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Ethiopian feast & KC raw food meetup

February 6, 2011

Quick note before I begin: If you have not yet voted in the 2011 Hot Raw Chef contest, please do! Click here and cast your vote for video #5, Chef Amber Shea’s (my) caramel-fudge brownies! Voting ends this Wednesday, February 9th.

I’ve talked plenty on this blog about my love for Ethiopian food. I’ve documented taking a vegetarian Ethiopian cooking class, I’ve made and raved about misir watt (Ethiopian lentils), my favorite dish, and I’ve even created an Ethiopian-inspired hummus. So when Matt emailed me at the end of the day on Friday saying “How would you like it if I came home, swept you off your feet, and took you to a nice dinner for two at a restaurant of your choice?” (am I a lucky girl, or what?!), Blue Nile Café immediately sprang to mind. They just opened a second location in Overland Park, which means no more 30-minute drive to City Market is required to obtain a delicious Ethiopian meal!

The new location is lovely, with a very different, but equally enjoyable, ambiance from the original. (And get this!—they have a weekday lunch buffet. Oh, I am in trouble.)

The seating area is especially cute.

Matt’s excited. Can’t you tell?

Half of Blue Nile’s menu is vegan, which can make it hard to choose what to order! I picked my second favorite dish, yekik watt (yellow split peas), with sides of shimbera assa (saucy garbanzo bean patties) and fosolia (green beans and carrots), and of course plenty of injera.

Matt ordered misir watt (red lentils) with sides of dinich watt (tomato-y potatoes) and mushroom shiro.

Blue Nile has always had vegan cupcakes on their dessert menu…

…but this time, I also spied a second dessert menu of vegan and/or gluten-free delights!

Matt and I came thisclose to ordering the apple galette, but we abstained. Instead, I enjoyed a steaming cup of buna—authentic Ethiopian coffee.

Normally, I like a little bit of sweetener in my coffee, but this stuff was so smooth and not-bitter that I just drank it black. (By the way, I don’t know why my hands look so huge in this pic, but I swear, I do not have monstrous hands! Oh, and sorry about the horrendous lighting.)

Saturday afternoon, I decided to attend an event I’ve been meaning to go to for quite some time: the monthly Kansas City raw food meetup. KC’s raw meetup group has a whopping 745 members—betcha didn’t see that coming, huh? (The Midwest is cooler than people give us credit for!) Now, I don’t talk about it much on here (nor do I necessarily give the impression I’m this way), but I’m actually a very quiet and sometimes socially anxious person. The idea of being in a room of total strangers is more than a little nerve-wracking to me, which is why (I’m ashamed to say) I’d never ventured to a KC raw meetup before. But this time, I went through with it, and I’m quite happy I did!

It was a potluck-style gathering, and I was surprised to find several dozen people there! I can hardly believe everyone’s food fit in the tiny kitchen. It was a dazzling raw smorgasbord.

There were raw chips, crackers, dips, salads, slaws, rolls, nut patés, mock salmon, veggie medleys, fruit salads, and of course sweets. The photo below only shows a portion of the dessert offerings—the spread was too big to fit in one frame! Here you can see raw chocolate cookies, an assortment of frosted raw macaroons, and my own two contributions on the right—raw fudge brownies with chocolate-hazelnut glaze, and a warm caramel apple-walnut cobbler (a future cookbook recipe!).

To be honest, the meetup was too packed to be able to talk to very many people—we were really crammed in there! I did, however, find myself sitting with a trio of delightful ladies, with whom I engaged in two solid hours of good conversation (not to mention the delicious plateful of food you see below).

You’ll hardly believe this, but when I brought up the Hot Raw Chef competition, one woman said she’d just voted in it, and asked which video was mine. “The caramel-fudge brownies,” I replied, pointing to the bite she had on her plate. She looked down, then looked back up at me, and her eyes widened in recognition. “Oh my gosh! YOU! It’s you! I voted for you! I voted for your brownies! Yours was my favorite recipe and video by far!” Haha! Is it a small world, or what?! I was tickled pink.

I think that’s a pretty great sign that my video is a good one, but you should decide for yourself! If you haven’t already checked out the 2011 Hot Raw Chef contest,
CLICK HERE to view the videos and vote for video #5,
Chef Amber Shea Ford’s raw caramel-fudge brownies!

There’s only 3 more days left to vote!

74 Comments leave one →
  1. February 6, 2011 5:50 pm

    WOW…better than the food is MATT!Both of you are lucky kids!!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 7, 2011 6:55 am

      Hehe! You’ll get no argument from me on that 😛

  2. February 6, 2011 5:59 pm

    I love Blue Nile, such a great place! I’ve been going to the KC Raw Meetup for a few years, but it’s actually been awhile since I’ve been to a potluck. Natalie, one of the organizers, is bringing a Cafe Gratitude restaurant to KC this year! We are definitely moving up in the vegan/raw world. 🙂

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 7, 2011 6:52 am

      I’ve always felt too awkward venturing to those meetups alone…but now that I’m a raw chef, I felt like it really is the place for me to be!

      You know, I’ve been hearing about the Café Gratitude thing for so long, but I never hear anything final or for-sure. So it’s really happening this year? Wow! I wonder if they need a chef…because, yknow, someone I know would be perfect for that job!… 😉

  3. February 6, 2011 5:59 pm

    that looks so yummy! all that raw food. YUUUUM

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 7, 2011 1:52 pm

      Indeed! 🙂

  4. February 6, 2011 6:49 pm

    Amber! That looks so much cuter than the original. How fun to have a new location so close. That’s making me want to go there. It’s been a while. Yum! Also, cool to know there’s so many that take part in a local meetup 🙂 I hear there’s a (non raw) vegan one too? Thought I looked it up once. Very cool. That coffee sounds delish!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 8, 2011 2:12 pm

      It’ll be SO nice to have a Blue Nile this close. I see future weeknight dinners of homemade misir watt, with Matt picking up some injera for us on his way home from work… 😉

      There IS a non-raw KC vegetarian/vegan meetup. I tried going once, but I didn’t have a good experience. I got a friend to go with me, and we arrived to Café Seed just a few min late. By then, the group had already settled into the main dining room, and there were no seats left. One guy told us we could sit in the other room, so we did. No one EVER came out to greet us, talk to us, just say hello, anything. We were back there alone the whole time. After waiting AN HOUR for our food (literally, one hour from the time we put our order in—and they didn’t even come by to fill our waters or anything!), we just picked up and left. I’ve never left a restaurant like that before getting my food. Needless to say, I haven’t been back to Café Seed OR the VegKC meetup since. I’m sure it was just a fluke, but considering how socially inhibited I am to begin with, that was enough for me to not want to try again. Everyone at the raw meetup was really nice, though!

      • February 8, 2011 9:52 pm

        I guess I’m not the only one then. I’ve gone to a few of those meetups and they were soo cliquey and just kind of arrogant. Cafe Seed has always been really nice when we’ve gone though, if slow. Odd that you were treated like that. Did the owners of the restaurant know you were in the other room?

      • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
        February 9, 2011 7:11 am

        Ok, I am really glad to know it’s not just me, then. I got a bit of a cliquey vibe, too.

        The waiter at Café Seed seated us, poured us water, and took our order…and then never came back, for a full 60 minutes. We saw him walking around, and going in and out of the other room constantly, but never even came back near us. Frustrating. I’d like to give it another try someday, though…

        • February 9, 2011 11:36 am

          Maybe we could start up our own meetup? The friendly yet socially inept kc vegan/raw folk.

        • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
          February 9, 2011 1:17 pm

          That sounds awesome (and way more comfortable) to me! 😛

  5. February 6, 2011 7:51 pm

    Nice blog you have here. I’m vegan and 60% raw – do drop by at!


    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 8, 2011 2:14 pm

      You blog is nice as well 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  6. February 6, 2011 8:22 pm

    That place is adorable! I’ve had Ethiopian once and really liked it but that was years ago and there’s none anywhere near me 😦

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 8, 2011 2:15 pm

      You should try making it yourself! Dishes like misir watt aren’t hard at all 😀

  7. February 6, 2011 8:32 pm

    Aw, how wonderful and amazing that the woman voted for you in the competiton? See? Clearly ‘most everyone knows you deserve to win. Well done for braving the meet-up – very proud of you. Hopefully, by doing this kind of thing every now and again, you’ll be able to build up a few more friendships supportive of where you are in your life right now. At least, until I come visit and you don’t need no one else 😉 (teehee!)

    Well done to Matt too, for treating his lady love right. Did I tell you that I went to an Ethiopian restaurant for the first time in December? Love injera!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 9, 2011 7:13 am

      Gosh, I hope so! You know, as soon as I start marveling at the support I’ve got, I remind myself that other folks in the competition may well have even bigger networks of potential voters. I’m doing everything I can to push myself to the forefront!

      Even though I didn’t get to talk to many people at the meetup, I’m glad I went 🙂

      YAY for Ethiopian! Isn’t it just amazing? That injera! It’s like…a flat, sour sponge…but delicious!

  8. Teigan H. permalink
    February 6, 2011 9:47 pm

    Have you heard of Marathon Ethiopian? It’s on Independence Avenue. A group of friends and I went there a couple of weeks ago. They were delicious and cheap! They have a menu on Watch out for the green beans on the veggie sampler, I think there might have been butter in it.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 9, 2011 7:16 am

      I have not! I actually didn’t realize there were any other Ethiopian restaurants in or near the city besides Blue Nile (since Addis Abbaba closed a few years ago). I don’t get out to that area very often, but I may have to find a way to try that place!

      • February 9, 2011 11:36 am

        Yeah it seems like it might be a bit distant from where you live. It’s literally four blocks away from our house, so we’ll be going again I’m sure.

        • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
          February 9, 2011 1:17 pm

          Someday, I’m sure I will have occasion to go 🙂

      • February 9, 2011 11:38 am

        Although, I did just realize that I should mention it’s really close to the city market. If you took a cooler for your veg in the summer, you could pop down to Marathon for lunch or something.

        • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
          February 9, 2011 1:18 pm

          Great idea!

  9. February 6, 2011 10:33 pm

    what a great coincidence! that must have been an awesome confidence booster.

    i am going to a raw potluck in malibu on valentines day. there’s a 2 hour yoga class with “kali ray” a swami who has a pretty big following in Europe. should be sweet!

    glad things have been going well!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 9, 2011 7:17 am

      It really was! I hope it’s a good sign…

      Wow, I bet raw potlucks in your area are an even bigger draw than ours here! Bet that’ll be fun. 🙂

  10. February 6, 2011 10:34 pm

    Nice! We have a raw foods meetup every 1st monday of the month but I have yet to go. I have been aprehensive about it despite my general like for meeting new people. i will eventually make it. What a small world indeed when you found out that lady voted for you! COOL!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 9, 2011 7:19 am

      The food alone made it worth attending! 😛 And small world indeed! I was floored that she’d voted for me.

  11. February 7, 2011 3:03 am

    all that raw food looks AMAZING!!! ahh i wish i could just eat it allup!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 9, 2011 7:19 am

      I wish I could eat that plate of food all over again!

  12. February 7, 2011 4:29 am

    LOVE mushroom shiro! (obviously, if I made a raw version ;D) I need to get over to that new location, but the lack of happy hour makes me sad.

    I’d totally go to a raw food meet-up with you!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 9, 2011 1:18 pm

      I bet Matt would love your raw version too! (Me, I’m not such a big fan of fungi.)

      Maybe we should attend the KC raw meetup together sometime 😀

  13. February 7, 2011 8:49 am

    That is too crazy that you met one of your voters! Everything looks totally delicious at that meetup. I have only gone out for Ethiopian food once, and while I loved all the sides, I just really didn’t like the injera. It might have been the fault of just that restaurant though, I need to try it again.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 9, 2011 1:22 pm

      I know, right?!

      As for injera, the taste is a bit “weird” at first, a little sour, but if it’s truly unpleasant it may have been a bad batch. Since it’s a fermented food, it does need care to be done right!

  14. February 7, 2011 10:24 am

    Dammit – I’m so upset I wasn’t able to make this weekends potluck! The lees summit one (also run by Jane) is equally as big. It’s amazing/awesome that many people in KC have an interest in raw foods!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 9, 2011 1:23 pm

      A couple people mentioned the Lee’s Summit one to me. I wish it were closer! I may try to make it to that one someday too.

  15. February 7, 2011 10:50 am

    How sweet of Matt! My brother-n-law owns a coffee shop where I live. They roast coffee daily and one of my favs is their Ethiopian. It’s all organic fair trade coffee. Do you drink coffe at home? They order the beans green and rost them daily.
    That is totally cool about the raw food meetup….you meeting a lady that voted for you….That’s just crazy! :o) I don’t think I would be able to go to a meetup like that by myself…I’m too shy when it comes to something like that. Good for you for going though! :o)

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 9, 2011 2:26 pm

      I am a coffee lover 😀 How cool that your bro-in-law owns a shop!

      Oh man, I am SO not a social butterfly…so I was a wee bit terrified of the meetup. But everything turned out really well, and I had a great time! I guess sometimes, getting out of one’s comfort zone is the best thing to do 🙂

  16. February 7, 2011 1:30 pm

    fun post! And glad you mentioned about your hands not being that big – that made me laugh. I’ve never had Ethiopian food but sure looks like a fun place with a great menu. And the meetup looks tasty too. Love meetups.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 9, 2011 2:27 pm

      Haha! I KNEW someone would notice the mega-hands 😛
      You should try Ethiopian food sometime! If you like Indian food, you’ll love it.

  17. February 7, 2011 1:51 pm

    I think Ethiopian food is in the air or something cause EVERYONE is posting about it. I made some amazing ethi-dish last week, too! YUM.

    That restaurant sounds amazing. I truly love Ethiopian food. And what an amazing guy you have! Wow. Do men actually say those things?! I need to find one… does Matt have a brother that just happens to live in California? 😉

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 9, 2011 2:39 pm

      I saw your Ethiopian dish post! Yum! 🙂

      Hehe, Matt does have a brother, but he’s married and lives in Nowhere, Kansas 😛 I got myself a good one, didn’t I? He’s the best!

  18. February 7, 2011 2:12 pm

    I absolutely LOVE Ethiopian food! There is a vegan Ethiopian restaurant down the street from my house that my family and I cannot get enough of…aka, each dish is four dollars and HUGE, so eating is not too expensive! Your raw meetup looks so fun, I had one a few weekends ago at a brunch and it was SO good…raw banana crepes!:)

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 9, 2011 2:39 pm

      Ooh, an all-vegan Ethiopian restaurant? Too cool! And $4 a plate is SO cheap!
      Raw banana crepes, mmm…

  19. February 7, 2011 4:02 pm

    I’ve never tried Ethiopian food but it looks fantastic! I’m always on the lookout for new cuisines to try. I keep hoping some other sort of ethnic restaurant will open up nearer to me than Chicago!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 9, 2011 2:40 pm

      If you like Indian food, there’s a good chance you’ll like Ethiopian! And if you can’t find any nearby, you could always try making some yourself 😉

  20. February 7, 2011 5:49 pm

    looks like a fun meetup. i have had ethiopian food but can’t do the enjira. i want to make my own sometime.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 9, 2011 2:42 pm

      That really sucks you can’t do injera! Does teff flour contain gluten?

      • February 9, 2011 4:29 pm

        I was pretty certain that teff is gluten free–isn’t it?

        On the other hand, I’ve only been to an Ethiopian restaurant twice (I know…) and have had a tummyache both times, but it didn’t feel like a full-fledged gluten reaction…

      • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
        February 9, 2011 4:31 pm

        I too thought that teff was free of gluten…

        It seems like injera would actually be KIND to your system, since it’s a fermented (although, cooked) food. Perhaps it was some of the spices? I’m sure those can be pretty harsh on weaker tummies.

  21. February 7, 2011 6:18 pm

    I’m the same way around new big groups, but after a few minutes the shyness goes away. All those raw eats look so good!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 9, 2011 2:43 pm

      It’s true, the first few minutes are the toughest!

  22. February 7, 2011 7:19 pm

    That restaurant sounds awesome–envy over here! Amazing on the gf/vegan desserts, and all the lentil love is awesome.

    And what sweet serendipity that your new friend had voted for you! That’s way cool. Kudos to you for going to the meetup: sounds like a huge one! I know it can be ‘scary’ and overwhelming, but worth it for sure.


    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 9, 2011 2:43 pm

      I do love my lentils!

      “Overwhelmed” is definitely something I feel in large groups like that. Luckily, it went really well! I’m very happy I decided to go.

  23. February 8, 2011 5:40 am

    I had no idea that Ethiopian food could be VEGAN. Oh yay!!! Take me there when I come by next year?? (I put it on my vision board to hit up the states next year with both boys in tow)

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 9, 2011 2:44 pm

      Actually, it’s USUALLY vegan!
      I will ABSOLUTELY take you and your boys out for Ethiopian WHEN you visit! 😀

  24. February 8, 2011 6:31 am

    Oh, yum! Why is it that it seems like all Ethiopian restaurants are named “Blue Nile?!” Looks like great food, though!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 9, 2011 2:45 pm

      Haha, I have heard of several other Blue Niles as well!

  25. fitandfortysomething permalink
    February 8, 2011 8:01 am

    gosh what feasts! you and matt look like you had so much fun 🙂 and who knew that ethipion food could be vegan!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 9, 2011 2:45 pm

      Kalli! It’s so great to hear from you again, welcome back to the blogosphere!

      Actually, Ethiopian food is USUALLY vegan! So yummy.

  26. February 8, 2011 4:28 pm

    I love ethiopian food. that injera bread is amazing. Still trying to find a way to make it gluten free. hmmm…

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 9, 2011 2:50 pm

      Does teff flour contain gluten? I guess I didn’t realize that, if so =/ That sucks!

  27. February 8, 2011 6:08 pm

    SO much good food here! The vegan mousse torte would definitely have my heard (as would the orange vegan cupcakes!). And the raw food meet-up looked like fun as well 🙂 Hope you’re having a great week!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 9, 2011 2:51 pm

      I would probably have been happy with any of those desserts 🙂 but for some reason, that GF, vegan apple tart sounded especially awesome!

      Hope you’re having a great week, too!

  28. February 8, 2011 7:25 pm

    Oh, sure! Overland Park gets an Ethiopian restaurant after I move away. Well, actually I moved away 10 years ago, so I’m not really bitter, but it’s weird to think you guys have that option now. Boston is great for Ethiopian food and I’m glad it’s found its way to the midwest. I’m a KCAI alum and I sure miss midtown.
    I got my girlfriend a dehydrator for her birthday, so the vegan and raw recipes are on the rise.
    Now I just gotta get my tiny, plastic co-writers to find an Ethiopian dish to review.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 9, 2011 2:53 pm

      Haha! Yes, 10 years leaves you a little far removed for bitterness 🙂 But you’re right, it’s about time stuff like this started showing up in JoCo. Actually, it’s amazing how much coolness has spread out to the ‘burbs in just the last couple years.

      NICE job on the b-day dehydrator for your gf! There’s so much you can do with one; she’ll have a blast.

  29. February 9, 2011 12:25 pm

    Just put in my vote for you! Hope you win, you deserve it!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 9, 2011 1:23 pm

      Thank you so much, Jane! 😀

  30. February 10, 2011 2:49 pm

    It figures that when I move away from Kansas City, I learn about this COOL raw food meet-up there! Sounds fun!

    I’m actually going to be in Overland Park, KS next week for a business trip, so let me know if you want to get together while I’m there! I need the “scoop” on good places to eat in KC now that I’m not living there anymore!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 10, 2011 4:30 pm

      Are you serious? The one week I’m out of town, you come TO town?! Bah! Well, let me know the dates you’ll be here, and maybe our schedules will sync up after all 😀

  31. February 10, 2011 4:28 pm

    I’m proud of you for stepping outside of your comfort zone by attending the meet-up. I’m the exact same way. I get so nervous going into a party of people. That’s so cool that the woman saw your video and voted for you! Good for you!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 10, 2011 4:31 pm

      Aw, thanks “Mama Jen” (you told me you’re the ‘proud mama’ type sometimes, hehe). Why are social situation so easy for some people, yet they feel nearly impossible to others? Ah well, at least this one ended up being a good one 🙂

  32. May 1, 2011 10:03 am

    I have never had Ethiopian food before. We’ll have to go there together sometime. 🙂
    Also, I’m so glad you decided to go to the KC Raw food meet up. I remember we talked about it. Maybe I could go with you to the next one.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      May 1, 2011 11:19 am

      If you like Indian food, you’ll probably like Ethiopian.
      Yes, we should go to the next raw food meetup together! It might be a couple months, though, since I’m out of town the first week of the month for the next three months.

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