One of the best parts of my visits to NYC is that I have an opportunity to see cherished friends. On Wednesday night I met up with Katie, Chris and Stephanie for a dinner outing. Chris made dinner reservations at an Ethiopian place called Awash in the East Village for 7:30. So after work I went back to my hotel and got myself freshened up and ready to head out. I had been to Addis Red Sea in Boston several times before so I was eager to try a new place for comparison.
I left my hotel and started down Park Avenue towards the 28th street entrance of the 6 train. I only needed to go a few stops to Astor Place so it was a quick and easy trip for me. Just before reaching the subway I passed by Les Halles a french restaurant that is home to the very well known celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. He has published numerous books including Kitchen Confidential that I read a few months ago where he gives a behind the scenes personal account of the restaurant business and the less than glamorous life of a professional chef. My friends Karen and Mike and I dined here a few years back and I would be happy to go again!
I passed by FIKA espresso bar and was reminded of my friend Anna who lives in Sweden. When I lived in Copenhagen Anna taught me about the very important concept of fika which is a Swedish concept of having a break with colleagues, friends or family. Each and every day we would all stop our work and congregate in the conference room for lunch. We’d share stories both work and personal related, relax, laugh and enjoy each other’s company. I continue to this day to remember the importance of this work life balance ritual and do my best to employ it regularly. Thanks Anna!
I got out of the subway at Astor Place and made my way down St. Mark’s Place. I passed by the myriad tattoo parlors, coffee shops, noodle bars and other hipster East Village establishments and was reminded of just how eclectic NYC can be. I drooled as I passed by the ubiquitous NYC pizza counter and had to remind myself that I had dinner reservations. As I got closer to Alphabet City I couldn’t help but hum a few Rent songs (one of my favorite sound tracks) and imagine myself living the bohemian life.
Before reaching the restaurant I stumbled upon a place that had no significance to me other than the name. My brothers will be all too familiar with the movie The Might Quinn. My dad likes to watch TV and he likes “his” movies. Many evenings he puts on a movie and then falls asleep before he can make it more than 20-30 minutes in. So the next evening he puts it on again in a vain attempt to watch it all the way through. This little ritual repeats itself enough times until one day someone in the house bans that movie for an indeterminate amount of time. The opening theme song of The Mighty Quinn has been emblazoned on all of our brains.
When I got to Awash I walked in and was seated. I was the first to arrive so I perused the menu to identify dishes I was familiar with. Anyone who isn’t familiar with Ethiopian cuisine has nothing to be afraid of. It is mostly stews and vegetables that use an wide range of spices giving it unique flavors. I was a bit disappointed that we were seated at a regular table and not around a mesob which is the traditional table used. This wicker like basket looking table has a large bowl like top where the food is placed in a communal style for everyone to share. There is no silverware provided. Instead, you eat by taking pieces of injera (an Ethiopian flat bread) and scoop up the food. We ordered a traditional bottle of Ethiopian honey wine as well as a variety of beef, chicken and lamb stews, lentils, beans, chickpeas, carrots, beats and corn. Some were spicier than others but everything tasted good and the honey wine washed it down nicely.
After dinner we made our way over to a local pub for some more convivial conversation. I finally got to meet Nick, the guy my friend Chris has been seeing for the first time. I decided the honey wine was enough for one night so I opted for some hot tea. One of the things I love about meeting up with my friends is the diversity of cultures we represent. Around that table we had British, German, French and American nationalities represented. It is my own little United Nations of friends. It was a great night and I can not wait to do it again!