Aug. 5 2015 12:00 AM
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Most aspiring restaurant owners spend hours working with ingredients, trying to develop dishes that will get people hooked. Rahel Musa, owner/operator of Teff-Riffic, an Ethiopean food stand inside the Allen Market Place, has created dishes whose sole purpose is to highlight their star ingredient: teff.

“Food is my passion, but my priority (with Teff-Riffic) is to sell my teff products,” Musa said. “By letting people try it through my dishes, I can introduce them to something they may not have tried before.”

Or heard of. Teff is a gluten-free grain that’s a staple food in Eritrea, Musa’s native country, located just north of Ethiopia. When she moved to Lansing in 2005, Musa said her family began to suffer from a variety of seemingly unrelated health problems. Frustrated, she decided to start cooking with ingredients she was familiar with from back home. She’s not saying teff is a miracle food, but … “They started feeling better,” Musa said. “Teff has a lot more iron in it than regular grain. Horse racers feed teff hay to their horses before a big race, and East Africans who have a lot of teff in their diet are some of the world’s best runners. I think switching to a teff-based diet really helped (my family) get healthy again.”

Musa grew her first few batches of teff using local farms, but when she realized how cumbersome and expensive it was to harvest and store her crop, she started buying teff from farms in the South. She makes her own flour with the grain she buys, which she uses to make injera, the spongy bread customary in Ethiopian cuisine.

Her booth at Allen Market Place features two types of lentil dishes — one mild, one spicy — a cabbage, potato and carrot dish and spicy chicken. She also sells homemade samosas, which are friend pastries filled with lentils, and occasionally features vegetarian-friendly teff burgers.

“I just keep experimenting to see what I can come up with,” she says. “I’m still perfecting teff pasta, and soon I’ll start offering teff gnocchi. I think that’s going to be very popular.”

And if things go well with her most recent deal, teff could become a household word in Metro Lansing. Last week, the Whole Foods being built in East Lansing agreed to carry Musa’s homemade flour and what is likely to be her signature item — teff pancake mix.

“I don’t think you can get it anywhere else in the country,” Musa said. “But (Whole Foods) liked the idea, so we’ll see how well it does. I’m prepared to meet a very high demand.”

Exit of Eden, end of the Rose

The Black Rose, 206. S. Washington Square, had only been in that location for about eight months before it quietly closed and a “For Lease” sign went up last week. The Irish-themed bistro, part of developer/ restaurateur Kris Elliott’s Urban Feast restaurant group, had essentially traded spots with Tavern on the Square, which changed its name to Tavern and Tap when it moved to 101 S. Washington Square (the space formerly shared by the Black Rose and Edmund’s Pastime) last November. Elliott did not return calls for comment, but his across-the-street neighbor, Jerome Abood, is handling the marketing of the space for him.

Meanwhile, Abood’s restaurant/nightclub, House of Eden Rock, 205 S. Washington Square, also closed last week after a two-year run. That space underwent a massive interior overhaul when the Wild Beaver Saloon left in 2013. This spring, Okemos-based Thai Princess took partial control of Eden Rock’s kitchen in an attempt to appeal to lunch and dinner crowds. Abood said there are no immediate plans for the space.

“Sales were fine and Thai Princess was doing well with the food, (but) I’ve been too busy to give the business (my time),” Abood said via text message. “It’s just better to lease or sell for us.”

Teff-Riffic (inside Allen Market Place) 1619 E. Kalamazoo St., Lansing 3-7 p.m. Wednesdays (517) 488-9547, facebook.com/allenstreetfarmersmarket

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