Westchester's First Ethiopian Eatery, Kids' Cooking Classes, and More


Look, Ma, No Fork!

Let’s just get this out of the way. In most Ethiopian restaurants, diners are not given knives and forks. You’re meant to tear off pieces of the spongy flatbread, injera, to scoop little mouthfuls from the shared, heavily sauced mounds of food–which, by the way, are neatly piled on another platter-like round of injera. Coupla things: it’s not polite to touch your fingers to your lips (it’s unsanitary with shared finger foods), and it’s seriously not done to use your left hand to touch anything on the table. Okay? So we don’t have to marvel at the no-fork thing, which, to me, is just like saying, “Jeez, look at these Chinese people, they eat with sticks!”

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So, Lalibela is a small, modest, though very pretty newcomer that resonates warm, earthy colors and haunting African music. Up front, in the long narrow space, are bare wooden tables, and in the back, there is a roomy bar for coffee, tea, and drinks. Along the walls are evocative stills of Africa. When we visited last week, gorgeous owner Selamawit Tesfaye was just in the process of placing her first liquor order—she was encountering some difficulty finding a local distributor of pale Ethiopian beer.

Many of you may be familiar with the Ethiopian restaurants in Manhattan. There were two around Columbia University that I particularly know. (Ethiopian seems popular around universities, being both veggie/vegan-friendly and a welcome change from falafel.) Injera is this cuisine’s most obvious characteristic, since the sourdough flatbread comprises food, utensil, and plate. This food is also marked by two peppery spice combinations, berbere and mitmita, which— like garam masala or ras el hanout—are employed as a single ingredient. (And there is some crossover flavor here—Ethiopia benefitted from historic spice trade routes.)

I’ll skip the contents lists (you can find more info at Lalibela’s site), but berbere and mimita are more black peppery than red chili-spiked. Both have the nose-tickling fragrance of cloves, and both are rounded by aromatics. We ordered a Lalibela sampler (which offers two beef, one chicken, one lamb, and several vegetable dishes) and loved the tender yebag wat, which is lamb braised with onion, ginger, garlic, berbere, and spiced butter. The array’s collard greens were interesting, if only in their similarity to Southern American preparations, but our favorite dish on the injera-plate was doro wat, chicken legs braised until beyond tender. We only wished we could have washed it down with that Ethiopian beer (whose delivery we missed by a single day).

We loved a very pico de gallo-like starter of timatim salad (chopped onions, chilis and tomatoes, served on injera), but if that sounds too weird, you can always just get a Lalibela burger. It arrives seasoned with Ethiopian spices and is served—gasp—sans fork.

Desserts are strictly limited to tradition, which demands Ethiopian coffee (a major deal in this cuisine) and fragrantly spiced black tea. The last, with its cinnamon and cardamom pods, tastes very much like South Asian chai. The tea is fragrant and flavorful enough to stand up to all that went before, and we can’t wait to go back for the coffee (which, unfortunately, doesn’t come decaffeinated and we paid a late visit.)

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Summer Cooking Classes for Kids

Summer is ready to pounce, which means those listless tykes will be at liberty. Why not pry them off their video games and teach them a life skill? Here are a few of the cooking classes available for kids this summer—book now, spaces are limited.


Summer Cooking Boot Camp at Don Coqui
June 28 through September 2, kids ages 7 and up
10 am to 2pm, $500 per week
According to the site, “for four days [each week], kids will learn about spices, herbs, meats, vegetables, and starches. In addition to general cooking and baking techniques, campers will be instructed on safe food handling, equipment safety, and table etiquette. The boot camp places emphasis on fundamental kitchen skills, focusing on measuring, mixing, knife skills, and following a recipe.”

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Teen Summer Cooking Camp at Chef Central
June 28-September 1t, ‘tweens/teens aged 11-17
9am-1pm, $425 per week

 This cooking camp teaches a wide, cooking-school-based curriculum. In the first weekly unit, teens can expect to learn “…sanitation and kitchen safety, knife skills, soups, stocks, sauces, baking, Italian cuisine, and barbeque. A dessert buffet will be prepared by the campers and served at graduation on the last day.” Each week offers a new unit, and includes Asian and pan-American techniques.

Culinary Classes for Children at Westchester Italian Cultural Center
This series of single classes is appropriate for ages five to 16, and each class teaches the preparation of a single, crowd-pleasing Italian dish. Look for crostata di frutta on May 22, and pane and gelati on June 16. Early registration is suggested.

Crostata di Frutta
May 22, 2:00 pm
Non-Members $50, members $40

Pane e gelati
June 16, 4:00 pm
Non-Members $50; Members $40

Roots Summer Saturdays at Rainbeau Ridge Farm
July 3-August 21Saturdays, 9:30 am-10:45 am
$250 for the 8-week program
This is a “Mommy and Me” affair for parents and children between ages two and three, for whom lessons about responsible agriculture are taught on a rolling Bedford Hills farm. Tend livestock and crops, then move to the kitchen to prepare nutritious foods. According to the website, the camp “provides the opportunity for participants, together with a caregiver, to do hands-on activities with animals, natural materials and food.”

Lalibela Tibs at Lalibela

Simple and savory, this pretty dish comes with soft circles of injera, an Ethiopian flatbread bread made with teff, a fermented, millet-like grain. Expect tender pieces of beef sautéed in olive oil with onion, garlic, â€¨peppers, tomato, and fresh herbs—perfect for enjoying with cups of hauntingly spiced Ethiopian tea.



Bread Head

Check out this Youtube clip of Gary Bimonte telling the story of Frank Pepe’s original New Haven pizzeria. I heard a similar story from his cousin, Francis Roselli, when he inaugurated the Yonkers branch.


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