Tsonia Bellete’s stew kits need just water, oil and 20 minutes of simmer time.

In a Stew

Tsiona Bellete, a Gaithersburg resident who opened Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant in Rockville in 2012, has created a line of products so you can experience some of her tasty cooking at home. Three stew kits (red lentil, brown lentil and split pea) are available in mild and spicy versions—the first seasoned with turmeric, carom seed, ginger, garlic and dried minced onion; the second with Ethiopian berbere spice mix (ground red chili peppers, allspice, cardamom, rue seed, fenugreek, black pepper, cumin, rosemary and nutmeg). Add water and oil to the legumes and spice packets, simmer for 20 minutes or so and serve. Bellete also hopes to launch a line of already prepared stews this fall in local grocery stores.

Better than the stews, though, are the chips Bellete fashions out of injera, the addictive, tangy, spongy Ethiopian bread made with teff flour. (Teff, a fine, dark grain, is a staple of the Ethiopian diet.) The crispy squares, curled slightly at the edges for extra scooping power, come in four flavors: spicy (with super fiery bird’s eye chili); mild; sea salt and garlic; and cinnamon sugar.   

Tsiona Gourmet Ethiopian Foods stew mixes ($6.99, four servings) and chips ($3.49 for a six-ounce package) are available at Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant (5071 Nicholson Lane, Rockville) and at local Ethiopian markets, including Adarash (8706 Flower Ave., Silver Spring) and Ethiopia Plus (11303 Georgia Ave., Wheaton).

Tsiona Gourmet Ethiopian Foods, 301-922-2910, www.tsionafoods.com


From top left to right: Tomato basil, classic dark chocolate, strawberry balsamic, barbecue and potato chip, pistachio, cardamom and rosewater and blueberry lavender.


Super Fudge

Jill Sandler had an epiphany at an event where red wine was paired with inferior chocolate. The federal government employee, who, until recently, moonlighted as a singer for a big band, resolved that, “People need to have better chocolate!” In 2014, she created a business called The Chocolatier’s Palette, refining her secret recipe for the assortments of artisanal fudge she had been giving to lucky friends and family members for years. She now sells the one-and-a-half-inch squares online and at Central Farm Markets (Bethesda, Pike & Rose and Mosaic locations) on weekends, where she delights in telling market-goers to allow the fudge to linger on the palate to reveal its complexity.

Sandler makes the small-batch fudge from fine Belgian dark and milk chocolate and all-natural, gluten-free ingredients in a commercial kitchen near her North Bethesda home. What sets her product apart are the unexpected flavors, which she especially likes to tie to seasons and holidays. For fall, look for piquant peach (laced with cayenne), chai, and black currant liqueur and lemon. For Rosh Hashanah: sesame lemon, pomegranate pecan, and apples and honey. The 12-piece Halloween assortment—which includes clever names such as Under My Spell (blueberry lavender), Something Ghostly (lemon, ginger, white chocolate) and Eerie Mutation (balsamic vinegar, cinnamon)—makes a great hostess gift. The fudge costs $1.75, $5 for three, $9 for five and $20 for 12.

The Chocolatier’s Palette, 240-644-8091, www.thechocolatierspalette.com


Tea-ing Up in Garrett Park

Vicki Baily of Garrett Park at a recent Black Market Bistro tea.

“Oh, that’s more attractive than the Willard’s!” exclaims one of four ladies as a carousel of crustless tea sandwiches lands on her table at Black Market Bistro on a sunny summer Thursday. On it are deviled ham on whole wheat; turkey, cheddar and apple on brioche; prosciutto and cream cheese on raisin bread; smoked salmon and cucumber on white bread; and pesto, mozzarella and tomato panini.

White cotton tablecloths and napkins lend elegance to a setting that couldn’t be more charming: a small, high-ceilinged, light-filled room in the converted Victorian house that the bistro shares with the Garrett Park post office. The restaurant accepts 10 reservations per tea.
From their conversation, the group is obviously well acquainted with tea services at finer establishments all over the world, and reviews flow as freely as the Harney & Sons teas being poured from decorative pots. “So many tastes and flavors—it’s like exploring!” one says of the sandwiches. Thumbs-up go to a second course of currant scones and honey butter. The guests contend, accurately, that it should come with crème fraîche and lemon curd. Dessert course sugar cookies and dark chocolate brownies with white chocolate ganache earn kudos, but delicate pecan Russian tea cookies inspire rapture. “That’s a 10 out of 10!” We concur.


The tea, a bargain at $25 per person, is offered by reservation on Thursdays from 2 to 3:30 p.m. and will continue at least through October.

Black Market Bistro, 4600 Waverly Ave., Garrett Park, 301-933-3000, www.blackmarketrestaurant.com

Comings & Goings

Renowned Chinese chef Peter Chang plans to open a flagship restaurant in Bethesda next spring. Named Qijiang (which means flagship in Mandarin), the fine-dining restaurant on East West Highway will include some dishes that are not on the menu at his Rockville and Virginia locations of Peter Chang.


Thompson Hospitality, the group behind American Tap Room in Bethesda and Rockville, plans to open a Southern restaurant in downtown Silver Spring called Hen Quarter—Southern Fare and Free-Range Cocktails by the end of 2016. The eatery will replace Austin Grill, which closed in March.

Chuy’s, a Tex-Mex chain out of Austin, Texas, is expected to open this fall in the former Ruby Tuesday’s space in the Federal Plaza shopping center on Rockville Pike.

After three years in business, Israeli-based chain Max Brenner Chocolate Bar shuttered its Bethesda location suddenly in June.


Persian restaurant Kabob Bazaar and cheesesteak emporium Philadelphia Mike’s, tenants of the Connor Building on Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda, closed in July. The building is being demolished for a Westin hotel project.

Savannah’s American Grill in Kensington also closed in July.

Recently Opened: See our Dining Guide for details on Beefsteak and TapaBar in Bethesda, and Samovar in Rockville.


Dish With Us

Do you know of a hidden gem or have a favorite restaurant that you want to share? Email tips for Bethesda Magazine restaurant critic David Hagedorn to editorial@moco360.media.