Charleston Gains First Ethiopian Restaurant — And It’s Good

injeraNitsuh Woldemariam wasn’t especially fond of plain ayib, the crumbly fresh cheese that’s a staple of Ethiopian cookery, so she started mixing it with threads of spicy collards. It’s an inspired addendum — the bitterness of the greens lashes the sourness of the granular white cheese — and speaks volumes about Woldermariam’s sharp kitchen instincts.

For many Charlestonians, just having an Ethiopian restaurant in town would count as a victory. Yet Woldermariam’s Ethiopian Taste Food & Coffee (which I discovered by eavesdropping on a tweet from @CharlestonFood) isn’t a mere quota-filler: The restaurant, which opened last week, is serving up accomplished dishes likely to please longtime fans of the genre and convert eaters new to the cuisine. Continue reading

Size is Small and Flavor’s Big at Annual Fruit and Veg Show

appletsThe Produce Marketing Association‘s annual Fresh Summit — held this year in New Orleans, one of just seven U.S. cities capable of hosting the massive trade show — is a big deal in the agricultural world because it unites growers, shippers, distributors, retailers and nearly every other industry positioned to profit from the sale of apples, green peppers and pears. But for regular eaters, the event’s fascinating because it offers a glimpse of trends about to overtake the produce departments of their local grocery stores.

Having pounded the floor of the New Orleans Convention Center this past Saturday, I’d advise bracing for the following six healthy food fads:

1. Little is big

If the fruits and vegetables displayed at the show are any indication, plenty of strategy meetings over the past few years ended with produce growers demanding their research teams find ways to make their output smaller. Sunkist touted “kid-sized citrus”, Windset Farms pushed cocktail-sized cucumbers and fingerling potatoes were everywhere. Apparently preying on the average consumer’s fruit ignorance, apple growers even bagged normal-sized apples and labeled them as snack-friendly. But my favorite example of the trend came courtesy of Shanley Farms, which introduced single-serving avocados packed in an egg carton. Continue reading

Southern Season Hosts Advocate of Attractive Vegetarian Dishes

Eat-Your-Vegetables-Joe-Yonan-CoverBecause restaurant review dinners tend to include their share of pork products, and because I’m taken with what area growers harvest in early fall, I’m in the habit of ordering vegetables at lunch.

Commendably, most Charleston restaurants list at least one all-veg plate on their midday menus, no counting the DIY assemblage of sides that’s typically available. But I’ve frequently found myself wishing that the plates amounted to more than meatless heaps. Even when restaurant vegetables taste great, they don’t look very pretty.

I put the problem to my friend Joe Yonan, who’s in town today promoting his new book Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook. I’m admittedly biased, but the book’s been a hit with my vegetarian roommate and her usually-carnivorous boyfriend. (I gave her the book as a peace offering soon after we met, suspecting she assumed someone who worked as a food critic would harshly judge her dietary choices.)

Yonan agrees that even chefs who’ve come around to the idea that dishes without animal flesh can be imaginative, compelling and nutritious often fail to appreciate the visual opportunities presented by produce. Continue reading