Maria Hines says she named her Ballard restaurant Golden Beetle after a 27-ingredient Moroccan spice mixture called ras el-hanout which includes dried golden beetle, a Spanish fly that is considered an aphrodisiac. That said, this Sexy Feast is not about the aphrodisiacal qualities of Golden Beetle’s dishes, though you’ll enjoy plenty of Eastern Mediterranean flavors to spice up your dinner and whatever follows it.
Those who like small plates will find lots to share here, with happy hour an especially good time to go to cash in on four-dollar specials. Popular are the French fries spiced with sumac and cooked in beef fat, served with an addictive harissa aioli. Lamb chickpea stew with yogurt and preserved lemon is a good bet, along with roasted chili hummus as a dip for wood-fired flatbread. Falafels are another featured item worth trying.
So what does Golden Beetle’s Eastern Mediterranean-flavored fare teach us about sex?
It’s all about the changing colors of pleasure.
Hines was undoubtedly delighted with the colors of the spices and more that she saw at the Mediterranean markets. Observe the food (and the photos) in the restaurant, and you’ll find these colors, including gold. Think cumin and turmeric and ginger and the like, and the colorful name Golden Beetle makes even more sense for the restaurant.
Gold is a great color, but imagine having the ability to change colors. Such is the case with the golden tortoise beetle (Charidotella sexpunctata, previously known as Metriona bicolor) found here in North America. These beetles can control color changes, doing so when disturbed by predators; but even better, they change color during copulation. In 1979, biology professor Edward Barrows discovered that these beetles can copulate from 15 to 583 minutes, with their color changing quickly from brilliant gold to black-spotted orange to black-spotted orange-brown. (Beetles that start dull orange turn gold.) Some will even turn elements of red. Barrows hypothesized that the colors represent sexual signaling, though it’s possible that they also indicate sexual pleasure.
Humans can also change color during sex, a phenomenon known as sexual flushing that comes with vasocongestion, or increased blood flow. (Vasocongestion is what also causes penile and clitoral erections.) This happens more with women than men. For women, the sex flush is generally most apparent in the chest area, though it can spread throughout the body. The walls of the vagina and the clitoris can also deepen in color (from pink to bright red, or bright red to deep purple) from vasocongestion. For men, the color is less noticeable, but tends to start in the upper abdomen before spreading north to the chest and sometimes up to the face or over to the arms and back.
And if you want to do some sex signaling of your own via color, you can artificially change your look by dyeing your hair or donning a wig. Lingerie and underwear are another way to use color. Black, white, and red remain the most popular colors in this arena, though yellow is also popular and may be golden when it comes to sex.
First published in Seattle Weekly’s Voracious on August 16, 2012.