Saturday, July 10, 2010

Gourmet Afternoon

I met a few friends Tuesday afternoon for a tour through edible heaven in historic downtown Overland Park, Kansas. We started the day having lunch at the Culinary Center of Kansas City and followed that up with stops down the street at Penzey's Spices and The Tasteful Olive.

Every Tuesday afternoon, the Culinary Center offers what they call a "Staff Lunch" where they invite the public in for an amazing lunch prepared by their chefs. You can look up the menus on their website ( as well as their Facebook page. The center itself is welcoming, tastefully appointed and surprisingly huge. The staff is very friendly and the center offers an astounding array of cooking classes as well as frozen "Dinners on Demand" which include a delectable-sounding Grown Up Mac N' Cheese, Hand-Made Tamales and Coq au Vin, which one of my friends purchased. They're kept in a row of freezers with "CHOW" written across the front(pictured at right). The front display area is filled with unique foodie items like an assortment of gourmet infused sugars named "Sugar Daddies" as well as an amusingly named salad cookbook called "Any Bitch Can Toss It".

We were given tokens and told we could sit where we wanted. My friends enjoyed the tasty iced tea while I stuck with agua. Our Summer in Italy themed-lunch was soon delivered and it was excellent: Hot and rich tomato-basil cognac soup, romaine salad with sweet onions and sweet-Italian red-wine vinaigrette and an Italian BLT on fresh, homemade foccacia bread with cracked pepper and apple bacon, tomatoes, lettuce and a red-pepper aioli. Dessert was a chocolate and Amaretto mousse with lady fingers(below left). We thoroughly enjoyed every morsel.

After lunch and a brief stop at an art gallery, we next stopped at Penzey's Spices. I'd been a longtime fan of their catalog but this was my first visit to an actual store. The aromas surround you as soon as you step takes a second to get your bearings. Soon, I'm slowly wandering amongst the displays...inhaling from sample jars, reading the loving descriptions of each spices and picking up accompanying recipes. Who knew I couldn't live without Vietnamese Cinnamon? One whiff of it, though......Holy Moses. I picked up Indonesian White Pepper, Shallot Pepper and Herbes de Provence which is an extremely popular hand-mixed blend of rosemary, cracked fennel, thyme, savory, basil, French tarragon, dill weed, Turkish oregano, lavender, chervil and marjoram. I would've purchased more but for once, I listened to that annoying voice that's always urging restraint. Check them out at

Next stop was the truly unique Tasteful Olive, which specializes in assorted fresh extra-virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegars. The Tasteful Olive features rows and rows of their incredibly flavorful infused oils and vinegars. Each silver tank(pictured below left) has it's own little tasting station with helpful suggestions of food pairings. I heeded one suggested pairing and bought a black currant balsamic with a chipotle oil. The oil was so interesting....the heat was a tingly creeper unlike anything I'd ever tasted. The shop also sells Rossi Pasta from the great town of Marietta, Ohio. Visit The Tasteful Olive at

This was truly a gourmet afternoon and we all dug it immensely. This blissful sounding day was not entirely devoid of drama amongst my posse, though...that's a story I'll save for the next post.


Anonymous said...

Okay.... now I am dying to read the next post!!

Connie said...

Oh Greg. I can taste and smell the trip with you. How cool to have these things so close by. I can't wait to come visit. Thanks for sharing. Now I'm hungry.

The Main Dish said...

Greg, thanks for your great post. (Pics are great too!) It is my personal mission to make Downtown Overland Park a "foodie mecca" and as you can see we're well on our way. Don't forget to go visit the ClockTower Bakery for hands-down the best ginger lemon scone I have EVER had. Also Sugar Mama's for a delectable little cupcake, 10,000 Villages for lots of cool stuff including including table linens, etc. etc. It's all good...and tasty!

Confounded Cook said...

We did indeed visit 10,000 Villages but we ran out of time for the bakeries....much to my chagrin. Your mission is most certainly becoming accomplished. We can't wait to return....and bring more folks!

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