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Monday, November 30, 2015

Winter Wining By Chris Becicka

Kansas City Restaurants’ Wine Programs: A Guide

As winter envelops us, thoughts may turn to cozy evenings in front of the fire with a bottle of wine and some pâté, let’s say. 

There is a better approach, however – bundle up and trek to a great Kansas City restaurant and have that bottle of wine selected by an expert to go specifically with what you’ve chosen for appetizer and dinner. Let your cares and issues dissolve . . . you’re not at home.

Plus, even better perhaps, you don’t have to agonize over difference between an 88 or 92 wine rating (not that much it turns out.) 
Gaslight Grill’s Wine Room displays some of their finest bottles

But first, a few fascinating wine facts. Wine has been part of life probably longer than you think – since around eight thousand years ago. The oldest glass wine bottle was found in Speyer, Germany in an ancient Roman chest, theoretically dating back to 325 AD. Although there are thousands of wines created from around 10,000 wine grapes available worldwide, they all fit into just three basic categories: table wines including the finest, fortified wines and sparkling wines. 

But for those three categories, there are thousands upon thousands of different bottles of wines produced, translating into very healthy and continuing to rise US wine revenues at some $38 billion per year. (Other statistics are available in our on-line version of this article.) No matter how you count it, we drink a lot of wine, borne out by the fact that the U.S. has been the largest wine consuming nation since 2010. 

Just these few facts may hint that knowing much about this industry is a huge job. There are oh, maybe around 14,000 – 15,000 different wines on the market; knowing a substantial number of them is the task of that earlier mentioned expert. Often the best at that task are called wine stewards or sommeliers. Pronounce, with my simple non-symbolled phonetics, with me: (sum maul yay). Say this originally French word that meant transporter several times.

Certified or Certificated 

We are fortunate to have many such experts in Kansas City; several are “registered,” or more accurately, “certificated” sommeliers.

Anne Woods of the Sommelier Society of America points out there is no way to assess the number of "certified" sommeliers in the United States, or the number of sommeliers by state and the title; the profession, does not require state certification. However, there are many courses and classes exist that include stiff, difficult written exams along with blind-tastings for wine identification and descriptors, given by several organizations recognized by the wine industry. 

The first such organization is the Sommelier Society of America which was established in 1954 – the very first time that "wine waiters" succeeded in achieving recognition and status. Their knowledge and expertise in wines and food pairings created a separate prestigious position in the restaurant. At that time the common title was Wine Captain. Another is the Court of Master Sommeliers, located in California, established in 1977. The North American Sommelier Association is another association that provides sommelier certification and was founded in 2006. 

So, a sommelier is a trained and knowledgeable wine professional, one who specializes in all aspects of wine service as well as wine and food pairing. He or she is probably responsible for the development of a restaurant’s wine list, its purchase and delivery of the wine service, training other restaurant staff, and pairing and suggesting wines to complement specific menu items as well as complete meals. This means a full recognition of how food and wine, beer, spirits and other beverages work in harmony. Sommeliers usually also work the floor and must work within the taste and price parameters of their patrons, even if they’re not terribly sure of what those might be. 

Sommelier Training 

There are levels which require increasing years of arduously gained knowledge. To achieve even the minimum level, these oenophiles require a good memory and a good palate, one able to distinguish among those varieties, the regions all over the world that produce the grapes, and even the years the wine was produced. 

The North American Sommelier Association has three phases and two tiers: Silver-Pin and the higher Gold-Pin. The Court of Master Sommeliers has four levels of certification from Level I to IV. Others include the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, the Society of Wine Educators, the International Wine guild, the International Sommelier Guild. Several colleges offer programs. Many choices, many variations. 

Besides the time and effort involved, the courses are not inexpensive, either. There are college degrees available requiring two to four years. Though a basic education may be attained for anywhere from $1,000 – $4,000 over the course of six months, advanced professional certification requires years of costly study, practice and experience. Keep in mind that while some have chosen to go this route, others have decided against it and simply continue to enhance their expertise through their own reading, studying, and working. And we assume, tasting. 

Why, Why, Why

David Crowe, the Wine director at Pierpont’s, a Certified Sommelier (Level 2) from the Court of Master Sommeliers, will make his first attempt at the Advanced Sommelier (Level 3) in 2016. It’s grueling, he says, but he started down the path because he quickly figured out just knowing grapes and their countries was nothing compared to “understanding what the guest is looking for in his personal experience that evening, and going above and beyond what the guest is expecting.” Working towards the Level 3 is a natural progression for him. 

Rick Compton at Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar, not only has his sommelier designation from the Court of Master Sommeliers, but also has his Certified Cicerone. He says that the biggest impact from having the designations is that he is better able to match a wine or a beer to a guest. “There's a lot of importance placed on beer/wine/food pairings, but at the end of the day, I believe that pairing a beer or wine to food is much less important than pairing the beer/wine to the guest.” 

Wine Spectator Awards 

Four restaurants in Kansas City earned the esteemed Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence in 2015: the American in Crown Center, 801 Chophouse in Leawood, Story in Prairie Village, and JJ’s in the Plaza. The task of building that list is typically the job of the sommelier or a combination of owner or manager and sommelier. Owner Jimmy Frantzé of JJ’s, regarded for having the most extensive wine list in town for many years before the 2013 explosion that destroyed his restaurant and some 7,200 bottles of wine, has rebuilt his list beginning with the 6,000 bottles he had stored in a different location. 

Another 18 Kansas City restaurants earned the Spectator’s Award of Excellence including the 801 Chophouse Power and Light, 801 Fish, Final Cut Steakhouse, Fogo de Chao, Gaslight Grill, Pierpont’s, Room 39, Sullivan’s Steakhouse, and the Melting Pot. But what do these awards mean and why do they matter to you, the drinker? For starters, this means that the restaurant management is interested enough to apply for the recognition. Winning an award is a great honor which they do their best to publicize. 

So Many Wines, So Little Time 

Of course you need to narrow down those choices that the wine experts have already made for you. Personally, I think one of the very best ways to do that is to go to wine dinners or tastings that usually include special menus. And Kansas City is in luck, there. Genovese and Story, for instance, have a regular wine dinner every month. Webster House hosts tastings and lets people “vote” – and the winner ends up on their list. The best way to find many of these wine dinners is, modestly, to go to our web site and click on Calendar Events. You may also find additional events and offers by signing up for your favorite restaurants’ emails or newsletters – truly handy for discovering such events as Stephen Malloy heavily discounting wines at the Classic Cup starting in January and running through mid-March. 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also say that it’s smart to take advantage of the many wine specials our restaurants offer. Beyond Happy Hours which almost always have discounted wines, we’ve found more opportunities. What is especially cool is that they are available almost every day of the week. We’ve done the research on our favorites for you. The increasing number of wine drinkers and their improved knowledge is one trend that Jimmy Frantzé has noticed. With nearly 30 years in the restaurant business, he says that nothing surprises him but the number of new regions producing good wine is a source of wonder to him. He cites South America, Portugal, southern Italy, even South Africa. He also adds, “But there is no doubt that Americans are more savvy and more interested in drinking good wine and knowing about it than they ever have been” – not that he’s endorsing the pinot noir trend. 

Matt Nichols, Partner, General Manager & Wine Expert at JJ’s

Perhaps that interest in wine is somewhat fueled by media attention like the recent article headline in the October Wine Spectator which exclaimed: “Moderate Wine Consumption May Fight Alzheimer’s,” a conclusion from Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center. The article explained the (many) finer details, but the headline is enough for me. 

 And I will definitely continue my practice of asking the experts what I should try next – they’ve always been veracious. I have a friend who, not originally, says, “Life is too short to not drink good wine.” I think the best way to do that is to consult your knowledgeable and helpful wine expert on these long winter nights – or any time you want a good glass of wine.

K.C. Restaurants’ Wine Programs: 

Wine Spectator Award  2015 * Certified Wine Expert on Staff Wine Dinners / Tastings Wine Flights or Pairings Wine Specials Offered Page in Guide
801 Chophouse Leawood BAE 59
801 Chophouse P & L AE 59
801 Fish AE 59
Andres (Main St.) 45
Cafe Verona 66
Cafe Trio TU & SU 46
Classic Cup 45
Cleaver & Cork TH 28
Em Chamas 20
Espirito do Sul Back Cover
Final Cut Steakhouse AE W-TH 70
Fogo de Chao AE 43
Gaslight Grill AE SU 52
Genovese M 72
Grünauer 37
Hereford House SU-M 2
Jax SU 42
JJ's BAE SU 40-41
Le Fou Frog 35
McCormick & Schmick's 44
Ophelia's 64
Pierpont's AE 38
Piropos 23
Providence SU-M 30
Ricco's W 50
Room 39  AE M 24
Story BAE 57
Sullivan's Steakshouse AE SU 51
Tannin SU 39
The American  BAE F (Lunch) 33
The Journey 21
The Melting Pot AE TH 44
Webster House 33
* BAE = Best of Award of Excellence
* AE = Award of Excellence

Printing version: K.C. Restaurants’ Wine Programs

Wine and Spirits Magazine Poll
 Their annual poll discovers the top 50 wines ordered in restaurants throughout the United States.  Of those 50, the top ten most popular of 2014: 
1. Jordan Vineyard & Winery
2. Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
3. Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards
4. Duckhorn Vineyards
5. Cakebread Cellars
6. Caymus Vineyards
7. Silver Oak Wine Cellars
8. Kistler Vineyards
9. Veuve Clicquot
10. Chateau Ste. Michelle

How many of these have you had?  Several are quite pricey, by the way, a variation from the trend to more moderately priced wines.

Some Kansas City Restaurants with Certificated Sommeliers on Staff. 
Ask for them.
The American
Classic Cup
Cleaver & Cork
Final Cut
Fogo de Chao
Jax Fish House

I Did Not Know That
The amount of wine imbibed by North Americans has continued to increase every year for the last 22 years.
Screaming Eagle, a really famous “boutique” or cult cabernet that can retail for up to $3,500, is owned by       , a  Wal-Mart billionaire.
In order from #1 down, the top wine producing states are probably:  1- California, 2- Washington, 3- Oregon, 4- New York, and 5- Virginia.  Texas perhaps instead of Virginia.  Missouri is about #10 or so  (# of vineyards among the lower number states keeps changing)
Swirling your wine is really not showing off.  It’s adding oxygen which allows more aroma to escape.  (Well, I knew this, just wanted to make sure you did, too.)

Missouri has about 175 wineries and Kansas about 40.

About 60% of our wine is from California, 31% is imported internationally, and 9% is from another state.

If someone offers to buy you a jeroboam of wine, say yes.  It’s 4 bottles of wine.  A Methuselah is 8 and the king of them is: Nebuchadnezzar, 20 bottles in one.  That’s a party. But who can pour it?

Per capita wine consumption in the U.S. is a bit more than 3 gallons per year.  I’m doing my part, how ’bout you?

Did you find this article interesting? 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Hour IV: Drinking (& Eating) at Cleaver & Cork

Happy Hour IV: Drinking (& Eating) at Cleaver & Cork

You already know how much I love happy hours in K.C.  It’s not just the fact that food and drink are cheaper, truly.  It’s not just that they are an early excuse to start the party. It’s not just that you can eat lighter if you so desire.  Or that I basically like sitting at bars.  No, a big part of it for me is that happy hours are a way to sample . . . and to help me decide if I wanna come back.

My first happy hour, many months ago, did just that.  Cleaver & Cork’s starts early, at 4 p.m. and ends three hours later – a real plus for chatters – and the bar usually seems less noisy than the tables section. It does pick up of course – you are in the Power and Light District!  Their drinks are price-reduced, including their craft cocktails like my favorite, at least in the summer, the Horsefeathers (whisky, ginger beer and bitters).  They have $5 wines and $4 draft beers. Some menu items are half priced – and not half sized. Their pulled pork sandwich is dinner by itself and the fries with the skins on are delish and when you ask for them extra crispy, they are.  (Not always true I can assure you.) The cheese curds are mouth-poppable and the homemade bratwurst has that crunchy outer skin that’s so important.

A couple of happy hours later, I went back for dinner.  Though I’m still not sure what a gastropub is, I do know the menu is pretty comprehensive and I was there with a large party – and everyone was happy.  Still. 

1333 Walnut Street 
Kansas City, MO 64106 
Ph. 816-541-3484 

Cleaver & Cork Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, November 23, 2015

One Great Dish IV: As Told by Chef Brian Aaron at Tannin’s

Mussels Recipe by Tannin's Wine Bar

Chef Brian Aaron at Tannin’sWine Bar and Kitchen makes the most delicious mussels and he swears they’re fast (once you’re past that debearding part) and easy.  No, they don’t really take much time at al. 
Mussels are really just clams of a certain kind.  You can buy mussels at most grocery stores at the butcher/fish counter by the two pound bag.  Or they might be frozen.  What’s debearding you might ask?  When you wash each mussel, you’ll notice on many of them some threads, for lack of a better word.  That’s how they were attached to whatever they were attached to.  Pull that out and off and they’re ready to go.
You can prepare this dish right before serving and they are definitely pleasers – serve with some crusty bread to soak up all that goodness in the bowl!
Here are the ingredients:
2 pounds             Fresh Prince Edward Island Mussels (washed and debearded)
1 each                 Russet Potato (cleaned and diced)
1 each                 Carrot (peeled and diced)
1 each                 Celery Rib (cleaned and diced)
1 each                 Garlic Clove (minced)
1/2 pound            Diced Bacon
1 pinch                Chopped Fresh Thyme
1 pinch                Crushed Red Pepper
1/2 cup                 White Wine
1/2 cup                 Heavy Whipping Cream
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:  In a medium-high sauté pan or sauce pot, start by adding the bacon and rendering it down until becomes golden brown and starts to get crispy.
Add the diced potatoes, carrots, celery and garlic and sauté until the vegetables begin to get soft. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and then add the mussels, cream, thyme and crushed red pepper. Stir the mussels and cover the pot for about 2 minutes or until the mussels just begin to open. If needed, add a little salt and pepper.

Dump everything in a bowl, have the bread ready, and look out!

1526 Walnut Street 
Kansas City, MO 64108 
Ph. 816-842-2660 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Black Friday retail therapy at Jax Fish House

Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar will offer a Holiday “Retail Therapy” special Black Friday, Nov. 27 through Dec. 6 in which guests can purchase a cocktail from a special menu and receive one of three free desserts. Lead Bartender Kenny Cohrs and Pastry Chef Kelly Conwell collaborated on the menu to pair Cohrs’ cocktail creations with Conwell’s dessert masterpieces to create a respite from the stresses of holiday shopping.

In addition to the Holiday “Retail Therapy” menu, Jax will serve its regular Friday lunch menu from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner menu beginning at 4 p.m.
Jax will offer its Holiday “Retail Therapy” menu on Black Friday, Nov. 27 through Sunday, Dec. 6.

Holiday “Retail Therapy” menu
Aztec spiced hot chocolate blended with coconut milk, pineapple simple syrup, habanero cordial and Del Maguey Crema de Mezcal. Heated and served with toasted marshmallow
Linus and Lucy
Apple Jack, Benedictine, Calvados, All Spice Dram garnished with cinnamon apple slice
Chocolate Chip Cookies (2)
To enjoy at Jax or take home
Cracker Jack Sundae
Salted caramel ice cream, buttered popcorn ice cream, house made caramel corn, fresh whipped cream & graham cracker cookie
Dark Chocolate & Mocha pot de crème
Fresh cream, shortbread cookie

Friday, November 13, 2015

New fall salad at Fogo de Chao!

Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Salad: This hearty salad features a base of lightly cooked Brussels sprouts, and is complemented with Brown Sugar and Red Pepper bacon, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and sweet Peppadew peppers from the Market Table. It’s a sweet and salty blend of ingredients tossed with a house-made preserved lemon vinaigrette, and finished with salt and pepper.

Who loves grapefruit?  Check out the new Citrus Salad at Fogo de Chao featuring white, pink and ruby red grapefruits, oranges, blood oranges, and tangerines sprinkled with finely chopped mint leaves and finished with a hint of sugar and mint.  YUM!

Looking for a new fav cocktail?  Try the new fresh caramelized pineapple flawlessly muddled with orange and decadent Luxardo cherries to enhance the caramel notes of Bulleit’s Rye Whiskey – at Fogo de Chao.

222 West 47th Street 
Kansas City, MO 64112 
Ph. 816-931-7700  
Check out their menu

Monday, November 2, 2015

Chef Spotlight: Brian Aaron

Chef Spotlight:  Brian Aaron

For the last four nearly five years, ever since it reincarnated as Tannin Wine Bar and Kitchen from JP’s at 15th and Walnut, executive chef Brian Aaron has tried to maintain balance – in his life and at the bar/restaurant.  “We still aren’t sure if this is a food obsessed wine bar or a wine obsessed restaurant,” he laughs.  No matter which, it certainly does both extremely well.

Aaron began early, hanging out in the kitchen while his mom and relatives cooked great meals – the smells of some dishes still evoking those days which he parlays into new and unique dishes every few weeks in the restaurant.  (Try the chicken confit, his favorite right now.) Growing up in Overland Park, he enjoyed cooking breakfast for himself, which often evolved into whole family meals.  He worked at the Sahara Café during high school and went on to Colorado State where his degree is in restaurant/resort management.  Johnson and Wales Culinary School in Denver was next and stints at the Brown Palace, Zin, and Starker’s among others honed his skills.

Aaron has turned Tannin’s into much more than small plates, though those are still available and especially popular early evenings and late nights, along with complete meals.  He especially likes creating and preparing with his team the special wine dinners they hold pretty frequently.  There, as elsewhere, he incorporates his family’s heritage, his trips to Israel and Europe, and his imagination.  A little research shows that Tannin’s has won recognition in USA Today (“10 Great Places Where Wine Bars Serve Flights of Fancy”) and Open Table (“Top 100 Notable Wine Lists 2012”) as well as with Kansas City’s appreciative diners and oenophiles.  

In his few spare hours (Tannin’s is open until midnight serving full meals every night but Sunday [when they close at 11 p.m. ] which is just  one of the reasons the place is so popular for the service industry), he golfs with his dad.  His game improved, he said, when he stopped trying to get good and just began enjoying being outdoors.  It’s all part of that balance thing.

Tannin Wine Bar & Kitchen

1526 Walnut Street 
Kansas City, MO 64108 
Ph. 816-842-2660 
Located 2 blocks east of the Kaufmann Center for the Performing Arts

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Drunken Fish Food Drive

Drunken Fish is hosting a canned food drive at both of our KC locations during the month of November.

Both locations, all November long. Throughout the month, Drunken Fish will offer a 15% discount to all those who bring in a minimum of 5 canned goods during lunch and dinner hours.  All collections will benefit Harvesters. Harvesters' mission is to feed hungry people today and work to end hunger tomorrow.

Also, for every 5 canned goods donated, you will be entered to win a pair of NYE Live! tickets at the Power & Light District!  

4331 West 119th Street
Leawood, KS 66209
Ph. 913-339-9335

14 East 14 Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
Ph. 816.474.7177

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Deal - Coupon

Donate $5 to Melting Pot’s charity of the month and receive $10 off the Ultimate Four Course Dining Experience for Two Diners
(regularly $98)

Includes: A Bottle of Wine Pinot Grigio, Moscato, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir (Mezzacorona)
2 Specialty Cocktails
2 Beer Flights
Your choice of 3 draft beers

 Shared Combo Entrée Platter:
Filet Mignon
Basil Pesto Chicken
Pacific White Shrimp
Teriyaki Marinated Sirloin
Breast of Chicken
Mushroom Sacchetti& endless Seasonal Vegetables

Select any Cheese Fondue Appetizer

Select any 2 Salads Select any cooking style

Select any Chocolate Fondue Dessert
 *Multiple dinners allowed per coupon One time use per split table check.

 Valid only for Kansas City Dine in. Cannot be used with any other promotional offer, for tax, or gratuity. No cash value. Contact store for details or restrictions. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Providence New American Kitchen is promoting Burger Blast Wednesdays!

At the Hilton President downtown, Providence New American Kitchen notes the promotion of Alejandro Diaz to Executive Chef. 

Born and trained in Mexico City and having worked at the Waldorf Astoria, at Bite Bistro in San Diego, and then as the culinary supervisor with Princess Cruise Lines, he brings an international focus to "new American cuisine" and his steaks, chops and seafood all bear his signature. Their famous (since 1926) Drum Room bar features handcrafted cocktails and and Happy Hour from 4 – 6:30 p.m. In addition, there's a nice feature for downtown: complimentary valet parking for Providence guests.

EVERY Wednesday they offer a great deal on a great gourmet burger. Just $8 for a 6 oz. burger topped with extra sharp white Cheddar cheese, Brisket jam with lettuce, tomato and pickles, served on a Brioche bun with French fries on the side. You can’t get a better burger for the price, so go in any Wednesday from 11a.m. to 2 p.m. to savor this burger and save $3 too!

1329 Baltimore 
Kansas City, MO 64105 
Ph. (816) 303-1686 

Providence New American Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kansas City Artist in Residence | Hotel Phillips

Art Comes to Life in Kansas City

Right beside the Hotel Phillips who has won the ArtsKC Impact Award, 12 Baltimore is doing something different and intriguing.  At least I must admit I didn’t know about it and it’s been going on for awhile.  

They have announced their fifth artist-in-residence, sculptor Megan Lou Gallant.  Her art is on display throughout the hotel and restaurant and seems to me to be a combination of the natural world, whimsy, and imagination.  Her work has been exhibited at lots of different places, including the H&R Block Artspace.   

I love the idea of art with food and drink and her studio/storefront will often have its door open, and you are welcome to join her, look at a current work in progress, and interact with her.  And don’t forget to eat before or after at the restaurant, which has a new chef and menu which incorporates new and favorite items – and one of the best brunches in town!  And they have a loooong happy hour, too and a new cocktail list. Their half price appetizers during that time are delish and there are specials every day.    

If you like art, if you like food and drink, you should definitely check out all three at 12 Baltimore, next to the Hotel Phillips in the heART of downtown.   

12 Baltimore

106 W 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64105
Ph. 816.221.9292
Located at 12th and Baltimore