Journey into the Kenyan Underground

Confession: I’ve been less than enthusiastic about cooking lately. Maybe it’s because I’ve been hitting the kitchen hard for the past five or so months. Maybe it’s because I’m somewhat over stew at the moment (hard to avoid since that is a lot of what is eaten in these regions).  Trapped inside for the most part these cold winter months, it’s not like I’d rather be outside playing (that may be an issue I face in about 4 months when beach volleyball season starts).  In any case, I apologize for my lacklusterness and will dig deep down for a renewed sense of vigor as I move on to Eastern Africa next week.  I already have the menu planned and am pretty excited about it.

For today though, I’m going to keep riding the lazy train and insert an African field trip here rather than cook.  My friend Vert told me about this fascinating culinary experience that is unique to Chicago called “Smunderground.”  Sounds shady, yes, but here’s the gist:  A very pleasant Chicago couple hosted a dinner party for a random bunch of people, serving a delicious multi-course meal at their communal dining table.  According to their blurb, their  focus is on “creative and innovative food influenced by their love of ethnic cuisine and the science of food.”  The theme rotates every month, and February it just happened to be loosely based on Kenyan cuisine.  Kenya, located in Eastern Africa is where I’m heading tomorrow, so Vert alerted me of the opportunity. Since Tomato just moved to Chicago (yay!) and is staying with me until her new pad is ready to be inhabited, and is always a willing participant on a food adventure, I figured  we’d give it a go.  New neighborhood, new people, new experience, new food. Let’s go!

Here’s what we ate:



Melon and prosciutto with a dollop of homemade crème fraiche.


1ST.  Samosa


lamb, leek, carrot, rosemary, cumin

2ND.  Ravioli


goat loin, sweet potato, brown butter

3RD.  Piri Piri


confit chicken, birds eye pepper, masala, chips

4TH.  Traditional

goat rib

goat rib, bile, ugali, kachumbari

5TH.  Salad


greens, ricotta, honey, cashews

6TH. Risotto

short rib

short rib, clove, vanilla, fennel, cauliflower, cassava

LAST. Pudding


bread, tea, amarula, caramel, vanilla, cashew, salt

To me, it was a completely random way to spend a Friday night, but a very enjoyable one at that.  A few times during the night I caught myself having an Alice through the Looking Glass moment, asking myself “What am I doing” before I just smiled and brought myself back to the present. It was a pretty eccentric group, our party made up of artists, techies, mathematicians, trekkies but it worked.  Brilliant idea, S&M.

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