America Party: Eff Yeah!

I can say with some certainty that this was the best weekend of the year: the weather and food and company were superlative, and now, midway through Tuesday, I’m feeling dreamy and sunburned and just generally mellow. The weekend was restorative in many ways, exhausting in others (I’m looking at you, Tecate!), but really, I wish I could transcend time/space and continue to occupy Yesterday.

No, I’m not a hippie. Just blissed out.

I more or less ate/drank/sunbathed my way through the past four days, but even with all that celebration, a few meals really stood out. The first was dinner at Axum. Saturday evening, after having spent the day sleeping in, sailing with A., and enjoying a quick & dirty picnic at the pier, I met up with Courtney for dinner. We’d been meaning for weeks to get Ethiopian food, and this weekend, the stars aligned. Holla!

Embarrassing confession: I’d never previously tried Ethiopian cuisine. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to — not at all!* — but the opportunity obscured itself. Until now.

Axum isn’t the sort of restaurant I’d be drawn to, necessarily. That is to say, its exterior is humble: a green and white sign (hand painted), grates on the windows, solemn front door. It gets decent Yelp reviews, and Courtney had heard good things, AND it’s appealingly located in the Lower Haight, so we were in business.

We started our meal with Meta Beer, imported from Ethiopia. It was dark and chocolately and, to be honest, I wasn’t a fan — it was too sweet. But you know me: I’m not going to turn down a beer (especially one so festively labeled!).

C. and I wanted to try a bit of everything, and so we did. We ordered the platter for two, which included the top five veggie entrees: alicha (potatoes, carrots, cabbage, jalapeno peppers, and garlic stewed in authentic Ethiopian spices), alicha ater (chickpeas puréed with onions and spices), hamli (spinach and jalapeno peppers simmered in onions, garlic, spices), kintishara (mushrooms diced and simmered in tomatoes, onions, garlic, and  spices), and tumtumo (lentils puréed and simmered in onions, garlic, and spices). And then, because we wanted some meat,** we also ordered tibsie lamb (cuts of tender lamb sautéed with onions, jalapeno peppers, garlic, tomatoes, and spices). Of course, each of us got a gently folded loaf (slice?) of injera, that beautiful hybrid of crepe and sourdough.

(Y’all, I’m aware that “spices” and “authentic Ethiopian spices” aren’t super descriptive, but they’re the description I’ve got — these are excerpts from the menu, which can be found on Axum’s website.)

I took all of two seconds to overcome my hesitation to eat with my hands, and I dug in like a champ. The verdict? Hellllll yes. My favorite dishes were the lamb and the alicha ater; the lamb was tender, spicy, and perfectly trimmed of fat (kudos)!. It reminded me, in fact, of Burma Superstar’s Thai chile lamb, though of course it didn’t have nearly as much heat. The chickpea puree was nutty and a gorgeous maize yellow; initially taking care to eat like a “lady” (i.e., not getting crap all over my face and clothing), my swipes became haphazard as the night progressed. Ah, well: you can’t win ’em all.

So but winning: Axum was a total win, and I’d gladly go back (this week, even!). I’m a proponent of spicy foods, lamb, foods that can be eaten without the use of silverware, and divey restaurants that also receive very high marks from the Health Department. Axum scores on all accounts. If you haven’t been there, just go. Go! If you leave now, you’ll get there in time for a late dinner.

***

What would 4th of July weekend be without a picnic (or picnics), ja? Answer: lame. It wouldn’t be a holiday, really, just a nominal nod to the formation of our country. Don’t get me wrong: I love America! More specifically, I love San Francisco. But the 4th of July as an Event doesn’t get me as excited as the possibility of a picnic.

We arrived early at Dolores Park to 1) claim a spot; 2) get our drank on before the sun got too high; and 3) use the bathrooms while the bathrooms still had TP. The fare I brought was pretty standard — bread, salami, goat cheese, radishes — with the exception of five-egg cupcakes with almond buttercream frosting. Sarah was a bit more creative than I; she brought a killer wedding chickpea salad and vegan lemon bars (which retained their shape & glisten long after they’d been exposed to the scorching heat known only in the Mission.)

We sat lounged until evening, sipping beer and water and champagne, nibbling radishes and strawberries and yelling at the lawless dogs who threatened to trample our feast. I feigned goodness and applied sunscreen — twice! Thrice if you count the time Courtney made me reapply to my face. Even so, I’m a lobstery mofo today and I love it.

For the first time in years, I watched the fireworks display. Aboard the Owl — docked, of course — we huddled, smoked, and drank our tepid beers. I shivered as the temperature dropped, donned a sweater, then a hoodie, and focused on the far-off lights. Went to bed knowing I’d have a groggy workday, but I relished every sleepless moment.

*Not only was I curious about the food itself, but I wanted to shrug free the stigma of being That One Girl Who Has Never Tried Ethiopian Food.

**Having great difficulty not making a TWSS joke, so I’m just making it an endnote. YOU’RE WELCOME.

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