A Different Kind of 4th

I have been up in Tucson for several days, spending each night with a different friend.

On July 4 I left one friend’s house and landed at the next, Pam’s place, around 2:00. Pam and I ran an errand and then went to the newest Ethiopian restaurant in the city, Cafe Desta.

Desta1
Cafe Desta is at the five corners area just south of downtown, where 18th Street, Stone, and 6th Avenue all come together, clinging to the very south end of Stone.

DESTA2
There were only two tables of customers when we entered, an Anglo couple and a group of five men from San Miguel, in central Mexico. At least three languages were happening in this tiny place! Because there are around ninety Ethiopian languages, two or three of them could have been used in addition to the Spanish and English.

Cafe Desta
offers a variety of meat dishes as well as vegan dishes, and prices run from about $8 to $19.

We settled on the “combo for two” which gave us a choice of samples from any of the meat or vegan meals. We chose two vegan – spinach and red lentil, a cheese, and two meat – lamb and chicken. It also came with salad.

combo2

The meal was served family style, which meant the five dishes and the salad were piled on a round Ethiopian bread, about 8″ in diameter, called injera. It is spongy and soft and is meant to be torn into pieces and used to scoop up the main dish. Each of us also got a basket of two pieces of injera.

INJERA

Each of the dishes we sampled was delicious. The cheese was light but tasty. The chicken was in a gentle curry and the lamb in a tomato base. The spinach had tomatoes, onions, garlic and spices, and the lentils had a berbere sauce – whatever that is.

We spent the next half hour tearing pieces of injera and scooping different flavors, sometimes using the cheese as a topping and sometimes scooping up the cheese alone.

Grabbing food with the injera was fun, but I was unclear how to approach the salad. The meal is not served with utensils – the injera is the utensil. So, how to eat the salad? It didn’t want it wrapped in the soft bread. I finally just dove in, picking up pieces of lettuce and tomato and eating them.

Pam and I and our server all agreed that the combo of five we had settled on was just right, a wonderful blending of flavors, and so beautifully colorful. And the benefit to eating in this way is it takes time to pick up the bread, tear off a piece, scoop up a mouthful of the dinner and finally get it to your mouth. Hard for even the most diligent to simply shovel food into his or her mouth. It is a slower, friendlier way to have a meal.

Although we didn’t indulge, there were espresso drinks and dessert. I think it would be a great stop for just the coffee and desert, but I’m sure that wonderful aroma that enveloped me when I opened the door would make it difficult not to first dive into one of the main dishes.

We finished, waddled out the door, and headed back to Pam’s place where we recovered for a few hours, and then we were out the door for another new experience: witnessing the nightly rush of bats leaving from below a bridge.

The bats at the 22nd and Pantano bridge are Mexican free-tailed bats, and although they weigh only about thirteen grams, they are considered medium-sized.

Under the Pantano Bridge

Under the Pantano Bridge – the bats hang in the small spaces between the spans of concrete.

Their bodies are about the size of smallish adult human thumb, but their wingspans are about ten inches. They can eat half their weight in insects each night.

This year there are an estimated 40,000 bats living under the Pantano Bridge.

The bats arrive here in April with the females already pregnant. They deliver later in the month or in early June. The babies will be adult sized and ready for the south migration when they are only three months old.

On this night, the babies were young enough that they “hung out” at the bridge while their moms went hunting.

Honest! There are a few bats in the sky around the big lights.

Honest! There are a few bats in the sky around the big lights.

It was getting pretty dark when we left, and we saw fireworks beginning to light up the sky. We got back to Pam’s and soon the A Mountain fireworks began, so we sat on the curb and watched the whole show.

A fabulous fourth of July, and different from any I have ever had!

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2 Comments

  1. that is so cool about the bats. bats seem to be very “in” right now. i’m sorry to say that of all the exotic and foreign foods i’ve eaten, Ethiopian is my least favorite. i don’t like the mushy food and the spongy bread. i’d like to give this place a try, however. anything curry is fine by me.

    Reply

  2. Oohh I am so scared of bats, so I don’t think i’d be able to stick around to watch that. But it sounds like your July 4th was memorable … and sometimes, it’s nice to do something different and out of the ordinary.

    Reply

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