Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Lesson in Pride and Heritage

This last week Amy and I traveled to Denver Colorado for a Real Estate Investing program that we are participating in. We always have a great time when we travel together, but we missed the kids a lot. On Sunday night, our last night in town, we decided to try something different for dinner. I hopped onto Yelp and tried to locate a great restaurant. There are tons and tons of high rated Pho and Thai places, but one place caught my eye. There were some great reviews on a place simply called "African Grill and Bar".

This is the entrance to the African Gill & Bar in Aurora, Colorado

Amy and I had actually decided to go to the Thai place because we both wanted something spicy. As we pulled into the parking lot we realized that the African place was right next door so we decided to check out the menu on the door. As we were looking and trying to figure out what all these unique dishes were the owner opened the door and tried to hand us some take out menus. He had a huge smile on his face. We told him that we didn't need the menu, we were coming in to eat. He seemed positively delighted.

As we walked in the very small space we immediately noticed that every person who was eating looked like they were from Africa. They were speaking an unfamiliar language and eating unfamiliar food. We took that as a good sign! If you want good Asian food, find the place where all the Asians eat. If you want good Mexican food, find the place where all the Mexicans eat. It looked like we were in the right place.

The owner was excited when we told him that we wanted him to pick out our dinner. The menu was huge and we had no clue what most of the things were. We told him that we wanted spicy. He clarified what level of spicy we liked then recommended the Fufu. Fufu is a ball of mashed plantains in a very pungent chili sauce that comes with different types of meat. We chose Goat on his recommendation. You eat fufu with your hands so they brought out a bowl to wash our hands in first.

Goat Fufu

It was one of the most satisfying things I've ever eaten. The goat was very tender, especially for goat, and the plantain mash mixed with chili was incredible. We watched the locals checking us out to see if we were going to run for cover and they were pretty amused when we didn't.

I asked him what type of beer they had and he went down the usual list of brands. I asked him what would be the appropriate drink for the area and his huge smile returned. He went into the kitchen and returned with a plastic bottle of Popov vodka that was full of stuff. The vodka had a brown hue and he asked me if I could identify what was in the bottle. It looked like mushroom stems. He told me that it was cloves, roots, ginger and brought out a bag of it so I could see what it looked like dry. When he poured it into a glass there were bits of wood in it. I laughed and enjoyed the experience. It was actually very good and had a nice subtle quality to it. It matched the food perfectly.

For the next course we had fried fish with jollaf rice and fried plantains. We had the option to get the fish boneless or bone in. He was very happy when we told him to bring it bone-in. Again, it was excellent. During dinner a little girl, I believe to be the owners daughter, came up to me and handed me a Styrofoam cup. She was adorable and just looked at me. I thanked her for the cup then handed it back. Amy called me a dummy and told me that she wanted some of my water. I filled her glass and she took a sip and left. She played this game with me the entire night. She was hilarious.

As we were finishing dinner the owners wife brought us out each a little donut and asked us if we could identify what it was made of. It had a spicy aroma and a nice crispy texture. I couldn't figure out what it was and she said that it was made with beans.

As we were paying for our check we talked more with the owner and also with a man who had been having dinner at the same time with us. He said "you must have been to Ghana before." When we told him that we hadn't he was surprised. He said that most people who had not been there aren't as adventurous as we were and he was sure that we were not going to know what to do with the food when it came out. I think we were the evenings amusement for many folks.

The bill for the evening came to a whopping $37. I have paid more for a single entree before.

Amy and I left with an overwhelming feeling that we had just experienced what food is supposed to be about. The sense of community and pride in their heritage was all expressed with the food. We felt like somebody welcomed us into their home and was delighted with the opportunity to tell us about their county, bite by bite.

While the trip was originally about discovering business opportunities, we were fortunate enough to have a evening that we will never forget.


sherpajohn said...

SUPER COOL! I'll direct my wife to check it out once we move... might be too adventurous for me. ;)

Miriam @ Sometimes Sporty said...

Nate, you always find the most incredible eating places. I love when food is about an experience not just stuffing empty calories in your body.