I’ll blame my love of hospitality on the Girl Scouts.
By KIMBERLY WINTER STERN
Back in the … well, back in the 20th Century, beginning around age of 9, earning badges was one of my life’s main goals. Certain they designated me as an expert in everything from camping to pets and sewing to singing, the patches were an obsession.
I drove my parents nuts pleading with them to allow me to embark on self-directed field trips in order to fulfill badge requirements.
Hospitality was one of the most beloved Girl Scout badges — nearly 6 million were produced between 1920 and 1980, the year it was gracefully retired. Depicted by an embroidered teacup wafting a yellow ribbon of steam, the hospitality patch was sewn onto my green sash with pride.
Fancying myself the perfect hostess — in alliance with fellow Girl Scouts around the world from my hometown of Sioux City, Iowa, to South Africa, New Zealand, Hungary, Singapore, the United Kingdom and Australia — entertaining became a lifelong pursuit.
To this day, guests in my home feel comfortable and welcome, in large part due to my scouting tutelage.
When dining out, I’m in constant search of that often elusive balance of well executed food and hospitality.
Not long ago, at the end of a long 21st Century day when the crush of emails, voice mails and deadlines was overwhelming and weary of the Midwestern winter that stubbornly refused spring’s debut, I stumbled into The Basha, a Mediterranean restaurant at 105th Street and Metcalf Avenue.
In search of quiet civility along with ethnic comfort food, the two welcome mats outside the front door signaled good things to come.
Inside The Basha I discovered a modern-day version of the universal sign of hospitality.
Proprietors Mohammed Mosley and Nader Eduard ushered me into a dining room that exuded warmth. My cinnamon tea arrived on a lovely silver tray in an elegant glass cup. The service was discreet as each course arrived and was cleared.
By dessert — a bowl of silky rice pudding and another cup of tea — I was soothed and smiling, lulled into another world by my attentive hosts.
Mosley is an accountant by education and Eduard is an engineer. They met while working together in their first jobs in America. Mosley arrived in 1998 and Eduard moved to Overland Park in 2008 with his Kansas bride.
Each man had the same desire: to open a restaurant in the land of plenty where they could prepare native dishes and become known for old-world hospitality.
When they decided to leave their jobs in 2012 and partner to make the dream a reality, both men knew they were taking a calculated risk.
Transforming a former beauty salon into The Basha was an intensive hands-on undertaking. The duo made each table in the dining room and performed much of the construction.
Eduard’s mother, who still lives in Cairo, handmade the lovely upholstery decorating the restaurant’s unique Bedouin-style room and the gauzy drapes hanging at the windows. She toted tapestries from Egypt through customs that now grace The Basha’s walls.
A female chef from Cairo, who once had her own cooking show on Egyptian television, prepares the authentic cuisine.
The two owners hold court in the front of the house, dispensing the brand of hospitality they grew up with that begins with a cup of hot tea or a glass of hibiscus juice and ends with dessert and a smile. They write your name in Arabic on a To-Go box if you ask. They shake your hand and thank you for visiting their restaurant when you leave. They ask you to come back again.
Mosley and Eduard were never Girl Scouts, but they have clearly earned their hospitality badge. They’ve come up with an intoxicating blend of great cuisine and cordiality.
The Basha is my cup of tea — genuine hospitality transcending language, culture and time.
The Basha’s Rice Pudding
Mohammed Mosley and Nader Eduard say they grew up eating this dish — Mosley in Jordan and Eduard in Cairo—for breakfast, lunch and dinner. “It’s not just dessert where we come from,” says Eduard. “We eat it with pita bread in the morning or afternoon, too. And when guests visit our homes we offer tea and some sort of sweet like this.”
The Basha serves traditional rice pudding as a dessert—but the cordial owners will oblige you with fresh-baked pita bread from the Lenexa bakery Pak Halal as an accompaniment.
1 cup Egyptian rice*
5 cups water
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
To prepare: Combine the rice and water in a pan and bring to a boil on the stove. Turn the heat to simmer and let the mixture cook down until the water is saturated (about 20 – 25 minutes). Turn up the heat and add the milk and cream. Keep stirring until the mixture comes to a boil. Turn down the heat and add the sugar according to taste. If needed, add more sugar if desired. Remove from stove; add vanilla and stir. Pour into bowls and let it cool to room temperature. Transfer bowls covered in plastic wrap to refrigerator to chill. Before serving, garnish the rice pudding with chopped walnuts, coconut, golden raisins and cinnamon.
Source: The Basha
*Egyptian rice may be purchased at Al Habashi Halal Meats at 9772 Quivira Road, Lenexa.
Kimberly Winter Stern — also known as Kim Dishes — is an award-winning freelance writer and national blogger from Overland Park and co-host with Chef Jasper Mirabile on LIVE! From Jasper's Kitchen each Saturday on KCMO 710/103.7FM. She is inspired by the passion, creativity and innovation of chefs, restaurateurs and food artisans who make Kansas City a vibrant center of locavore cuisine.