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Buffalo’s Taste of Diversity, 10th anniversary - PHOTOS

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

Buffalo’s West Side is filled to the brim with culture—a simple drive down Niagara or Grant streets will provide plenty of evidence. The 10th annual Taste of Diversity, held Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., united those cultures in a celebration of difference, an opportunity to dabble in the customs of others through music, dance or food. 

In terms of food, the list of restaurants represented was slim, largely because many West Side eateries are family-owned with small staffs—leaving the base restaurant for a festival, in many cases, isn’t realistic. Still, established restaurants like Lucy Ethiopian Cuisine, Sun International and the Puerto Rican Bakery were present, as were fledgling vendors like Martha Sosa’s Pure Peru and Thunderbird Tipi, a Tuscarora Nation cultural staple.

Here’s a look at the festival through photos and video:

Two Pure Peru vendors—Sosa is wearing white (far)—serve customers Saturday afternoon. A newcomer to Peruvian food, I tried a few renditions of papa rellena, a stuffed and fried potato concealing either beef or chicken with Greek olives, hard-boiled eggs, raisins and cheese. Not your ordinary combination of ingredients! The papa rellena topped with onions (first photo) was tangy—my favorite—while the chicken version lacked zing but was more stick-to-your-bones type of fare. Sosa serves regularly at the West Side Bazaar, 242 Grant St. 

Quite a bit more familiar with Lucy Ethiopian Cuisine, 388 Amherst St., Buffalo, I dodged the vegetarian options (collard greens, yellow lentils and a carrot and potato combo) and took a beeline for the “key wot fir fir,” a lamb mixture with spicy red peppers on top of injera, the spongy Ethiopian bread that’s used as the foundation for much of Lucy’s menu. The key wot was as spicy as advertised, and once you maneuvered past the lamb bones, the dish was filling for only three tickets.

The proper method to eat Ethiopian food is explained here. Co-owner Abba Biyah (in blue track suit, below) explained that he had to prepare 600 pieces of injera for Saturday, and he still ran out in the early evening.

First and foremost, Thunderbird Tipi sells tipis and tipi accessories, but the Tuscarora Nation vendor offered food options Saturday that included a mushroom wild rice and this strawberry shortcake with a dense, flour-based fried bread which was impossible to cut. The vendor described strawberries as “the king of the berries in Native American culture”—and there appears to be some local history behind this.

The vendor was quick to promote the Healing at the Heart of Niagara on June 16—the day following Nik Wallenda’s daredevil tightrope attempt—on Goat Island in Niagara Falls State Park.

Although Niagara Cafe steals much of the fanfare for Puerto Rican food joints in Buffalo, the Puerto Rican Bakery at 216 Forest Ave., Buffalo, is a bit of a hidden gem. The vending duo (pictured below) served massive pork kabobs (second photo) for only three tickets—and while they were smothered in Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce, the result was tender pork and messy fingers. Their famed alcapurrias were available in a case, but yours truly happens to be allergic to bananas and their relatives. Life goes on.

There was plenty of other entertainment in addition to culinary attractions, such as this African band:

...and Verve Dance Studio, and one particularly mesmerized child:


TAGGED: festivals, lucy ethiopian cuisine, pure peru, sun international, taste of diversity, thunderbird tipi, west side, west side diversity

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