Margarita's Mexican

KC's Best Mexican Restaurant

3 Ways to enjoy

lunch, happy hour or dinner

Serving original family recipes

favorite in Kansas City since 1985

Margarita’s Salsas

available in your favorite grocery stores

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Glories of Brunching

Brunch hating has already trended, peaked, and doubled back in the so-called eating capitals of the United States. But in Kansas City, by golly, we like brunch – and there are many good reasons for our love bites (and handles).  It sometimes seems to overwhelm breakfast, but both are significant dining choices here.
Raggmunk from Krokstrom Klubb and Market

But while breakfast may be more about sustenance and business meetings, brunch is about eating and drinking. It’s also about spending time catching up with your friends and family, relaxing, and yes, maybe lazing through an entire day based on just one meal.  Whether you call it brunch or blunch like The Westside Local does, what’s not to like?

We clearly don’t have to talk about its popularity, but let’s do talk about how this “institution” came to be.

Why the Word “Brunch?”

All the food historians say its chronicle is a bit hazy after they deconstruct the word (breakfast + lunch, as you no doubt know) as a “portmanteau.” Broadly, this is a French word for a suitcase, divided into two sections, big enough to hold overcoats.  In this case, and others like “motel” or “Amtrak” or even the lowly “spork,” there are two meanings packed into one made-up word – at least that’s how Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty explained it to Alice.

All that said, the word “brunch” first appeared in a short-lived hunting magazine in an 1895 article by British author Guy Beringer who suggested that people would like something lighter than the traditional heavy Sunday dinner. There were other benefits as well: "Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting. It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week." He also mentioned, "By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday night carousers."  While the magazine article didn’t exactly set London afire, his suggestion, somewhat patterned after English hunt breakfasts, after a repeat in the popular Punch magazine, helped the concept enormously.


In the U.S., a Washington Post article said the first reported mention of brunch was in 1896 in a Pennsylvania paper, where it was referred to as just a “fad . . . a repast at 11 o’clock a.m.”

Also helpful along the way were the facts that Catholics were supposed to fast until after church so better to eat earlier and much later, and when women started working outside the home, they needed some time off and going out on Sundays was a good break.

But before that, brunch became popular in the U.S. mostly in hotels – typically, restaurants were closed on Sundays. Gasp.

And in the 30s, the concept was glamorized enormously by one city.  That was Chicago where the movie stars would stay over on their cross-country train trips between Los Angeles and New York. People like Clark Gable and Carol Lombard were photo'd at the celebrated Pump Room in the Ambassador Hotel. How glam!

Add in the trend after WWII to not go to church so much and by the late 40s all the way to the 80s, brunch was up and roaring. Now add the additional popularity of urban living and TV characters from Friends and Sex in the City in the 90s and by 2000, you have a full-fledged trend that doesn’t seem to ever go backwards.

In 2016, Los Angeles even held a BrunchCon – a full day of brunch food, drink, products, games, speed dating and who knows what else. BrunchCon 2017 is in NYC as well, of course.  Maybe it’s a bi-coastal thing that the rest of us are rushing to catch up with.  Maybe we’re already there despite some elites’ statements that this brunch idea is a shoreside phenome.



The Internationality of Brunch

From the hunt breakfast/lunch combo in Britain to the huge Mother’s Day celebrations in the United States, many countries celebrate “brunch” though it may go by different names. For instance, dim sum.  The words “dim sum,” which look like this in simplified Chinese: 点心 , generally and most often translates to “touching the heart.”  It also means to order as one desires – hence, small plates, often delivered by cart.  It can be served usually from breakfast time through lunch.  Our best example is the renown dim sum served at the Bo Lings’ 90th and Metcalf location as well as the Plaza where it is a long-time tradition.  I had my first rooster feet there.

In the Scandinavian countries, it’s not too far a stretch from smörgåsbord, a luncheon or supper buffet that does include both hot and cold items, just like Krokstrom Klubb does on its unique Sunday brunch menu.  Co-owner/General Manager Josh Rogers says his wife, Chef Katee, has tweaked many favorites for their delightful brunch items.  In slow-dining France, brunch may be called déjeuner-buffet while in Austria, it’s equally popular. Grünauer has a Frühschoppen (which means pre-lunch drink or mid-day pint) menu on Sundays that includes stelze, their featured three-pound (for two) slow roasted pork shank among much else. And in Germany, even the word brunch has been adopted according to co-owner Katrin Heuser of Affäre, which offers the special meal on Saturdays and Sundays.  You may want to try their German specialties like arme ritter (German brioche) or käsespätzle (ham, cabbage, onions, cream, cheeses), or jägerschnitzel (pork cutlet with a fried egg and butterspätzle) along with more typical brunch fare.
Eggs Benedict at The Walnut Room

And brunches in Dubai, of all places, normally take place on Fridays where hotels and restaurants present food and drinks during early afternoons – where expatriates and tourists will party on for hours.  Brunch in Canada is an inclusive event as well and especially popular on Sundays in both homes and restaurants.  Both buffet and menu are available, which we’re calling the traditional approach, for lack of a more glamorous name.

Traditional Brunches in Kansas City

Probably the best examples of the traditional brunch may be the ones we think about that celebrate major events.  Of course, the mother of all these is Mother’s Day, when everyone’s goal is mom’s day off (except for staff of course whom we hope celebrate on a different day).   Dishes are buffet or station arrayed.  Or, have a carver dish up some prime rib or get an omelet or pasta dish made before you. Or, order off the menu – that’s ok, too.

These celebratory brunches can be extended to late November – December weekends for Christmas breakfast with Santa at Pinstripes in Prairiefire or at T-REX Café at the Legends along with the Easter bunny there later for April weekends.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, even Father’s Day – all the standard holidays now seem to include brunches except maybe July 4th.  We are compelled to add that for those special, special days, you really need to check out our Calendar Events section of kcrestaurantguide.com.

Gaslight Grill in Leawood is an excellent example of this traditional approach.  They offer made-to-order omelets, Belgian waffles, eggs Benedict and have additional items from cinnamon rolls to mac and cheese and jambalaya as well as a table of homemade desserts.Ophelia’s Restaurant and Inn on Independence Square offers a large buffet plus individual items ranging from grilled salmon to a breakfast Monte Cristo.  Most casinos offer buffets and the Marquee Café at the Hollywood Casino adds a breakfast buffet special on Saturday and Sunday in addition to their regular menu.  The Argosy Casino has a Sunday brunch from early in the morning until afternoon in their Terrace Buffet which adds individual carving and egg stations. Their new 99 Hops House also offers a different take – now on their menu is breakfast for lunch (or dinner) that is so varied everyone is trying it, especially on weekends.

Not So Traditional

There’s an art to being different but not so different that people are afraid to order. For instance, Pinstripes adds a surprising kids’ table, a waffle make-it station, and a very popular and flowing chocolate fountain on its sweets table.  Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar on Sundays offers brunch items with New Orleans seafood flair seen in such items as the chicken and crawfish gumbo or their beignets, muffuletta, or shrimp and grits.  The blunch menu at The Westside Local offers a smoked salmon plank, home-made biscuits and gravy (their best seller) or a chimichurri flat iron burrito among their eclectic selections.

The Brazilian churrascaria Fogo de Chão on the Plaza adds to their fire-roasted meats and already large Market Table, a seasonal roast, braised beef rib hash, a pão de queijo (classic cheese bread) egg bake and bolo de fuba (a sweet cornmeal cake with whipped caramelized banana crème) for their Sunday brunches. And Webster House, recently named one of the top 100 brunch restaurants in the nation by Open Table for their tasty variations on empanadas, short rib hash, biscuits and gravy or even the hot (Kentucky) brown.


The Marys and the Benedicts: Two Main Ingredients of Brunch

First, the “hair of the dog,” has certainly been a component since early times. We all know what that means – drinking more alcohol to supposedly cure a hangover which some, including Ernest Hemingway, swear by.   As long as we’re talking history, this whole phrase is “hair of the dog that bit you” and comes from the custom of putting dog hair on the infected wound left by said savage.  Note to bitees: that really wasn’t effective at all.

But bloody marys were supposedly introduced just for that – a heartier glass with vitamin C included for free, not that they knew about vitamin C back then – and its history is much murkier than brunch with several people claiming authorship.  Grünauer makes its own tomato base as does Krokstrom Klubb and several restaurants offer them for enticing prices like McCormick and Schmick’s, Pig and Finch, Hereford House, or Pinstripes.  Some go even further to the bottomless concept for these and mimosas like Harvey’s in Union Station, Affäre downtown, and Ophelia’s in Independence.

Another standard not to be forgotten is the Bellini, sparkling wine and peach purée, said to be invented in the 30s by Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar in Venice and named after Renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini.  Along with the mimosa, drinks like this became popular during brunch because they’re lighter, somehow more acceptable at breakfast, plus they’re sippers – great lounging drinks for people who linger.

Nearly as ubiquitous as the brunch drink is some version of eggs Benedict.  This dish’s history also includes the possibility of several different originators, but it is apparently named after a person. Often credit is given to Chef Charles Ranhofer at the famous Delmonico’s in the 1860s for his Eggs à la Benedick.  That recipe did show up in his cookbook, The Epicurean, published in 1894.  Just space for one alternative:  Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management (Oxford World's Classics) had recipes in the first edition (1861) for "Dutch sauce, for benedict” and its variant on the following page, "Green sauce, or Hollandaise verte," which might have been a fish variation, good for Lent or Fridays for Catholics.

Anyway, you can find a huge variety of eggs Benedict or at least one in practically every place that serves brunch.  This ranges from the classic Benedict served at Genovese Italian Restaurant weekends in Lawrence; the classic, the crab or the Pacific northwest Benedict at ever-so popular and many-award-winning Classic Cup on the Plaza – or buy their famous buttermilk pancakes, even as a mix.  Jax has a blue crab Bennie and Room 39 in Midtown offers a grilled steak Benedict with Swiss chard, béarnaise sauce, and breakfast potatoes on Saturdays. McCormick’s offers three, including a crawfish Benedict.

The bottom muffin to all this breakfast / brunch business is that breakfast is required and brunch, a logical extension of consumer trends, provides a great opportunity for weekend conversation and culinary adventures.  It’s here to stay.  Glory, glory say I.

Monday, November 21, 2016

You Sweet Thing, You . . . André’s and Me

I don’t live too far from André’s Confiserie Suisse which is on Main and 50th Street just off the Plaza. Both bad and good news for me. This family-run establishment, here since 1955, has another location on 119th Street in Overland Park which they’ve called Andre’s Rivaz, which opened in 2002.

While confiserie means a shop selling sweets and confections, André’s has expanded that meaning, believe me. They are especially famous for their truffles and tortes, but there’s so much else, including bars, cookies, chocolate almonds and orange peels, and much, much more. My almost very favorite is the Matterhorn with its creamy inside and dark chocolate coating. One is about two desserts, even if you’re a chocoholic. But, too, the macaroons are a small taste of heaven.

 Andre’s expanded a while back and their lunch menu is eclectic and varied – it’s not just quiche for ladies anymore. . . though quiche is usually a choice every day and they do make the best quiche in K.C. (I buy one when friends stay over, and hide the box.) You can eat there until 9 p.m. six days a week. What’s interesting about their menu is not just the food but the variety – they publish a monthly calendar but there’s not necessarily a pattern, other than there is usually a fish item available on Fridays. And the Café has a happy hour from 7 – 8:30 p.m. with 25% off select menu items and 50% of all wine and beer bottles.

 If you’re looking for a holiday specialty, you have a plethora of choices – from one of their packaged grand cru hot chocolate mixes to almond pinecones to six inch rocher wreaths and gingerbread houses. As I was choosing some sweets to take home yesterday, I thought, “Hmmm . . . their stuff is so good, I may even be compelled to try their holiday fruit cake!”

Andre's
5018 Main 
Kansas City, MO 64112 
Ph. (816) 561-3440 
Just South of the Country Club Plaza

website


Andre's Confiserie Suisse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Lunch at West Side Local

A sunny Saturday afternoon and being only slightly hung-over from what turned into a late night before (PotPie, always good!), I wanted a burger.  It's not that often that I say that. Off we went to Westside Local for their covered patio.  This is not elegance, picnic tables and benches largely dominate, but our wrought iron table on the side was shaded and protected . . . by a large dog of indiscriminate breed.  We didn't know he was protecting us, and everyone else, when a bulldog shouldered by, thereby causing a thunderstorm of barking punctuated by very loud, mostly useless cries of their respective owners to quiet, stop, no, etc.  Whaddya expect, really?

Other than that disruption, the food was good, very good.  One of the best grilled cheese sandwiches in town, hands down. Bill had already started in before I could get my camera out, as you seen in the pic.   My burger came the way I ordered it; fries are great.  Service was OK, but she smiled often.  There were no soft drinks -- soda mechanism had broken down but the waitress did a great thing.  After telling us they weren't available, she brought back my iced tea (see my first line again) and  a limeade and asked if Bill would like that instead. And then she didn't charge for it.  Very nice.  We forgot the dog almost-fight.




The Westside Local
1663 Summit 
Kansas City, MO 64108 
Ph. (816 )997-9089 
On historic Summit overlooking downtown Kansas City
Website


The Westside Local Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato The Westside Local

Monday, November 7, 2016

Let’s Fika

Fika is a verb and a noun, mostly in Sweden but now in Kansas City, too.  It’s pronounced fee-kuh.
 
The easiest explanation is that it’s a coffee break, but not the kind of hurried, stand up and gulp one like we have.  Instead, it means to take a real moment and enjoy your life. With cookies and sweets.  With friends or alone.  It’s basically what we are now calling “mindfulness,” with coffee or tea. 

It’s available at the Krokstrom Klub and Market at 3601 Broadway.  It is, at this restaurant, unequivocally delicious – who knew a plate of four different small cookies and treats could be so good?  In fact, so much so, that my portly companion and I, rather than doing the leisurely thing, started right in on it.  The plate varies from day to day and ours came with apple butter for the almost biscuit which was better than any apple butter I’ve had.  After initial nibbles, we began to savor, slowing our pace a bit.
We tried their church basement coffee, also known as Swedish egg coffee – but rather than 40 cups made in a big canister which needed better flavor, theirs was Broadway Roasting Company coffee made in a French press.  We also, I must admit, tried their kaffeekask, which is rye, Frangelico, coffee liqueur, toddy, with a header of stout on top. 

We proceeded on to wonderful brunch dishes and finished off with their much requested Æbleskiver (able-skeever) which is a somehow fluffy pancake ball, this time made with small apple chunks and served with apple butter, sour cream, and a mapley syrup lightly drizzled.  As a tribute to our taste buds and despite being so full already, we devoured the four of those, too.

Krokstrom Klubb is an excellent dinner choice and has a terrific happy hour from 4 – 6 p.m., during which the aforementioned fika is served. And, not so important but somehow personally satisfying because it’s such a nice custom, I’ve finally found a word besides Topeka that rhymes with my last name! 


So Becicka is again going to fika, that’s for sure.

Krokstrom Klubb and Market
3601 Broadway 
Kansas City, MO 64111 
Ph. (816) 599-7531 
36th and Broadway
Website

Krokstrom Klubb & Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Krokstrom Klubb and Market

Monday, October 24, 2016

Happy Hour VI: I’m Happy When I’m North

Make that when I’m at North Italia Restaurant. (Which, as you probably know, is really south in Leawood at 119th and Roe.)  This Italian bistro is always upbeat and bustling but the other evening, make that late afternoon, I went for their happy hour, which I haven’t done for a while.  Their happy hour ends at 6 p.m. so going at three when it starts or a bit later makes sense.  At least to confirmed happy hour devotees like me. 

Drinks, at least wine and sangria, are cheap – five bucks for a glass and $16 for a bottle and beer is four dollars or the same $16 for a pitcher.  So I can start out pretty pleasantly. 

My favorite things are on the HH menu, short as it is.  First, the zucca chips which are light, crispy, and salty.  You get a big bowlful for three tiny dollars and I think only about the healthy zucchini I’m eating, not the oil and salt.

Their chef’s board is $10 instead of $16 and the assortment fluctuates.  Various meats, cheeses, and whatever is on the chef’s mind like roasted peppers or olives or almonds.  Always interesting and you can ask for more grilled bread.

The third choice is either their tomato or prosciutto bruschetta which is always tasty and filling.  I’m sure North hopes you’ll stay for dinner: Tuscan chicken or spaghetti and meatballs, or a traditional Bolognese or grilled branzino anyone? But then, I’ve been known to make an entire meal before 6:00 p.m.
Happy hour also goes all day Sunday and on those days and Wednesdays, you can get half off on any of their bottles of wine – and there are enough to choose from, about 30, all available by the glass as well.


North says their food is “handmade with love . . . from scratch daily.”  That seems true, even at their happy hour, which you should definitely try.  My opinion.


NoRTH Italia
4579 West 119th Street 
Leawood, KS 66209 
Ph. 913.232.5191 

website


North Italia North Italia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

#HH #HappyHour #KC #KansasCity 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Downtown’s Almost Secret Breakfast Spot

If you’re not a visitor to Kansas City and staying there, your first thought for breakfast may not be the historic President Hotel’s Walnut Room. But whether you ARE a visitor to K.C. or a resident, your first thought should be, let’s eat here. This beautifully redone hotel opened in 1926, closed in 1980, and then reopened as a Hilton in 2005. The memorabilia in the hallway downstairs make it worth your trip all by itself in my opinion. The restoration of the Walnut Room to “high 40s glamour” makes it easy for that eggs benedict or the standard American breakfast or the omelette (that’s the French spelling you know) you’ve created for yourself to be enjoyed. That’s after the coffee has been delivered – my first priority in a breakfast place. 

I tend to go to divish places for breakfast so this was a nice diversion. The problem with the aforementioned dives is that the coffee is always bad. In fancy places, the meal is always pretty expensive. I think I’ve found an alternative here – pancakes are ten bucks and full meals range all the way to steak and eggs for $15 – pretty darn good for any decent restaurant, much less a hotel. Coffee arrived quickly, with the cream pitcher beside it, hot, good, and replenished frequently. Ahhhh. 

Seeing no biscuits and gravy on the menu, my portly companion opted for the buffet where they did reside, along with scrambled eggs (could have had them made to order), bacon, sausage, fruit and lots of other good stuff. That was $16.95. 
Add caption

The hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places (one of five or six hotels around K.C.) and it’s just a fun place to see. Don’t forget to eat breakfast, the most important meal of the day, there, too.


Providence New American Kitchen
1329 Baltimore 
Kansas City, MO 64105 
Ph. (816) 303-1686 
Located in The President Hotel
webiste

Providence - New American Kitchen

Friday, September 30, 2016

Celebrate our 20th with a $35 3-Course Menu!

From October 1st thru October 20th we are celebrating our 20th Anniversary for Sullivan's Steakhouse nationwide. We have a special menu we are featuring in order to celebrate 20 years.





































On Thursday October 20th we will be having a finale party in our bar and lounge, so save the date!!

Check out their menu! 
Sullivan's
4501 W. 119th Street 
Leawood, KS 66209 
Ph. 913-345-0800 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Meet Pezzettino Italian Deli & Market new pastry chef!

Welcome Frederica!

Frederica has lived in the United States for four years. She is from Castelvetrano Sicily and comes from a family of cooks. Frederica was raised on an Italian farm that produced Olive Oil

Delicious Pastries 

Frederica began cooking at a very young age and is passionate about food.  Before arriving in America, she worked in Milan and Venice.
Her pastries represent every corner of Italy and are baked in the Pezzettino kitchen several days each week.






Pezzettino Italian Deli & Market
2101 Broadway Blvd. 
Kansas City, MO 64108 
Ph. 816-612-8333 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Herb Crusted Venison Loin


One Great Dish VII:  As told by Martin Heuser

By Chris Becicka

Chef Martin Heuser at Affäre is known for, among other dishes, his savory meats of all kinds, from sausages to bison, usually with a new German flair.  So when I received this recipe, there were two things I thought of immediately.  The hardest one is, not being a hunter like he is, where does one get venison? Turns out McGonigle’s often has it, or will order for you, as will several of the local butchers around town. 

The second thing:  like all great chefs, he weighs rather than cups.  But I’ve put both in so you don’t have to translate. He tells me this is a simple recipe, one even I could probably do.  I think it’d be perfect this fall!


Herb Crusted Venison Loin (printed version)

Herb crust:
250 g butter (soft-room temperature) [1 c. butter]
1 egg
1 yolk
100 g mie de pain (bread crumbs from white bread without crust) [2 cups]
1 tablespoon each of finely chopped rosemary, thyme, parsley and chives

Whip butter in mixer to pomade stage (white and fluffy), add eggs, herbs and mie de pain. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Venison:
Season venison with salt and pepper. Sear venison loin in hot frying pan with oil for about 3 minutes on both sides. Remove meat and cover with the herb crust, about 3/8 inch thick. Bake at 400ᴼF until the crust is golden brown (about 5-8 minutes). Let the meat rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing it

This meat goes well with a wild mushroom medley or a blueberry gastrique.

Blueberry gastrique:
3.5 oz sugar [1/2 cup]
2 oz red wine vinegar [1/4 cup]
1/2 cup frozen or fresh blueberries
Caramelize sugar, deglaze with vinegar. Add blueberries and let it cook until blueberries are broken down to a slightly syrupy consistency.

Despite the fact venison is usually a stronger flavored and tougher meat, it also occurs to me this recipe might work on a pork loin.  Or, there’s always the option of just going to Affäre and letting him fix it for me!  And if you’d like to know more about Chef Heuser, check him out in my earlier post.


Affare
1911 Main street 
Kansas City, MO 64108 
Ph. 816-298-6182  
website

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Meaning of Local in KC

The Meaning of Local in KC

Anyone who has eaten a home-grown tomato from his or her own garden knows at least one advantage of locally raised food-taste. Big science, big business, big farming has changed the way we eat, often not for the better.  In many ways we don’t even think about it: for instance, strawberries and bananas year round?  Fresh caught shrimp in the dead of winter?  New potatoes in February?

There’s both good and bad to that source-ability. And there is another way. Perhaps.
Gift baskets of heirloom tomatoes from Kurlbaum’s Heirloom Tomato Farm

For years now, we’ve all been hearing about all the reasons to only eat locally produced foodstuffs.  And by that, people usually mean food grown in smaller farms, outside, and preferably without pesticides, hormones, or any of the nasties that have made our food bigger, easier to transport longer distances, cheaper usually -- and probably more tasteless.

For restaurants in the Midwest, it’s a dilemma.  Kansas City chefs want great tasting ingredients to make better tasting dishes all year round.  But what if at least six months of the year, just not that much is growing?  Is the local food mania largely more hype than reality?  Is it just a California dream?


The Meaning of Local

For starters, you need to know that “local” has not been precisely defined. Five hundred miles and truckable?  Ten miles?  Many seem to have settled on a 100-mile radius.  From 12th and Main in Kansas City, that gets us past Topeka but not to Manhattan on the west; not to Columbia on the south but does include Sedalia and Marshall; to Clinton on the east; and to Falls City but not Omaha on the north.  Not a huge change of climate or land in that definition and NOT a giant variety of foods.  We’re good on flour, though.   
 
But local devotees, or “locavores,” mostly TRY to eat food that is local, sustainable, and healthier (due to its typical organic nature) than packaged foods or fruits, veggies, and meats from all over the country.  The word didn’t even exist before 2005 and in 2007 was chosen as the “Word of the Year” by the Oxford American dictionary, just demonstrating how fast this trend has grown.  Martin Woods, an executive chef for PB&J Restaurants at Newport Grill and Paradise Diner, says his guests are so much more educated today, they ask for local foods, and “It will never go back to what it was.”  Local is here to stay.


Hitching Up to the Local Bandwagon

Eating local is really a dilemma for starters, due to our location. Our growing season is short; our weather conditions are harsh.  Woods points out that sourcing local can be really challenging – especially if your restaurant is more than 20 seats.  He recently did a dinner at Powell Gardens – which was comparatively simple to do given their plethora of fresh produce.  But like the majority of restaurants, most of us don’t can, preserve, or freeze large quantities of foods in season that will see us through the winter.  We don’t have root cellars.  We already throw away copious amounts of food.  According to the United Nations Environmental Programme, in the U.S., organic waste is the second highest component of landfills, which are the largest source of methane emissions and 30-40% of the food supply is wasted, equaling more than 20 pounds of food per person per month.  Locavores try not to waste food.
Going local at CHARISSE:  Everything on the plate is locally sourced –  Duroc pork tenderloin with Roots,Fruits & Greens Farm onions, potatoes and herbs; the beans are from Holland's Organic Garden.

An additional reason locavores join the movement is the effect of greenhouse gas emissions.  They want to reduce the environmental effect of their food – transportation over long distances which contributes to pollution and climate change.  But these claims have to be carefully weighed – for instance, some studies have demonstrated that trucking may have less effect then trying to grow organically in a greenhouse.
     
Another important rationale is that people want the money they spend to improve their local economy.  The number you often hear is that farmers average 20 cents per dollar while the rest goes for transport, packaging, processing, refrigeration and marketing. If you’re buying your veggies from a farmer, those costs are hugely reduced and he gets more the money himself and can pay his employees more.  And the thinking goes, as the farmland remains profitable, urban sprawl is held back, at least a little.  Spend local, stay local is a huge economic incentive.

Smaller, local farms who sell within a small area often tend to use less pesticide and chemicals even if they do not tout organic – and this is in contrast to the large, commercial farms.  To put this in perspective, there were just over four million farms in the United States in 1959, and that number had been halved by 2011.  The trend continues today. But farm size has exploded as farms have consolidated and industrialized.  This may make food cheaper as it eliminates farms and farmers, but it also has created a system in the long run that may not be the best for our world, at least according to some.  


Paying Attention to the Locavorish Persuasion in Your Restaurant Choices

So the reasons for eating local as much as you can are pretty persuasive.  But how do you do that in restaurants?  It’s not as hard as you think.  You can do it if you:

Tend to buy foods you know are in season around here.  This means white asparagus dishes from Affäre in May or heirloom tomatoes in July at JJ’s (from Powell Gardens who supplies many local restaurants) or Classic Cup or Pig & Finch (Kurlbaum’s), or scrumptious peach dishes from Café Trio co-owner Chris Youngers’ tree in summer.

Ask your server where the food is from and look for them on menus.  The better restaurants’ staff will know.  Waldo Pizza uses The Local Pig for several meats and Scimeca’s for sausages, while Chef/Owner Martin Heuser of Affäre buys his bison from the Lazy D Bison Ranch in Westmoreland, Kansas, about two hours west of here, just outside that 100 mile boundary.

Get to know some local names like Farm to Market bread (Ruins Pub, Providence, Ophelia’s) or Benish's Bakery who makes the biscotti for Pizzabella. Or Green Dirt Farms for sheep’s milk cheese and yogurt (Harvey’s, Westside Local, JJ’s, Café Provence, Affäre or almost anywhere with a great cheese board) or  Campo Lindo free-range chickens at Story, Pierpont’s, Room 39, Classic Cup, Providence.  One cool note:  you can find these providers in some grocery stores as well.

If you find a great product out there, tell your favorite restaurant(s) about it.  It could be the tortillas from La Fonda El Taquito served at District Pour House or the cheesecake from Ronnie D’s at JJ’s or rum cake from Jude’s at Café Trio.  Scimeca’s famous Italian sausage (since 1935) or Cupini’s homemade pasta  or Louisburg Cider for instance, can now be found in some restaurants.  Smart restaurateurs are always looking for the best providers and sometimes they are from outside the restaurant but still inside the area. We’re pretty sure that’s why so many places began serving then local Boulevard Beer and certainly the surge of local craft beers speaks to the same mentality.  And don’t forget the now rather large number of distilleries around town.

• When you’ve enjoyed something local off a menu, thank the manager, chef or owner.  Tell him or her that it’s important to you that they are sourcing as close to K.C. as possible.  That just increases their efforts to continually find closer-to-home foods, which is not always an easy task.  Every manager or chef in this town listens to their guests if they want to stay in business.

There are, of course, many other restaurants who source as much as they can locally.  Finding those sources is yet another challenging task of executive chefs.


Where Does “Local” Go in the Midwestern Winter?

Brandon Strick, managing partner of The Westside Local, puts it simply: “Wintertime is tough.”  Since not everything can be sourced locally, he does use local purveyors like Liberty Fruit and may focus more dishes on mushrooms which are available all year from Wakarusa Farm or hydroponic or micro greens from Two Sisters in Lawrence.  “There are good alternatives now,” he says happily.  (But it’s still tough.)

There are “hoop houses” which are basically greenhouses without glass – an alternative to permanent structures.  These are created usually of PVC pipe or galvanized steel poles with a special greenhouse grade plastic covering them.  They can be completely enclosed or not.  A farmer like John Goode of Goode Acres Farm in Wathena, Kansas (near St. Joseph) can manage the climate inside, protecting produce from varmints of all kinds and controlling the temperature, thus extending the season.   During winter, he also sells specialty fire woods.  Some local farmers also have greenhouses.  And some, like Kurlbaum’s Heirloom Tomato Farm in Kansas City, Kansas, have decided to simply live with an extremely short growing season and even shorter selling season.

Winter is a good time for heartier meals.  A local meats distributor like Arrowhead Specialty Meats delivers both local and even international game and meats year-round.   Steve’s Meat Market in DeSoto, now in its third generation, has been providing local meats and poultry since the 40s in their shop, at markets, and to restaurants.  The steakhouses, like 801 Chophouse or Sullivan’s or Hereford House, as do the barbeque places like Jack Stack and most of the better restaurants, use meats and poultry from the region.  Fish (other than lake) may be a different story, but given the transportation available today, it is at least still fresh here.  Restaurants look for local companies as either distributors or end-product suppliers, too, like Roasterie Coffee or DiCapo Foods Italian cookies or taco shells from Perez Food Products or Liberty Fruit Company, all Kansas City family based.


The End of the Story

Living in the Midwest is clearly more limiting than California. Duh. But no one place can really supply everything we eat, unless we limit and change our food habits and cravings drastically. No coffee?  No orange juice? No chocolate? Yikes. 

It’s daunting to contemplate a truly local farm to table dedication in this environment – and think what it must have been like even in pioneer days when food came only by river and horse. Or you shot, caught, or trapped it yourself.  But for any number of good reasons, we should do more than fantasize about eating local, even if we don’t go all the way to becoming true locavores.   

Don't call it California dreamin' though, because in Kansas City, farm or ranch-to-table is reality.


Uncommon Local Foods...

We’re listing just a few – there really are many products you can find in stores, markets, 
grocery stores, and of course, great restaurants.

Pecans 

Goddard Farms goat cheese

Green Dirt Farm cheeses and yogurts 

Ever so many barbeque sauces

Shatto milk, ice cream,
 cheese, butter

Local Pig meats and sausages

Farm to Market breads

Borgman’s Farmstead Dairy for goat cheese, caramel, 
cheesecake

Peaceful Hills Farm (dairy, pork, eggs)

Strawberry Hill povitica 

Chocolates from Christopher Elbow, Annedore’s or Andrés

Goode Acres Farm

ValoMilk or Chase’s Cherry Mash 

Local and Hermann, MO wines 

25 or so local beers

Holladay Distillery for bourbon

Tom’s Town Distillery for gin, vodka, whisky, rum 

J. Rieger & Company’s whiskey, vodka, gin 

Check out localstart.com  


Local Stars...

Lots of restaurants get some items locally.  But if you’d like to eat mostly local, be sure to put these luminaries on your list.

Affäre
Blue Bird Bistro
Café Provence
Café Verona
CHARISSE
Classic Cup
The Farmhouse
Genovese
JJ’s
Jax
Ophelia’s
Room 39
Story
Tannin
Webster House
The Westside Local

#KC #Local #food #products