Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Cafe Nema

On Friday night I met some friends for dinner at Café Nema on U Street. I had walked by Café Nema many times since I lived in the U Street neighborhood when I first moved to Washington in 1999, but I had never eaten there. I had no idea what I had been missing.

As we were settling in, one of my friends told me that Café Nema is owned by a Somali man. Being unfamiliar with the cuisine of Somalia, I was surprised to discover that the menu included many dishes that I recognized as Middle Eastern or Italian. Upon reflection, I decided that this made sense. Somalia is a predominantly Muslim country, which would explain the Middle Eastern influence, and part of Somalia had for a time been an Italian protectorate. The menu included dishes I did not recognize that I assume are wholly Somali.

Googleing “Somali food” to read other’s descriptions of Somali restaurants, I learned that Somali food is often eaten with the hands and that, Somali’s being muslim, Somali restaurants are typically alcohol free. However, Café Nema is a full service restaurant with silverware and there is a full bar. The beer selection includes Heinekin, Fischer Biere D’Alsace, and Spaten amongst others. All beers were $6 per glass or bottle. I didn’t look at the wine selection.

Our group shared several appetizers, all enjoyable: sambousas, triangular pastries filled with jalapeno-spiced meat; falafel; kibbeh, an oblong-shaped fried ball of seasoned ground meat and pine nuts; and hummus, with a strong cumin flavor, rather than the garlic flavor I'm more accustomed to, and served with pieces of tortilla like wheat flatbread.

So many things on the menu looked good, but my mouth started watering when I read the description for Kalankal: either chicken, lamb, or beef stewed in tomatoes, onions, peppers and spices. The actual dish lived up to my expectations. Apparently I wasn’t the only one whose mouth watered at the description, several in our party ordered it. One who didn’t, had lamb chops and he later reported that they were very good.

There were some downsides to Café Nema. It is a small restaurant and was very crowded when we were there. We were interrupted half-way through our dinner to make room for a DJ to set-up. Also the service was poor. There were not enough menus to go round and our waiter took appetizer orders from only half of our party and didn’t return until they had been consumed and we were ready to order entrée’s. Despite these problems, the quality of the food made it enjoyable.

Café Nema is located at 1334 U Street NW inWashington, D.C.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Hu is the president of China?

I was happy to hear on Thursday that a Chinese woman had disrupted the joint press conference between President George W. Bush and President of China Hu Jintao. I was irritated by the later news that President Bush had apologized for the incident. China is not an open society, but the U.S. is. It's unamerican to try to protect a foreign head of state from the discontent of his own people.

I was irritated to see the staged shows of friendship that I photographed later that day along Connecticut Avenue. I'm confident this was arrainged by the Chinese embassy to create a backdrop for Chinese television showing the appearence of American support for the Communist Party's rule of China. Judging from President Bush's eagerness to protect President Hu from being exposed to the grievances of protesters, perhaps the U.S. does support Communist Party rule there.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


The new animated advertisements in Metro's red line tunnels are hard to miss. They're large and brightly backlit. They're also eerie. You're riding along on Metro and suddenly the tunnel is lit up with images of sled dogs mushing past mountains in the background. Then a Lincoln drives by. Judging from the comments I've heard, I'm not the only one who was a little unnerved upon first seeing the new ads. One evening on my ride home I heard one women blurt out "what's going on?" to her friend and on another trip I heard, "what just happened?"

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Tater Tots and Rice Krispies Treats

I recently met some friends for drinks at the Quarry House Tavern in Silver Spring. The Quarry House Tavern is a basement level bar with well worn furnishings and interior. There was an unpretentious mixed ages crowd.

One of my companions commented to me that the menu was a little strange because it listed grilled cheese sandwhich as one of the options. I had to agree that grilled cheese sandwhiches aren't generally considered bar food, but they are frequently offered at diners. The boys mother, for as long as I have known her has always ordered a grilled cheese sandwhich whenever it was an option.

While I didn't think the grilled cheese sandwhiches were strange, I did think it was odd that the hamburgers and sandwhiches came with tater tots instead of french fries and that the only item on the dessert menu was Rice Krispies treats.

Eating tater tots while drinking beer makes an evening at the Quarry House Tavern unlike an evening anywhere else. There are a couple other noteworthy items on the menu. First, the homemade potato chips with sour cream and dill dip. The potato chips were thin, crispy, and served hot. Also, my hamburger was thick and juicy. I reccomend both.

The Quarry House Tavern is located at 8401 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring.