January 9, 2008
Washington D.C.: Day 2 (Ethiopian and Gelato)
I think it's safe to assume that most people visit Washington D.C. to view the capital of the "free world" and all its monuments and memorials and famous buildings and free museums, things that fall under the category of "Important Cultural Things That People Travel Across Many Lands To See In Person."
So naturally I went to Washington D.C. to eat Ethiopian food and gelato.
After running a bit late due to Evil GPS Woman taking us on crappy routes and because the streets of Washington D.C. are laid out in a way that is confusing if you're only used to an NYC road-like grid, Tristan and I met up with Erin and Olivia at Etete for lunch upon Erin's recommendation. Knowing the massive fooding knowledge that Erin has stashed away in her brainmeats, I would follow her to any eatery, even if it were over a bridge, although I'd hope that the bridge had a non-fatal drop and preferably we wouldn't really walk over the bridge because that would result in some kind of injury to my person, but you know what I mean. Just trying to make a point.
Between the four of us we shared a vegetarian combo, something with lamb, something with another meat, and cottage cheese in three states of being seasoned. I'll explain this more later. Maybe. (This is what happens when you don't take notes; you sound like an idiot.)
The staple that goes with all this food is injera, a flat, super-moist, slightly spongy and sour bread made of teff flour. No utensils are needed while eating Ethiopian food; just pull apart a roll of injera (this is an oddly satisfying process, to break the slightly sticky bond between one section of the bread and its neighbor, to destroy all its connections to its kin), rip off a chunk and use it to pick up the wat (stew) or tibs (sautéed stuff). The sponginess of the bread makes it perfect for soaking up saucy foods.
Our main platter came in the form of a huge-ass round of injera topped with the vegetarian combo (seven kinds of vegetarian-friendly blops) and possibly the yebeg wat, "fresh and tender lamb cooked with berbere and spice." I could take out the "possibly" and you wouldn't know the difference, but I'd rather be truthful and reveal the gaping flaw that my brain has the ability to remember about as much as a handicapped goldfish, or a gerbil, or defective toaster. What I do remember is that it was definitely lamb, tender morsels of that precious little animal covered in fleece as white as snow.
While eating the vegetarian blops, I didn't really think about what I was eating. It all tasted...awesome. And had flavors that I won't even bother trying to identify because I know I'll fail. If you're curious enough, here are the descriptions of the vegetarian blops, ripped from Etete's website:
Fasting Food: Combination of veggie with fish [...that's not really vegetarian, is it]
Yemisir Wat: Split red lentil cooked in Ethiopian red pepper sauce, meten shiro, oil, and onion sauteed together
Yeataklit Wat: Fresh green, carrot, potato, green pepper and onion sauteed with garlic, ginger and tomato
Yekik Alicha: A dip of delicately spiced cooked legumes
Gomen: Collard greens with onions, peppers and garlic [the description on the site is wrong; I figure mine is close enough]
Tegabino Shiro: Mitin Shiro [powdered peas], oil and onion sauteed together
Azifa: Choppen onion, green pepper, garlic, lentil, lemon juice mixed with Ethiopian mustard
Lots of garlic, tomato and onion it seems. That would explain why we continued to eat even after reaching the point of satiety.
...Oh wait, I always do that.
We also ordered kitfo, "minced meat seasoned with herbed butter and hot red pepper, served with seasoned cottage cheese." What kind of meat? Um. ...Beef? Yes, I'm going top call it beef. The pile of ground beef was surrounded by a small mound of some sort of dry, spicy seasoning and three baby piles of cottage cheese, each flavored with a different seasoning (or rather, two were seasoned and one was not). The waitress explained the seasonings to us. Naturally, I've forgotten what they were.
I think by this point of memory disintegration it's best that I just bombard you with any remaining visual stimulation from Etete. These words are coming out in an overwhelmingly disappointing and inelegant fashion. If they possessed an odor, it'd be most fetid, like a stale hobo, the one slumped over on a seat at the end of the subway car that no one will come without a three-foot radius of, causing all the other passengers to meekly squish together in the "clean air" portion of the car while breathing in just enough air to sustain brain function.
That's only happened to me once.
- This is what happens to a plate of injera topped with delicious things after being subjected to the ravenous bellies of four 20-somethings.
Although I failed to describe its food in much detail, I highly recommend Etete. There's a reason we ate nearly everything until the point where we would have to purge our stomachs to eat more—because everything tasted like awesome. And someday I will be more familiar with Ethiopian food to tell you more than that.
Thankfully, I'm well versed in the language of gelato (also known as "THE LANGUAGE OF PURE SWEET LOVIN'"), which should make the rest of this entry flow more smoothly.
Using Erin as our GPS, we drove from Etete to Dolcezza, her recommendation for shizztastically awesome gelato, the kind that puts images of dancing unicorns and rainbows into your head.
The four of us crammed into the narrow gelateria while craning our heads to look at the flavors, ranging from the simple "Lime" to the slightly more specific "Georgia Butter Pecan" to the most specific "Toigo Orchards Bosc Pear Bourbon." They source their ingredients from a selection of local farmers whenever they can and make note of it in the flavor names. Which is quite nice. It's not often (or not ever, more like) that I eat gelato and get a sense of the local agriculture that went into it.
Then again, once I start eating gelato all thoughts leave my brain that can't be expressed by the act of unconsciously drooling or by uttering the words, "mmmm," "awesome," or "gimme more."
Of course, I got pistachio. Not just any pistachio, but pistacchio di bronte, the almighty god of pistachio-ness that makes tears of delicious joy well up somewhere deep behind my eyes so that they don't spill out (that would be over dramatic), but exist in spirit. To offset the somewhat dense and creamy pistachio gelato, I also ordered the apple cider clove something-something sorbet. That's not the real name, but it's close enough.
Dolcezza's pistachio gelato passed the test: "Does this bring me back to Italy?" Correct answer: "Hell yes!" (or maybe, "Hell si!", replacing "hell" with whatever it is in Italian). The first creamy bite coated my mouth and filled my nasal passages with warm, buttery pistachio essence, which is the only acceptable kind. It's alive—all other kinds of pistachio essences are dead. DEAD, I SAY. Dead is not acceptable. Would you be happy if someone gave you a dead puppy instead of a live one? Hell no! Why would anyone do that? So don't accept dead pistachio essence. And yes, that was a terrible, nonsensical comparison, but mentioning dead puppies tends to get the message home that this stuff is important. Although maybe not as important as dead puppies.
The apple cider sorbet was also excellent. It carried a crisp apple flavor, wasn't too sweet, and had a very smooth texture aside from the smattering of clove bits. I missed the creaminess of gelato in the sorbet's lack of...um, fat, but I didn't want to overdo it. Half gelato / half sorbet tends to be the best combination to prevent suffering from dairy fatigue.
Then again, if you find a gelateria that also serves churros reheated to achieve peak deliciousness then you should overdo it. Olivia bought a churro to dip into her chocolate gelato. Sweet jesus. If you like churros on their own, you should try one with a layer of cool, creamy chocolate goo. You can't question a combination like that; there's some kind of universal law that deems it delicious. "One form of sugar-enhanced fat shall pair well with another form of sugar-enhanced fat." Or sugar and fat equate to something that sends your brain waves of happiness. Yes.
We walked up the street to grab coffee at The Bean Counter. And by "we" I mean anyone else aside from me since I don't drink coffee.
I didn't eat this pizza. I was just amused by the declaration of a REAL ORIGINAL JUMBO SLICE. Using the words "real" and "original" are meant to reinforce it's "authenticity," but at the same time they kind of...um, don't. Like, "Made With Real Fruit Juice!" Should you even have to point that out? Know what I mean?
...oh god, it's late again, and the brain does not want to process anything.
Oh, if anyone can tell me more about this pizza, please do. My stomach didn't have enough room for a slice of pizza, definitely not one of the "jumbo" category.
After parting ways with Erin, Tristan, Olivia and I hung out in a bookstore to kill time while waiting for more of Tristan's friends to arrive. Taking refuge in the kid's section, we browsed the books, feeling mostly underwhelmed by the literature meant to enhance children's minds (the minds of the future!) until we came across the gem that is Patrick and his Grandpa. What's so remarkable about it? Do you see the cover? That grandpa is a rotund, scruffy, half-blind amputee with a peg leg a gold hoop earring in his right ear (it reveals itself on subsequent pages)? The drawings, while not horrible, definitely feel a bit...off. Wobbly heads. Strange...crazy looking things. I kind of (just kind of) wish I had bought the book so I could describe it in better detail, but I couldn't do it. It felt...wrong.
I guess it couldn't have been that bad; Geoffrey Hayes is still going strong in the world of children's books. There are listings for his books that haven't even come out yet! Damn. I don't think "Grandpa Gimpy and His Missing Eyeball" (Tristan's description) will make any more appearances though.
After leaving the bookstore Olivia and I parted ways with Tristan (who would later go dancing at a club with his friends) and returned to Olivia's house just outside of Washington D.C. to meet up with her friends and make s'mores.
Ingredients were secured!
Marshmallows were carbonized!
And graham cracker-chocolate-marshmallow sandwiches were eaten. I could only eat one. Those things are heavy, dude.
Olivia also cooked a batch of popcorn on the stove top to complete our balanced dinner. Of s'mores 'n corn. I'd like to believe that somewhere in this universe, that is a balanced meal. For someone with fucked up body chemistry.
We left her home sometime before midnight to make the two hour trip back to Charlottesville. Her parents insisted that Olivia feed me tea during the ride (really, I would ask her to place the cup in my grip, spout facing my mouth) so that I wouldn't fall asleep at the wheel and, you know, kill their firstborn.
The trip back to C-ville went quite smoothly, aside from the time I almost ran over a possum.
Posted by roboppy at 11:46 PM
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