Edible Sacramento Preview - Hail to the Queen

Friday, June 1, 2007

Hey all, this is another plug for Edible Sacramento. If you don't know what it is yet, then you should check it out. It's a magazine that celebrates the food and drink that the Sacramento Valley has to offer, one season at a time.

The crazy awesome people there allow me to write for them - bless their crazy awesome hearts - as the Errant Gourmet, reviewing restaurants. However, there are many other far more talented writers working their butts off to bring you stories about local producers, farmers, politics, trends and food philosophies.

The magazine is free at your local fine food and wine purveyors in Sac and Yolo Counties, but we always welcome you to purchase a yearly subscription to be delivered to your home, if you like what you see (insert shameless plug).

Anywhose, we're in our Spring issue now, and the Summer issue is having it's last few bits of work done. Please go check out the ES site here and see what it's about and see some sample articles, like this one...

Hail to the Queen (Queen Sheba - Sacramento, CA)
Edible Sacramento - Spring 2007

Trying to describe Ethiopian food is a difficult task. There’s no real jump-start for comparison, the closest one might be Indian food, but that doesn’t quite cut it. It’s unique, earthy, and aromatic; truly a unique culinary style. It’s probably best if you try it for yourself, and the best place to start is the newly opened Queen Sheba restaurant in downtown Sacramento.

Queen Sheba recently moved to a new location on Broadway and 17th and opened its doors in December. When my friend Penelope and I went, they were still painting murals and arranging some d├ęcor which is creatively dominated with colors of the Ethiopian flag and images of people from the cook’s, Zion’s, home county. You’ll probably see Zion sashaying about, bubbling with flare and friendliness both in and out of the kitchen. She and the wait staff will be more than happy to guide you through what may be an unfamiliar menu, and while some of the ingredients may seem familiar, their utilization and execution will be fresh.

The meal was started with some homemade bread which was a bit bland, but served as a good background to the tea. The spicy Ethiopian tea was fantastic to say the least. It was like chai without the milk and a slight, citrus kick to it. It serves as perfect start to get you ready for the courses to come.

I suggest you not wear anything fancy, have recently got your nails done, or expect anything fancy like knives and forks. Ethiopian food is eaten in a communal style. Everything is served on a large platter, and you use bread called enjera to eat it. You take a piece of the enjera between you thumb and fingers and use it to pick up bits of food and eat the whole shebang. It makes for a thoroughly interactive and entertaining dining experience. It’s a lot like the Melting Pot, but spicier, more affordable, and a lot more hands on.

One of the dishes we were a bit nervous, but eager to try was the gored gored. The server gave us a warning that this was what the menu said it was – raw cubes of beef prepared with onions, red pepper, garlic, ginger root, hot spices and purified butter. Intense spices lace the entire dish and the raw beef is exciting and almost naughty; perfect for the culinary thrill-seeker. We were served a complimentary side of miser kik wot; lentils cooked with spices with a subtle shadow of lemon flavor to help tone down the intense fire of the gored gored.

We also went with a combination plate to try a variety of dishes. One of the true winners was the alicha doro wot; chicken judiciously spiced with turmeric weaving the bright yellow, exotic flavor into every bite without it being too overpowering. The gomen, cooked spinach and collard greens with onions and spices, was thoroughly tasty and helped to mute some of the spicier dishes with a pensive, lemony flush. Along with these redolent fares we feasted with gusto on the key wot - beef simmered in peppery spices and butter, molding a truly distinctive dish.

Now Ethiopian food, while fun and interactive, does lead to a bit of a mess on your fingertips. Penelope and I both had turmeric stained fingers at the end of the meal, and a piece of chili sauce took vengeance upon my jeans. You might want to bring a wet wipe, but we flourished our yellowed fingertips like a badge of honor because, heck, it’s fun to get messy.

Queen Sheba is also willing to cater any events, and will be able to seat large groups though they suggest you call ahead if your group is 10 or more. There’s also a popular vegetarian and vegan lunch buffet on weekdays for a simple $5.99. You’ll find Ethiopian food to be very vegetarian and vegan friendly, so omnivores and herbivores alike will be happy dining with the Queen. If that weren’t enough, they also offer their entire menu for take out! Take out! Just call ahead and you can bypass the soul decaying dredge of the golden arches for a quality meal.

Ethiopian food isn’t just about the food, but the experience. Queen Sheba will be sure you leave happy, and encourage you to keep coming back for more. Make sure to gather a group of friends and go have a culinary adventure. Trust me; it’s a trip you won’t forget.

Queen Sheba Restaurant
1704 Broadway
Sacramento, CA 95818


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