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  • 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

Winter Wining By Chris Becicka

Kansas City Restaurants’ Wine Programs: A Guide

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

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

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

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

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

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

Certified or Certificated 

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

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

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

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

Sommelier Training 

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

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

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

Why, Why, Why

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

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

Wine Spectator Awards 

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

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

So Many Wines, So Little Time 

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

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

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

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

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

K.C. Restaurants’ Wine Programs: 

Wine Spectator Award  2015 * Certified Wine Expert on Staff Wine Dinners / Tastings Wine Flights or Pairings Wine Specials Offered
801 Chophouse Leawood BAE
801 Chophouse P & L AE
801 Fish AE
Andres (Main St.)
Cafe Verona
Cafe Trio TU & SU
Classic Cup
Cleaver & Cork TH
Em Chamas
Espirito do Sul
Final Cut Steakhouse AE W-TH
Fogo de Chao AE
Gaslight Grill AE SU
Genovese M
Hereford House SU-M
Jax SU
Le Fou Frog
McCormick & Schmick's
Pierpont's AE
Providence SU-M
Ricco's W
Room 39  AE M
Story BAE
Sullivan's Steakshouse AE SU
Tannin SU
The American  BAE F (Lunch)
The Journey
The Melting Pot AE TH
Webster House
* BAE = Best of Award of Excellence
* AE = Award of Excellence

Printed version: K.C. Restaurants’ Wine Programs

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

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

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

Missouri has about 175 wineries and Kansas about 40.

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

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

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

Did you find this article interesting? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mussels Recipe by Tannin's Wine Bar

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

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

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

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

Black Friday retail therapy at Jax Fish House

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

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

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

New fall salad at Fogo de Chao!

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

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

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

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

Chef Spotlight: Brian Aaron

Chef Spotlight:  Brian Aaron

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

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

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

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

Tannin Wine Bar & Kitchen

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


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