Taste of Africa restaurant

painting of elephant
painting of elephant

This week Ray and I celebrated Valentine’s Day a little late (we had to go on a date near his payday!). I googled online to look for a good Moroccan restaurant, and found Taste of Africa in Overland Park, Kansas, which is within an hour’s driving distance from us. It was the right choice; the food is delicious and the service is excellent!

African tribe
African tribe

I loved the vibrant colors of the restaurant (especially oranges and reds), with African paintings on the wall. They also play African music.

A Taste of Africa restaurant
Taste of Africa restaurant

 

African art
African art

 

paintings
paintings

Ray ordered the Kalahari Platter (tender pieces of goat, cooked in an assortment of herbs and spices with ugali, sauteed kale, sauteed cabbage, chapatti (a flat bread), and Kachumbari salad.

platter
Kalahari platter

The ugali is a sticky dish that is a staple at African meals. The chef and the waitress complimented Ray on eating it correctly–balling it up in his hand, and then sopping up the goat stew with it.  He was in his element.

Ray at Taste of Africa
Ray at Taste of Africa

They said most Americans eat it with their forks. (Of course, how would one know how to eat it properly without visiting Africa?) This made him smile very big, so proud.

ugali
ugali

Ray remembered how the native people in Kenya ate it as we visited there, when I spoke for three days at a women’s conference.

Beth Jones speaking, Kenya, Africa
Me speaking in Kenya, Africa with a translator

At Taste of Africa in Overland Park, Kansas, I ordered Mshikaki (chicken skewers–so good!), fries (it came with the meal as french fries often do in many countries), and Kachumbari (a wonderful little salad).

Mshikaki (Chicken skewers), fries, and Kachumbari (salad)
Mshikaki (Chicken skewers), fries, and Kachumbari (salad)

I had looked at the menu prior to us driving there and knew that without a shadow of a doubt, I wanted The Sweet Banana for my dessert--fried plantain slices drizzled with cinnamon sugar, topped with vanilla ice cream on chocolate and strawberry syrup. Ray and I shared it, even though I wanted it all!

The presentation was so pretty and Oh. My. Gosh. It was divine! (Or was it sinful?) My mouth is watering even thinking about it again!

The Sweet Banana
The Sweet Banana

The female chef is originally from Kenya and came to America as a student and to start her restaurant business. She came to our table to greet us; we complimented her on the wonderful and beautiful meal. 

If you haven’t tried this place yet, and you’re a wanna-be foodie like me, you’re in for a different, elegant experience!

You can find out more here.

When one of our African friends, Apostle Catherine of Nairobi, Kenya, saw my pics of the restaurant on Facebook, she said, “Welcome back to Kenya.”

Apostle Catherine Nairobi, Kenya
Apostle Catherine
Nairobi, Kenya

I believe one day we will return to Africa

me in black & white vest Ray bought me
me in black & white vest Ray bought me

I also believe our daughter Heather will go to Africa one day, as a mission trip there has been on her heart for years. I bought her pretty, blue, dangling earrings that the restaurant’s owners sell with other beautiful, colorful African jewelry there.

our beautiful daughter Heather
our beautiful daughter Heather

 

Heather's earrings
Heather’s earrings

 

jewelry
African jewelry

It was a fun date for Ray and me, and I’d love to go back sometime. What ethnic restaurants have you tried lately? Leave your comments below.

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Ceviche, cheesecake, and coffee

Recently my husband Ray shocked me when he texted me from work, “Don’t make plans for tomorrow night.” It was payday and he intended to take me out somewhere new to eat for Saint Patrick’s Day.

I  prayed before going into a cute little shop on the square in town called What To Wear, which has beautiful clothes but is very expensive. I asked God for a bargain, thinking I’d be doing good if I could find a new shirt for $30.

God gave me favor and I found an olive green and black striped shirt on the winter clothes rack for 80% off–it was only $10! I wore it on our date.

The green brings out the green in my hazel eyes. I felt very Scarlett O’Hara-like, pretty, and happy.

Me in green shirt for Saint Patrick's Day date
Me in green shirt for Saint Patrick’s Day date

Ray doesn’t usually offer to take me out on dates; he’s usually tired after his work shift and just wants to rest and relax at home. I often have to be the one to suggest a date, so I was excited when he texted me. I had no idea where he was taking me, which made it even more fun.

You have to understand that normally, I don’t like secrets. At Christmas time, I always shake my gift boxes, trying to guess what is inside! Usually I would’ve hounded him to tell me where we were going. But I decided to just be patient and let him surprise me.

He knows I love Mexican so he took me to a contemporary Mexican restaurant in Overland Park, Kansas called Frida’s. Here he ordered a dish he loved but I’d never tried called ceviche, a seafood dish popular in the coastal islands of Latin America. 

ceviche and sweet potato fries
ceviche and sweet potato fries

Ceviche is usually made from raw fish cured in citrus juices, and spiced with chili peppers, chopped onions, cilantro, and salt. It’s often accompanied by other foods to complement its flavors like sweet potatoes, lettuce, corn, plaintain, or avocado.

Ours came with avocado and apple slices, which sounds like an odd combination but is very tasty. Ray ordered sweet potato fries to go with it. It was very unusual tasting and delicious. 

He ordered pork tacos seasoned with achiote paste, sliced purple onion with red beans, and their specialty drink, a cilantro-jalapeno margarita, which he’d never had before. He thought it was okay.  

pork tacos, beans, and cilantro-jalapeno margarita
pork tacos, beans, and cilantro-jalapeno margarita

I ordered chicken flour tacos with cilantro and chopped onions. I’d say the ceviche was best and highly recommend it. Their chips and salsa (always my favorite part and I could eat them every day) were delicious. 

Chips and salsa
Chips and salsa

 

chicken tacos
chicken tacos

The waitress had seated Ray and me at a table near the bar. I noticed there was a young man with a scraggly beard in a leather jacket, blue jeans, and boots, sitting at the bar with a beer, eating chips, and thought instantly of my sister Maria.

My precious sis Maria
My precious sis Maria

She went through a painful divorce and she really wants a godly husband, although she now has a huge crush on Australian actor Dominic Purcell, star of Prison Break. She posts pics of him all the time on Instagram. (You can follow her there @manibraka.)

Dominic Purcell in PRISON BREAK ©2006 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jeremy Cowart/FOX   
Dominic Purcell in PRISON BREAK
©2006 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jeremy Cowart/FOX

I wanted to snap the leather jacket guy’s pic and text it to Maria, but Ray probably would have objected–just as I’d protest if he went around taking random pics of pretty women with his phone. 

When Ray and I walked outside, we noticed the Harley beside our car and we both decided that it must belong to the guy in the leather jacket at the bar. It’s the kind of bike Ray has always wanted, a Harley-Davidson Softail Classic. I did take a pic of this just for Maria. (She’d probably prefer the guy!)

Harley-Davidson Softail Classic
Harley-Davidson Softail Classic

Ray and I were going to go to a movie after we ate, but the theater didn’t have one we wanted to see, so we walked around the shopping center. Ray spotted a coffee and dessert shop called Decadent, and we were both drawn like a magnet in there. Ray commented that our middle daughter Eden should work in a place like this, since she loves coffee and baking cupcakes. 

cupcakes at Decadent
cupcakes at Decadent

Ray was the one who originally wanted to go in there, and when I asked what he was ordering, he said, “Just an espresso.”

I looked at him like he was crazy! He was NOT taking me into a shop with coffee and dessert, and just getting me a drink! Naturally I ordered a frappe and the calorie-laden, rich, chocolate cheesecake, with caramel syrup drizzled on top. Heavenly!

chocolate cheesecake with caramel syrup
chocolate cheesecake with caramel syrup

I winded up only drinking a little and throwing away the frappe’, much to Ray’s chagrin. Honestly, McDonald’s is even better! I’ll definitely be going back for the cheesecake, though!

frappe
frappe

Next we went into a toy store that Ray wanted to see. The children’s books, counting bears, and fun science experiments like a rock tumbler reminded me of our homeschooling days.

I looked at everything wistfully and said, “Leah sure grew up fast.” Ray sighed deeply and said,  “Yes, she did.”

Rock Tumbler
Rock Tumbler

 

Giant yellow crayon
Giant yellow crayon

Finally we found a charming place to sit outside with rocking chairs by a fireplace with beautiful, colored stones. It was very relaxing. The cheesecake and the fireplace–looking at the stones–were my favorite parts of the evening. 

fire
fire
Ray by the fire
Ray by the fire
me by the fire
me by the fire

As we sat there, Ray jokingly commented about all the yuppies. Just then a young couple came by us, walking their adorable black, lab puppy. I wish I could have taken its pic because the puppy was so cute. but I didn’t want to violate the gray line of stalkerism.

The puppy peed on the sidewalk as we chatted with them and the couple seemed humiliated and apologized profusely, while the woman sprayed the urine with a cleaning mixture in a spray bottle, dabbing it with paper towels. I was shocked she had to do this, and for the moment I was glad we didn’t have a puppy. As they walked off, I told Ray I didn’t know there was an ordinance that you had to clean up after your pet.

puppy pee
puppy pee

This reminded me of the funny scene in the movie Kate and Leopold, when the female police officer ordered Leopold to clean up his room mate’s dog poop on New York City’s sidewalk and he disgustingly refused, because he was royalty (a baron) from the 19th century. 

We sat by the fireplace awhile, talking some more. Ray then wanted to stop by a sushi bar, but unfortunately it was closed. The last place we visited at the shopping center was another restaurant just to see their menu. We were stuffed, so we didn’t order anything. I loved their giant coffee cup decoration. This would get you going in the morning!

coffee cup deco
coffee cup deco

Overall, it was a very fun Saint Patrick’s Day date. I hope you had a great holiday. 

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The Bonsai Tree

Today I asked Ray to go on a date with me for lunch. I’d planned for us to eat in town, but Ray suggested the Bonsai Grill restaurant in Harrisonville, MO, which his friends Matt and Kelley suggested. While it’s not traditional Japanese hibachi cooking (which was traditionally only used by the samurai and aristocrats), it was still good. 

Bonsai Grill restaurant
Bonsai Grill restaurant

One of the first things I noticed as I walked in were the cute bonsai trees. Now I want one. Ray said I can order authentic ones from North Little Rock, AR, where his dad Charles and his stepmom Sue live.

bonsai tree
bonsai tree

They also had a bigger one in the back of the restaurant by some pretty floral pics.

big bonsai tree
big bonsai tree

I liked some of the other art work on the walls, too. This tree is called the delicate pink sakura, or cherry blossom tree. They blossom throughout Japan every spring. 

delicate pink sakura, or cherry blossom tree
delicate pink sakura, or cherry blossom tree

Below is their picture of a Japanese style house on a lakefront setting. I’d love to stay in this Japanese style house on a lake in Maine, featured in Better Homes and Garden. I love all the open spaces in the house. It looks very peaceful and inviting. 

Japanese house
Japanese house

Ray ordered the hibachi shrimp and I ordered the hibachi chicken. Both came with veggies and fried rice. We ate it with our chopsticks, which is always fun. I only tasted a little of the rice, since I’ve radically changed my lifestyle, avoiding rice, potatoes, and sweets for the most part.

When one of the restaurant’s partners came over to say hello to us, seeing that it was our first time there (which I thought was impressive customer service), he asked if something was wrong with the rice! Of course, I told him no…I wanted to eat it really bad! 

hibachi shrimp
hibachi shrimp
hibachi chicken
hibachi chicken

The restaurant offers something unique that I’d never tasted before called yum yum. It’s a mayonnaise-based sauce (it seems to have mustard in it, too), and it is indeed YUMMY! The partner said he puts it on everything, including the rice. I can see why!

Sometimes I think I should be a food writer/blogger. Wouldn’t it be nice to go around eating at different restaurants, sampling a variety of delicious foods?

This reminds me of the movie Julie & Julia, when Julia was trying to figure out what to do with her life and her husband asked what she was good at and enjoying doing. She said, “Eat! And I’m so good at it!”

Unfortunately, I am so good at eating, too, which is why I’m still trying to lose 20 pounds to reach my ideal weight! (Please pray for my continued discipline to continue walking at the track, eating healthy, and drinking lots of water!)

yum yum sauce
yum yum sauce

Nevertheless, I slathered the yum yum sauce all over the chicken, veggies, and the little bit of rice I ate. This was the best part of the meal to me, other than the seeing the cute bonsai trees and taking pics for my blog.

When I told Ray that I was taking pictures for my blog, he joked that he would’ve guessed. Then he said if I did not take pics, he would’ve taken me to the emergency room for something being very wrong with me.

Ray knows that I love to travel and go different places, take lots of pics, and then share about the traveling and the pics in my speaking and writing

sauce
sauce

Below is a pic of Ray looking like he’s going to fall asleep at the table. Every time I’d talk (which is a LOT!), his eyes would start to half close, except when I began talking about the genres of fantasy and thriller in fiction books, and except when we were discussing his country music singer friend, Daron Norwood, only 49 years old, who tragically was just found dead in his apartment from unknown causes.This just breaks my heart!

Ray hasn’t talked to him or seen him in a couple of years, but it was still a shock to him when he read about it on Fox News. He visited him at his home a couple years ago in Florida. I loved Daron’s version of Sweet Home Alabama, which you can view and hear on YouTube here. Please pray for Daron’s family and friends.

Ray had a long, rough shift at work yesterday with a traumatic call. Hopefully he’ll get more sleep tonight. 

Ray at Bonsai Grill
Ray at Bonsai Grill

Below here I am, enjoying our date at the Bonsai Grill. You can see the larger bonsai tree in the background. I kept obsessing over wanting to take one of the trees home with us, like a stray kitten.

Ray said I can just order one online. He didn’t think the partners, as welcoming as they were to us, stopping to personally talk with us at the little table for two, would allow me to just waltz off with one of their restaurant decorations. (Of course I’d offer to pay for it!)

me, Bonsai Grill
me, Bonsai Grill

The Japanese are such a creative, artsy people. The Bonsai tree is a Japanese art, using miniature trees in containers. The tradition dates back to thousands of years. It originated from the Chinese tradition of penjing (depicting artistically formed trees, plants, and landscapes in miniature). 

Traditionally, the purposes of the bonsai are primarily for contemplation (for the viewer) and the bonsai grower’s effort and ingenuity. Initially, the Japanese used it to decorate their homes and gardens, then it became an art taught by masters.

It is something so valued that it is cared for every day of its life, like God our Father cares daily for you and me.

Bonsais were displayed in palaces by emperors. Eventually, Japanese immigrants brought them to the US. 

A story of a bonsai tells of a councilor to the shogun, and one of his favorite trees was thrown away in the garden to dissuade him from spending so much time on the trees. Despite the servant’s efforts, he never gave up his beloved art form. What, or who, is that important in your life?

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