Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Spicy Ethiopian Goodness at Blue Nile Cafe

If I were to be granted wishes concerning my blogging journey, I would wish for The Confounded Cook to one day evolve into a food and travel blog. Our traveling expense has been tied up in my frequent trips to my hometown to care for my parents. Travel, along with food, is one of my great passions. For now though, I try to make time for the next best thing....cultural exploration through food done locally. The latest excursion introduced myself and my friends Kara and Drew to Ethiopia and truly it was like nothing else.

The Blue Nile Cafe is tucked into the City Market area of KC. It's a small dining room adorned with Ethiopian art on the walls. I'd arrived a few minutes before my lunch cohorts and the scents wafting from Blue Nile were making my stomach growl. We were soon seated and learned there was a lunch buffet and thinking it was a great way to sample several specialties, we agreed to that. We couldn't figure out where the buffet was and soon realized it was similar to a lunch counter at the front. We first ordered a high-tech version of the cafe's Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony: a cocky and sleek-looking coffee siphon that brewed the Ethiopian coffee called buna right at our table. At the buffet, we were warmly welcomed by one of the owners who's name is Selam. She, as well as our server, graciously explained many of the dishes we were trying.

The Ethiopian delicacies won us over at first bite. We learned the proper way to graze was to employ the soft, spongy bread called injera. Injera is made with teff, a rye-like grain indigenous to Ethiopia. Once you have torn off a smallish piece of injera, you use it to pinch pieces of food off of your plate and then eat with your hands. After a bit, we all returned to using our flatware. However we ate it, we most certainly enjoyed it. Like any cuisine, there were some selections we liked better than others, but we agreed that all of it was very good. The plate begins on a bed of white rice. There was Gomen, fresh collard greens cooked and seasoned with onions, ginger and garlic. Atiklett is potatoes, carrots and cabbage cooked with yellow onion and flavored with ginger, garlic and turmeric. I am not typically a fan of mushrooms or particularly wowed by lentils but if I could have them both prepared the way they are at the Blue Nile, I would eat them every day. The Mushroom Shiro features sliced mushrooms with roasted and powdered chickpeas simmered in a spicy red sauce. My personal favorite was the Misir Watt: stew made with organic red lentils cooked with sauteed red onion and berbere (an Ethiopian hot pepper), then flavored with ginger, garlic and cardamom. I also had the Doro Watt, a skinless chicken breast marinated in lemon, sauteed in herbed butter and stewed in a red pepper sauce flavored with cardamom and nutmeg. The entire dish was quite the flavorful combination and made for a filling and satisfying meal. The buffet is all-you-can-eat and only costs $8.50. One platter was more than enough for each of us, so it's a great deal.

We finished off the meal with our hot Ethiopian coffee which had finished brewing at our table. Keep in mind that my coffee drinking is only on an occasional basis. I'd had Turkish coffee at a Portuguese restaurant in Pentagon City before and I had a notion of what to expect. Two demitasse cups of this strong, aromatic brew and I was lit up for the rest of the day. Great way to clear out the post-meal haze! All in all, Blue Nile Cafe was a delicious experience and we will definitely return. As a matter of fact, we were enlightened to the fact that Selam and Blue Nile will soon be expanding to a second location in Overland Park that will be more upscale and feature a more traditional Ethiopian dining experience. Check them out at http://www.bluenilekc.com/.

I can't let this post pass on without mentioning that today is my lunch partner Kara's birthday. I only met Kara a few months back and we've become fast friends. Our mutual love of food is only one reason I'm sure we'll remain friends for a long time to come. The happiest of birthdays to you, Darlin'!


Anonymous said...

I ate there years ago and truly loved it. You totally have made we want to return. Great blog!

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