The Wichita Asian Festival is coming up this weekend, and I’m excited about it. I have attended nearly every year since it started 32 years ago. What began as a small celebration with a smattering of food vendors and a beauty pageant has grown into a huge multicultural event. There’s still a pageant, but now the entertainment ranges from East Indian dance troupes to martial arts demonstrations. It’s a blast, but the best part for me has always been the food.
When you work in a restaurant, sometimes the only thing you want to eat is something that you, yourself, did not prepare. You could be surrounded by delicious food all day long and desire none of it. I know the feeling well.
Sometimes I’ll go out and get pizza or tacos for my staff, just for a change of pace. I did that yesterday, when I went out to check on my friends at MMM Sandwiches, a food truck serving… sandwiches. Really good sandwiches. Sandwiches we didn’t make ourselves. I ordered one of everything and got an appetizer just for kicks.
I will admit, very readily, that when I heard about the “gluten free” diet a few years ago, I thought it was a trend or just another weird excuse for an eating disorder. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and their cousins. Gluten intolerance makes drinking regular beer or eating soy sauce impossible. For the gluten intolerant, eating regular bread or pizza or pasta is simply not in the plan. The horror.
Want to step into a time machine? I know how. Go to Doc’s Steakhouse on North Broadway and hold onto your hat. Doc’s is retro all the way, from cobbled exterior to entirely brown interior. This is old-school Wichita.
Doc’s is a real experience, in every sense of the word. It is located on North Broadway, between a couple of Mexican restaurants, a Vietnamese market, and a pawn shop. It is a part of Wichita history, where our Mad Men would drink and eat meat and drink martinis, and deals of all kinds were brokered. Nothing about it is modern in any way, except for the televisions.
I have talked often of my love for very spicy food. I like to eat things so chili-hot that my eyes water and I get a sort of sparkly endorphin rush. I don’t like heat for heat’s sake, though, so the dish itself has to be delicious and well made, and the chilies need to enhance rather than obscure the flavors within. You aren’t going to see me judging jalapeno eating contests any time soon. I’d much rather be slurping up Thai noodles and curries at Chiang Mai.
I have been curious about the new Delish Deli at Food For Thought since they opened a few months ago. Food for Thought is a locally owned natural food store that’s been in business since 1971, so they know what they are doing in the healthy food department.
Oh, tacos! They are one of nature’s most perfect foods. I love just about everything about them. I’m talking about authentic Mexican soft corn tacos filled with earthy meats, not the crispy fried fast food ones (although there’s nothing wrong with those, either). I just adore those soft corn tortillas, the drippy sauces, the wonderful, rich meat fillings, and little squirt of lime that cuts all the richness and balances the whole.
Last year was a miserable year for gardeners and produce lovers. Everything dried up and died, dashing our hopes for juicy BLTs, sweet cucumber salads and fried zucchini blossoms. I’m a pathetic gardener and notorious killer of plants, but even master gardeners watched their efforts shrivel up and waste away in the brutal heat.
I was on a judging panel for the Orpheum’s annual “Celebrity and Chef Cook-off” a few days ago. I have graduated from contestant to judge in the last few years, and I have to say that judging is no less stressful, but it is less sweaty, and I smell better when it’s all over. As a general rule, I dislike cooking competitions, particularly the ones on TV, but the live ones are exciting, with ingredients flying around, and the smell and sizzle and quiet cursing just adding to the party.
I have just returned from a wonderful vacation to Sebastopol, California, in the heart of Sonoma County. My dance partner Marta and I went up for a huge bellydance event called Tribal Fest. We’ve been before, so we knew the food would be great, but the ante had been upped since were there last. I have never been anywhere where everything was so fresh and delicious. Even the rest stops had organic offerings, perfumed strawberries, and gluten-free cookies. It was like being on another planet.