Centrolina's Amy Brandwein On The Culinary Culture of Ethiopia

Kristen Schott | May 27, 2019 | Food & Drink

Centrolina’s Amy Brandwein explores the culinary culture of Ethiopia.


Jet-setter Amy Brandwein

It was a mutual love of tahini—a creamy snack crafted from sesame seeds—that made Centrolina executive chef Amy Brandwein pack her bags for Ethiopia with cookbook author Joan Nathan. “Both Joan and I are fans of Soom Foods, a sister-owned premium tahini company based in Philadelphia, and its sesame seeds originate from Humera, Ethiopia,” says Brandwein, who will open Piccolina this summer. “Joan suggested that we do a food tour, and I said yes!” It was here that she experienced a coffee ceremony and learned how to harvest sesame seeds on a visit to Humera, where the finest ones are grown. “The stalks are harvested every fall and, once [completed,] they are laid out in piles to dry,” she recalls. “After watching the farmers’ precise techniques, I will never take for granted a sesame seed ever again.” And that’s only one of the notes she took before returning to our town. CityCenterDC, 974 Palmer Alley NW, 202.898.2426, centrolinadc.com

Tell us about your visit to Shola Market.
It wasn’t until Addis Ababa that I experienced a market that is a city’s culinary hub and lifeblood. Our tour guide explained that, each week, visitors drive from the countryside to buy and sell goods, such as rosemary. We also received a look at the spice-making process.

What stood out?
I learned that each Ethiopian cook has their own berbere blend, which imparts a distinctive flavor.

The dish to dine for?
Kitfo: chopped raw beef with garlic, berbere and lime juice. The beef was from a local farm, and, in its pure state, the flavors shined.

Anything you’ll try for your menu?
My travels inspire me, and although I can’t name one ingredient that I’ll [use,] I will say that my dedication to sourcing local ingredients is similar to the Ethiopian ideology.


Photography by: centrolina