German Gastrodiplomacy in the Midwest
Breaking Bread: Affäirly different approach to German Gastrodiplomancy
What comes to mind when you think of German food and drinks? If I had to guess, it’s probably one (or all) of the following: Weißwurst, Currywurst, Sauerbraten, Brezel, and Bier. But is that really all that German cuisine has to offer? In this blog, I’ll offer you a taste of how diverse German cuisine really is, and its importance to German gastrodiplomacy in the Midwest.
By Julia Pataky
In my last blog post, I featured local German-style brewery KC Bier Co. Through their presence in Kansas City, MO, they have—quite literally—been brewing consensus since 2014 by using beer as a diplomatic tool to foster German-American friendship. This time around, I was curious to see what the local German food scene in Kansas City has to offer. My research journey led me to interview one of the owners of Affäre, a local, family-owned German restaurant in downtown Kansas City.
Originally from Germany, Katrin Heuser, together with her husband Martin, initially moved to Canada before coming to Kansas City in 2007. After living in North America for more than a decade, Katrin noticed something interesting: German restaurants in Canada and the U.S. seem to focus solely on traditional dishes. She knew firsthand that German cuisine had so much more to offer. So, when Affäre opened its doors in 2012, it had started with a mission: to offer a modern German dining experience to its guests in the heart of Kansas City. This is reflected in their current menu, which features duck liver, venison steak, breaded pork cutlet, classics like Wiener Schnitzel, and much more. You’ll also find a variety of tasty seasonal fish dishes including seared sea scallops, shrimp, and halibut—much to the surprise of Affäre’s guests. In our interview, Katrin shared that she regularly has encounters with diners in which she introduces them to the diverse array of German seafood, not only exposing their taste buds to a new experience, but also expanding their preconceived idea of German culture.
But the modern German dining experience at Affäre doesn’t end with the great variety of farm-fresh, natural, and seasonal dishes—it extends to the warm and welcoming environment you enter upon setting foot in the restaurant. Katrin emphasized that their goal is to serve its guests the best experience possible and to make them feel as if they’re dining in their own living room. Through this mantra, they have built a community of people from all different walks of life, including many German natives and guests with German heritage. Before the pandemic broke out, Affäre hosted a monthly Stammtisch, a regular meet-up that brings together people in the community to talk about all things related to Germany—sometimes even in German! That’s exactly what makes Affäre so special: the unique way they combine traditional and contemporary elements of German cuisine. That’s their vital contribution to the promotion of an authentic and modern experience of German culture in the Midwest.
Undoubtedly, Affäre plays an important role in the German gastrodiplomacy scene in Kansas City. And, as a Viennese, I’ll gladly admit my secret love Affäre with the Wiener Schnitzel they serve.