Restaurant Guide of KC™ - Kansas City Food + Travel Blog

  • Porto do Sul

    Brazilian Steakhouse

  • Harvest Table

    with an array of hot and cold items

  • Traditional Brazilian Steakhouse fare

    full Churrascaria experience

  • Offers a menu in the bar area

    for those in the mood for a lighter meal

  • Newly renovated second private dining room

    for your groups of up to 140 guests

Rye on the Plaza

You Sweet Thing, You

It’s appropriate that I’m writing this on International Women’s Day (even though I decry the need for this “holiday” which has been around since the 1900’s) because I’m writing about Rye’s desserts, all crafted by Chef Megan Garrelts. You probably know she is again a James Beard Semifinalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef. Her previous nomination was for the pastry (a very broad category really covering everything from bread to doughnuts to cakes and elegant concoctions) at Bluestem, the other restaurant she co-owns with her husband. Her pastry expertise and creativity is the foundation of all the desserts at all three restaurants – to say she’s busy is an understatement.

But on to the goodies . . . The Rye dessert menu has a little something for everyone. There is the famous lemon meringue pie of course, sprightly tart and sweet and in my opinion, even as a confirmed chocoholic, the perfect ending to any meal. Her MOKAN pie is another favorite – hers of course has Missouri pecans and Kansas black walnuts – and this recipe was even published in Food and Wine. Making your own pie crust immediately told me I should continue to order it at the restaurants. The dark hazelnut brownie, especially topped with house-made ice cream, almost made me cry. So good. But so all are the other pies, the Kentucky bourbon cake, and the house-made sorbets. Maybe I should just say everything, already.

 Although I have to say I laugh when I see the cheeses on this menu because who could possibly want cheese for dessert (unless you’ve had dessert for your first course and even then . . .), I do like the fact that after dinner wines and cocktails are listed there. Not everyone does that yet, and it makes it so much easier to royally finish off an evening. The Garrelts have two cookbooks out and that lemon pie recipe is in their newest book, published in 2015, Made in America: A Modern Collection of Classic Recipes. Again, I think I’ll just keep ordering it.

 In terms of International Women who should be recognized, Megan Garrelts is right up there. And not just on one day a year. You should definitely leave room for dessert at Rye.

Rye Plaza
4646 JC Nichols Parkway 
Kansas City, MO 64112 
Ph. 816-541-3382 
Rye Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The American Awarded James Beard 2018 Design Icon Award

The American Awarded James Beard 2018 Design Icon Award

The James Beard Foundation announced today that The American Restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri, known equally for its architectural and culinary artistry, has been awarded this year’s Design Icon Award.

2018 Design Icon honoree The American Restaurant opened on Valentine’s Day 1974 atop Crown Center in Kansas City. Designed by Warren Platner, it became the conceptual parent of all the over-the-top top-of-the-building restaurants that followed, including some by Platner himself. Platner described it as, “Bridging the contrast in scale between great volume of space and the minute detail of food and tableware, between public gathering and personal intimacy, the design entertains the diner and gives distinction to the server in this emporium of elaborate meals.”
One travels to The American by elevator, arriving at the top of the three story-high restaurant in a carefully designed but modest entry space. As the visitor descends into the restaurant, the grand 6,500 square foot space is dramatically revealed as the terraced landings create an enormous glass lined theater with views to the city visible below. The lacy Gothic-inspired bentwood rosette-topped pillars above not only lend a “dining under the trees” feel, but, because they line the ceiling, make for an intriguing view from the street below. Miles of wood louvers cover the sheets of glass adding to the sense of tree-filtered light and making a very large space feel quite intimate. While design elements have been altered in the intervening decades, the largest gestures, including the decorative wood elements, are all intact.
"We are honored to receive the Design Icon Award from the James Beard Foundation," says Stacey Paine, president, Crown Center Redevelopment Corporation. “Warren Platner created a unique design, timeless in nature and a wonderful example of great architecture inspiring those around it. We are proud to have The American recognized.”
Built and still owned by Crown Center, the real estate development business for Hallmark Cards, the restaurant and its design is as much a confection as a considered confluence of space, form, light, and color. And because it was created by Joe Baum, in collaboration with James Beard, Barbara Kafka, and a host of other food-world luminaries, it was, and is, as much of a dining event as a design event. The American serves up a range of dining experiences from guest chef events to private dining, all under the signature wood tracery canopy that defined the space in 1974 as it does today.
The Design Icon Award is chosen by the Restaurant Design Committee. In order to qualify, a restaurant or dining space’s design must have remained substantially unchanged for at least 20 years and must have influenced and inspired the design of subsequent restaurants and dining spaces. Additionally, the restaurant/dining space must still be in operation.
The James Beard Foundation Awards Gala will be held at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on Monday, May 7, 2018. During the event, which is open to the public, awards for the Restaurant and Chef and Restaurant Design categories will be handed out, along with special achievement awards Humanitarian of the Year, Lifetime Achievement, Design Icon, Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America, and America’s Classics. A gala reception will immediately follow, featuring top chefs and beverage professionals from across the country.
On Friday, April 27, 2018, the James Beard Media Awards, an exclusive event honoring the nation's top cookbook authors, culinary broadcast producers and hosts, and food journalists, will take place at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers in New York City.

Established in 1990, the James Beard Awards recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields and furthers the Foundation’s mission to celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America's food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone. Each award category has an individual committee made up of industry professionals who volunteer their time to oversee the policies, procedures, and selection of judges for their respective Awards program. All JBF Award winners receive a certificate and a medallion engraved with the James Beard Foundation Awards insignia. There are no cash prizes.
The 2018 James Beard Foundation Awards are proudly hosted by Choose Chicago and the Illinois Restaurant Association and presented in association with Chicago O’Hare and Midway International Airports as well as the following partners: Premier Sponsors: All-Clad Metalcrafters, American Airlines, HMSHost, Illinois Office of Tourism, Lavazza, S.Pellegrino® Sparkling Natural Mineral Water, TABASCO® Sauce, Woodford Reserve Bourbon; Supporting Sponsors: Breville®, Corporate Essentials, Hyatt, Robert Mondavi Winery, Skuna Bay Salmon, Taylor Precision Products, Valrhona, Windstar Cruises; Gala Reception Sponsors: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Ecolab, Front of the House®, Kendall College; with additional support from: Chefwear, Emmi Roth, Loacker, and VerTerra Dinnerware. 


KC Great Chefs Secret

The (Not-So-Secret) Secrets of 11 Great Chefs

“I’ve Got a Secret” was an old TV series, even before my time almost (1952-67) but then it was revived a couple of times in various formats which I never saw.  The schtick was that a panel tried to guess a contestant’s “secret.” The definition of secret was pretty broad but it was supposed to be amazing, unusual, humorous, or embarrassing.  The contestant could be a famous person or someone more like you or me.  I remember there was a lot of back and forth banter and that my parents liked the show a whole more than I did.

Maybe that’s because the secrets never seemed all that fascinating to me, or that’s how I remember it anyway.  A secret should be really that – deep, mysterious, intriguing.  The whole problem with that concept today is that there seem to be few secrets – everybody knows everything about everybody.  Thank you, internet.

Well, that’s not really totally true.  What if, I thought, what if I could ask some folks with a great talent anything I wanted.  Would they answer me?  And truthfully? 

The answer to that burning question is yes.  It’s yes if you’re a great Kansas City chef.  I found that everyone I approached was willing to give me some answers to some scorching questions that I think all of us would like to know.  And though I can’t tell everything about every chef I talked to, I can tell you that in this very hard business, some of the men and women drawn to it who’ve persevered and succeeded in it, have some similarities and some differences. Quelle surprise as the French say.
So if you want to know what I’ve discovered, read on.  It may change how you view your next meal in any one of their fine restaurants and at the least, I bet there’s something in here you didn’t know.

Adverse or Modest?

I started out with the negative, or at least the humble, bit.  I asked, what aren’t you good at?  Yes, a sentence ending with a preposition.  Chef and owner Carl Thorne-Thomsen of Story answered simply, “Patience.”  Chef Leonice Ludwig of Porto do Sul was really upfront when she said she wasn’t good at dealing with unreasonable customers, because sometimes “they are not right.”  Chef Alejandro Diaz of the President’s (Hilton) Providence Restaurant said without hesitation he’s not great in public relations.  He definitely thinks it’s not about him, it’s about the food, which he’s happier to talk about. 

Some turned to food to answer this.  Chef/owner Colby Garrelts of Rye and Bluestem says he’s “terrible at pasta.  It’s a very simple food style which I overthink.” Chef Tony Gordon of Westside Local responded with the rather surprising answer of “Veggies.”  He admitted to being a picky eater as a kid and vegetables were not his favorite.  But he’s recovered – working with so many local farmers has made him appreciate the taste and quality of good vegetables and now he’s much more comfortable with pairing them with his entrees.  His mother would be proud.

But the big winner here for these experienced chefs was dessert.  Maybe not a surprise. Taylor Fluevog, Executive Chef at Sullivan’s Steakhouse, said that she’s lucky to have a talented sous-chef who has great finesse in constructing wonderful desserts.  Chef Brandon Winn at Webster House somewhat echoed that – his pastry chef does much that he’d rather not. Mano Rafael, co-owner and chef of Le Fou Frog, agrees with this, “. . . because you have to be a scientist and measure everything.  I also hate to work with sugar – it’s sticky and messy.”  Richard Ng of Bo Lings isn’t crazy about desserts either, saying he is not able to spend enough time on them.  And Bobby Stearns of Ophelia’s and Café Verona laughed as he remarked he still could use more practice on desserts, even though he makes them all the time.

Some (Possibly Not Secret) Big Dislikes

Armed with this info, I kept to my negative trend and asked them what is the most irritating thing about their customers – or kitchen . . . giving them an out because hardly anyone will tell about that most hated thing about their customers – at least sober they won’t.  A couple had no complaints, so I’ll skip them.  But there were a couple of instructive answers from the other side of the wall.  Story’s chef bemoaned his small kitchen.  Alejandro Diaz said he’d rather be in an open kitchen because, “There’s great motivation and gratification when you see people enjoying your food.”

Two chefs are annoyed by people changing their food – putting their own restrictions on the chef’s dish.  Mano Rafael says, “I understand dietary and allergy restrictions but when it’s just that they prefer potatoes to couscous, it irritates me because I put a lot of thought into all the components of my dish.  Get a side of mashed potatoes but try the dish the way it was intended!”  Tony Gordon says the same thing, “When customers completely customize their own dish.”  Brandon Winn points out the necessity of, if you have a true food allergy, telling your staff person immediately, but he’s irritated by “100% dietary restrictions that are really preferences.  It’s when preferences are put in front of you as allergies . . Cross contamination in kitchens is inevitable.” 

Only a slight step away from that is when, according to Chef Leonice Ludwig, customers come in and tell her, “How I should be cooking Brazilian food that we have been cooking for years with recipes handed down for generations.”  People, people, let the chef create and cook the food!

Still on that other side, Colby Garrelts notes, “I love our customers but I hate when they complain about noise at both of our Rye restaurants. I want high energy in those restaurants! I want noise and I want people to have fun!”  So noted.  Bobby Stearns mentions Yelp, stupid reviews, so called “foodies,” and ordering breakfast items at dinner.  Richard Ng hates to waste good food and ingredients, but didn’t indicate if that’s on his customers or in his kitchen.  Probably both I’d guess – waste is waste.

At What We’re Great

What do they think their restaurant does an extra-special good job in?  Predictably, Taylor Fluevog at Sullivan’s says bone-in steaks.  Yep.  Despite his fish reputation, Carl Thorne Thomsen says Story excellently does craft cocktail creation.  Jeff Dietzler says Jax is especially good at sustainability, totally important for seafood.  Brandon Winn is proud of how well Webster House does with special events and being adaptable as they have become more contemporary using more fresh ingredients.  Tony Gordon believes Westside Local does an especially good job in using local ingredients and working with local farmers.  He specifies he likes to help support local businesses in the city himself.

Alejandro Diaz is really happy with the way Providence represents new American food.  On the other side of the ocean, Mano Rafael points to the fact Le Fou Frog has been demystifying French food for so many years.  Leonice Ludwig claims an outstanding specialty in something the others wouldn’t: picanha, the most prized of Brazilian meats we call a sirloin cap (but Brazilians keep the fat on until the steak has been cooked). 

Home Sweet Home

Are chefs just like you and me, only better cooks?  I’d guess there’s much more to it – like years of education and training, arduous experiences, comprehensive knowledge in a bunch of different areas.  But they do (sometimes) cook at home, just like me.  It’s a question of time.  Chefs’ go-tos home on the range sound a whole lot better than mine, though.

Jeff Dietzler doesn’t have a chance to cook at home very often but he likes to cook for family and friends and loved ones about twice a month.  His fav?  Lasagna. Alejandro Diaz cooks for “my wife and me a couple times a week, we usually do pork tacos or quesadillas. When we have more time, I make gluten free sweet potato gnocchi Parisienne with creamy Bolognese sauce.”  So much for simple.  “When I am at home I cook for my parents, daughter, and my sister.  I try to make sure that I cook on average four times a week when my mother doesn't beat me to the punch,” reveals Taylor Fluevog.
Brandon Winn says he cooks for himself and it all depends on how much he’s worked.  During Restaurant Week, he said he went home, had a beer or two, and went to bed.  Otherwise, though, he uses his “smoker a lot. . . I can walk away from it for an hour or two.  I like simple.  I tend to nibble on menu items a lot.  Home is plant-based hashes and I don’t eat a lot a protein at home.  It’s eggs or lentils if I do. Or curries.”  Colby Garrelts says, “I cook at home every chance I get. My kids love brick chicken and risotto. That gets served a lot at our house.”  Leonice Ludwig cooks risotto at home, too – “it’s so easy and good.”

“Honestly, before I became the chef at the Local, I used to cook a lot at home,” says Chef Gordon. “Nowadays I rarely do. But if I do decide to, I'll make southern dishes like fried fish, jambalaya, or maybe fire up the smoker and barbecue.”  Both Richard Ng and Bobby Stearns say they just don’t cook at home much.  Mano Rafael says, “At home I take turns cooking for my family of four.  Sometimes it’s every night; sometimes my wife does it.  They like what I cook but don't like how many dishes I use and they say I make too much.  Our most common go-to meal is some sort of pasta.”

Chef Fluevog admits, “When I am at home we like to cook rustic-style, good old home cooking.  We make Italian lasagna as well as BBQ meatballs and cheesy potatoes.”   Carl Thorne-Thomsen is most comprehensive as he thinks about this fiery question.  “I cook breakfast every morning for my wife, Susan, and our three children. I cook family dinner on Monday nights. I also cook lunch for my wife on Mondays and Tuesdays. Family dinner is always steak, chicken, Caesar salad, a vegetable, rice and pasta. Something for everyone.”  Whew.  Opening a can of soup, it’s not.

Try This Once at Least

If you’ve not had the following dishes, you should, according to our experts.  Check them out (and off your list).

“I love foie gras. At Providence we pan sear it and baste it with herbs and grill some Boston brown bread and garnish it with local fig jam. It’s indulgently buttery, sweet, salty and nutty,” opines Alejandro Diaz.  Our kale and artichoke crab dip. (Jeff Dietzler at Jax).  “Menudo.  Tripe.  Sweetbreads.  They are delicious by any standard.  Such flavor” . . . (Brandon Winn). Octopus (Carl Thorne-Thomsen).  Steak tartare (Taylor Fluevog).

Chef Rafael says, “Steak au poivre for people who think French food is too fancy. Escargot and foie gras.” Whole flounder, pork belly (Richard Ng). Chef Garrelts takes it up, or down, a notch: “Any kind of offal, liver, sweetbreads, etc. I love the texture and the unique flavors.”  Chef Gordon said he’d “have to go with ceviche. I was always skeptical about raw seafood being cooked in fresh squeezed lime juice. But this stuff is amazing.”  Brandon Winn summed it up: “We should all try new things, whatever is new to us.”  Bobby Stearns adds, “Something you have been scared to try.  Try it.” 

Your Last Meal, Ever

It’s only appropriate to end this article with the last meal on earth question.  I didn’t even put them in prison awaiting execution, just that last meal, assuming you still have your teeth and taste buds. There were some simple, but perfect, sounding choices.  Chef Ludwig says she’d want picanha, cooked by her husband. Chef Tony Gordon exclaims, “It'll have to be pizza.  I love classic New York style pizza from Johnny Jo's Pizzeria. I love that place.”  Chef Ng says he wants egg fried rice cooked by his wife.

Chef Thorne-Thomsen would have a cheeseburger his wife cooked along with at least one glass of 2014 Realm Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Cabernet (which, by the way, garnered a 99 in the Wine Advocate). Jeff Dietzler envisions a large last plate: “Full of bone marrow, pâtés, and charcuterie.  It would be prepared by all of the chefs who have mentored me and showed me their ways.” Nice.   

Chef Rafael is explicit.  “My last meal would be a ribeye encrusted in garlic and fresh herbs cooked by my Chef Fatmir with a side of pasta cooked by my wife. Brandon could add a little surf to my turf and sauté some perfect scallops and then if pastry chef Carter threw in a goat cheese cheesecake, I'd be fat and happy.”
Chef Diaz is clear.  “It would start with some cheese, wine and baguette, follow by braised short ribs and mashed potatoes, tacos al pastor (yes,TACOS), and I would finish with a vanilla bean crème brûlée.  It would be cooked by my cooks and sous-chef.” 

Chef Winn told me a short story before his final choice.  “For my 30th birthday, we went to Eleven Madison Park – for 25 courses. It was life changing.  Last year I went to Rieger and ordered ten meals I wanted and then Howard Hanna carefully and thoughtfully re-engineered them all into one dinner.  In other words, I would like Howard Hanna to just go for it. That’s the meal I want.” 

 A Few Last Words

While I’m pretty sure that these 11 chefs may have secrets that are deep, mysterious, and spine-tingling intriguing, I think I’ll have to dig deeper to get those.  I’m happy to settle for the idea that these people are nicely unusual, amazing in their craft, and willing to reveal at least a little bit about their lives.  Frankly, I came away impressed.  You can easily sample their skills and ultimate creations in their restaurants and should have a better understanding of the man or woman beneath that chef’s coat.  Whether or not you get a chance to talk to them too, I bet you’ll also be impressed.

Ladies Who Lunched, Largely

Esteemed publisher Kathy Denis and I had lunch last week at Webster House, one of my favorite haunts.  Not that that old school is haunted in any sense of the word. 

They’ve freshened up their menu again which Chef Brandon Winn does seasonally at least, so we felt compelled to eat heartily.  The mushroom soup managed to be light but hearty with the mushroom flavor unmistakable – and the slices and chunks of mushrooms helped that of course.  Determined to be healthy, I ordered the house salad then said we’d split.  Kathy got the pan-seared scallops with butternut squash puree and an apple cider reduction and they were perfect.  Since I’d been so healthy so far, I then proceeded to wolf down most of the short rib tartine whose eponymous rib just dissolved in my mouth along with the caramelized onion and smoked pepper jam.  We shared both dishes (somewhat) and finally, sated, sat back and sighed happily.

And then our cute and very obliging staff person talked us into dessert, despite our bulging bellies (well, mine was, I won’t speak for Ms. Denis).  “It’s light,” he said, winningly.  “t’s delicious.  It’s the perfect finish.”  And the Blood Orange Bar, which tasted like a holy version of a dreamsicle, was all those adjectives.  But I’m compelled to add I think they should rename it even if it is made with blood oranges.  Something like “Citrus Tower” or “Orange Delight Bar” or even just “Dream Bar.”  But “A rose by any other name . . .” and you should
still finish up with this for lunch or dinner, no matter your belly.

And speaking of finishing off a terrific lunch, I next went downstairs and promptly bought a great scarf for myself.  What a treat-ful day. 

Webster House
1644 Wyandotte 
Kansas City, MO 64108 
Ph. 816-221-4713 
Located just south of the Kaufmann Center for Performing Arts

Webster House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

March is Oyster Month

Throughout the month of March, Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar will celebrate the mighty mollusk with weekly chef specials, contests, giveaways, all-you-can-eat oyster night, pints of Emersum Oyster Stout, ad a National Oyster on the Half Shell Day party, and the 4th annual Jax Oyster Eating Contest.

A portion of sales throughout the month, and all revenue generated from the Oyster Eating Contest, will be donated to the Midwest Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society KC, a local organization that works to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.

Each week throughout the month, Chef de Cuisine Jeff Dietzler will serve a signature oyster special inspired by oyster-loving cultures from across the globe, as well as an expanded mignonette and raw oyster menu. Among these is the Emersum oyster, cultivated exclusively for Jax Fish House by Virginia's Rappahannock River Oyster Company. The oyster is described by Jax Executive Chef Sheila Lucero as a perfectly balanced oyster with consistently sweet, salty, and creamy qualities that is sustainably grown and harvested at a specific point in the Chesapeake Bay, giving the Emersum its own “merroir.” For every Emersum oyster sold throughout the month, 10¢ will be donated to the Midwest Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society KC. 
On March 1, Jax will tap kegs of Emersum Oyster Stout, brewed by Cinder Block Brewery in Kansas City. Members of staff from Jax joined forces with the brewers to help make this oyster stout. They added shucked Emersum oysters to the mash and then whole oysters—shell and all—to the boil. According to Jax Director of Operations Adam Reed, this process adds more minerality, more mouthfeel, and a subtle brightness to the beer, and makes for an excellent companion to a dozen oysters on the half shell.

Oyster Month festivities will include:

A Dozen Dozens
Guests are entered to win free oysters for a year every time they order a dozen oysters throughout the month of March.

Oyster Specials from Different Regions
Each week Chef de Cuisine Jeff Dietzler will showcase an oyster specialty from a different region:
Week 1 - Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, Delaware
Week 2 - New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island
Week 3 - Maine, Mass, PEI
Week 4 - Washington, BC

All You Can Eat Oysters
On Friday, March 2, Jax will have All You Can Eat Emersum Oysters for $35 from 9:00 – 10:00 p.m.

Drink Specials
Select beers from Boulevard Brewing Co. - $3
Tito’s Vodka or Milagro Tequila Oyster Shooters - $5
Emersum Oyster Stout from Cinder Block Brewery - $7

National Oyster on the Half Shell Day
On Saturday, March 31 Jax is celebrating National Oyster on the Half Shell Day with $1.50 Emersum Oysters all night long.

Oyster Eating Contest
Jax’ 4th annual Oyster Eating Contest will take place on Saturday, March 24 at 2:00 p.m. Teams of 4 will have 2 minutes to consume as many oysters as possible in a timed, judged event. In 2015, the winning team, led by St. Louis-based competitive eater Randy Santel, consumer 152 oysters in 2 minutes. In 2016, local favorites 'The HandCestors”—Carson Coffman, Josh Freeman, Scotty McAvoy, and Tysyn Hartman—won the title.  And in 2017, three-time contestants, team 'Shuck THIS', finally reached the podium under the leadership of team captain Dolly Wood. All charitable proceeds from this year’s contest will benefit the Midwest Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, KC.

To register your team, please contact Jax Fish House at (816)437-7940, 4814 Roanoke Pkwy, Kansas City, MO 64112, or


Happy Hour IX: The Drum Room at Providence

Kansas City, to my mind, has never been a particularly great place for hotel dining and drinking. (Oh, sure, there was the Peppercorn Duck Club and Skies, I still miss them both.) You are welcome to disagree but among my friends and me, we never think about getting happy in a hotel in this town. Traveling, sure. But now I’m starting to think we should put hotels on our list.

Case in point: The Drum Room adjoining Providence New American Kitchen in the Hilton downtown. Their happy hour runs from 4 – 6:30 p.m. – I like that extra half hour. Also there’s parking across the street which is less expensive than most of the lots around and who knows, you might get lucky with street parking. You’re downtown, folks.

But during that time, you can actually have dinner if you have that burger craving all good Midwesterners fall prey to – it’s just six bucks as are their duck fat fries (I ALWAYS ask for extra crispy no matter where I go) that come with a beer and cheese fondue. There are just two other items on the menu – calamari and feta fritters, also inexpensive and also yummy.

Now, on to the equally important part: the drinks. There’s two draught beers on tap for $5 as are their house selections of red and white wine BUT what I like – premium well cocktails are just $6. If you’re determined to go the true high end, splurge on the original Drum Room’s Old Fashioned, which as an old fashioned expert, and a modest one at that, I can tell you is excellent; there’s also the Pendergast, and several memorable more – woo hoo! Head bartender Jeff Ruane summed it all up well for me when he said, “The ambiance here is like no other place – its history, the people who come here from all over or who live down the block, the music, we’ve got it all.” He’s right.

Yep, a great night out with a great burger and drink – in the historic atmosphere of one of Kansas City’s most storied hotels. Be sure to step down a few steps and look at the pictures and class case with artifacts of previous days. It’s definitely a happy two and a half hours.

Providence New American Kitchen
1329 Baltimore 
Kansas City, MO 64105 
Ph. (816) 303-1686 

Drum Room Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Give the gift of rosés this Valentine’s Day at André's Confiserie Suisse

André's Confiserie Suisse is featuring a rosé wine flight throughout the month of February in its Coffee and Wine Bar. The flight includes three fine European rosés with chocolate pairings and tasting notes for $25. The Coffee and Wine Bar is open from 7 a.m. – 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Reservations can be made by calling the store at 816-561-3440.

In addition to the rosé flight special, André's Confiserie Suisse also has plenty of sweet options for your loved ones this Valentine’s Day, including chocolate hearts filled with its infamous chocolate covered almonds, chocolate covered strawberries, pecan heart cookies and more. Through three generations of Swiss confiseurs and more than sixty years in business, the local, family-owned chocolatier has perfected its Valentine’s Day selections.

Valentine’s Day Treats at André's

Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Long-stem strawberries covered in signature milk, white or dark chocolate.
Chocolate Hearts
André’s signature chocolate molded into a heart shape and either foil wrapped, hand decorated with a custom Valentine message, or filled with chocolate covered almonds or an assortment of traditional chocolate candies.
Chocolate Truffle Hearts
Delicate chocolate heart shell filled with a rich and smooth chocolate ganache center. Flavors include Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, Baileys Irish Cream and Aztec Cinnamon Chili Pepper.
Rocher Heart
Fresh roasted, slivered almonds are mixed with André’s signature milk or dark chocolate, shaped into a heart, then filled with an assortment of chocolate candies.
Nougat Heart
Caramelized almonds and sugar create a custom heart shell filled with chocolate covered almonds or a traditional assortment of chocolate candies.
Gingerbread Heart
House made gingerbread available plain or coated in André’s signature milk or dark chocolate and decorated by hand.
Chocolate Champagne Split Bottle
André’s signature milk or dark chocolate molded into a bottle shape then filled with milk or dark chocolate covered almonds.
Pecan Heart Cookies
Luxurious pecan sugar dough loaded with roasted pecans, baked to a golden brown, then coated in André’s signature milk chocolate and hand decorated.
Heart Torte
André’s classic and decadent tortes are now in a seasonal heart shape and available in various flavors.
Heart Pastries
André’s signature French pastries, made with cake and buttercream, shaped in a heart and covered in fondant icing.
Ship your Valentine’s Day Treats
Many of André's Valentine’s Day items listed above can also be shipped. Online orders can be made at or by emailing

Bow Wow

Wow! I know some of you believe every year is the day, week, month and year of the dog, but according to the Chinese New Year Calendar, this year occurs only every 12 years but the earth dog occurs in only 2018 (and years 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, and 2030). But no matter, the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum will celebrate the Chinese holiday new year on January 28 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and this year is especially special. 

Bo Ling's Chinese Restaurant is going to be there (rooms 4 and 5) to help by serving some of their fine cuisine like dan dan noodles with pork, Sichuan dumplings, roasted chicken, vegetable fried rice, and rangoon dip with crispy noodles. Besides trying some unusual dishes, you and your family can enjoy several different dance groups, a traditional Chinese dress show, even a yo-yo demonstration along with special Asian influenced menu items in the Rozzelle Court Restaurant. There’s so much going on – and it will help you learn about a different culture, too. Go here for times and events. 

 The new year celebration is actually February 16 this year but the celebration begins on the new moon between January 21 and February 20. The Lunar New Year is celebrated in other Asian countries and is a major holiday – Chinese families typically gather for an annual reunion dinner – and also it’s traditional to clean house thoroughly to sweep away bad fortune and welcome in good luck. Red decorations, firecrackers, and monetary tokens in red envelopes are also common. So this year, go ahead and celebrate two new years. I’m definitely going to do a bit of that cleaning thing! 

P.S. The symbols say “Spring Festival,” the new year’s other name, in both traditional and simplified the bottom two characters) Chinese. Or so Wikipedia told me.

Braised Red Cabbage Recipe

Braised Red Cabbage

Jeff DietzlerOne Great Dish
A while back, as I’m sure you’ll recall, I spoke with Chef Jeff Dietzler at Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar and wrote in that blog that he does even cook at home when he has time.  One thing that creative chefs do is reach into their memory banks and recreate.  This recipe is an example of that and a perfect wintry pick-me-up as well.

Braised Red Cabbage

1 head red cabbage, finely sliced                             
2 carrots, medium grate on box grater  
2 apples, granny smith, medium grate   
1 red onion, small dice                  
½ t. nutmeg                                                                       
½ t. coriander, ground
1 T. salt, kosher                                                                
2 t. black pepper, ground                                                            

½ C. red wine vinegar                                                    
½ C. apple cider Vinegar                                               
1 C red cooking wine                                     
½ C brown sugar                                              
2 quarts vegetable stock                                              
½ C. oil, rice bran                                                                             

1.)  In a medium sized sauce pot, place rice bran oil over medium- high heat.
2.)  Sweat onion in oil for one minute. Next, add cabbage, carrot, apple, nutmeg and coriander. Sweat for another two minutes. 
3.)  Deglaze with red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and red wine. Add brown sugar, salt, pepper and stock. 
4.)  Bring to a boil and then simmer until almost all of the liquid is gone. 

Jeff said, "I chose this recipe because we have recently added it to our menu and it is perfect for winter weather. My grandmother gave me the recipe – she made it every Christmas Eve for our traditional dinner.  As I’d walk in the door, the smell of this braised cabbage would be the first thing I noticed. I love the smell and flavors of the sweetness, sourness and earthiness. So delicious."

Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar
4814 Roanoke Pkwy 
Kansas City, MO 64112 
Ph. (816) 437-7940 

2017 Memories

Thanks for the Memories, 2017

I’m a lucky girl as I get to eat out often.  A lot.  But when asked to come up with the best meals of 2017, I must pause, ponder, try to remember.  I would say that entire spectacular meals are tough to recall –  , well, not to recall beyond, “That was all wonderful,” which makes for really boring reading.  Instead, I tend to remember one especially wonderful dish which casts its glimmer on everything else to create that total glowing impression. So I’ll mention a few, briefly.

First things first.  That means, before dinner, a drink.  Surprise. I’ve been on an old-fashioned kick recently (well, the last ten years) so I think I’d pick the one made with Scotch at Porto do Sul or one of the newer riffs on the classics at Pierpont’s.  I also really like the aquavit tasting at the Krokstrom Klubb and Market – you drink these and your mouth even feels clean as your brain gets cold.

Since my perfect meal dream is going to include fish, I truly have remarkable choices in Cowtown.   I will start with the shrimp and grits at Webster House. Then I will chomp down on almost any fish Chef/Owner Carl Thorne is featuring at Story.  And I won’t be able to neglect Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar but will probably have to choose, ohmygosh, what?  The grilled ahi tuna on nori sushi rice rocks my boat.  I am compelled to also order a crab cake at McCormick and Schmick’s.

I really should have started with this paragraph.  “Eat Dessert First” is a motto to live by.  Frankly, it’s hard to decide among several.  But one is at the Hereford House which is known for its steaks, but their carrot cake is different from others I’ve tried – but even more rich and decadent.  Speaking of rich, when I want to calorie-splurge, I’d probably go for one of the creamy, divine cheese cakes at Grimaldi’s  Pizza.  Yes, pizza.  Or I might choose something chocolate at Andre’s (anything works there but I am especially fond of their coconut “Matterhorns” covered with dark chocolate.)  Or, and this one does surprise me, the chocolate peanut butter cookie at Tannin’s Wine Bar and Kitchen.

I could go on.  And on.  Too many choices, too little time.  But with a little more luck, I’ll expand my choices (and my waistband no doubt) in 2018.

What did you eat in 2017? 

One Great Chef: Jeff Dietzler

One Great Chef:  Jeff Dietzler

Back at the end of September, a friend and I went to Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar and were treated royally.  We had about six different things on the menu, and honestly, all were terrific.  Shortly after, I spent some time with Jeff Dietzler, chef de cuisine there and we had a great conversation about him, his views, his challenges; oh, let’s just say his life in general.   

Jeff is a pretty determined and motivated guy I concluded.  He grew up in St. Louis and then went to Johnson and Wales University in their culinary school in Denver.  He worked in Denver for ten years and then for three years at the local Jax, gradually working his way up the ladder.  He transferred to Kansas City to open up the restaurant here and became chef de cuisine in the spring of this year.

Jeff said that this current position puts much of what he learned at school to work – the scheduling, costing, management skills – and the only part he might feel sad about is that he’s not so continually in the kitchen actually cooking.  Imagine, there are people who love to cook, not just eat! He even likes to cook at home where he says there’s no pressure, just relaxation.  His bike riding also helps with that relaxation thing.

The chief challenge for Jeff is one I hear often though not phrased with the word perfection that often.  “I want to create a perfect experience for every single guest who walks through the door. Everyone has to work harmoniously for any order to be perfect.”  He also noted that Kansas City eaters are becoming more adventuresome in their dining choices, which gives him a greater chance to be creative.  What gets him up, happy, each morning, is “the daily challenge I know is coming and the chance to be with the smart, dedicated co-workers.  That’s good because I see them more than friends or family.”

Jeff made some changes back then on a menu that changes seasonally, so I don’t know if the lobster corndogs are still on the menu.  And I hope the steak tartare is.  Their pastas are all made freshly (try the crab carbonara) and their Brussels sprouts are too good.  . You’re probably getting the idea you don’t HAVE to get fish there, even though their fish is uniformly excellent.  Jeff really likes its flexibility, health benefit, and the fact Jax is one of the very few restaurants certified by the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch. 

A restaurant is only as good as its people and its food.  No wonder Jax at the west end of the Plaza doesn’t need to fish for compliments.  It does well, deservedly so. Kudos, Jeff.

Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar
4814 Roanoke Pkwy 
Kansas City, MO 64112 
Ph. (816) 437-7940 
Located in the Polsinelli Building

Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Craft of the Cocktail

The Craft of the Cocktail

So a gal walks into a bar . . .

Or a restaurant.  And says to the bartender, “What’s special?”  He hands her an entire menu of what can only be called specialty drinks.

Take specialty up a notch and you have the trend that’s been going for several years now as the “craft cocktail craze” continues unabated.  Almost every bar worth its hand-filled olives serves at least five or many, many more, riffs on the classic cocktail, usually devised by that bar’s enthusiastic mixologists.  Though the execution in restaurants is different from the best-known crafty bars (for example, Manifesto, Julep, the new Monarch, or P.S. Speakeasy), the intent is the same:  a drink that is very special, very unique, very memorable.

It’s no coincidence that rise of the craft cocktail somewhat parallels the rise of the artisan food movement with its emphasis on fresh, high quality ingredients –  but that cocktail could have more ingredients than a main dish casserole and individually could take six or ten minutes to prepare.

What’s in a Name?

Cocktails have been around for a long time, beginning (probably) as punch when sailors discovered that harsh spirits could be mellowed if they sat in barrels which imparted other flavors.  The East India Trading Company sailors prepared punch by combining their barrel-aged brandy with fruit (helped with that pesky scurvy problem), sugar, spices, and water that needed alcohol’s sterilizing effects. There are assorted derivations given for the word “cocktail” which range from having to do with roosters, horses, the French term for egg cup, coquetel, the Aztec goddess, Xochitl, among others.  George Bishop's The Booze Reader: A Soggy Saga of Man in His Cups, 1965 says, "The word itself stems from the English cock-tail which, in the middle 1800's, referred to a woman of easy virtue who was desirable but impure . . . and applied to the newly acquired American habit of bastardizing good British Gin with foreign matter, including ice."
Pierpont’s fresh mangorita

No matter the name, it was the addition of bitters in the 1800’s that made it a cocktail.  By 1862, there was the first manual how-to, The Bon Vivant’s Companion by “Professor” Jerry Thomas.  Cocktails began to be mentioned in literature and more recipe books were published.

The upward evolution to “craft” cocktail was a natural one, even if it didn’t happen until the 21st century after years of other trends after Prohibition: Tiki drinks after WWII (and now back again), vodka (Bond, James Bond), a return to the classics and then, inevitably, crafty drinks.  Lots of places are now claiming to serve craft cocktails, though that may be a bit of a stretch for some of them. 

A true craft cocktail is one in which, “. . . every element is handmade or tailored specifically to the drink. You will see drinks served in custom glassware, poured over custom ice cubes, mixed with house-made syrups and finished with a dash of small-batch bitters,” according to The Barman’s Journal on-line, as good a source as any.  Often it includes specially prepared or small-batch alcohols, usually barrel aged, and often an unusual garnish is added.  These drinks require experimentation and taste-testing, usually take more time and care than a standard drink certainly and they also usually cost more – in Kansas City, maybe around $10 - $15.  So they better be good.

Why Is a Craft Cocktail Better?

For starters, the ingredients are fresh.  No cartoned orange juice.  Ok, that’s not so unusual.  But the tablespoon of lemon juice must also be fresh.  So, too, for grapefruit juice.  So you’ll probably see a juicer somewhere on the bar.

Syrups are house-made, of course beginning with the simple, simple syrup.  But the sugar proportions can vary, spices or herbs can be added, simmering time altered.  Flavored syrups take more complex recipes which may be more than fruit – jalapeno anyone? – and whose ingredients may be guarded just like original bitters and shrubs. 

Even the ice may be special.  A few bar/restaurants in K.C. have a special ice making contraption which guarantees perfect clarity and taste, one or just a few at a time.  Some smoke their ice, the glass or the bourbon, like Providence New American Kitchen from its Drum Room bar, catching the tasty flavor of the campfire right in the glass.  Travis Johnson, head bartender at Story has his own process for making ice, and then hand-cuts it.  Making everything fresh (and different) takes time, space, and effort – which is why many restaurants have a tougher time doing it.  Classic cocktails (or wine, certainly) are easier choices.

That said, keep in mind that every drink is just a smaller or larger twist on one or another classic cocktail because the same four ingredients are usually the basis: liquor, bitters, water or some other liquid often, and sugar in some form. 

Where Should I Go?

“Cure” from Nara
Some restaurants take the classic drinks and add a special twist.  Pierpont’s in Union Station has perfected this approach.  The new bar manager, Jimmy Rudnick, who came from NYC to take over the bar program there, points to his 18 specialty drinks as having been inspired by the restaurant itself.  “This is probably the most beautiful bar I’ve ever managed,” he said. “I wanted to come up with a cocktail list that was equal to the décor - classic, elegant and creatively-inspired.”  I personally love their “Manhattan … Kansas” which has home-made fig balsamic syrup in it and its description, “We know figs aren’t grown in Kansas, but do you really want a stalk of wheat in your drink?”

A number of restaurants in town make their own syrups, like Nara (see their “Cure” recipe in the box), Room 39, Ophelia’s, Eighty- Eight at the Elms Hotel, or Ruins.  Others infuse their own liquor for their specialty drinks, like Pinstripes’ limoncello. Fogo du Chao infuses cachaça (a rum-like liquor) with pineapple to drink straight.  Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar has a short infusion section on their menu which includes their Strawberry Lemonade (strawberry infused vodka, strawberry purée, lemonade) or their Bangkok Fizz with chile infused vodka, pineapple syrup, lime, and ginger beer.  Krokstrom Klubb infuses aquavit (a distilled spirit made from wheat or potatoes primarily from Scandinavia) with spices and fruits like coriander, orange, caraway, juniper, dill and others. The Westside Local even infuses a few of their liqueurs and cordials and change out their entertaining drink menu frequently.

Final Cut makes their “El Hefe Martini” with pineapple-jalapeño infused Patron Silver.   Piropos infuses Rieger whiskey with apple and cinnamon; Sullivan’s makes their signature Vieux Carré by infusing their rye with an oak barrel stave, to name just a few.  The Gaslight Grill’s lead bartender, Christian Leake, was just recently involved in mix-off where he used Royal Crown Apple liquor, his own maple smoked bacon syrup and other ingredients which then were strained through cheese cloth.  This restaurant also makes its own fresh sour mix, honey syrup, purees, and infused vodkas.  Their “Pretty in Pink” martini is a vodka they infuse with blue, black, rasp, and straw  berries. 

Often assorted syrups and infusions are used in spins on the classics.    The Hilton’s famous Drum Room, open since 1941, is now serving many craft cocktails, some based on their original offerings and served with special ice.  One tasty sounding one: the Rocket 88 Boogie (a 1949 two-sided instrumental record by Pete Johnson) which calls for vodka infused with red onion, cayenne pepper, cucumber, and olive juice with a couple of hand-blue cheese stuffed olives plunked in it.  Brewery Emperial, with 14 cocktails on its list, makes mint simple syrup for their mojito, honey syrup for another drink, their own sour mix, and on Sundays only, green tomatillo bloody mary mix. Café Trio’s Star Lounge does seasonal craft cocktails, for instance, a fig Manhattan (the bourbon infused with five pounds of figs) or their “Mise en Scene” which is comprised of Tom’s Town McElroy Corruption gin, crème de cassis, their own cinnamon simple syrup, fresh lemon juice and bitters.

Known for their 25 varieties of martinis as well as their home-made pasta Italian dishes, Genovese in Lawrence also makes their own shrubs, the so-called drinking vinegars. These have become popular in the last few years, and are often strongly herbal, since that’s what they’re often made of. Shrubs have their roots in the Middle East — the word comes from the Arabic “sharab,” meaning a drink — and the early Middle Eastern varieties used nuts and spices and rose petals for flavor. But colonial America made shrubs as preservatives or remedies.  They are good added to water or soda and since they’re non-alcoholic, they’re a good option for those who don’t or can’t drink.  They take at least a week to macerate and they’re not so common at most bars. Room 39 features both shrubs and tinctures, at this writing they are doing a special black peppercorn tincture at their Mission Farms location.

You might assume that Story in Prairie Village should be making craft cocktails and indeed they are.  They make ingredients in house because, “There is a palpable, substantial difference in the quality.  A difference you can taste,” according to Travis Johnson, lead bartender.  All of Story’s syrups, purées, bitters and cordials are made at the restaurant.

Kansas City '82
There are also some unexpected places that you might not think of for craft cocktails.  One of these is Porto do Sul, the churrascaria out south.  Adrian Kennedy, lead bartender, is mostly responsible for this and points out it takes a lot of time and trial and error to come up with the perfect mix, even to the point of making his own bitters.  Their number one cocktail is the “Kansas City ’82” which is his play on a “French ’75.”  He was asked to come up with a cocktail years ago for a party and he quickly named it.  It’s made of Hendrick’s gin, fresh lemon juice, basil infused simple syrup and served in a wine glass topped off with champagne. One of his special bitters recipes includes ginger, lemon, hibiscus and 12 other ingredients.  His orange bitters have nine ingredients.

Another surprise choice is Ruins Pub, whose reputation is primarily for craft beers.  But they are stepping up their craft cocktail list which currently has six signature cocktails.  So far, the additions are working really well for them.  Another “strange” choice might be Waldo Pizza which makes their own syrups and juices their own fruit.  They change drinks out seasonally.  Sullivan’s Steak House’s list has gone from sweeter to more liquor-forward and they’re especially appreciated for their purified ice (blocks, spheres as well as crushed) and upgraded glassware that makes you feel just a little richer than you are.

There is a plethora of craft cocktails for you to try in Kansas City.  Talk to your bartender about how it’s made, what goes into it, why it was created. If not busy, they’ll be glad to talk with you about it – it’s basically their (or someone’s) artistic creation that you’re talking about.  If you hate it, tell ’em.  If you love it, tell ’em why and order another.  You’d also be amazed at the number of drinks that can be made by a great bartender.  On the spot.  But the best drinks demand measuring or memorization and forethought.  And home-made ingredients.  And a substantial amount of time. 

A truly great, well-crafted cocktail is worth it.


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