meal, we also ordered a pot of Ethiopian tea which was a spicy chai-like tea. It was perfect to warm us up on this cold and rainy spring day after such a sunny and beautiful week.

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It was so thrilling to get Ethiopian food for the first time! I definitely would go back sooner rather than later, but I am SO stuffed. I highly recommend checking this place out! Next time, I definitely want to try “tibs” – which is usually a meat dish, but Ethiopian Diamond had two kinds that were veggie friendly: one was stewed pumpkin and the other was a stewed tofu dish and both were calling my name!

Here’s my happy face as a result of my first bite:

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Enough said!

Love,

Mimi

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Cantina Laredo, Chicago, IL

This afternoon, I went downtown for lunch with my mom at a restaurant called Cantina Laredo, a modern Mexican restaurant. It is actually a chain with many different locations around the US.

This location is 508 N. State Street in Chicago, IL:


The food was absolutely amazing. We started out with tortilla chips, salsa, and a table-side serving of guacamole.

 
The guacamole cart had all kinds of different ingredients including: cilantro, lime, red onion, tomatoes, and an assortment of peppers ranging from mild to spicy. The avocados were perfectly ripe and the guacamole just melted in your mouth.

Mom ordered the fish special of the day which was a Grilled Salmon topped with chimichurri and served over cilantro rice.


The salmon was perfectly cooked, seasoned well and very moist. Plus, the rice was extremely flavorful!

I had the Enchilada de Avocado, an avocado and artichoke enchilada served with a jicama and mango salad.


The enchilada was cheesy, rich, and absolutely what I wanted. I loved the avocado and artichoke mix and the jicama salad was a crisp & refreshing side.

I really enjoyed this lunch and the entire atmosphere of the restaurant. I highly recommend checking it out!

 
Love,

Mimi

 

Calafia Café, Palo Alto, CA

This week, I went on a little vacation with my cousin Leslie to visit my sister Jenny in Palo Alto, California. Being the foodies that we are, we’ve tried all sorts of restaurants in the bay area from a stand selling clam chowder in a bread bowl to a fast-casual grilled cheese & soup place.

My favorite meal so far has been at Calafia Café right here in Palo Alto. This amazing vegan/vegetarian friendly restaurant is prepared by the former executive chef from Google Inc., Charlie Ayers. Touting the slogan, “Slow food served fast,” this gorgeous restaurant provides two incredible menus for vegheads as well as meat eaters and I am telling you, this place does not disappoint for either side.

We started our meal with the Papas Con Ajo. Described as crispy shoestring fries tossed with garlic, parsley, and Calafia spice blend served with Special Red Sauce #1 (Calafia’s homemade ketchup)

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They are heavily seasoned, smokey and bursting with flavor. The best part is definitely the crisp garlic tossed on top.

Next, we shared the Burrata & Potato Pizza. This pizza is topped with roasted zucchini, rosemary, garlic confit, nutty burrata cheese, roasted Yukon gold potatoes.

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The rosemary and burrata cheese was a perfect marriage of flavors. The crust was a good mix of crunchy and doughy.

Jenny’s favorite dish at this restaurant and one that she has trouble straying from is the Big Bowl of Beef Chow Mein.

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Definitely not vegetarian, this dish contains marinated hanger steak, shiitake mushrooms, green onions, cabbage, udon noodles, and veal stock.

Leslie had the Halibut Special. Halibut filet steamed in a white wine butter sauce topped with pesto and served over an assortment of clams and oysters.

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As the waiter described it, no starch included, just great seafood on a plate and he wasn’t kidding. Les absolutely loves seafood so the special of the evening was right up her alley.

As an additional side dish to her halibut, Leslie ordered the Grilled Asparagus Salad.

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Served with baby frisee, radishes, lemon olive oil vinaigrette. The flavors worked like magic next to her halibut. The lemon had just the right amount of citrus that the whole salad just tasted fresh.

And of course, I save the best for last. My entrée was Lexi’s French Lentil Bowl. Green French lentils, sautéed spinach, roasted yams, roasted crimini mushrooms, simmered in a yellow curry cream sauce with quinoa pilaf.

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Chosen per the waiter’s recommendation, this dish had a great blend of sweet and savory combining the yams and the crimini mushrooms atop the perfectly cooked lentils.

For dessert, we had the Strawberry Rhubarb Galette as well as the Chocolate Ginger Cake.

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Yes, they were as good as the look. Enough said.

Not only was the food delicious, Calafia had wonderful service and a great atmosphere. All ingredients are sourced locally and organically as often as possible. It’s times like these that I wished I lived in California. Cannot wait to go back to this fantastic restaurant.

Mimi