spring break

cold but cheerful

Last week for spring break we flew out to Kansas City for a family visit, so I had hoped to come home with a pile of food photos to share. Unfortunately a number of things came up that limited our excursions.

fending off starvation

The low point culinarily was probably when I was standing in a hospital cafeteria that hadn’t opened yet for the evening, staring at the vending machine options and weighing the pros and cons of an expensive packet of peanut butter crackers or, frighteningly, a cheeseburger. Yes, a vending machine cheeseburger. No, I was too chicken to try it. I ate the crackers. Continue reading

Advertisements

a warm weekend in Kansas City

spring sunlight

We spent a few days in Kansas City last weekend to visit family. After a solid month of cold rain here in the lovely PNW, we were ready to appreciate the freakishly hot weather happening in the midwest, and were not disappointed. It reached 91 degrees one day. Bliss.

wisteriaTomahawk Creek

We didn’t do a lot of chowhounding, but we did eat some good things. First, of course, was the family doughnut day. I like doughnuts all right (especially cream-filled ones), but I get really excited about finally having decent bagels.

Doughnut Day

And there had to be barbecue, of course. We ordered takeout from the local Jack Stack, and it was excellent as always. Their burnt ends are particularly great – I love the bits of smoked sausage in there. We also got beans, coleslaw, potato salad, and a weird regrettable dish they call their “cheesy corn bake” which seems to consist of corn kernels floating in a container of velveeta sauce – it wasn’t a favorite. I ate the leftover beans the next day, cold, standing at the kitchen sink with a bottle of Boulevard Pale.

leftover barbecue

One evening we wanted a little extra bite of something and a drink. We wandered into Blanc Burgers & Bottles not too long before they closed for the night, and were really pleased with the service and the food. After trying a couple of their beers on tap (not an extensive list; KC seems to be much more into bottled beer than draft), we decided to take advantage of their half-off wine special. The Pinot Grigio we ordered went nicely with the chicken caprese sandwich we split. I wish we could go back regularly and work our way through their burger menu, it looked fantastic.

BlancBlanc

BlancBlanc

Blanc

Another day we ventured into the Westport district for lunch. It was fairly quiet, as most of the businesses in that area are bars that don’t open until evening, but we had a fine lunch at the Westport Cafe & Bar.

Westport CafeWestport Cafe

I was really impressed by the bartender’s work. I got an old fashioned, which was served very simply, no ice, no fruit, just a fat strip of orange rind. Jon got an interesting drink with chai-infused something or other and a garnish of blueberries.

Westport Cafe

Westport Cafe

The food was very straightforward, but well thought-out. I got the tuna sandwich, which was a soft bun dressed with aioli, fresh spinach, and barely-seared tuna that was so tender it almost dissolved in the mouth. The flavor was good, but I really thought the texture was the highlight of the sandwich. The side salad was arugula dressed with truffle oil and thin slices of radish and Parmesan.

Westport Cafe

Jon got the steak sandwich, which was also very simple but delicious. The fries that came with it were classic bistro style and rather addictive. Nothing to complain about here.

Westport Cafe

Another place we visited in Westport was the Beer Kitchen. Again, they only had a few brews on tap, but their bottled list was extensive and interesting. Not a lot of hoppy IPAs in this town, but I did find a nice pale ale to drink.

Beer Kitchen

Beer Kitchen

Beer Kitchen

The place was deserted except for the staff, but it made a pleasant place to hang out on a hot afternoon. We weren’t hungry when we were there, but we admired some menu items like “Tur-Ducken Poppers” (with schmaltz!) and “Piggy Fries” which are like poutine with burnt ends. Good drinking food.

Beer Kitchen

Beer Kitchen

Room 39

On our last night we went to Room 39. Like many places in the Leawood/Overland Park area, this is an extra branch of a restaurant that first started up in KC proper, and maintains two locations. The restaurant was quiet, as that was the night of the KU/Kentucky game, so we almost had the place to ourselves.

Room 39

We started with an appetizer of grilled asparagus, served with a beautifully poached egg and garnished with black salt. The waitress was apologetic about the small portion size, but I thought it was about perfect.

Room 39

My mother-in-law got a small order of the gnocchi. They were pan-fried until crispy, and tossed with shiitakes and onions. I thought they tasted rather like potstickers, in a really good way.

Room 39

My father-in-law and I both got the halibut. This was a hefty entree: a large piece of halibut, cooked until crusty, and served over a substantial pile of mushroom duxelles and topped with celery and cooked radishes, with a swirl of fresh pea puree on the side. It was good, but the flavors were bold and overwhelmed the fish a little.

Room 39

Jon got a piece of bass served with spinach, microgreens and a wonderful red wine and butter sauce. Nice.

Room 39

For dessert there was espresso creme brulee, plus a memorable dish of goat cheese beignets in a pool of warm caramel sauce and topped with whipped cream. Holy cow, this was good. I opted to drink my dessert in the form of a Manhattan, but ended up having to help out with my mother-in-law’s beignets, which wasn’t a particular hardship.

Room 39

This was a really good place, I would go back.

back in Seattle

The next day brought us back to Seattle, where it was raining. It was kind of nice.

L.C.'s Bar-B-Q

L.C.'s Bar-B-Q

When we flew into Kansas City last week, getting in just in time for dinner, we were sorely tempted to go back to our favorite BBQ joint, Oklahoma Joe’s. In the pursuit of knowledge, however, we felt that we really needed to try somewhere new – you know, so we can say with authority where our favorite KC barbecue is. We’ve tried Gates, Smokestack and Joe’s, but we had never made it to one which is often touted as the best in the city: L.C.’s Bar-B-Q.

L.C.'s Bar-B-Q

Located on the corner of Blue Parkway and Sni-a-Bar Road, just off of the eastern curve of 435, L.C.’s isn’t hard to find – there are even signs on the freeway to get you there. It’s not much to look at, and they don’t serve beer, so I would suggest getting takeout – that’s what almost everyone else was doing when we stopped in. If you eat in, though, you get a big bottle of extra sauce and plenty of paper towels.  We also got to eavesdrop on a really interesting conversation L.C. was having with another guy at the corner table.

L.C.'s Bar-B-Q

Continue reading

Kansas City highlights

drink up

We spent a short, but enjoyable time in Kansas City. It was tough figuring out where to go, though, because while KC has a rapidly growing food scene of great variety, it is still a wonderful place to get hunks of meat, whether barbecued, fried or broiled. We managed to work in a fair blend – here are the three best restaurant meals that we had in town.

bbq

First stop, straight from the airport: Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ. This is the real thing, let me tell you: the restaurant is set up in a strip mall adjacent to a gas station – in fact, the gas station store is in the restaurant. You order from the vast blackboard menu up at the kitchen, then pick up your food and a drink at the cashier. Then all you have to do is find a seat, not so easy. We got ourselves some Boulevard Wheat in plastic Budweiser cups, then ended up at the bar by the window, which had a good view of the parking lot and plenty of paper towels.

ribs and pulled pork Continue reading

lunch at the Kemper

Kemper Art Museum
Options for the day after Thanksgiving tend to be limited, assuming you’re not interested in hurling yourself into the shopping fray. When we spend the holiday in Kansas City we almost always do the same thing on Friday – go to an art museum. The Nelson-Atkins is awesome, of course, but it’s a lot of museum to get hit with at once. I prefer the Kemper Modern Art Museum, which is small, manageable – and free!

We spent the morning looking through the museum, the main exhibit being some rather odd works from East Germany, and I got to visit my favorite painting in the collection. We had lunch in the museum’s restaurant, which is called Cafe Sebastienne. It’s really pretty good, and a nice setting, too – most of the tables are in an open, glass-ceilinged courtyard so it’s very bright and airy.

char with cauliflower at cafe sebastienne

J ordered the Arctic char with cauliflower puree, chard and a maple-bourbon sauce. He doesn’t usually go for fish in restaurants, but we were able to buy char at our local fish counter a few months ago and were very taken by it. This seemed nice, the fish was a little overcooked by my standards but the flavors were interesting. Continue reading

Kansas City barbecue

Jack Stack barbeque

The west coast has barbecue. Really, it does exist! I can’t claim to be a qualified BBQ connoisseur, but there are at least two good places to get real barbecued ribs and brisket within fifty miles of our house: one is the Skagit River Brewery, which does its own barbecue out back of the restaurant – I walk through the wonderful woodsmoke scent of it every morning. They do a very untraditional peach-jalapeño sauce that somehow works fantastically, and I’ve probably ordered their brisket sandwich at least two dozen times. Then there’s the Depot Smokehouse in Everett, which has got to be the best kept secret in Western Washington – it’s always mostly empty when we go and the food is just fantastic. Try the chili. And the pulled pork. Heck, try everything, you’ll like it.

Otherwise, I admit, the pickings are pretty slim. We were going to try a place in Burlington called Double Barrel BBQ, but it burned down the week we were going to go there. Most of the Seattle joints don’t get real good reviews – I liked that the OK Corral had collards on the menu but I didn’t care for the big jug of Kool-Aid that was the only beverage available. So you can see why we like visiting Kansas City! Continue reading