Beyond Black Pepper

Can't wait for Morou Ouattara to reopen Farrah Olivia? He's now selling his African ingredients—and teaching customers how to use them.

By: Kate Nerenberg

Morou Ouattara hopes to reopen his African-inspired Old Town restaurant, Farrah Olivia—which closed last April—in DC by the end of this year. But diners don’t have to wait to get a taste of his deconstructed dishes: Once a month at Kora, his Italian trattoria in Crystal City, Ouattara is creating what he calls an “ethnic dining experience.” Translation: cooking that’s a lot closer to the Kobe-beef tartare with berbere oil from his old menu than to spaghetti and meatballs.

Each of the five-course dinners is centered around a product from Unikeats, Ouattara’s new retail line of spice rubs and hard-to-find African ingredients. He recently introduced diners to West African alligator peppers—large pods that look like unshelled walnuts and have a pungent, spicy flavor—with cooking demonstrations and samples to take home.

Other products include smoked shrimp, melon seeds, and dried-okra powder—“the spices I grew up with,” says Ouattara. His powdered spice blends, to be rubbed on fish or meat, have Farrah Olivia–like ingredient lists: The blue-curry “t-rub” combines black tea, sea salt, curry powder, dried blueberries, ginger, and lime. The espresso-barbecue blend, which Ouattara uses for meats, incorporates ground espresso, paprika, alligator pepper, and cumin. Move over, oregano.

The ingredients ($3 to $16.75) and spice blends ($6.50 for two-ounce jars) are available at morou.com and at Kora. The next Unikeats dinner ($125) at the restaurant is April 27, and the featured ingredient is cassava couscous.

This article appeared in the April, 2010 issue of The Washingtonian. 

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