Archive for the ‘Culture’ category

Leave the Fork at Home – Review of Blue Nile Ethiopian Cuisine in Houston

April 25, 2010

Do you order the same item off the menu every time you go out to eat?

I can’t do that. To me that would be like paying my $12.50 for a ticket to watch a movie I’ve already seen a second time… and a third… and a fourth… and so on.

And thus when it comes to restaurant dining, I like to mix it up once in awhile. Try something new and adventurous, maybe something I’ve never had before, and oftentimes something entirely too dangerous and death-defying.

Last week, Megan and I decided to embark off our culinary beaten path and dine on a recommendation by Katharine Shilcutt of the Houston Press, who recommended Blue Nile Ethiopian Cuisine here in Houston. We figured since Katherine is such an unabashed foodie and raved about this place, it might be an excellent opportunity to try something new.

Ethiopian Food – A Background on Culture and Customs

How much do you know about the country of Ethiopia? Before I give you my take on the dining experience at Blue Nile, let me give you some background information on country and culture.

As a country, Ethiopia has been an independent nation since ancient times, their roots dating back well-over a millennia to 10th century BC.  It’s also one of the oldest sites on record of human existence and may be the point where homo sapiens first ventures forth from Africa into the middle east and the rest of the world. That’s right boys and girls, this place is truly the cradle of life.

In Ethiopian dining custom, meals are typically serves on a large platter around which family and guests gather. These platters, usually composed of weaved baskets, are lined with a pancake-like bread called injera, which is made with an Ethiopian grain called teff, which is recognized as one of the smallest grains the world.

Ethiopians do not use dining utensils. Pieces of injera are torn off with the right hand and used to scoop up food, much like naan and tortillas. In Ethiopian custom, it’s considered rude to use the left hand when dining. And when you’re full, expect to be urged to take more food. Providing an abundance of food is a sign of hospitality.

The Experience at Blue Nile

As I mentioned previously, we had no knowledge of Ethiopian dining custom nor any familiarity with Ethiopian cuisine before we went to Blue Nile last week. They could seriously have served me chicken enchiladas and I would have been none the wiser.

Blue Nile’s location is fairly low-key. They are in a fairly nondescript strip mall on Richmond Avenue in between Gessner & Fondren. The strip mall itself looks sketchy but the interior of Blue Nile’s dining room is well-decorated and clean. The staff at provided prompt and polite service. We were sat quickly and the waitress came by quickly to take our order. Though the place was not full at 8pm on a Thursday night, it was not empty either. Just right in terms of ambiance for a quiet dinner.

What we ate.

  • Doulet – (An Ethiopian delicacy – minced lamb tripe, lamb liver and lean top round meat (Beef) sautéed with spiced butter, mitmita (Hot pepper) and herbs. Served lebleb or raw.)
  • Doro Wot – (Chicken, in Ethiopian traditional way, cooked in berbere, onion, specially spiced butter and spices.)
  • Tej – A Sweet honey-wine. It is often homemade and is of varying strengths, ranging from the very sweet and almost non-alcoholic “birz”, to the stronger and less sweet true tej.

The injera that came with our platter was definitely new to me. I was hesitant at first because the texture and look of injera is very spongy and I didn’t know what to make of it. But once I realized  the lack of silverware at the table, I knew where this was going. I quickly tore off a piece and scooped up some meaty goodness. To my surprise, I enjoyed the injera more than I thought I would, and it made the meal, in its entirety, feel very filling.

As far as our entrees, everything was very, very spicy! It reminded me much of spicy Indian food. I liked the texture and taste of the lamb on the doulet but the liberal addition of jalapenos was a mixed-bag for me. It seemed to overpower the other components of the dish. The best part of the doro wot is the flavoring of the stew, which was a spicy red-pepper sauce. I also thought the whole egg thrown in was pretty neat. I was unimpressed by the portion of chicken in this dish though. I expected to get way more than one chicken drumstick in this entree for my $12. Next time maybe they can tell me this chicken leg was certified 100% organic free-range poultry. That would help cheap me feel more at ease with this order.

As far as the honey wine, we loved it! We were surprised to find out from our waitress that it is entirely homemade. Tej was definitely unlike any drink we’ve had previously and has a very unique taste and after-taste.

Conclusion

As a cultural learning experience, I’m glad we got to try Ethiopian cuisine at Blue Nile. It was definitely new and eye-opening. Dining with our hands was unexpected but cool. I wish they provided table-side hand washing (I read about this custom after the fact) because that would been good in this type of environment but what can you do.

I bet most vegetarians would love this place as that part of the menu seems to be a strong suit. I’d definitely recommend Blue Nile for that regard and would try the vegetarian combo myself next time. The dishes we did order this time around were good. Like I said, Ethiopian food definitely reminds me a little of spicy Indian food. My only complaint is that portion-wise, it filled us up, but still a little light for the price on dishes such as the doro wot.

All in all, Blue Nile was a unique dining experience and I’m glad I tried Ethiopian for the first time. Seek out this place for yourself and chalk it all up to cultural discovery.

Movie Review: John Woo’s Red Cliff

November 1, 2009

I’ve posted some amazing pictures before. I’ve even spoken about an opportunity to tour with a good friend of mine. But when it comes to exploring the vast history of the Chinese empire, I haven’t had a great opportunity to highlight this amazingly interesting subject matter until now.

Think about it… Unless you focused specifically on other history in your collegiate or post-graduate studies, chances are that your academic and literary exposure to history centered around western civilization, such as Rome, Greece, and the Americas.

Famed Hong Kong Director John’s Woo’s latest epic movie, Red Cliff, gives viewers a rare opportunity to sneak a peek into China’s illustrious thousands-of-years long history. Set in a time period of tumultuous change, with a puppet Emperor and warlord’s waging war for control, this movie gives us the battle of Red Cliff. Fought in the year 208 AD, this was a pivotal and decisive battle during the end of the Han Dynasty and immediately predates the period of the three kingdoms.

I can not say enough how awesome this movie is. Probably the my favorite eastern action film ever. It was nominated for 15 honors at the famed Hong Kong Film Awards and its award-winning cinematography and visual effects make Lord of the Ring’s Battle of Minas Tirith seem like an afterthought. Set for a November US release, I highly recommend this film to any historian, or movie-goer for that matter.

Check out the preview for yourself.

The year was 208AD, the Prime Minister Cao Cao (Fengyi Zhang) has taken control of Northern China and made the Emperor a puppet ruler. But the south is defiance. Lord Liu Bei (Yong You) tries to fight and has excellent general, but is hopelessly outnumbered by Cao Cao “>Cao forces. He sets out to make an alliance with two other Southern Lords, the young Sun Quan (Chen Chang) and military expert Zhou Yu (Tony Leung). Liu Bei uses his chief adviser Kongming (Takeshi Kaneshiro) to negotiate with Lords. Even with this new alliance, Cao Cao still outnumbers the 3 Kingdoms with a force of 800,000 troops. Zhou Yu and Kongming sets out the win the coming battle with strategy, expert military tactics, trickery, the weather and spies. Here the two forces set out for the coming battle.

Tip: If you’re got a high-definition television, a suitable surround sound system, AND ATT U-Verse, you can screen this movie NOW by renting the HD Version for only $11 on Video on Demand. Do it quick though, I don’t know how much longer they’ll offer it since its coming out in theaters soon.

This Sunday: Benefit Supporting Typhoon Victims in the Philippines

October 14, 2009

DNC Worldwide will be supporting the BAHAla na Tribe in the Adobo Hoedown Benefit for Typhoon Ondoy flood victims in the Philippines.

If you want to support a good cause and have a good time doing it, you should be attending what is sure to be a good time at Adobo Hoedown. Event highlights will include a martial arts demo from K3 Filipino Martial Arts, Filipino comedian Joey Guila, a host of live bands, and DJ’s such as the Kracker Nuttz, DJ Ebonix, and DJ Johnny J. There will be raffle giveaways and of course, more food than you can imagine at this event!

Come join us. The event is from 1pm -5pm on Sunday. Come early for easy parking.

Below is part of the write up from the event page:

adobohoedown
The BAHAla na Tribe is hosting an all-ages, community event/fundraiser to benefit Ondoy flood victims in the Philippines.
In the Filipino language Tagalog, the word “baha” means flood, “la na” is Tagalog slang for “no more”. The word “bahalana” means “leave it up to God”.
If you are unable to attend the event and would like to make a donation, you can donate online: http://adobohoedown.chipin.com

When we heard about the recent Philippine floods leaving over 300,000+ people homeless we wanted do something locally to help. We’ve joined forces and have created this exciting and fun event to raise money and clothing to send to the American Red Cross for Philippines Typhoon Ketsana Relief Effort. We hope you can join us on this special day to enjoy the Filipino culture and help those less fortunate. We introduce the…

H-Town Adobo Hoedown
Sunday, October 18, 2009
1:00pm – 5:00pm
DiverseWorks
1117 East Freeway
Houston, TX 77002


Be a part of a fun, cultural celebration in honor of Filipino American History Month while helping others in need. The H-Town Sneaker Summit will also be at the event accepting clothing and shoe donations.  View the press release: http://bit.ly/adoboPR


When we heard about the recent Philippine floods leaving over 300,000+ people homeless we wanted do something locally to help. We’ve joined forces and have created this exciting and fun event to raise money and clothing to send to the American Red Cross for Philippines Typhoon Ketsana Relief Effort. We hope you can join us on this special day to enjoy the Filipino culture and help those less fortunate. We introduce the…

H-Town Adobo Hoedown
Sunday, October 18, 2009
1:00pm – 5:00pm
DiverseWorks
1117 East Freeway
Houston, TX 77002


Be a part of a fun, cultural celebration in honor of Filipino American History Month while helping others in need. The H-Town Sneaker Summit will also be at the event accepting clothing and shoe donations.  View the press release: http://bit.ly/adoboPR

Entry:$10 adults / $5 for children 12 and under (Cash Only)

Ecovillage InanItah – Work/Stay/Trade Opportunities in Nicaragua

September 4, 2009

Dear Do-Gooders and World Travelers,

I wanted to re-introduce you to Duane Batcheler, a good friend and new addition to the DNC Worldwide community. A successful finance professional in his past life, Duane has traveled the world for the past five years for leisure and has also been a part of several projects focusing on cultural awareness, conservation, and learning. Now before we announce his current project, here is a little more about Duane, from Duane:

duaneIn September of 2004 I decided to sell everything I own and travel the world starting with Central and South America until April of 2006 when I broke my collar bone in Argentina. After a brief recovery at home I went to Europe for World Cup and to run with the bulls in Spain. After that I flew to Singapore and traveled through SE Asia and then up through China and into Tibet, Nepal and India. Then I flew to Hungary and worked my way to Turkey and through the Middle East and Africa starting with Egypt. From there I rode buses, trains, trucks, boats, and every other type of transport to get to Cape Town, South Africa. Then I flew up to Morocco and eventually took a boat to Gibraltar.

(Updated August 7, 2009) I’m done traveling for a bit and now working with a group called ‘Bona Fide’ on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua to learn permaculture over the next 6 months or so before building a community. I’m also working with a few groups on putting together a documentary on permaculture.

routemap123108small

Opportunities to learn and expand our horizons never cease to amaze me.

Here’s Duane on his next project, which I would advise to anyone who is able to participate.

After spending the last few months on Ometepe helping with Bona Fide, I met Paul and Gaia who are setting up an intenti0nal community. It’s about 23 acres with road access and great views of the volcano.

The main focus on the community is sustainable living and learning. In order to create a sustainable way of life, it is important to recognize the multi-dimensional aspects of sustainable living: relationships, ecology, economics, and consciousness. We are currently building a community center of stone, local harvested timer, and thatch roof, applying various theories of organic and sustainable food production, practice hatha yoga, conscious communication and we create space for community support of self-reflective awareness.

We are looking for co-creators in the practice of creating sustainable living and learning environment, including builders, gardeners, coordinators, artists & musicians, and people with time and a desire to share and to learn. They can offer a trade of a simple room and board for services to be determined on an individual basis and are currently developing agreements for long-term involvement.

Here is a slideshow of Ecovillage InanItah.

Please contact Gaia at paulandgaia@gmail.com for more information.

Duane Batcheler

Travel Blogs:

Personal Blogs:

Ever Wanted to Visit China? Go Tour-ING With Our Newest Ninja – Doug Ma!

May 20, 2009

Fellow Ninjas,

I’d like to welcome Doug Ma, a good friend of mine since our high school days, to the DNC Worldwide family. Doug embodies the DNC philosophy in that he has worked hard to be successful scholastically and professionally while maintaining a foothold on his dreams. Starting out at UT-Austin, Doug was a Chapter President for his fraternity, Lambda Phi Epson, before graduating with his BS in Finance. He then landed a job on Wall Street, where he worked for several years before deciding it was the right time to pursue the adventure of a lifetime.

Doug now lives in Beijing China where he runs a company, Go Tour-ING, which specializes in tours of the fast-developing and visually-stunning nation. He wanted me to pass along the message that if any of you are interested in visiting the far east, he would be delighted to welcome you with open arms and Go Tour-ING would be an easy way to create the experience of a lifetime.

Company Profile:

Go Tour-ING is a new tour operating company that specializes in organized tours in China centered around sightseeing, networking and partying for people aged 21-35.  The company was founded by two ex-finance workaholics who traded in their cubicles in order to pursue their interests in traveling.

Please check out their website  for more information about their tours and their departure dates. You may also join our Facebook fan page for the latest in updates and media.

So what are you waiting for?  Go Tour-ing with us!

touring

DNC Member Profile: (view all)

Doug Ma is graduate of the University of Texas-Austin holding a BBA in Finance and currently lives in Beijing, China. After school, he worked on Wall Street for a couple of years before he decided to leave his job and travel the world. His journeys led him to China where he co-founded Go Tour-ING, http://www.tour-ing.com. Taking experiences from all his travels, he wanted to create tours that centered on sight seeing, networking, and partying for travelers aged 21-35. Besides traveling, Doug enjoys watching MMA, playing sports, and trying out new things.

Project Bonafide and Creating a Self-Sustainable Ecosystem

May 15, 2009

duane

Editors Note: The following is a blog posted by Duane Batcheler, an acquaintance I was introduced to on the social networking site Myspace in 2005. At the time, Duane had recently quit his job in finance and sold everything he owned for a chance to travel the world. Since then, Duane has been involved in several different projects involving cultural awareness and making the world a better place.

  • Duane’s Travel Blog on Myspace – here
  • Link to Duane’s Slideshow of Ometepe Island – click here

Duane’s exploits show proof that it can be done, whatever it may be that you aspire to. He has accomplished plenty, all based on an inspired decision to get out and do something more than working 9-5pm. This is the spirit of what we are building with DNC Worldwide.

His latest project is enormous in scope and the most ambitious I’ve heard of in quite some time. Read about Project Bonafide below, perhaps it is something you’ll consider participating in yourself.

PROJECT BONAFIDE – By: Duane Batcheler

I’m done with traveling for a bit and now working with a group to purchase a 105 acre piece of land on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua.  Ometepe Island is considered the largest island in the world found in a freshwater lake.   It is formed by two volcanoes rising from Lake Nicaragua joined by a land isthmus and measures 276 square kilometers offering a great variety of ecosystems and natural tourist attractions such as rivers, waterfalls, springs, beaches and wetlands, all characterized by their almost virgin conditions.  The property has great views of the surrounding volcanoes, direct access to the lake, beautiful huge old growth trees, mango trees, palm trees and long treed arbor walkways.

Currently there is a farm with orchards, cows, and horses, about 30,000 square feet of existing buildings that can be used for temporary living quarters, offices, restaurant, hostel, and workshops, as well as a pier complete with a fishing boat and gear. The goal is to build a self sustainable organic farm, with solar and wind power, pump water from the lake for agriculture, and use wells for drinking water.  The other major focus is on hospitality: eco-lodge, cabanas, restaurant, hostel, kayaks, horses, beach, bar and night club, yoga, massage, hiking tours up the volcanoes, craft center, etc.

We hope to close by July 11th and start prepping the land for people to come down in December.  I will be working with a group called Bona Fide learning as much as I can about ‘permaculture’ over the next few months.

We’ve talked about catering to tourists who want to learn a skill, help with locals, or work on a farm.  We plan to bring in building materials in bulk and build each others houses as well as the common structures. If anyone is interested in helping or joining please let me know.

For more information on Nicaragua, Ometepe Island, and Project Bonafide, visit Duane’s blog.

ometepe

Ramadan Mubarak

September 6, 2008

…Or Happy Ramadan

Whether you like it or not, you pay attention to customs in a country that legally binds you to them. As an American, this is as foreign as it gets. Tickets for anything passing your lips, or working past 3 comes as a big surprise to all us office automatons. I personally have no intention on being dragged before a judge because of hunger. The routine I’ve cultivated has been shaken to its very roots! No more coffee in the a.m. to keep you from staring blankly into your computer screen. No more going to McDonald’s to be soothed by those great big golden Freudian tits. But all this insanity has me looking back at that routine thinking about sheep that pass through the same gates on a daily basis headed for the same shitty meal.  Maybe these folks have something on us in their ability to question their standard. Not that any of it matters. I still get pissed when Starbucks isn’t open at noon on Friday to bring me out of my coma (its not open at all before iftar).

So in this vain of whining about things previously taken for granted, let me pontificate (ah the use of stupidly large, overly intellectual, and randomly placed words!) on those things missed most. HBO, oh HBO, Wherefore art thou HBO?! I fear the loss of entourage and others can only be compared to loss of a strong Heroin addiction. A close second would be the loss of those meaningless debates over the next couple to fuck in the white house. The realization that no one else in the world cares is a big letdown. Oprah and Dr. Phil have been lying all these years; we’re all just fat worthless sacks of shit! No self-help book can help us now!

Oh well, if the separation anxiety doesn’t claim you and Ramadan doesn’t starve you, the desert and its heat will always find you!

The desert will certainly take away those things that we never meant to accumulate in the first place. Besides money and a love for the sun, it will also rob you any unwanted flesh that has thumbed a ride on your weary bones these past few years. If it doesn’t simply burn off as you settle into the black leather bucket seat of your new BMW, it will surely seep slowly from every pour in your body. Those fat cells will yearn for a cool splash of water; something to ease their slow death. And you will try, only to find that your pool has turned into a bubbling cauldron waiting to turn you into some sort of stew.

More to come from this most interesting of global locations.

Well, I guess I should include a dumb photo or two to placate those who can’t read…

It looks like any other building in the world…except that it stands almost twice as tall as the old world trade center. Hard to get that impression from the photo.

Cheers