Ethiopian. That's my new restaurant request to all you potential restaurateurs out there. Don't worry, I'm not holding my breath.
Six years ago, former BW staffer Cynthia Sewell, who's now a reporter for the Idaho Statesman, handed me a list of things to do while I was in Tucson, Ariz., for a weekend. On the list was a recommendation for an Ethiopian restaurant. I never made it on that trip, but for six years, I've managed to remember that there's a fabulous Ethiopian restaurant somewhere in Tucson.
Last week, BW Publisher Sally Freeman, Art Director Leila Ramella-Rader, News Editor Nathaniel Hoffman and I were in Tucson for our trade association's annual convention, and from deep within the recesses of my memory, I pulled out Sewell's Ethiopian suggestion. I didn't remember the name, but a quick search--thanks to the wonders of Google and iPhone--led us to Zemam's Ethiopian Cuisine.
I'll be honest. From the outside, Zemam's ain't much of a looker. Housed in one of those stucco boxes that passes for a building throughout the southwest, Zemam's doesn't have much curb appeal. But, as most foodies know, some of the best restaurants are those that aren't going to win any architectural awards.
We each ordered a three-dish combo, all of which came served on one giant metal platter with 12 modest piles of food and sheets of spongy injera not only between the platter and the food, but also on the side. Silverware is not part of the Ethiopian table setting, and the family style meal is not for those afraid of finger food or their tablemates' germs. If you can get over your American predisposition to flatware and antibacterial hand sanitizer, you'll be glad you did.
Without an Ethiopian option in Boise, why am I telling you about it? Because believe it or not, there's an Idaho connection. Owner Amanuel Gebremariam lived in Moscow before moving to the Sonoran Desert, but more importantly, the teff Gebremariam uses to make Zemam's injera is Idaho-grown by the Teff Company in Caldwell.
I called them first thing Monday morning to ask a couple of questions, but as of press time, I hadn't heard back. According to the company's Web site, the Teff Company "has been supplying the Ethiopian and Eritrean communities for nearly 20 years with American-grown Maskal Teff."
Hell, you just never know what's growing in Idaho and for that matter, just where in the world you'll find yourself eating a little closer to home than you expected.
Family Wine and Dine of the Week
Rather than get all dolled up for an expensive night of wining and dining, keep it low key with the kids this holiday weekend.
Zoo Boise hosts its second Zoofari event of the summer with dinner for the family in addition to zoo wandering, storytelling and animal feedings. Cost includes admission to the zoo as well as a hot dog, chips, a drink and an ice cream treat.
Thursday, July 2, 5:30 -8:30 p.m. $7.50 adults, $6 children age 4 and older, $3.50 children under 3. Zoo Boise, 355 E. Julia Davis Drive, 208-384-4260, zooboise.org.