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Ethiopian Bakery in Arlington: Dama Bakery & Cafe Report


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Ethiopian Bakery in Arlington: Dama Bakery & Cafe Report

AC | Feb 12, 2006 11:42 PM

Dama Bakery & Cafe was recently referenced in a Washington Post article about local immigrants who are big Redskins fans. I was stoked at the notion to finally sample an Ethiopian baked good other than injera. And interestingly enough, the pastry chef at Dama turns out to have not only studied French cuisine and pastry making at L'Academie de Cuisine, but also served as a White House pastry chef.

The bakery and cafe are attached to two other Dama enterprises, a market and a restaurant. Though the market and restaurant appear somewhat shabby, the cafe has an attractive Starbucks style design. That night, the cafe was unbelievably busy, so we pretty much intended to bust in, snag a few pastries, and skulk away. Aside from a tray of baklava, the dessert case mostly featured the sort of elaborately buttercreamed cakes that one would expect from a pastry chef with Dama’s pedigree. But since we came for the Ethiopian baked goods, I was not interested in Western style cakes.

When I inquired as to the whereabouts of the Ethiopian pastries, the proprietor, the very same one interviewed in the Post article, gestured with a sweep of his hand to two baskets unceremoniously tucked away on a shelf behind him. I asked him for one of each item, so that we could enjoy as broad a survey of Ethiopian baked goods as possible. Unfortunately, I was so flustered by the hive of activity around us, that I didn’t have the presence of mind to sample their coffee.

Of the three pastries, only one was sweet. The first item was a samosa stuffed with lentils and cooked in a dry spice mix. The deep-fried shell of the somosa was chewy instead of flaky like its Indian counterparts. Overall, it was tasty, though fans of Indian somosas are unlikely to be impressed.

The second pastry appeared, at first, akin to an unremarkable French roll, but its considerable heft indicated otherwise. The crunchiness of the outer layer had a quick, deep-fried quality to it, while the inner core of the pastry was baked: dense, moist, and sweet. A perfect accompaniment to a leisurely cup of coffee.

The final item, however, was truly revelatory: deep fried dough, about the size of a hand, dark brown, and crispy on the outside. Inside, the stretchy, chewy dough was interspersed with toasted cumin seeds, the same little black seeds often featured in Afghan bread. The seeds lent the fried dough an exotic savor. Though it was fairly greasy, I ate it with abandon. Although I have no idea what this item is called I would definitely be willing to schlep out there for it again.

Dama Bakery & Cafe is located at:
1503 Columbia Pike
Arlington, VA
(703) 920-3559


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