Going back to basics - eating with your hands... A heart-warming Eritrean dining experience!

" This is an inspiring follow-up story to my earlier blog about ""Come on... do you need to win the lottery to....? "" http://tuneinandstepup2013.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/come-on-do-you-really-need-to-win-the-lottery-to/ I indicated that my boss, Mengistab (above left)  and I were having lunch in a  small Eritrean Restaurant, The Red Sea Café,  in Ottawa, when we came up with a plan to support  the two wonderful women who own the restaurant as we noticed that the place was empty and the business needed help to thrive.  That day (about three weeks ago), we left a huge smile on the faces of Hedat and Azieb (center,  above center)  the owners, as we promised to invite a group of people to have a meal the following week.  All of this planning happened within half an hour and since then, I am happy to report that we have actually hosted 2 full house events at the restaurant with another one scheduled for Thursday October 10th, 2013.  This is another great example of people coming together to support a new business and  to create a positive impact on our community with very minimum effort and having a great dining  experience in great company! The experience of having a traditional Eritrean dinner with the coffee ceremony is quite a unique experience as there are many heart-warming cultural elements which brings us back to that feeling of community and heart to heart connections. The meal started with some traditional spice tea served with chick pea fries and a delicious dipping sauce.  It is a great healthy alterative to potato fries! Next came the real deal - The Eritrean dinner!  The main traditional food in Eritrean cuisine  is tsehhi (stew), served with injera  (flatbread made  from teff, wheat or sorghum) and hilbet (paste made  from legumes, mainly lentil and faba beans, served on a large platter with the injera  (at the bottom of the plate).  Additional injera is also placed on the side. Each plate is organized to feed at least four people - everyone eats from the same plate! The great combination of vegetables, lentils, beef and chicken is cooked with the most amazing spices!  Instead of using cutlery, the Injera is used as the utensils to pick up the  food. Rules for eating:
  • You must start your meal with¬†clean hands as you are sharing with others.
  • Eat with your right hand only and don‚Äôt ¬†touch your lips with your fingers or lick your fingers.
""My parents, who admonished me for eating with my hands, had not experienced the cultural warmth of a shared Eritrean meal.  The conversation around a hot plate teaming with a delicious mixture of spiced meats and vegetables was all the better for sharing.  It was literally an experience of ""breaking bread"" together. Hope to share many meals at Red Sea again.  Brenda C."" ""I like how the Red Sea Café brings us back to basics.  With the traditional dinner, everything is designed to accentuate simplicity and accommodate sharing.  In a world obsessed with individualism and barriers to interaction, this approach to eating forces you to appreciate the meaning of good food and good company. When was the last time a meal did that for you?""  Michele As Maija,  also accurately pointed out, ""one has to go to the center of the injera, where all those juices have collected in the Injera…quite a taste…"" As is often the tradition in Eritrea, when a family sits around the table to eat, it is normal for an elder member of the family to feed a younger child, or a loved one.  As we shared this tradition, Diane (above) took great pleasure in sharing her first scoop of food with her partner!  Something you too can do - it can only bring more love in your life! Mengis, coming from Eritrea himself, proudly explained more of the food and culture to our guest who had a full appreciation of the experience. After dinner, Azieb blessed us all by hosting the coffee ceremony which is an important part of the Eritrean culture and can last up to two hours.  She circulated between the tables with her traditional Eritrean clothing, with freshly roasted coffee beans on a beautiful hand-made straw platter. ""The aroma from the coffee was so stimulating!!!""  said Sharmin, who sat in full appreciate of the rich aroma. The coffee was served in small handless tea-cups and was the best coffee I have had!  She poured it in one smooth flow, without any stops from one cup to the next... quite an art of pouring! With the coffee,  they served the most delicious, mouth-watering pastries  and delicious home-made bread.  So yummy! ""The food was delicious and served graciously. It felt like a special feast with the various courses and I loved the coffee and cream puff and bread. I have been to a variety of Ethiopian and Eritrean meals and the food at the Red Sea is as good or better than others I've tasted. I would go back and bring friends and recommend it to all I know.""   Linda ""The meal was made complete with the traditional preparation of roasting coffee beans, making the freshest coffee I have ever enjoyed, topped off with yummy homemade puff pastry to accompany it."" Brenda People who attended both evenings at the restaurant, completely enjoyed the experience.  One of the events was a birthday celebration for one of my friends.  The space is an ideal spot for a small ""house party""  where you can get all your catering done and simply enjoy the good food  at a very reasonable price. ""I had a wonderful time meeting new people, getting to be the only woman at a table for four while we ate-that is not hard to take!!"" Linda ""The restaurant was quaint and cosy, The sharing experience iinnately bringing forth a  gratitude of breaking bread and inhibitions even with complete strangers and creating a friendly ambience. Really  appreciated the care of the staff in both preparation and serving. The chickpea fries  and the beef stews are to die for.A great place to catch a bite or a long, lazy lunch.""  Tanzina ""Great location,  very neat and clean place, food was very good especially because of the care and thought that went behind preparing it, enjoyed the coffee ceremony – Hats off to the two brave ladies that run the restaurant. I would definitely recommend the restaurant to friends!"" Sharmin Next time you are thinking of a night out, consider coming over the Red Sea Café on 83 Holland Avenue.  The restaurant is open all day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, For the next few Thursdays, Mengis, myself and Mussie, another Eritrean friend will be happily hosting in the evenings - so do contact me if you want to host a special Thursday evening for your family or a group of friends or even co-workers!   It is an experience which I would encourage families to have together. TuneIn to the amazing gifts you have!  StepUp to share them with your community - You don't need to win the lottery to make a difference! But don't forget to buy your lottery ticket either! :) Love, Magdalene"

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