Chef Alex Jordan and her business partner, Elleni N. Tesflay, are showcasing their skills at a new weekly pop-up at Pastry Art Café in downtown Sarasota. Every Saturday from 5-9 p.m., diners can enjoy the earthy flavors of Ethiopia in the café's cozy setting.
Jordan, who moved to Sarasota from Ethiopia when she was 10 years old, has been cooking professionally in Sarasota since 2019.
"I started cooking dinners for friends at home, which led to cooking classes at libraries and then events in town," she says.
After years of developing her ideas, Jordan and Tesflay have named the business Adey, which means "mother" and "flower" in each of the Ethiopian languages they speak (the ancient country has more than 90 indigenous languages).
In addition to working with Tesflay, Jordan often collaborates with Erik Decker of Deck's Plate, a plant-based concept. Decker introduced her to the owners of Pastry Art.
"I went over to ask the owner about composting and eventually brought him some Ethiopian food. That's how the pop-up happened. They want to support upcoming chefs at Pastry Art," says Jordan.
I head to Pastry Art early on Saturday evening, on a day I'd forgotten to eat lunch and am edging close to hangry status. I expect that my early arrival would secure a prime spot, but am surprised to find a busy dining room with almost all the tables filled. Jordan greets me at the door, and after I tell her about my hunger level, advises me to order "The Feast," a meal that features every element Adey is serving that evening. I'm game.
My plate consists of seven neatly portioned tastes of the menu, accompanied by injera bread, a robust fermented flatbread. I study the menu to determine which dish is which and decide to sample the misir first. It's made of lentils stewed in a spicy sauce, called berbere, and the earthiness immediately satisfies my growing hunger. I scoop up the stew with the injera bread, which adds a sour element to the dish, creating a satisfying and balanced bite.
I work my way through the dishes, from a pumpkin stew called duba wat to a cabbage dish called tikil gomen, before arriving at a helping of collard greens called gomen that I've been saving for last. I grew up eating collard greens stewed with ham hock, garlic and onions, and any iteration of the vegetable feels personal. These greens are stewed sans ham, and the subtle bitterness of the collards shines through. Although the preparation is different, I am transported to my childhood.
To sum up the entire meal in a few words would do a disservice to the delicate collection of flavors in each dish. However, the meal is filled with new and interesting combinations that still feel comforting and familiar. Jordan says that for her, food brings people together. Mission accomplished.
Adey is at Pastry Art Café every Saturday from 5-9 p.m. at 1512 Main St., Sarasota. For more information call the café at (941) 955-7545.