Dining With Denise Neil

Now I wish Wichita had a Native American restaurant

Native American cuisine highlighted at Share Our Food event

The third annual event featured a buffet of native dishes -- and a dancer. Video by Denise Neil.
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The third annual event featured a buffet of native dishes -- and a dancer. Video by Denise Neil.

I’d never really stopped to consider whether I would like Native American food. Why would I? Never once in my life have I been offered any or been in a situation where I could have tried some.

Until this week, and wow, I really like Native American food.

Native American restaurants are hardly commonplace, but there is one in Denver – Tocabe – that has been earning rave reviews of late. Now, I’m convinced Wichita needs one, too.

On Thursday night, I was invited to help emcee the third annual Share Our Food event, which serves as a fund-raiser for the Mid-America All-Indian Center. Those in attendance were invited to sample seven different authentic Native American dishes that had been prepared by local cooks.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, and the aromas that greeted me when I walked in the door were nothing I really recognized. But once we started eating, I was amazed. The dishes were mostly soups, stews and preparations of vegetables, but each one was simple, flavorful and made with basic, from-the-earth ingredients. When Wichita War Dancer Greg Victors started to perform later in the evening, I could imagine eating this food around a fire in the 1800s.

My favorite was the Tohono O’odham white tepary bean stew, which featured tiny, delicate beans that I’ve never seen in a grocery store. There was also a divine Ojibwa creamy pototo and wild rice soup, a Southern-style hominy stew and a Northern-style corn soup. Dessert was little pieces of fry bread served with Lokota Wojapi, a fruit “pudding” that was bright purple and tasted like a perfectly sweet and tart warm berry soup.

I decided on the spot that I’m going next year, even if they don’t invite me to emcee.

Drone footage of fall foliage in Riverside, College Hill, the Keeper of the Plains and the Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine.

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