shalom coffee house

April 30, 2023

the little house on the corner of 10th and Mable has had a few reincarnations, I remember it back in the 90’s when it was Your House for Coffee, a great “hippy” spot for coffee and live music…obviously it has been a long time since I last visited so was very curious to see the changes…as soon as I opened the door to the screened in porch, I was elated to be welcomed with the lovely aroma of anise and not the acrid smell of smoke as in days gone by

the charm of the home was still there, with a collection of small rooms to chose from…the windows have dreamy motif sheers allowing the sun to shine in on the vintage tables and wooden chairs…Ethiopian music plays in the background, soft enough to enjoy our conversation yet set the mood

the current owner has been there for 4 years now, yet has the passion of someone who just opened their doors, friendly and informative, she explained the menu to us…once we decided what we wanted to try, she quickly disappeared behind the colorful curtains that hid the tiny kitchen where she prepared the dishes

ethiopian platter of injera, awaze tibs, karia tibs, curry cabbage, and shiro

it did not take long before she emerged with a round tray, setting it down on the table with care…after placing a ladle of shiro in front of each of us, she had me tear a piece of injera and scoop out the first bite…after I gave a big smile of approval, she left us to begin our feast

there’s something primally exciting about sharing food from a communal platter with your friends…instead of consuming your food, your plate, you are sharing the flavors as one, comparing tasting notes…and there was plenty to chat about with this cultural meal

let’s begin with the injera, an Ethiopian staple, it is used as your plate and eating utensil…a large round, crepe-like flatbread made from a fermented sourdough starter using teff, a gluten-free, tiny, ancient grain… the spongy texture soaks up the juices without falling apart

and you won’t want to leave any juices behind when you have the awaze tibs, sauteed beef and onions in a simmering sauce called awaze, a spicy blend of peppers, paprika, wine, and berbere seasoning, an aromatic blend of the berbere chili along with spices such as cardamon, cumin, fenugreek, clove, and coriander…each family has their own recipe, but it usually has a minimum of 12 spices and as many as 25…it adds an earthy, floral quality to balance the spice…she is happy to adjust the heat to your liking

awaze tibs…
karia tibs…

along with the awaze tibs, you can also order two other versions, karia, a choice of lamb or beef sauteed with chilis, very similar to our chislic, or godin, grilled short rib bites sauteed with onion, tomato, and jalapeno

to accompany the meats, we were served cabbage that was cooked al dente in butter with a light curry taste, adding a bitter green touch to all the other complex flavors

the final touch was shiro, seasoned chickpeas, onion, tomato, and berbere, all cooked into a silky sauce…abiding with traditional dining etiquette, using our right hands, we used a piece of injera to scoop the tibs and cabbage, then dredge it through the shiro before devouring the delectable bundle of flavors…no shoveling the meal down with a fork, you actually savor each and every finger full

completely satiated, thinking this meal couldn’t get any better, we are offered coffee service, not a cup of java brought to the table but an actual ceremony…

starting with the green yirgacheffe bean, considered to be one of Ethiopia’s finest, she comes to the table with a very hot, long-handled, wok-like pan that is cradling the steaming beans, shaking it back and forth…

the aroma of the beans as they are roasting intensifies, the color darkens and begins to get a sheen from the emerging oils, she once again slips behind the curtain to crush and brew our coffee

jebena pot…

she returns with a tray holding three small, handle-less ceramic cups and a black clay pot called a jebena cradled on a woven holder…pouring the coffee in a single stream from about a foot above the cups, the aroma of bitter chocolate and smoked almond hit my nose…the luxurious dark color and silky mouthfeel delivered an elegant sip of joe…this was no ordinary coffee, it was an experience

yirgacheffe coffee pour…

we all left with respect and gratitude for this passionate woman that proudly presented the taste of Ethiopia to our palates…this little house hidden among all the chain restaurants on this busy road is a treasure waiting to be found