Kansas City Connection: Celebrate the best of KC’s international flavor
At Kansas City’s 35th annual Ethnic Enrichment Festival, a handful of cash is your ticket to a culinary tour that would otherwise take thousands of dollars and many years of travel to complete.
With food, drink and crafts from 50 different nationalities on display in colorful booths, the festival is a great way to explore the flavors and culture of the city’s various ethnic communities.
Located at Swope Park around the large, columned park shelter near Meyer Boulevard and Swope Parkway, the event offers something for everyone. Kids can try to collect as many stamps as possible in their “passports” (handed out for free at the gate), while adults can pass the time in the Biergarten. The park shelter itself is transformed into a stage for showcases of music, dance and costumes from all over the world.
The performances are a fun chance for the many different international communities present in Kansas City to show off their traditions and identity, and the booths are a great place to learn more about the countries you’ve always wanted to visit. Many of the crafts and tchotchkes are fun to check out as well, especially those in the India, Mexico, Kenyan and Laotian booths.
From my perspective, however, nothing beats the food. Try baklava from Turkey, a mango shake from Pakistan, peanut butter stew from Gambia, turkey legs from Ireland, pastries from Serbia, calypso rice and oxtails from Trinidad and Tobago, or saffron chicken from Nepal (to name just a few). Portions are relatively small and inexpensive, making it possible to try a little bit of everything.
The Ethnic Enrichment Festival starts at 6 p.m. Friday evening and goes until 10 p.m. It continues from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $3 for those 12 and up, and parking is free. ATMs are available on site, but bring cash and a hearty appetite. Arrive early if possible, as the event draws a sizable crowd by mid-afternoon Saturday. A menu and a full list of attendees are available at eeckc.net.
Blue Nile Cafe
If you aren’t able to make it to the festival this weekend and want to try some delicious food from somewhere you might not have visited, visit Kansas City’s oldest Ethiopian restaurant, Blue Nile Cafe (20 E. Fifth St. in the City Market). Owners Daniel and Selam Fikru, a husband-and-wife team that met in high school in their native Ethiopia, opened Blue Nile after moving to Kansas City almost 20 years ago.
The menu items are flavorful and eclectic, including a wide variety of vegetarian entrees made from organic red lentils, potatoes, chickpeas, yellow split peas, garbanzo bean dough and butternut squash. Meat entrees include chicken, beef and lamb dishes cooked with exotic spices. The soups are delicious, as is the injera, a traditional Ethiopian bread rolled up like a crepe.
The best way to try Blue Nile Cafe is with the lunch buffet (served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday), which is a bargain at $8.50 a person. Blue Nile is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. In addition to running the restaurant, Daniel and Selam offer occasional cooking classes as well. Visit bluenilekc.com for more information.
Some big names in music will be in town this weekend, including Earth Wind & Fire (Tuesday, Starlight Theatre, $35 and up), guitarist Eric Johnson (Tuesday, Knuckleheads, $24.50), viral video-makers OK Go (Tuesday, Riot Room, $15), Ziggy Marley (Wednesday, Crossroads KC, $27 and up), Boston and Kansas (Thursday, Starlight, $25 and up), and Rod Stewart and Santana (Thursday, Sprint Center, $50 and up).
Miley Cyrus is also scheduled to perform at the Sprint Center on Tuesday after having to reschedule her April 15 show, but whether she shows up at the venue or just winds up tweeting from her hospital bed is anybody’s guess.
— Lucas Wetzel is a writer and editor from Kansas City, Mo. Know of an upcoming event in Kansas City you’d like to see featured in Kansas City Connection? Email us about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.