Dining With Denise Neil

Now I wish Wichita had a Native American restaurant

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.

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