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.

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 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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