Monday, May 08, 2006

vegan adventures in L.A.'s Little Ethiopia

Friday night we went to the L.A. Farmers Market, having heard there was going to be a Cinco de Mayo party. As it turns out, the "party" entailed one roving mariachi band. But that's OK, because a trip to the L.A. Farmers Market is never a trip wasted. I think I've blogged about this before, but for the uninitiated: this particular market has been around since 1934 and is really more like a foodie food court than a farmers market in the traditional sense. It's semi-enclosed and the vendors are permanent; my friend Shirin likened it to a Middle Eastern market.

You'll find a butcher, a produce stand, several bakeries, Korean BBQ, a Jewish deli, a falafel stand, great coffee and donuts, a wine bar, a cheese shop, Brazilian food and a Cajun place, just to name a few. Shirin and I sampled the latter two. Unfortunately, I forgot that I had my camera with me.

At the Brazilian place, we could've had crazy huge kabob-type sticks of grilled meat (I think there's a word for this. Churrascaria? I'm pretty sure that spelling isn't right), but because it was midafternoon and we planned to have dinner that night, we opted for a little sampler plate of plantains, squash, and salmon salad with coconut milk and tomatoes. It was all good, but the plantains were especially good.

Then I tried beignets and chicory coffee at The Gumbo Pot. If we hadn't had dinner plans, I would've had a muffelata. Alas, another time. The beignets, I think, didn't go into the fryer until I ordered them, because they were piping hot. Yum, yum.

We have serendipity to thank for dinner that night, as we happened to discover L.A.'s Little Ethiopia neighborhood while driving down Fairfax on our way to the Farmers Market. We ended up at Rahel's, which claims to be the only fully vegan Ethiopian restaurant in the U.S. There were five of us, and we ordered an enormous platter that contained a little bit of every stew on the menu. Ethiopian food is basically utensil-less -- you scoop things up with torn-off pieces of injera, a flat, spongy bread with a sourdough-like tang. A few of the things we scooped up thusly: lentils stewed in red pepper sauce, other lentils seasoned with lemon and horseradish; potatoes; string beans and carrots; collard greens; broad beans with lemon. The communal nature of just digging into a big shared platter is a lot of fun, and I think Mark -- a vegetarian -- really enjoyed being able to chow down without having to ask questions about ingredients.

The next night, we found ourselves going back into L.A. to see a friend of Mark's who was in town on vacation. We had Thai food in Santa Monica. I decided to forego my Thai-restaurant standard -- drunken noodles -- and went for the more fusion-y part of the menu and had macadamia-crusted halibut with peanut sauce, bok choy, and coconut rice with black beans. For dessert, the four of us shared sweet roti -- crepes filled with a sweet, condensed-milk-based filling -- and sticky rice with mango, the only dessert Mark ever truly gravitates toward on a restaurant menu. It was heavenly.

(Then we all waddled down to the Santa Monica Pier to walk off our dinner.)

6 Comments:

Blogger Sarah said...

While I've never felt particularly drawn by LA, the food does sound appealing! The niche market for restaurants there amazes me. I mean, even Boulder can't support completely vegetarian restaurants (many proclaim to be "veggie-friendly," but still serve, you know, free-range organic cruelty-free heritage salmon never fed foie gras). It's hard to imagine a city where even a vegan ethnic restaurant can thrive!

That picture, however, is almost as frightening as the disco Jesus you posted earlier--maybe not a good idea for the wedding after all! What would your grandmother say?

2:46 PM  
Blogger tara said...

I took the photo down -- Mark was embarrassed. I was kidding about using it in the wedding, by the way. :)

12:13 AM  
Blogger Shirin said...

Photo? I missed the photo! At least now I know that horseradish was the mustardy taste in one of the Ethiopian dishes. Not my favorite, but everything else was good. And those plantains! Something so simple, yet so wonderful. Yum!

7:09 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Re the photo: I thought you might be referring to a gallery of photos of y'all hanging at the reception or projected on the wall to a medley of your favorite tunes or printed onto the napkins. My cousin even had a very goofy picture printed on their return address labels for the invitation! There are plenty of ways to use silly pictures at a wedding. (Just not that one of Mark as rainforest native and you as frog that excretes psychoactive substances, please.)

7:39 AM  
Blogger Shirin said...

Man, now I'm really sorry I didn't see that photo. ...

8:42 PM  
Blogger Shirin said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:43 PM  

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