When I dragged myself out of bed on Saturday I was not a happy Lydia. I had put off the actual getting-up part for hours, and when I finally managed I had a hard time not getting back in. I shoved some clothes in a bag, dropped my keys off with ken, and started off to Chicago. My best friend Courtney's birthday is April 6, and there was a surprise party planned. The plan was for me to meet Courtney and two of her friends at Party City, but I got there way too early (time change) and hung out by the pinatas like a creeper for an hour. They showed up eventually, though, and post-surprise there was crepe-paper-buying and plastic monsters to be admired. Next up, dinner, but the thing about Chicago is that there are so many tasty places to eat that we ended up driving about for 45 minutes changing our minds about restaurants. Josephine and Courtney #2 decided on Ethiopian Diamond. I could probably have gotten more excited about something else, as ethiopian is something readily available in GR, and I had eaten of it recently, but hey, comparison is good. Ethiopia Diamond The menu was really intimidating, especially since at Little Africa I always just ask for "lunch for 1." I stuttered over ordering, but managed to piece together a "veggie combo" in league with the vegetarian, Josephine. Courtney and Courtney ordered meat options. We also ordered beet salad and chicken samusas to share, which came up quickly, luckily for me, who had only eaten a slice of anchovy pizza for breakfast that day. The samusas, the ethiopian version of fried stuff-in-a-dumpling, were fine, a little smaller than I was hoping, and one-dimensional in flavor. I had higher hopes for beet salad, but as much as I love beets, they could have been better served differently. The salad was good, but so uninspired, with greens and onions and a greasy oil dressing. It left me craving a lemon to squeeze on it. Dinner proper came on two huge metal platters covered in injera. Injera, for the uninitiated, is a flat, spongy bread made with teff flour, and similar, in my mind, to a cross between a crumpet and a pancake. It is decidedly sour. All ethiopian seems to be piles of mush which one eats by teating off peices of injera and scooping up niblets. The injera at Ethiopian Diamond was fantastic, the mush was not so much. It wasn't bad, it was just a little dull. I found nearly everything to be underspiced to the point of blandness. I kept switching dishes hoping to be blown away by any of it, but I wasn't. The tomato salad had no dressing, the cabbage and potato dish needed salt, and the yellowy beans just didn't taste like anything. Of course, I was incredibly hungry and am a glutton, so I ate an absurd amount of food and spent the rest of the night holding my stomach and goaning "oh, dear god why?"
Chicago Part 1