by Ian Froeb
You couldn't have planned a better day than Sunday to visit the Festival of Nations. Warm, but not too hot -- and downright delightful in Tower Grove Park's ample shade. Parking was scarce, which is more reason to be glad I now live a two-minute walk from the park.
The row of food vendors was exceptionally crowded. One of the longest lines (both this year and last) was at the Phillipines booth. I decided not to wait in this line, but my colleague Keegan Hamilton tells me he got an awesome pork kabob there.
Some of the other cuisines represented this year: Italian, Chinese, Thai, Persian, Mexican, Nigerian, Bosnian, Ethiopian, Albanian, Haitian, Argentinean, Eritrean, Polish and Burmese.
The Burmese booth caught my eye first: This is a cuisine with which I have little experience. I got the chicken kabob pictured at right and can report, without exaggeration, that it was one of the tastiest kabobs I've ever had. The flavor was similar to teryaki, but with a smoky depth and a fruity undertone. (Lime or tamarind, maybe?)
Just as busy as the Phillipines booth was the booth for Tango Argentina Food, the husband-and-wife team of Hector and Stella Aberastury.
The Aberasturies make amazing empanadas and are a well-known fixture among the local festival circuit. Though I planned to order only a couple of empanadas when I joined the line, by the time it was my turn I was ready to order one each of the four varieties. Sadly, there were no spinach empanadas at that moment, but I feasted on the spicy beef, ham-and-cheese and creamy corn empanads.
After walking to the far end of the row of food vendors, I snuck back to the Polish booth and scored an order of pierogies. These had to be one of the best deals at the festival. The sign claimed they were three for $1.50, but I bought six -- no, I'm not a total glutton; my better half shared them with me -- for $2. These are just a pure buttery indulgence. So buttery, in fact, that we couldn't finish them. It was time to take a break and tour the arts-and-crafts vendors.
We had enough appetite left to try one last dish, and we opted for a sample platter from the Eritrean booth. As you can see to this right, this featured marinated beef, vegetables, lentils and spinach on injera, the spongy, teff-based bread that is (literally) the base of Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisine. A delicious ending to a great afternoon. My only regret is that I couldn't clear my schedule to be able to visit both Saturday and Sunday.