Last year, the inaugural East Meets West Festival, put on by the Chinatown and Little Italy Business Association, was a great success. So much so that its 2010 incarnation was expanded from one to three days, with an additional cultural group added to the mix. Though I had good intentions to attend the Viva Italia Viva Festival on Sunday (I really wanted to watch the pizza eating contest!), I didn’t make it. Thankfully, we were able to take in the newest portion of the event on Friday – the Karibuni Afrikafest.
East Meets West poster
There really was a lot going on along 107 Avenue that day – Jill and I walked over to McCauley School after checking out the Outdoor Nite Market in Central McDougall, and Mack joined us soon after. A large stage had been set up on one end of the soccer field, with several merchandise booths placed at the opposite end. Food vendors were isolated inside the gymnasium, probably for reasons relating to power needs, but it was unfortunate – nothing draws a crowd like wafting food smells.
We took in a few of the acts before attacking the food stands. The entertainment would have benefited from better pacing throughout the evening – we saw three acts in the first fifteen minutes we were there – but in some ways, their enthusiasm and eagerness to showcase their community talent was admirable, if not infectious.
TKO (a young rap group)
A traditional dance from Uganda
Stomachs grumbling, we headed inside to satisfy our hunger. There weren’t many options, but that day at least, it was evident that the focus was quality over quantity. We started off our meal with dessert (the best way to eat, in my opinion), with a mandazi each. The African doughnuts were cakey on the inside, with a very fragrant, aromatic taste, and went very well with the accompanying cup of Chai ($3).
Out of the two entrée options, Rendezvous (10810 95 Street, 780-756-8902), an Ethiopian restaurant in Little Italy, won me over with their absolutely stunning plate of food, in spite of the fact that I’m not the biggest fan of injera. A myriad of colours, the cooked vegetables and lentil and meat stews were as delicious as they looked. It was also a great deal – the entire combo was just $8.
Jill holds up a plate from Rendezvous
Mack was equally buoyed by his plate, filled to the brim with tomato rice, chicken, fried plantain and a samosa (all for $7). He left no grain behind.
Mack before digging in
We also wandered the retail tents, which were selling a variety of imported goods, from clothing to jewelry to creams and decorative items.
The turnout was good – it’s always hit or miss for new initiatives – but I was impressed by the number of people who came out. Should it happen again next year (and I hope that it does), I’m sure the crowds will be even larger. Bravo to the organizers of Afrikafest for a great first year!