Two to mention. I’ve grown fond of this frozen vegetable side from the Jolly Green Giant brand:

It’s about 40 calories per serving, one diabetic exchange, 0 weight watcher points, and can fill holes in your vegetable intake when everyone is tired or exhausted. Second item: Publix and Kroger are selling carrots in 4 4ounce bags. They also have roughly one exchange of vegetables, and can add that vegetable content when otherwise your diet is full of burgers and bunless ham n’ cheese sammiches.

Desta Ethiopian Kitchen is in a collection of shops on the corner of Briarcliff and Clairmont Road. It’s a block south of the I-85 – Clairmont Intersection, and on the right as you’re heading south. It’s not easy to see, more on the Briarcliff side of things. When you see what looks like parking, pull off the road and look for it.

There are at least three other Ethiopian restaurants in the area as well. Desta is in a separate building, and you may see the drive through before you see the rest of the restaurant. There is outdoor and indoor seating, and a decent amount of parking by the restaurant. Inside, it’s quite an attractive restaurant, if small, and there are both tables and booths to sit in.

I came here on a Father’s Day, after having argued the merits of 2-3 other places. I had eaten Ethiopian food about 22 years ago, in a restaurant in Philadelphia. On that day, the food was laid on a huge chunk of the Ethiopian bread (called injera, and made with the grain teff) and the food placed over the bread. Injera is spongy, and it is intended to be used as a utensil. We tore up bits of our plate of bread, scooped up the food, and ate it. From what I could see in the newspaper, the arrangement in Desta was going to be a little different.

We ordered chicken, fish, and lamb tibs, and my wife was also curious about their lentil stew. So we ordered a side of that. When the food came, the dishes were served on long rectangular trays, maybe 3 inches wide and perhaps 12-14 inches long. All the meats and fish were cut into small chunks, to be easy to handle. Each dish came with a house salad on the side. And in shallow grey pans came the pale brown injera, rolls of it, as long as the palm of your hand and the roll perhaps an inch to an inch and a half thick.

My wife ended up asking for a fork.

My daughter and I took to the bread easily, and tore off chunks of it to eat the food.  The stew came with a spoon, and I’d pour some of the stew into a chunk of the bread and eat that as well. My daughter loved her fish, which was mild and a little crunchy. My wife liked the chicken quite a bit (it had a yellow color to it and seems to have been nicely spiced) and I liked the lamb dish I chose. We had differences of opinion about the lentil stew. My daughter and I liked it, my wife wasn’t as happy with it.

One thing that is easy to do at Desta is underestimate how much food you’re really eating. The injera ends up being a lot of your meal, and so what seems like a small serving can end up quite a large one. As a consequence, we took home food from every plate that was served to us, along with about six rolls of the bread.

Given the quantity of leftovers, the meal was shockingly inexpensive. Service was generally excellent.

Verdict: Delicious ethnic food served in a way that doesn’t shock as many first time Americans. Highly recommended for those looking for something new.

Desta Ethiopian Kitchen
3086 Briarcliff Rd.
NE Atlanta, GA 30329
(Inside Williamsburg Shopping Center)
(404) 929-0011

Desta on Urbanspoon

Update: Amy on Food’s nice review of Desta features some excellent photos and a review of the foods she tried.

My wife was the one who asked me to check this place out, and in all honesty I was resistant to the notion. But it was an unusual day, I was heading home down highway 29, and it was there, at the southwest corner of Lawrenceville Highway and Indian Trail, just opposite the Tacqueria Los Hermanos. So I stopped.

Before I took a look there I checked in at a restaurant named RJ’s, which is French creole, a fusion of Caribbean and French cuisine. I had no time to eat but it looks too interesting to ignore forever.  I picked up a take out menu and headed into the market instead.

Lilburn International Farmer’s Market isn’t a farmer’s market in the traditional sense. It’s more an oversized grocery, a ethnic market on steroids. In this respect it’s no different from the Gwinnett International Farmer’s Market or DeKalb or Super H Mart, for that matter. It’s maybe a quarter of the size of Buford Highway Farmer’s Market or Super H Mart, but it has a decent collection of vegetables.  There is a competent and useful collection of peppers.  About the only complaint I could have was the cilantro that day didn’t have leaves all in a tight bunch, but was a little leggy. They had habanero, jalapeno, red jalapeno, long hot peppers, poblanos, etc.

But it was the meat collection that most impressed. You could see the butchers behind glass working and I didn’t have any doubts I could get one of them if I needed to. Meats were good looking, sealed in plastic, and at the price you expect when international markets price meat – meaning low low low. Ribeyes were 4.99 a pound. New York Strip was 1.99 to 3.99 a pound – hard to believe that was New York Strip. I bought a nice looking Sirloin for 1.99 a pound. Prices were so low I was pinching myself and asking, “Is that really the right cut of meat?” The sirloin, which I bought to try, certainly looked the part.

I checked some of the other aisles. The beans aisle was merely half an aisle as opposed to a whole aisle, but had most of the essentials. There was one rare find and that one was worth noting: they sell quinoa, and the quinoa is between 2.09 and 2.40 for a package that is slightly less than a pound. That makes it the least expensive source of this pseudocereal so far.

Inexpensive quinoa can be found at the Lilburn market.

Inexpensive quinoa can be found at the Lilburn market.

When I was checking out, the grocery carts I saw were full of meats and greens. The amounts were so large that people must have been doing a week’s or a month’s worth of shopping. This is a trend my coworker, Veronica, identified for me some time ago, this shift to international markets for low priced meats and ethnic butchers taking over for families looking to cut their meat prices.

Verdict? The price of meats alone makes this place worth a drive from Snellville. It’s easy to get to. You can head west down Ronald Reagan and then south down Highway 29 (will end up on your right, as you pass the 29-Indian Trail intersection), or you can head down Five Forks and turn right at Killian Hills, and continue just past the Highway 29  intersection and turn left.

I had to work this weekend, and while coming home, decided to stop at the Gwinnett International Farmer’s Market and see if they had red lentils. Now I know that Return To Eden has red lentils; but they’re deep into Atlanta and not at all convenient to the northeast side of town I’m on. I will sometimes shop this farmer’s market because they are a good and cheap source of asian yams and kimchi. Also, if you really want the small single serving size of white rice, in microwave containers, they have them too.

When I went there, I was surprised at the variety and quality of fresh peppers they had on sale, and in general at the quantity of Central American and Caribbean foods they had on sale. There is an excellent collection of Japanese and Korean foodstuffs. There were some Thai spices and foods. I bought mung beans, and a can of coconut milk, to try later, and then sat for a long time in an aisle containing nothing but packaged dried beans. I had never seen the small red bean they called the “frijol rojo de seda“. Later I found it is sometimes called the “silky red bean”. I bought a package of those, to try later.

Mung Beans on the left, Central American red beans on the right.

Mung Beans on the left, Central American red beans on the right.

While looking for general advice on how to cook these things, I ran into this recipe for Drew’s Tres Meat Chili. So in the case of silky red beans, you treat them much like black beans, with an overnight soaking and a couple hours of cooking. Too bad. I’d love another legume that is as easy to cook as lentils.