This American Life…

Home_Alone_1

When life hands me lemons – I’m known for making damn good mojitos! So, I’m confident that my re-Americanization process will get progressively easier with time. Unfortunately, though, if you’ve been around me for the past few weeks, you know that I’m still muddling through and highly likely to make a fool of myself along the way. But, such is this girl’s American life. What can you do but admit that being Carmen Sandiego is not as easy or as glamourous as it seems? Below is a list of the top 5 issues I’m coping with since being back in America:

Homeless#5 – I’m homeless: Some people don’t realize that my moving a lot really means that I have no home. I am like a college student on summer vacation. All my mail goes to my mama’s house, so everybody thinks I still “live” there. But, let me debunk that myth. I sleep in my old room. Too bad for me, my mother isn’t one of those nurturer-for-life types. “My room” is actually a library/ guest bedroom now. She converted it when I moved to D.C. I think she spoke some vile rumor into existence when she said, “you’re an adult now” and charged full speed ahead with her conversion plans. To make matters worse, I have no car. My dog and my brother’s dog are not aware that they are, in fact, cousins. Sigh. I’m thankful to have a roof over my head, because I have friends who are forced to stay in hotels for months. But, sheesh, I sure do want a home!

snow

#4 – It’s cold outside! I haven’t experienced a real winter in two whole American years. I came back and had to grab an old tattered coat that hasn’t been cleaned since the first Obama presidency. Not only am I homeless, but I look it too.

#3 – Food is ‘authentic.’ Yes, authentic tasting food is a real thing. I forgot that. In India, ‘good food’ is usually well intentioned fusion, pan-Asian food or homemade Indian. The two Delhi exceptions are Culinaire for Thai and Diva at the Italian Cultural Centre. Everything outside of that tends to be just shoulder shrug quality or deathly expensive. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my Haitian fried red snapper, my Chinese pan-fried dumplings, and Senegalese Thiéboudienne. My tastebuds sing America!

images

#2 – Things make sense. I often tell people about the pedestrian crosswalks (a.k.a zebra crossings) near my job would actually end either in a ditch 3 feet deep or a median 3 feet high. These public works efforts were really just death traps. You’ll now understand why I’m typically very suspicious of anything that’s intended to be helpful. I know it’s backward. Since I’ve been back in the U.S., however, I have let my guard down. The little white walking man comes up when it’s safe to walk. The red hand pops up when it’s not. I appreciate putting my brain on autopilot and letting my legs do all the work.

Black is Beautiful Tee#1 – I see BLACK PEOPLENow this is complicated. Complicated, yet refreshing. Let me explain. I went to India expecting to blend in. Somewhere in those 50 shades of brown, I thought I would be safely absorbed. Instead, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was reminded, early and often, that I am Black! Not brown, not African, not Indian – Black. So, I got used to being one of a handful. There were just a few of us “Black people” in town and we were thick as thieves. Can you imagine being a minority within a minority? Ohhh chile’! Sometimes I just wanted to curl up on the couch with a tall glass of purple drank and watch “Cornbread, Earl & Me,” followed by a matinee of “Juice.” Now, those days are long gone. I’m walking down the mean streets of urban America and I’m surrounded by a sea of young, gifted Blacks – many of whom are sipping from tall bottles of Fiji water! I sure am proud to be just another face in this crowd.

Ohhhhh America…thanks for the warm welcome!

Food Mubarak!

Fasting has a way of resurrecting old foodgasms. I find myself thinking about iftar very early on in the day. Often I oscillate between wondering how I can avoid spending my whole paycheck on a fancy dinner and wondering how fast I can make microwaveable oatmeal. But there are glimpses in the middle of great food experiences of yesteryear, which then lead me to wonder where I should go to break my fast. There are many places to choose from, but I’m drawn to locales where the food is delicious, the prices are decent, and the portion sizes are disciplined.

Today’s musing led me to list my favorite restaurants from around the world. I’ve tried to be as inclusive as possible of all my travels but, so as not to taint your experience in any way and also not to get too hungry too early in my fast, I’ll give you recommendations and reviews from others. Happy global hunger hunting!

chefette

Barbados: 10 Best says “Chefette is a small fast food chain, and there are 14 locations all over the island. It’s not particularly fast, but the prices are reasonable and the food is quite good. Tasty chicken and chips is the staple offering, but the “broasted” chicken sandwich and the various rotis are also satisfying. Several locations have drive-throughs and playgrounds for the kids, and some also serve pizza, barbecue or ice cream.”

framboise

France: Creperie Framboise in Paris really got me to appreciate crepes for their decadence. Before this they were just thin pancakes with nutella inside:  -_- (boring face). After Framboise, I see crepes and I smile. 

escale caraibe

L’escale Caraibe on Rue de Guerre was a delightful treat for me, someone who believes I know Caribbean food. Trying the cuisine of Martinique & Guadeloupe was a culinary pleasure of awesome proportions. Yum Yum!

el perro

Germany: Leave it to me to find an awesome Spanish restaurant in the middle of Munich. But, hey, que será será. El Perro y El Griego is as good as I say it is.

 

 

grenada-chocolate1

Grenada: This isn’t a restaurant review. Grenada produces two good food items – nutmeg (who uses nutmeg though, really?) and thee best chocolate I’ve had in all the world. Don’t take my word for it!

 

 

sanchos logoIndiaSancho’s is in Mumbai, and here’s what the good folks at Zomato have to say: “Bandra rather Mumbai has its fair share of Mexican restaurants, but not an overwhelming amount, fading in comparison to the number of Chinese, Sports Bars and Sea Food institutions in town. Broadly speaking, Sancho’s falls firmly in the “Awesome” category. More specifically, the food is “Delicious,” albeit generally a bit too hyped given the prices.”

sant lucias

Santa Lucia is in Fort Aguada, Goa and my mouth is watering just thinking of their Goan fish curry. Check out the reviews here.

 

 

mashua

Netherlands: Mashua in Amsterdam has me reeling from great cocktails to Quinoa Risotto. Oy vey! Gianguido says, “It is Peruvian fusion food. The menu is quite short, which I actually like it. Ample choice of whine.. which I also like 🙂 I went for Ceviche as starter… it was nicely prepared with all the whistles and bells…. I could feel a bit too much the lemon for my personal taste, but over all well done. My main course was a great boneless chicken leg prepared with cumin crust/sauce with wild spinach and young potatoes. it was really delish!” Need I say more?

 


tongue thaiThailand:  Tongue Thai in Bangkok had me with the vintage pics, the jazz music and the authentic food. I went back twice in three days.

 

 

The Corson Building picnic

United States: The Corson Building in Seattle is exactly how I’d want to run a restaurant, if ever I wanted to run a restaurant. Read up for yourself. And here’s what 50 Shades of Delicious has got to say…

 


sala 1 9

Sala One Nine is my favorite restaurant in New York City, which means its probably my favorite restaurant in the whole wide world. Zagat says 90% of people like the restaurant.

 

 

And with that, I’m famished. It’s time to head off to the Blue Nile for some injera stuffed goodness. Ramzan Mubarak!

Social consciousness disclaimer: Everything I’ve had to say about Trayvon Martin trial/fiasco has already been said.

Jai Ethiopia!

ehtiopia 6We simply can’t win ’em all. We try and we try hard. But sometimes we look in the mirror and we realize we’ve been beat. This is the story with me and Addis Ababa. I tried. I tried hard to get there. I outshone them all. I was qualified. I was enamored. I had the skills. I had the ambition. And in the end, fate had other plans for me. So, Ethiopia is not in my immediate future… or so I thought.

Here in Delhi, I’ve been running a foodie group that tours new restaurants on a monthly basis. This is an expat delight. Why? Because most Indians see dhabas as delicatessens and the foreign palette is completely different. We are used to Chinese food that is authentic, not fusion. Or Thai food that isn’t confused with Japanese and Parsi menu items. The foreign community here in Delhi is quite worldly. Otherwise we’d all be eating croissants comfortably in Paris and not eating chappatis and channa in cramped casas in Delhi. Ya dig? We’re not dumb. We’re not underexposed. We have made a choice to do things the hard way and we’re united here under the umbrella of ‘oh, fuck, what did I just do to myself?’

Anyways, it is June. And June’s Delhi Deli locale was the Ethiopian Cultural Centre. Why? Was I trying to undo the karmic forces that forced me out of Addis? Was I trying to woo my way back into Amharic‘s outstretched arms? Not really. New restaurants in Delhi are few and far between, because they don’t last long. The food quickly goes to shit. The chefs move on too quickly or are spread too thin, too early. Nobody bothers with Parisian prices for Punjabi food. It doesn’t make sense and restaurants disappear or reinvent themselves or dissolve into nothing. But, I arranged a group of 30+ foreigners and city newbies to visit this restaurant to see for ourselves what all the hype was about, see the house that hullabaloo built.

ethiopia 1

What we found was one of the very best restaurants in town. I, who spent two years living in Washington, D.C. (the Ethiopian exodus capital of the world) was surprised that the injera was not a scam. There was a lovely Ethiopian female chef in the kitchen who greeted us with a smile and no pretense. No bullshit. She spoke no English and clearly no Hindi, but she took a break from her injera press long enough to greet me and my friends with a smile and warmth, as if we had walked into her home – the same kitchen where she fed her babies. What came did not disappoint.

ethiopia 3

The servers were a little absent-minded, but significantly more careful with customer service than the vast majority of Delhi establishments. They paid us the attention we needed, as bill paying customers, and took heed whenever someone demanded, ‘Where are my tibs?!’ When we all needed individual bills – a huge mathematical feat of galactic proportions here in Delhi – they agreed with no hesitation. And they made good on it. Actually, one couple never got a bill and they walked out without paying for four dishes! Not one, but fourrrrrrr! Well, okay!

ethiopia 4

We will be back. I certainly recommend that anyone interested in food made with love and hospitality give the Ethiopian Cultural Centre a gander. I don’t promise that it’s as good as on 9th and U Street, or in the heart of Seattle, but on this side of the Indian Ocean, I doubt you’ll find a better destination to spend a lovely evening with those you care about.

No doubts about it!