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

Sushi


THE FACTS

America has become a sushi-loving nation since sushi’s west coast expansion after World War II when it was considered a delicacy enjoyed mostly by celebrities and other movers and shakers. By the late 1970s sushi restaurants were booming throughout California and spreading throughout the country. Today, sushi has become an American staple for everything from dining out to dinner parties to cocktail happy hours.

Sushi was a street food
Sushi began in the 1830s as a fast food sold at streetside stands in a place called “Edo,” modern day Tokyo. Because there was no refrigeration, fish was typically marinated to prevent spoilage. By the late 1890s, ice making machines and other refrigeration systems were used to keep sushi fresh.

Most sushi is actually maki or nigiri
Sushi comes in many forms, including cone-shaped rolls known called temaki and a rice bowl topped with fish referred to as chirashi. Typically, when Americans refer to “sushi,” they are talking about nigiri, which is raw fish atop a bed of rice, or maki, which is rolled in seaweed (or nori) and rice and sliced.

Salmon sushi was invented in the 1980s
Salmon isn’t native to Japan. A delegation from the Norwegian fishing industry visited Japan in the 1980s to propose its use as a sushi delicacy, and the rest is history. Another little known fact: salmon is actually a fatty whitefish that gets its pink color from eating crustaceans. 

The California Roll is all-American
“Inside-out rolls,” the ones with sushi on the inside and seaweed and sticky rice on the outside, are not traditional in Japan. They are entirely an American creation. Arguably the most popular of these, the California Roll, was first created in 1963 by Ichiro Mashita at the Tokyo Kaikan restaurant in Los Angeles. The roll featuring King crab, avocado and mayonnaise didn’t get its name until the 1980s. Mashita put seaweed on the outside of the roll after noticing Americans were peeling it off and afraid to eat it.

The perfect rice is hard to come by
Perfect sushi rice is made with a delicate balance of water, cooking time, room temperature and humidity, and mixing technique. The best temperature for sushi rice is body temperature, and a wooden container is best suited for keeping the right  temperature and moisture balance. While sushi rice needs to be served just above room temperature to stay sticky enough to travel by chopsticks to the mouth, the grains should separate on the palate. That means sushi chefs must strike the perfect balance of tightness when packing the inner and outer layers.


Share:

Happy Hour on the Plaza

5 Great Reasons to Happy Hour on the Plaza

Friend Nancy and I went to Café Trio this week and it reminded me I need to come here more often.  

There are several reasons for this brilliant assessment. 

1. The food and drinks are VERY good. And there are so many choices – including soups and salads which you seldom see on a happy hour menu. I went for the chicken livers and they were great and plentiful – and I am an expert on chicken livers, at least eating them. But there’s also excellent truffle fries, flatbread, fried chicken, mussels, crab cakes and steak burgers – 14 different items right now. 

2. The prices are REALLY reasonable -- $4 well drinks and wine, $5 martinis, $3 beers. Their food features range from $5 to maybe $8 and these are good sized portions, folks. 

3. They have a GREAT location with their OWN parking. It’s the Plaza and you can easily park there. Whoo-Hoo. 

4. They have TERRIFIC ambiance inside and a WONDERFUL deck (heated in the winter, cooled to bearable on our tropical days) that on what is normally a slow Tuesday in other places, was busy but not loudly boisterous. You could talk to your companions. 

5. Our server was DARLING, attentive despite the crowd, and had opinions. I’m generalizing here, but if they’re all like him, or even mostly like him, your time at Café Trio will be equally as happy.


Cafe Trio
4558 Main Street
Kansas City, MO 64111
Ph. 816.756.3227            
Cafe Trio Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Share:

10 Reasons to Attend Stems

The Top Ten Reasons to Attend Stems: A Garden Soirée



JUNE 23, 2018 - 7-11p.m.
Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens

$150  General Admission Ticket
$250  Patron Ticket

Visit stemssoiree.org or call 913.322.6467
for all ticket and event information.
Share:

Nightlife

Dinner and a . . .

Sometimes I could kick myself. I eat out a lot. But I could be eating out and doing more at the same time if I just opened my eyes a bit and planned better – just the tiniest bit. Here’s what I mean: the Gaslight Grill in Leawood offers periodic (free) music by talented KC musicians on their Cabaret evenings besides their five days a week jazz in their Back Room.


On May 8th, which I missed of course, they had Kristen Alley and Alyce Pickering singing tunes from James Taylor, Carol King, and Chicago. See my first sentence.

Webster House has a full program of events including their monthly supper clubs, jazz trios, special happy hours and the like. Back on the 9th their supper club featured Candace Evans and on May 23, they have a special wine tasting. There’s lots going on – there are three ways to find out easily. The first is to go to our Events Calendar. The second is to search by nightlife, or to sign up for our Instagram, or twitter. The third is to call the restaurant just to check up on what’s new.

 And speaking of special events, you will definitely want to check out SupperClub2018 on September 14. It’s a benefit for scholarships given by Les Dames d’Escoffier and the K.C. Jazz Ambassadors. Sponsored by The American’s Concept Series, it features a five course meal prepared by amazing female chefs and a full line-up of jazz greats. To learn more, check it out here. Do it now – last year it sold out in a flash.
Share:

One Great Dish

Chipped beef on toast

A few weeks ago for this space, I talked with Colby Garrelts, famed chef of Bluestem and Rye restaurants. I really appreciate someone who is equally at home fixing the most elegant and sophisticated of dishes AND who loves, and prepares, much more “down home” food, but usually with a twist.  A great example of that is the meal my mom used to fix us, often when she and dad were going out, chipped beef on toast. 

It was that pretty basic version I mentioned in that blog, but now I’ve gotten Chef Colby’s permission to give you the recipe of his far tastier version which I found in his and wife Megan’s newest cookbook, Made in America. It is, proclaims its cover, “A Modern Collection of Classic Recipes” and that’s just what it is – food that is familiar, but they’ve made it MUCH better. It is organized cleverly – Daybreak, From the Cupboard and Garden, Cast Iron, From the Fryer, From the Grill and so on. Desserts of course, too. It’s as much fun to read the personalized notes about the dishes as it is the recipes – and the pictures are of food that looks real. Nice touch, that. 

To make this nostalgic chipped beef on toast but made with bresaola and spinach and real white gravy, click here. I can guarantee you it’s better than what mom made.
Share:

Dicey Weather Can Be Beaten

Usually by the third week of April, I’ve dined/imbibed at one or two outdoor dining spaces in K.C.  These are also known typically as patios and several restaurants around town have created lovely spaces for those who want to dine al fresco.
This year, however, no dice.  For starters, it’s snowed, sleeted, semi-hailed, or rained or been freezing cold every weekend – but you are probably also aware of that. Once I got over my surprise at being unable to control the weather, I sought solutions.

I found four that could come close to the answer.  Sullivan’s Steakhouse’s outdoor dining is partially covered and enclosed.  You can eat an entire steak dinner or just snack on their bar bites – either works well.  You can also, the last time I was there,  smoke a cigar.  Brewery Emperial in the Crossroads has an entire “beer garden” where you can get much more than a beer.  You can warm up around their “au natural” (almost) fire fit.  You’ll feel like you’re at a great picnic.

Pinstripes in south Overland Park, known for their bocce, bowling and bistro experience, also has a patio upstairs overlooking lots of green.  There’s a nice firepit you can pull your Adirondack chairs up to and part of the space is covered as well.  Snuggles.  Add Plaza  fine comfort-spot, McCormick’s and Schmick’s and instead of sitting in their beautiful bar, try their patio with both tables and couches and a very warm fire pit (and heaters, too).

So that’s four answers to the cold or bad weather dilemma which I advise you to try.  In the meantime, if the weather just doesn’t cooperate, I plan to go sit beside the windows lining the sidewalk seating at Classic Cup and watch the poor souls outside struggling down the sidewalk.  Very entertaining, that.
Share:

Peppercorn Filet ~ Piropos

Peppercorn Filet ~ Piropos, a taste of Argentina


Argentine food is an amalgam of Spanish, Italian and French cuisine, neither spicy or bland. The pride of Argentina is its fabulous steaks and Piropos follows the tradition.


  • 8 oz. Filet
  • 1 oz. Cracked peppercorns
  • 2 oz. Brandy
  • 2 oz. Heavy cream 
  • Olive oil, salt to taste
  • 2 Portobella mushrooms
  • 6 white mushrooms
  • 1 tsp. Rosemary
1. Coat one side of the filet with peppercorns and season with salt. Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. Sear filet on both sides to desire temperature. If cooking medium to well done, place in oven to bring temperature up.

2. After removing filet from skillet, de-glaze the pan with brandy, stir in cream and reduce to desired consistency. Add salt to taste.

3. Sauteed mushrooms in olive oil on medium heat until al dente. Add rosemary, salt and pepper. 


Piropos Restaurant
4141 N. Mulberry Drive
 Kansas City, MO 64116
 Ph. 816-741-3600
Share:

One Great Chef: Colby Garrelts


One Great Chef: Colby Garrelts

In doing a bit of research on Colby Garrelts, I found his recipe for chipped beef on toast with white gravy.  My navy guy dad called it s*** on a shingle, and my mom made it from packaged dry beef and cream of mushroom soup.  He wouldn’t eat it but we kids liked it though we couldn’t call it what he did. Colby’s recipe has 16 ingredients, and reading it, I immediately wanted to make it.  Or rather, I wanted to order it. But it did make me go buy his second cook book, Made in America.  
  

You probably already know all of Chef Garrelts’ credentials: a 2013 James Beard Foundation Best Chef: Midwest award winner, 2005 Food & Wine’s Top 10 Best New Chefs, author of two cookbooks (with semi-finalist Outstanding Pastry Chef, wife and co-owner Megan), semi-finalist Outstanding Restaurant for Bluestem in 2018, the third time on this prestigious short list, and all kinds of showcases and awards in various magazines.  The couple opened Bluestem way back in 2004, the first Rye in Leawood in 2012 and its Plaza location in late 2017.  As Colby put it, high concept Bluestem was his 20s, comfortable, more home-style Rye is his 40s.

It’s a remarkably hectic life, running three restaurants.  Colby laughs and says with the three, a wife, two kids, Colin age 7 and Mady 10, a home in which he often cooks, his dad’s farm in Linn County where he tries to grow veggies, he is “pinballing” through life, barely able to get in his favorite bicycling.  But there’s lots to keep him happy, those kids and wife primarily, as well as a great food community here. He notes that Kansas City is full of people doing wonderful food and working their butts off – he wants to help ensure that they stick around. He and wife go everywhere new they can but they also have favorites like Ragazza now at 43rd and Main, Corvino’s, Port Fonda, Michael Smith’s, Novel and lots more.  If an out-of-towner wants a recommendation for KC food, after his own place and Kansas City Joe’s, he suggests taking a trip down the Boulevard to all the Mexican restaurants or trying other ethnic restaurants scattered all over town. He and his family are eclectic eaters. 

While Garrelts was a student at Shawnee Mission East, he worked in a diner and at the Long Branch.  His best friend was going to JCCC in the culinary program; Colby decided to join him because food was what he knew.  Then he moved to Chicago and for a few years worked at some very well-known restaurants like Tru (where he met wife Megan) until he, “. . . got to the point where I didn’t want to work for other chefs.  I wanted to make a name for myself with great food and service, and I wanted to do it with my family around me.”  That’s when he returned to Kansas City – and now he also finds himself in the opposite place of where he once was at Tru or The American Restaurant – younger wanna-be’s now want to come to his restaurant to learn more and then take their newer skills and experiences onward and upward.  This culinary mentorship is rewarding in its own way he admits.
I asked Chef his favorite thing to eat at his restaurant. He didn’t go first to Bluestem where he knows he can really express his ideas in food.  He talked about Rye which is everything he wants to eat on a typical night.  Or breakfast – the Plaza has breakfast, he exclaims. “Our burnt ends.  Meg’s pies. Fried chicken, that’s what it’s all about. That’s why we did it.” 

And now he says, “Megan and I want to build a lasting restaurant, one that’s comfortable, homey, welcoming.  I just want to make people happy and have them enjoy our food.”  

So maybe he’ll put that chipped beef on toast on the menu for me?


Rye Plaza
4646 JC Nichols Parkway 
Kansas City, MO 64112 
Ph. 816-541-3382 
Share:

Fast Breaking Deliciousness


Fast Breaking Deliciousness


In the last couple weeks, I’ve broke my fasting relatively early to try two different places on the Plaza for a real breakfast.  Not just coffee but a true breakfast with eggs and bacon and carbs and all my favorites which I never do at home.  There are really only two choices right in the heart of the Plaza for that and of course, that’s the iconic Classic Cup Café and then the new – to the area – Rye Restaurant, which maybe isn’t necessarily thought of as a breakfast place.

The Classic Cup is frequently touted for its long-term status, its people watching, its patios, its wine events, and its famous buttermilk pancakes.  Though I have long wanted to try their bread pudding and just call it a day, I typically opt for one of three benedicts or one of five omelets – though three eggs do make for a hefty breakfast.  Their French omelet is especially tasty – smoked bacon, spinach, apple and brie. I’m going to either get the nine hour pork and eggs or the migas next time.   They have a pretty large menu and you can take pancake mix with you.  I’ve made them just once; if someone would just cook and serve me, I’d certainly have these cakes more often.

Even more decadent, at Rye I started with one of Megan Garrelts’ amazing cinnamon rolls.  They aren’t those huge doughy ones;  each is about the size of an apple;  light, airy, and its creamy drizzled frosting is not an afterthought.  Splitting it with my friend was just about perfect since I knew I had a full meal coming.  Said friend ordered the eggs benedict whose eggs were perfectly done and he loved the hollandaise.  I opted for the Rye breakfast with extra crispy hash browns – loved that flat ½ cell phone size and ate every smidgeon, determined to think those potatoes done that way are healthy.  The number one item there is biscuits and gravy, and given the large and very fluffy biscuit that came with my meal, that has to be great, too.  The B&G expert I know needs to come here.  Fast. 

One other very cool thing about Rye I’ve not taken advantage of yet is that they have a small case of to- go items – from those rolls to muffins to a ham and cheese handpie.  Even small and delicious looking cakes.  Oh, and pies.  Pies.

Though both places are open at seven during the week, it did occur to me that by going later, I could shop after eating.  A full morning of indulging.  Nothing better.  


Classic Cup Plaza
301 West 47th Street 
Kansas City, MO 64112 
Ph. 816-753-1840 


Rye Plaza
4646 JC Nichols Parkway 
Kansas City, MO 64112 
Ph. 816-541-3382  

Share:

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
Share:

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. 

Share:

Secrets of KC’s Great Chefs

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.
Share:

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
Share:

Popular Posts

Featured Post

Secrets of KC’s Great Chefs

Archives