Why? Mia Bella Restaurant!

On Wednesday night, I met up with Ann of Annie’s Signature Sweets for a chatty and carby dinner at Mia Bella Restaurant in Little Italy. We started with generous drinks: a Moscow Mule for Ann and a Old Vine Zinfandel for me.

After devouring the delicious bread with garlic butter, it was entrée time (AKA, bring on more carbs). I chose the scampi risotto, with butternut squash, zucchini, huge scampi, and a slightly spicy red sauce.

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The seasonal vegetables were the perfect compliment to the not-too-creamy risotto. And as someone who is almost always in the clean plate club, I will confess to taking some of this large dish home for leftovers!

Ann chose the Mia Bella pasta, a traditional linguini with marinara dish that was executed flawlessly. I totally approve of Ann’s decision to add mushrooms…I love me some pasta with mushrooms.

 

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Photo credit: Annie’s Signature Sweets 

We had decided to go to Presti’s Bakery for dessert, but we lingered over dinner too long and they were closed. There’s nothing sadder than pressing up against a bakery window, longing for a cannoli.

Luckily, since I had dinner with a baker, I got to take home some of Annie’s Signature Sweets ginger cookies, which helped to satisfy my sweet tooth!

The next time you find yourself in Little Italy, Mia Bella is a delicious, cozy, friendly choice!

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Why? Apple Harvest Pairing Dinner!

Since it was finally feeling like fall this weekend, it was the perfect time for the Apple Harvest Pairing Dinner at the Lake Metroparks Farmpark.

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Our evening started with a horse-drawn carriage ride to the beautifully-refurbished machinery barn, which was decked out in rustic elegance, setting the tone for the event.

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While we nibbled on appetizers and enjoyed the first of our Debonne Vineyards pairings (a nice Riesling), we also had the opportunity to try pressing apple cider or take a stroll through the Farmpark’s apple orchard and learn more about apple trees.

Then it was time for the sit-down dinner. Our first course was pumpkin soup, with yummy notes of sweet potato and butternut squash, which paired nicely with Debonne Vineyards’ Pinot Grigio.

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Our main course from J&J Catering was pork osso bucco braised in apple and served with layered white and sweet potatoes with candied pecans.

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I was blown away by this dish. The pork was fall-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth tender. The flavors of fall delighted your palate in every bite. It was truly an incredible course. It was paired with a Rose Pinot Noir from Debonne Vineyards.

And finally, we ended our evening with an apple dumpling with peanut butter sauce, paired with Debonne Vineyards Chardonnay.

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I would eat these apple dumplings every day! And the apple and peanut butter combination was so comforting and delicious!

It was a truly lovely and seasonal evening. The setting was filled with rustic charm, the food was extraordinary, and the wine was nicely paired. All of this for only $45 per ticket, which is an incredible deal!

And if you’re looking for more fall fun at the Farmpark, check out the Corn & Pumpkin Festival happening October 7-8!

***Disclosure: I was asked to help promote the Apple Harvest Pairing Dinner. In exchange, I received two complimentary registrations for the event. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? L’Amour du Vin!

It’s probably time to admit that I’ve become a confirmed East sider. And while much of my life is spent between Downtown Cleveland and the 90/271 corridors, I will always travel for good food, good wine, and good friends.

Which is why I couldn’t miss the 20th annual L’Amour du Vin, held at Avon Oaks Country Club to benefit the Arthritis Foundation Ohio. And with Amanda as my date, I knew I’d have a wonderful time!

We started in the VIP area, with specialty cocktails from Brown-Forman, chair massages from EXHALE Spa, and delicious nibbles from Bonefish Grill.

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Their pumpkin ravioli with grilled shrimp and feta had me dreaming of fall-like weather!

In the main room, there was so much good food to enjoy that we had to pace ourselves. Amanda and I took breaks in the eating with regular stops at the silent auction tables, where we both ended up winners!

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When we weren’t silent auction perusing, we were enjoying food and beverages from places such as Heck’s Café. Their take-home packets of coffee were a lovely touch too (and I might be drinking mine as I write this!)

The strawberry balsamic bruschetta from Rocky River Wine Bar was a favorite of the evening!

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We also enjoyed the walleye chowder, an Ohio spin on a classic soup, from Blind Perch.

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There was plenty in the pasta category to enjoy, but my two favorites were the rich and decadent sacchetti al tartufo bianco from Luca Italian Cuisine, which will soon be opening a Westlake restaurant…

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…and the classic and comforting Bolognese from Café Piccolo.

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And to satisfy even the biggest sweet tooth (raises hand) there were desserts from Melt Bar and Grilled, which just recently opened their Avon location, and Kiedrowski’s Bakery, which this year covered most of their desserts in edible glitter which sent me over the moon.

 

It was a fabulous foodie evening and a good reminder that a drive to the West side is almost certain to be a culinary journey worth taking!

***Disclosure: I was asked by the Arthritis Foundation Ohio to help promote L’Amour du Vin. In exchange, I received two complimentary VIP tickets for myself and two general admission tickets to give away. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Adega at The 9!

On Friday night, Matthew and I got a delicious, expansive tour from Executive Chef Nelly Buleje of Adega‘s new menu. Adega is still focused on modern Mediterranean cuisine, but the new menu offers more options, amazing flavors, and a renewed focus on authenticity.

We got to enjoy nine exquisite courses, each expertly paired with wines selected by Adega’s resident sommelier, Michel Emerick. One of the best things about Adega’s wine selection is that it offers a wide variety, including many wines that are often not available by the glass, such as a Beaujolais and a Chateau Neuf de Pape.

Before you read about all the deliciousness, everything we got to taste is available on Adega’s dinner menu, so find your favorites and create your own perfect dining experience!

Our first course was hands-down the tastiest hummus I’ve ever had, topped with tabouli, citrus, and mint and served with housemade pita.

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This dish was so well executed that it took a dish we’re so familiar with and elevated it to new heights.

Next up were the mussels with chorizo, fennel, garlic, shallot, absinthe, and cinnamon. From the moment the dish was brought to the table, the aromatic broth had us salivating.

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All the flavors of the broth came together perfectly to make a drinkable, dunkable, delicious dish.

Then it was time for some jamon iberico, which our server Jay referred to as prosciutto on crack. This melt-in-your-mouth Spanish cured meat was incredible. It came served with tomato, manchego, and ciabatta. Chef Nelly suggested taking a bite of meat with the manchego; a bite with the tomato, manchego, and ciabatta; and a bite of just the jamon.

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Each nibble was distinctly delicious!

We got to try a mini version of Adega’s flatbread, made with housemade dough and finished in their brick oven.

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The beef kafta flatbread came with beef sausage, piquillo pepper, manchego, fennel, and arugula dressed with an incredible basil vinaigrette.

Next up, salad: the Lyonnaise with frisee, baby spinach, arugula, egg, pancetta, ciabatta croutons, parmesan, and a sherry-mustard vinaigrette.

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All things should come with a poached egg!

The Italian bolgnese was our next course, a light cream bolognese with Italian sausage that is cooked on the stovetop for 6 hours and then sits in the Adega refrigerators for 72 hours to let the flavors to fully come together.

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This time-intensive process is 100% worth it: the delicious, comforting sauce clings to the pasta made in house and is just incredible. Similar to the hummus, the execution on this bolognese is what elevates a dish you can find on many menus to something truly extraordinary.

Next, we enjoyed the Atlantic sea bass, with tarragon, shallot, citrus, polenta, and mint coulis.

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The fish is served skin-on and the polenta is so creamy! Just an incredible dish!

Then we got to enjoy some more jamon, in the form of secreto iberico, which is from a different part of the same animal as the jamon iberico.

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The meat is high in Omega 3 fatty acids due to the pig’s diet of exclusively acorns in its final months of life (the pig will literally double in size!) Due to this, the meat just melts in your mouth. It was tender and rich and delicious!

Our final savory course was the branzino, served as the whole fish, flash-fried, with orange, mint, star anise, pomegranate glaze, tomato relish, and couscous salad.

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I love me a whole fish, which is always so moist. The tomato relish was incredible and the couscous salad, which was a bit sweet, was a nice compliment.

Finally, dessert: we were presented with rosewater flan and cheesecake. And while at this point in our meal, I would have eaten anything Chef Nelly told me to eat, I was a bit apprehensive. Flan and cheesecake would not be my usual choices for dessert.

The pistachio crumble on top the delicately-flavored flan was my favorite part of that dessert. And the cheesecake, made with Greek yogurt, was light and fluffy and truly a treat!

I can’t adequately express how the food, the wine, and the service were all at the highest level. Adega pushed some of my culinary boundaries, but it was worth every bite. This is the kind of high quality, inventive, and unique cuisine that Cleveland should embrace whole-heartedly! Treat yourself to Adega today!

***Disclosure: I was invited to enjoy a tasting dinner at Adega with a guest. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Weekends!

It was another busy, fun weekend in the CLE, with plenty to do and plenty of baseball to watch too! Here’s the round-up:

Iain McGovern Fundraiser

On Friday night, our whole family attended a fundraiser for a remarkable young man, Iain McGovern. We are fortunate to know Iain and his family. Iain has been a great “big” buddy for Jeffrey. But in the midst of that, Iain has also been battling going through major brain surgery.

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Iain has such a positive attitude and strong family support. So, we couldn’t pass up the chance to attend a fun evening that also helped to defray the cost of his still-accumulating medical bills.

We enjoyed BBQ from Stewart’s Smokin’ Backyard BBQ, cupcakes, carriage rides, and a live auction and Chinese raffle packed with fun prizes.

To see the room packed with so many people from all different parts of the McGovern family’s life was really heartwarming! If you’re interested in learning more or donating to Iain and his family, click here.

Nature Center at Shaker Lakes Hike, Run & Explore

Somehow I had never explored the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes and surrounding lakes, which is why I was so excited to attend the Hike, Run & Explore event on Sunday.

I participated in the 5-mile hike that took in all 4 of the Shaker Lakes, with lots of historical facts and anecdotes provided by our guides, Leo and Jane.

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They are lifelong Shaker Heights residents and so much to share about the area. Plus, the Shaker Lakes are beautiful and serene! If you haven’t been, you definitely need to take a hike of your own to check them out!

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Back at the Nature Center, there was lots more to explore, including tree climbing, archery, food trucks, a beer garden, and live music.

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Hike, Run & Explore was such a fun community event and it definitely got me keyed in to some natural beauty I didn’t even know existed in the area!

Dinner at My Parents’ House

Sunday evening, I earned back all the calories I hiked off with a delicious dinner at my parents’ house as an early birthday celebration. From seared tuna for an appetizer to perfectly-cooked scallops as our entree to a decadent cake from Michael Angelo’s Bakery to a wine bottle with my very own “J” on it, everything was fabulous!

It was a great weekend and a wonderful kickoff to birthday week!

***Disclosure: I was asked by the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes to help promote Hike, Run & Explore. In exchange, I received one complimentary registration for the event of my choice. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Chefs Unbridled!

There are certain events where you just know that every aspect will be spot on, from the food to the drink to the atmosphere. Chefs Unbridled to benefit Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center is one of those events!

Chefs Unbridled attracts a diverse and talented group of chefs to put on a delicious dinner. There was so much to love, from the seafood manicotti and chicken rangoon dishes from The Driftwood Group

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…to the scallop with cauliflower puree and roasted eggplant from Abo’s Grill

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…to the mushroom bolognese from Flour Restaurant

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…to the mole-braised pork with corn puree from Graffiti: A Social Kitchen

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…to the chorizo-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates from Bold Food and Drink

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…the food was all incredibly well-done and complimented the other dishes well. We were stuffed, but couldn’t pass up desserts from Donut Lab and Sweet! The Mobile Cupcakery.

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Matthew and I also love a Wine Pull, which is a great way to contribute to the cause and take home a bottle of vino. The Wine Pull was new this year to Chefs Unbridled and it was a great addition!

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This year’s event focused specifically on raising money for Fieldstone Farm’s Veterans Program, which provides therapeutic riding services to over 200 veterans annually. This is a really special and unique program that allows veterans to increase confidence, reduce anxiety, and a host of other benefits, all through interaction with Fieldstone Farm’s horses.

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So, we enjoyed a delicious evening of food and wine and got to raise awareness and money for a program that truly makes a valuable difference in people’s lives. It doesn’t get much better than that for a lovely, warm September night!

***Disclosure: I was asked by Fieldstone Farm to help promote Chefs Unbridled. In exchange, I received two complimentary tickets for myself and two tickets to give away. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Veggie U Food & Wine Gala Giveaway!

If you haven’t noticed, it is fundraiser season! Thank goodness most of these events are strolling food and wine fests…at least you can walk off a couple calories between tables! Coming up on Saturday, September 30 is the Veggie U Food & Wine Gala.

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Fabulous chefs will prepare delicious dishes to delight your palate, including:

  • Local Bison Bourguignon and potato Puree Tartlet plated with Smoked Onion, Parsnip, Heirloom Carrot and house-made Buffalo Nduja Oil from Chef Vishu Nath of Urban Farmer Cleveland
  • Oyster & Beef Tongue Taco with Ranchero, Pickled Onion and Asian Greens from Chef Andrew Gorski of Parker’s Downtown
  • Lentil crepe, almond basmati rice, local cucumber and radish ceviche from Chef Regan Reik of Pier W
  • Pisco Sour from Chef Adam Wilson of Vitamix
  • Fall Angel Food Trifle – toasted angel food cake with pastry cream, soft caramel, braised pears and candied pecans from Chef Lauren Shaffer of Luna Bakery and Cafe

The event takes place at the historic 925 Building in downtown Cleveland. You’ll also get to enjoy wines from Wente Vineyards and craft beer selections, live music from Tony Quarles and the Discovery Band, the chance to bid on fabulous silent auction items, and the Sysco Farmer’s Market with fruits and vegetables to take home.

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The Food & Wine Gala benefits Veggie U, which creates classroom garden programs for children to learn about good, healthy food by planting their own vegetables and using a scientific approach to learning about plants. Not only does this further the students’ science education, but it also helps foster healthy eating habits.

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Tickets are $125 and include food and wine tastings, entertainment, and valet parking. You can purchase tickets online. Or you can enter to win two tickets to the Veggie U Food and Wine Gala right here! I will be selecting two winners, who will each receive two tickets to the event.

Here’s how to enter (you can do one, two, three, four, or all five entries, just leave a separate comment for each):

1.Leave a comment here telling me which participating restaurant you’re most looking forward to trying.

2. Visit Veggie U and Why CLE? on Facebook and leave a comment here letting me know you visited both pages.

3. Follow @veggie_u and @whycle on Instagram and leave a comment here letting me know you’re following both.

4. Follow @VeggieU and @WhyCLE on Twitter and leave a comment here letting me know you’re following both.

5. Tweet the following phrase and leave a comment here letting me know you tweeted:

I want to enjoy great food for a great cause at @VeggieU Food & Wine Gala thanks to @WhyCLE: https://whycle.com/2017/09/13/why-veggie-u-food-wine-gala-giveaway #giveaway

You can tweet once per day for additional entries, just leave a separate comment here each time you tweet.

The giveaway will close on Monday, September 18 at 11:59pm and the winner will be notified the following day. Good luck!

***Disclosure: I was asked to help promote the Veggie U Food & Wine Celebration. In exchange, I will receive two complimentary tickets for myself and four complimentary tickets to give away. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

jenclesig_pur

Why? L’Amour du Vin Giveaway!

L’Amour du Vin. The love of wine. Goodness knows I love me some wine. So, I always enjoy the L’Amour du Vin fundraiser to benefit the Arthritis Foundation on Wednesday, September 27 at the Avon Oaks Country Club.

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L’Amour du Vin features small bites from some of the area’s best restaurants, like Bomba Tacos & Rum, Parker’s Grille and Tavern/Parker’s Downtown, Luca West, Wood and Wine, and more.

All of this delicious food will be paired with unlimited tasty wine samplings from a variety of vineyards representing wines from around the world. Plus, you’ll have a chance to bid on some fabulous silent auction items.

There is also a VIP Lounge, with exclusive wines, Brown-Forman cocktails, chair massages from EXHALE: The Spa, and a special dish from Bonefish Grill.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Arthritis Foundation, working to help conquer and cure arthritis, which impacts people of all ages.

Tickets are $75 for general admission and $95 for VIP admission and can be purchased online. Or you can enter to win two general admission tickets to L’Amour du Vin right here!

Here’s how to enter (you can do one, two, three, four, or all five entries, just leave a separate comment for each):

1.Check out the list of participating restaurants and leave a comment here telling me which you’re most excited to try.

2. Visit Arthritis Foundation Ohio and Why CLE? on Facebook and leave a comment here letting me know you visited both page.

3. Follow @arthritisfoundation and @whycle on Instagram and leave a comment here letting me know you’re following both.

4. Follow @ArthritisFdn and @WhyCLE on Twitter and leave a comment here letting me know you’re following both.

5. Tweet the following phrase and leave a comment here letting me know you tweeted:

I want to attend #LAmour2017 to benefit @ArthritisFdn thanks to @WhyCLE: https://whycle.com/2017/09/08/why-lamour-du-vin-giveaway-6 #giveaway

You can tweet once per day for additional entries, just leave a separate comment here each time you tweet.

The giveaway will close on Thursday, September 14 at 11:59pm and the winner will be notified the following day. Good luck!

***Disclosure: I was asked by the Arthritis Foundation to help promote L’Amour du Vin. In exchange, I will receive two complimentary VIP tickets for myself and two general admission tickets to give away. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

Why? Lake Metroparks Farmpark Apple Harvest Pairing Dinner!

Boy, this weather has me thinking about fall! And while I love a lot of the flavors of the season, one of my absolute favorites is apple. Which is why I can’t wait for the Apple Harvest Pairing Dinner at Lake Metroparks Farmpark on Friday, September 29.

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The dinner is a celebration of all things apple and is about more than just eating! You’ll have the chance to hand-press cider, as well as explore the orchards with the Farmpark’s Horticulture Education Specialist to learn more about the varieties and harvesting of apples.

Then you’ll enjoy dinner in the Machinery Barn, a rustic, yet modern setting overlooking the Farmpark grounds. Dinner begins with a harvest favorite of pumpkin soup, followed by apple-braised pork osso buco, layered white and sweet potatoes, and curried butternut squash with honey and candied pecans. If that isn’t fall-like menu, I don’t know what is!

All of this delicious food, including dessert, will be expertly paired with wines from Debonne Vineyards.

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Tickets are currently on sale for the Apple Harvest Pairing Dinner for $45 per person. Click here to reserve your spot!

***Disclosure: I was asked by the Lake Metroparks Farmpark to help promote the Apple Harvest Pairing Dinner. In exchange, I will receive two complimentary tickets to the event. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Zoma Ethiopian Restaurant!

When I moved to DC in 2003, I was amazed at the wide variety of ethnicities represented in the city’s cuisine. One that always intrigued me, but I somehow never tried, was Ethiopian food. So, naturally, 14 years later, back in Cleveland, I would finally try Ethiopian cuisine (and wonder what the hell took me so long.)

My friend Melissa and I met up for dinner at Zoma Ethiopian Restaurant last night. The decor was colorful and welcoming and the restaurant staff was similarly so friendly and inviting.

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Our table came with helpful instructions on how to enjoy Ethiopian food.

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Melissa and I started with an order of sambusa, which is fried dough stuffed with lentils. We both loved the spicy (and I mean, spicy) sauce served with the sambusa.

For my entree, I chose the lamb tibs, which is cubed lamb prepared with onion, garlic, rosemary, and jalapeno peppers and served on a sizzling skillet (think: fajita-syle.) For my side, I chose the flavorful split yellow peas, with onions, garlic, and turmeric.

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The food is served atop injera, a spongy Ethiopian bread used to dunk and eat the food. The texture of the bread is really different, almost pancake-like, but stretchier. And while it’s a great compliment to the food, it definitely takes up a lot of space in your stomach, so even our server warned us to not overdo the bread!

Melissa is a vegetarian and Zoma offers a ton of flavorful options for non-meat eaters. Melissa got a combo platter with chickpea stew, cabbage with ginger and curry, and red lentils in hot garlic and onion sauce.

We loved our meal and I really enjoyed exploring a different way of eating and different flavor profiles. After dinner, we popped across the street to pick a bottle of The Wine Spot‘s rose tree and enjoy some more good girl time.

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It was a lovely, spicy evening! I’m so glad I finally tried Ethiopian food and I can’t wait to go back and dip my injera in more flavorful offerings!

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