My father escaped from Nazi Austria in 1938 with his sister and parents. All of them were doctors. The family name was changed to Lehndorff when persecution prompted them to change from Jews to Christians.
My Mom was born in Connecticut to barely literate Sicilians who became successful grocers, landowners and business entrepreneurs. I’m a second generation American who owes everything he is to immigrants from undesirable locations who faced discrimination upon arrival.
Some of the best meals I’ve eaten during my life have been cooked by immigrants in eateries. Some of my favorite interviews have been with ethnic cooks, not famous chefs. I have always believed that if you can sit down with someone and break bread — whether it’s a tortilla, lavosh or a rice bun — you evaporate the barriers and the fear of “the other.”
The leader of our nation reportedly recently opined: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”
I’m not going to debate the idiocy of the administration’s immigration policy. Personally, I’m waiting to see Trump’s 23 & Me genetic test.
Visiting the countries banned or maligned by the president may be ideal, but next-best is to visit local cafés, bakeries and markets. Have your taste buds meet their flavors. Support immigrant business owners.
A great place to start is the remarkable Comal Heritage Food Incubator. Featured recently on Top Chef, the Incubator serves Denver’s poor but immigrant-rich neighborhoods and helps women from Mexico, El Salvador, Syria and other nations acquire business skills. Syrian refugees serve their fare, including blissfully creamy hummus for lunch on Fridays. Mexican and Central American food is also available, as well as an Ethiopian coffee ceremony. Details: facebook.com/comalkitchen.
Here are some metro ethnic destinations along with suggested dishes to try.
The Middle East & Central Asia
Arabesque: Manal and Saib Jarrar, Palestinian Israelis from the city of Acre, serve freshly baked pita, tabbouleh, Arabic coffee, milky chai and walnut and honey baklava. 1634 Walnut St., Boulder, arabesqueboulder.com.
Mediterranean Deli: Owned by Libyan-born Salem Garni, the small deli and grocer offers gyros and filo-dough-wrapped spinach pies with yogurt sauce and zataar (thyme and olive oil) dip. 2690 28th St., Boulder, mediterraneanmarketdeli.eat24hour.com.
Ali Baba Grill: Syrian natives opened this four-location chain serving deep-fried whole red snapper with tahini, parsley and lemon sauce, and muhamara pie filled with ground walnuts, red bell pepper and cracked wheat. 3033 28th St., Boulder, alibabagrill.com.
Mumtaz Mediterranean Food: Lebanon-born Hiam Jamell serves chickpea and fava falafel, baba ghanouj with roasted eggplant, garlic and lemon, and feta-filled fried sambusek. 588 U.S. 287, Lafayette, mumtazfood.com.
Darya Restaurant: Iranian immigrants serve Persian cuisine including: mirza ghasemi (baked eggplant dip with eggs), baghali polo (lamb shank) and sholeh zard (saffron rice dessert). 10890 E. Dartmouth Ave., Aurora, restaurantdarya.com.
Afghan Kabob: A family from Afghanistan serves beef tikka kabobs, bolani (samosa), baklava and chai. 1975 W. 120th Ave., Westminster.
Central America and the Caribbean
Pupusas: Natives of El Salvador make corn pupusas with various fillings served with curtido (tart slaw) and salsa in a small red shack. Corner of Highway 42 and South Boulder Road, behind Union Jack Liquors, Lafayette.
Café Copan: Honduran immigrants offer Honduran coffee drinks and specialties including the tajadas plate with plantains, avocado, steak, refried red beans, crumbled white cheese, crema and tortilla. 1515 Main St., Longmont, mycafecopan.com.
Quiero Arepas: Authentic Venezuelan arepas (corn cakes) including the reina pepiada stuffed with shredded chicken, avocado and lime dressing. Inside Avanti Food & Beverage, 3200 Pecos St., Denver, quieroarepas.com.
A Taste of Haiti: A true hole-in-wall shop offering Haitian specialties including curry goat, oxtail, fried plantains and jerk chicken sandwiches. 2622 Welton St., Denver.
Ras Kassa’s Ethiopian Restaurant: For 30 years, Tsehay Hailu has served kitfo, doro wat, injera bread, honey wine and other Ethiopian favorites. 802 S. Public Road, Lafayette.
Café Paprika: Moroccan-born Chakib Marrakchi dishes tagines with couscous and bastilla, a filo-wrapped pie filled with nuts, saffron chicken and eggs. 13160 E. Mississippi Ave., Aurora, cafepaprika.com.
Maandeeq East African Restaurant: This modest café run by Somali refugees serves North African fare including stewed goat with rice, soup, salad, beans, hot sauce, banana and chapaetie bread. 1535 S. Havana St., Aurora, maandeeqrestaurantcafe.com.
Sudan Café: One of Colorado’s only Sudanese eateries dishes koshari (lentils, rice and pasta), shakshouka (eggs poached in tomato sauce), injera bread and North African pastries. 10375 E. Iliff Ave., Denver.
African Grill & Bar: The Ghanaian owner serves authentic central African dishes including fufu (plantain and cassava), peanut soup, collard greens, lamb samosas and goat stew. 18601 Green Valley Ranch Blvd., Denver, africangrillco.com.
Jozi’s Kitchen & Shebeen: South African natives devised a menu that features boerewors and pap (sausage over polenta with trainsmash — tomato/onion gravy), and melktert (dessert pie). 10971 S. Parker Road, Parker, joziskitchen.com.
Local Food News
Slow Food Boulder County is hosting a Feb. 6 happy hour cookbook swap at The Kitchen — Upstairs in Boulder. slowfoodboulder.com … Eight Boulder and Denver chefs will create film-inspired dishes for CineCHEF 2018 Feb. 23 at the Boulder International Film Festival. Event includes showing of the documentary Michelin Stars: Tales from the Kitchen. biff1.com/cinechef. … Coming soon: Corrida, 1023 Walnut St., Boulder; Acreage, 1380 Horizon Ave., Lafayette; Chimera, 2014 10th St., Boulder; Vitality Bowls, 2525 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder; and Kung Fu Tea, 1121 Broadway, Boulder.
Taste of the week
I happily indulged my Austrian side at the Bohemian Biergarten with juicy fried chicken schnitzel with an over easy egg on top, plus beet salad, German potato salad and Czech Pilsener Urquell.
Words to chew on
“My stepmother said, ‘I made you something. I thought you’d like it.’ It was an entire mixing bowl full of chocolate mousse… It was a huge bowl, and I just took it up to my room and just read and ate it all afternoon. … It was, oh my God, the best present ever.”
John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles on KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM, kgnu.org) at 8:25 a.m. Thursdays.