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“I don’t cook when I’m angry,” says Kidist Woldemariam, although it’s hard to imagine that the chef behind the ghost kitchen concept Shiro on the Go is ever insane. Her bright smile is omnipresent as she talks about how she started serving Ethiopian cuisine in the maze-like CloudKitchens facility at 810 Vallejo Street.
“My biggest goal is to teach and promote my culture,” explains Woldemariam. Born in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, she was adopted by a family from Colorado after the death of her mother in 2006 – but the flavors of her mother’s cuisine have never stuck in her memory.
Longed to try the dishes she missed from home, Woldemariam began preparing meals for her adoptive family and sharing Ethiopian food with friends who noticed how happy cooking made them. “That’s my goal – to feed the people I love,” she says. Woldemariam planned to attend a beauty school, but one of those well-fed friends intervened, secretly enrolled her in the culinary program of the now-defunct Art Institute of Colorado, and surprised the budding chef with the news.
It was a perfect fit. Woldemariam completed the program and went out into the world with new professional cooking skills. Unsure of exactly how to begin her career, she reached out to the Job Corps, where officials told her she was ineligible for her programs because she exceeded this level of education – but they were able to get her a job a Jamaican chef in a catering company. After this entry into the professional kitchen, she secured her first restaurant job at PF Chang’s, where she worked for six years.
While Woldemariam loved to cook, it wasn’t exactly inspiring to grind on the line of a chain restaurant day in and day out. A job at Departure changed that.
The departure team aroused passion. “They were very special,” says Woldemariam of the crew led by top chef alum Gregory Gourdet. “I learned the cooking discipline, but everyone really loved their job too.” After Departure closed, this culinary spark helped prepare Woldemariam for her next challenge, which came when someone in her inner circle came up to her with an idea.
Chef Kidist Woldemariam with business partner Adel Eshetu and his mother Fathia Mohammad.
Like the friend who had taken Woldemariam’s move into professional cooking, Adel Eshetu had enjoyed her cooking for years. Born in Yemen, Eshetu moved to Colorado in 2006 at the age of twelve. He became interested in the concept of ghost kitchens three years ago, long before they became a pandemic buzzword in the United States. In Middle Eastern countries, he explains, ghost kitchens are popular because they give people in densely populated areas access to a wide range of dining options in an environment where there is little space for independent restaurants.
Eshetu wanted to bring more ghost kitchen concepts to Denver. He loved the idea of starting a business with low overheads, and he knew exactly who to cook there.
The chance to share her mother’s legacy through dishes from her childhood was an opportunity Woldemariam couldn’t miss. The two friends, along with Eshetu’s mother, Fathia Mohammad (better known as the cook behind what they both call “the best rice ever”), quietly started Shiro on the Go in March.
Shiro, a chickpea stew, is an Ethiopian staple food. “Every Ethiopian house has Shiro, it’s the most famous dish. It’s cheapest to prepare, but it also tastes best,” says Woldemariam, explaining that Shiro, as a dish for everyone, regardless of income or origin, was the ideal namesake for The concept.
Before she actually moved into the ghost kitchen, Woldemariam began developing recipes and formulating a menu, cooking food and selling it in her small studio. After securing a spot at CloudKitchens, a company backed by Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick, that opened its Denver facility in January, Woldemariam and Eshetu got off to a deliberately slow start. They only offered pickup and relied on word of mouth to do business, starting with their own friends and families. In early June, they added delivery via Uber Eats and Grubhub. they hope to be able to offer DoorDash soon. “We learn every day,” says Eshetu.
Egg rolls filled with Ethiopian vegetable dishes and mozzarella cheese are ideal for nibbling.
So what’s on the menu? Shiro, of course, as part of the popular vegetable platter, which also contains lentils with a spicy kick, a bright red mixture of beets and potatoes (Qasir), kale (Goman) and spicy, spongy injera made from flour from the teff grain (i.e. gluten-free). “We want people to know that you don’t have to sacrifice taste in order to eat vegan or vegetarian,” explains Eshetu, noting that many traditional Ethiopian dishes happen to be vegetarian. “It’s the kind of food that makes you feel energized after you eat.”
In addition to offering other traditional Ethiopian dishes, including the popular Chicken Vot, Woldemariam is experimenting with new ways to bring people closer to the flavors of their homeland, such as garlic, fenugreek, and warm spices like cinnamon. She has also turned the staple of the vegetable platter into super-snackable spring rolls with mozzarella filling, which are best enjoyed with a dipping sauce like cooling coriander lime or spicy house sauce. You can even try Eshetu’s mother’s “best” turmeric rice with appetizers such as coconut honey chicken with red lentils.
As the Denver dining scene continues its rapid post-pandemic comeback, there are some concerns about the viability of the ghost kitchen model. Will people still order a pickup and delivery service when they can eat in a dining room or on a patio instead? Eshetu is not sure. But for the team behind Shiro on the Go, the setup is the best and cheapest way to achieve their goal.
“It’s more than just food,” says Eshetu. For him and Woldemariam it is a way to share their cultures, connect with others and make their mothers proud.
Shiro on the Go is located at 810 Vallejo Street and is open for collection and delivery, Monday through Saturday, 11am to 9pm. For more information, call 720-691-4111 or visit shiromenu.com.
Keep Westword Free … Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we want it to stay that way. We offer our readers free access to concise coverage of local news, food and culture. We produce stories about everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with bold reporting, stylish writing, and staff who have won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Feature Writing Award to the Casey- Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with the existence of local journalism under siege and the setbacks in advertising revenues having a greater impact, it is now more important than ever for us to raise funds to fund our local journalism. You can help by joining our “I Support” membership program, which allows us to continue to cover Denver without paywalls.
Molly Martin is Westword’s Food & Drink Editor. She has been writing about the Denver dining scene since 2013 and has eaten her way around town long before that.
Bipartisan effort renders assistance to Afghan allies
VERNON COUNTY – Vernon County’s Republican and Democratic parties recently completed a successful bipartisan initiative to collect needed supplies for the Afghan refugees housed at Fort McCoy. A total of 13 pallets of donated materials were collected at the Vernon County Highway Shop, with the last pallet being delivered just before the New Year.
“It was a fantastic accomplishment,” said Vernon County Chief Executive Justin Running of his county’s effort. “On the ground, we saw more and more that people are fed up with the partisan divisions and fighting that we have seen in recent years. We all have so much in common, and efforts like this remind us that what we have in common really is far greater than our differences.”
Running said the best thing about the initiative is that it’s easy to get everyone to agree to work together.
Due to the earlier than originally planned resettlement of refugees from the base, the fundraiser was canceled at the end of December. Any remaining donations received after the end of the campaign will now be redirected to CouleeCap, Bethel Buttik Food Pantry, Salvation Army, Goodwill and other outlets to help local families in need.
The non-partisan nature of the effort also made it easy for local businesses to get involved. Businesses like the Nelson Ag Center, Southwest Sanitation, Cashton Farm Supply and Proline Printing, along with countless other local businesses, came forward to help.
According to Tim Hundt of Congressman Ron Kind’s office, Dan Kanis of the Nelson Ag Center provided a truck with a platform lift, pallet jack and driver to transport the donation pallets to Fort McCoy. Southwest Sanitation provided bins that were used to collect supplies. Cashton Farm Supply provided pallets from their Westby egg grading plant and Proline Printing printed posters for the effort free of charge.
County Seat Laundry co-owner Laura Patten was another business owner who came forward to help with the effort. Supplies were collected at the store, and many people learned of the effort when they saw a poster while doing laundry.
“People were eager to find a way to help and relieved to find a way for their donations,” Patten said. “I’ve heard many comments that people were very excited about this bipartisan effort, and I’ve expressed a sense of gratitude that there are still opportunities to come together as a community and show a normal sense of neighborhood.”
Patten originally planned to offer free laundry for gently used items to be donated, but had to switch when it was revealed it would only be accepting new items. She pointed out that her company has an ongoing fundraising account that provides free laundry to community residents who have experienced tragedy or fallen through hard times.
to do the right thing
Tim Hundt of Congressman Ron Kind’s office thanked local businesses for their help and for stepping up from both county political parties to lead the effort together.
“One of the reasons this became bipartisan was that some companies were wary of working with just one party. Some companies have had bad experiences with the whole mask controversy, and that was really the reason for the move to make this a bipartisan effort,” Hundt explained. “When we told the companies it was non-partisan, the positive feedback was incredible. Efforts like this give people hope that we can unite on something good, put our differences aside, and just do the right thing to help people who were willing to risk their lives for us.”
Vernon County Republican Party leader Roger Call echoed Hundt’s views.
“It was just the right thing at the right time,” Call said. “We reported on the campaign on our party website and encouraged our members to consider participating.”
Vernon County Democratic Party leader Wade Lawler agreed with Running and Call.
“The reality is that we would have accomplished less if our two political parties had not worked together in this effort,” Lawler said. “By working bipartisanically, we were able to make a greater impact.”
Volunteers Kathy Sullivan and Kristina Reser-Jaynes provided some of the essential backbone at the collection and sorting facility. Members of the Viroqua Lions Club were also instrumental in coordinating pickups from some of the remote fundraising locations.
“The effort really took off when it became bipartisan and we took politics out of the effort,” Reser-Jaynes commented. “Putting aside our differences to come together in a joint effort was very refreshing and allowed for much camaraderie and great conversations.”
Save our allies
In August 2021, all eyes were on Afghanistan as the United States withdrew troops and evacuated Afghan allies from the country. US forces deployed to Afghanistan for 20 years, from 2001 to 2021, and the withdrawal marked the end of one of the longest wars in the country’s history.
As a result of the withdrawal, the US airlifted tens of thousands of Afghans facing reprisals from the Taliban, who had taken control of the country, and large numbers of these refugees were housed at Fort McCoy in Monroe County. 45 percent of the population housed there were under 18 years old. Their needs were immense, and the citizens’ efforts resulted in the collection and delivery of large numbers of donations of clothing, school supplies, and personal hygiene items.
Originally coordinated by Team Rubicon, private sector relief efforts at Fort McCoy were later transferred to the non-profit organization Save Our Allies. The US Army is not allowed to accept donations from the public, so organizations like this stepped in to fill the gap.
2 Ways to Make Whole Roasted Sweet Potatoes for a Healthy Meal
We grew up eating toast at my house. Whether it was sweet wheat dusted with cinnamon or sourdough loaded with avocado, toast was a breakfast staple every morning. And as one of four kids, I can see why – it’s quick, easy and never disappoints even the pickiest of eaters. But now that I’m gluten-free, I’m struggling to find alternatives to toast that are just as convenient in the morning. When I discovered whole roasted sweet potatoes, I was quickly hooked. Hear me, it might sound like substituting veggies for bread, but I’ve found that sweet potatoes make the perfect base for a hearty and vegetarian breakfast that helps stabilize blood sugar, prevent cravings, and those mid-day meals to avoid feeling tired and sluggish.
Plus, sweet potatoes are super high in fiber, beta-carotene, and vitamin A. During these cold-weather months, I always jump at the opportunity to incorporate this nutrient-dense root vegetable into my meals. Whether you have an intolerance or not, Whole Roasted Sweet Potatoes are the perfect nutrient-dense and gluten-free alternative to change up your weekly mealtime!
By the way, this recipe is part of our Plant-Based RE:SET – a new 5-day meal plan coming to your inbox on January 21st! Packed with delicious recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this is a week of meals that will make you feel lighter, brighter and more energetic. Sign up here!
Sweet potato is the perfect breakfast, lunch, or dinner
Although I prefer sweet potatoes for breakfast, they’re a great choice for lunch, dinner, or even as a snack. These recipes are super easy to make and pack a wealth of flavor. After experimenting with different toppings, I ended up with my two favorite combinations. Both sweet and savory, they tick all the boxes — creaminess with just the right amount of crunch. You can put them on or off and add additional flavors you like.
1 out of 5
How to Make the Best Whole Roasted Sweet Potatoes
The key to making the best roasted sweet potatoes is in the roasting. You’ll know your sweet potatoes are done when you take them out of the oven and they feel soft and the skin starts to get a little syrupy. (I like to pierce the top with a fork to make sure it’s perfectly tender). Covering them with foil allows the steam to soften the potato without getting too mushy. It is best to remove the foil and let it cool down a bit before cutting it in half. When I puree the meat, I like to drizzle in a little olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. This adds some extra flavor while providing the ideal smooth base, aka the perfect canvas for your toppings.
2 out of 5
3 out of 5
Topping 1: Whole roasted sweet potatoes with seeds and herbs
This first combo is super filling and full of flavor. I love the velvety texture of the sour cream mixed with the toasted nuts and seeds for an extra crunch.
1. Once the sweet potato is prepared, take a dollop of sour cream and spread it on each half. (For a vegan option, you can opt for plant-based sour cream or even coconut yogurt).
2. It is important that the sweet potato has cooled, otherwise the sour cream will begin to melt.
3. Next, top with your choice of nuts and seeds. My favorite is a combo of toasted pecans, toasted pumpkin seeds, and toasted sesame seeds.
4. Once the nuts are evenly distributed on the potato halves, finish with a sprinkling of fresh herbs. I usually use chopped mint, dill, and chives, but any combination of herbs is just as fresh and delicious.
5. Finally, I always like to add a pinch of salt or a sprinkling of red pepper flakes for an extra kick.
4 out of 5
Topping 2: Whole roasted sweet potato with avocado and onion
Here’s the healthy twist on your classic avocado toast. Avocado toast has been one of my favorite recipes for years, but now I prefer this version as it’s an easy way to get more veggies into my day. The key to perfect avocado toast is mashing the avocado beforehand.
1. Slice the avocado, remove the skin and place in a bowl to mash with a fork. This makes it easier to spread and allows you to mix in any seasonings to enhance the avocado’s flavor.
2. Once you’ve spread the avocado over the sweet potato, add the sliced red onion, cilantro, and salt to taste! I also love adding spices to everything for an extra flavor boost.
As you probably already know, a plant-rich diet is packed with benefits, but I sometimes struggle to find creative plant-centric meals that actually fill me up. With the added protein and fat from nuts, seeds, and avocado, I’m never unsatisfied with these sweet potato toasts. They also take very little time to prepare, especially if you boil the sweet potatoes beforehand and store them in the fridge so they can be easily reheated later. Both recipes are healthy, delicious and never disappoint. Trust me, you will be amazed!
André Leon Talley obituary | Vogue
André Leon Talley loved the surprisingly similar rituals of two ways of life he knew well: the black community of his childhood in North Carolina, and French couture, with its historical and literary associations.
His remarkable persona and work as fashion editor, adviser and seer were founded on church ladies in their Sunday best, and an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of clothes. Few couturiers knew a fraction of what he did, and the US Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who appointed him her shield – even in heels she stood small beside his 6ft 6in – admitted that he had what she lacked, a deep apprehension of fashion.
Talley, who has died aged 73 of a heart attack, was in the front row of the Paris, and most other, shows for more than four decades, an enthusiastic warm island in an ocean of cool, as well as often the sole black presence . He could photograph, write, arrange shoots, broker ungattable interviews and covers, notably Michelle Obama as first lady, and, most importantly, predict the future based on his passion for the past. Talley’s lofty standards matched Wintour’s own when the Condé Nast empire was at its height in the late 1980s.
Although Wintour said Talley sent her handwritten notes about his experiences with race, so “it was always bubbling under the surface”, he avoided the subject publicly, concentrating on his unique personal status in fashion.
Only in interviews publicizing his second memoir, The Chiffon Trenches (2020), written after Wintour had discarded him from Vogue without a word, did he describe her as “a colonial broad”, on whose watch Condé Nast had remained undiversified into the 21st century . He felt he had been exploited as an exotic, and sometimes as an ambassador for a black milieu; always the first to be bumped from a guest list. The released anger energized his last years.
Anna Wintour and Andre Leon Talley in 2013. Photographer Andrew Kelly/Reuters
He had been creating identity and an unrepeatable career path since his childhood in Durham, North Carolina. Born in Washington to Alma (nee Davis) and William Talley, who had gone there to work as government clerks, from the age of two months he grew up in the Durham house of his grandmother Bennie Davis, for 50 years a cleaner at nearby Duke University.
She encouraged the boy to read and gave him his own shocking-pink painted study, while his father sent a set of encyclopedias. At nine he discovered Vogue in the public library and later walked to a newsstand on the white side of town after Sunday church to buy it.
After Diana Vreeland arrived as editor in 1963, Vogue became Talley’s portal to a better planet. He read every caption, recognized the Beautiful People’s names, especially the French ones: he had been a Francophile since hearing Julia Child say “Bon appetit!” on her TV cooking show. He and Bennie took pleasure in clothes, and yearly boarded a bus to Washington or New York to buy the best that could be afforded. He read Flaubert’s Madame Bovary on one trip, intending to teach French in high school.
But his world widened, as he went on from North Carolina Central University on a scholarship to Brown University, Rhode Island, where he wrote a master’s thesis about black women in 19th-century French art and literature, and was picked up socially by wealthy white students from Rhode Island School of Design; he wrote for their college mag. They were his entree to New York, and, with a letter of introduction from one of their parents, to an unpaid internship in 1974 at the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute, where Vreeland curated extraordinary exhibitions. She noticed his creative input, summoned him to her office, wrote “ANDRE – THE HELPER” on her pad, and ordered him to stay by her side to show’s end.
He recognized her resemblance to Bennie, the same perfect clothes ritually maintained and tissue-paper-packed, the gloves, hard work and discipline. Vreeland found him a receptionist job on Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, where he was taken out on the town by the Factory entourage, and did thorough research before talking to Karl Lagerfeld. The designer was the first of many to dress Talley, tossing him custom-made shirts with matching mufflers at the end of the interview.
Another Talley teen hero, John Fairfield of Women’s Wear Daily, recruited him and in 1978 sent him as bureau chief to Paris. The French could be hostile – a PR executive mocked him as “Queen Kong” – and there were imbroglios over favored couturiers. Talley eventually left to freelance.
In 1983, he moved into as news editor at US Vogue, under the command of Grace Mirabella, just as Wintour became his creative editor. When she was appointed editor in 1988, Talley took her old job, both a novelty – male, gay, African American – and a link with Vreeland. In 1998, he was appointed editor-at-large.
That title was somewhat unfortunate: after Bennie’s death, Talley comfort-ate the food he associated with her kitchen, and his tall slenderness consolidated into girth beneath wonderful robes and capes sewn for him by major designers. Wintour and his pastor at the Abyssinian Baptist Church of Harlem persuaded Talley to book in for repeated clinic stays, but the struggle with weight never abated. His belief in the power of pageantry to elevate lives, in careful selection, upkeep, and tissue paper, had fallen out of fashion, and in 2013, Vogue discarded him.
There was no personal life to return to in his borrowed home in unchic White Plains, New York, nor had he got much money. Many fashion-world friendships ended in silence. He confessed that, though proudly gay, he had avoided sex since childhood abuse. As a true dandy, like those in favorite novels by Balzac and Baudelaire, his real romance had always been with the clothes.
André Leon Talley, fashion editor, born 16 October 1948; died 18 January 2022
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