Saturday, April 30, 2011

Friday Dinner Group: Speakeasy Style At Manifesto, Rustic Fare At The Farmhouse

The First Friday Dinner Group is having difficulties sticking to the first Friday of every month for scheduling, as evidenced by our last Friday in April get-together last night. Whatever.....the thrill of meeting up with these fine folks for me is not only the riotous camaraderie, but the opportunity to hit the hotspots I haven't been fortunate enough to check out yet. Last night was most assuredly a highlight for me.

Our group was celebrating Debbie's birthday last night and as details were being hashed out, our evening ending up being split between two locales. The first portion of our evening was at Manifesto in the Rieger Hotel and our time spent there was one of the coolest experiences I've had in Kansas City. I'd heard of Manifesto before and had read that you needed to text the Rieger powers-that-be to get seats in their 48-seat bar. When K and I arrived at the historic Rieger, we couldn't figure out where Manifesto was exactly. It wasn't in the bar area of the dining room and we couldn't find a separate entrance. In fact, we nearly stumbled into an Airstream trailer in the parking lot that apparently had its own little party going on. We finally realized that no matter how sophisticated our Smartphones were; our handheld GPS was not going to lead us to Manifesto. Shelving our pride, we did the dreaded deed.....we asked for directions. Our lovely guide walked us through the stylish dining room in the Rieger and led us to a back hallway where a gentleman stood ready to check our reservation. Once approved, we were invited behind a billowing black curtain and led down a narrow brick stairwell into a long, near pitch-dark corridor. I was slowly beginning to recognize images....a woman's eye in a black and white print; the soft glow of candlelight...eventually I could see a group of young women whispering over drinks and could finally see the tall, crescent moon-shaped booths where we were seated.

Once settled, our eyes would finally adjust to the darkness and we could make out the brick walls and read our cocktail menu by candlelight. Cocktails are indeed the specialty at Manifesto. They are hand-crafted, labor-intensive and cunningly creative. Even the cocktail specialist mixing these liberating libations seemed to attune his whole body into their creation. No mixing cup juggling, Tom Cruise antics here.....the cocktails themselves are the stars of the show and that's how it should be.

Unable to decide on which of these unique concoctions utilizing the freshest of ingredients to choose, I asked our knowledgeable server for a suggestion. He then turned the tables on me by replying that he was a fan of every selection and said he could deduce which drink I should order by what mood I was in. I then parried back in this verbal chess match by saying that I wanted a drink that told a story....something that spoke to the history of the Rieger Hotel. He smiled in reply and said he knew exactly what to bring me. That drink was the Jackson County Democratic Club, a tip of the hat to the mob-happy Prohibition days of Boss Tom Pendergast that consisted of Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey, Luxardo (a lemony Italian liqueur), Yellow Chartreuse, Lemon and Regan's Orange Bitters. Keith chose a particularly burly drink named Brass In Pocket, a potent blend of Yamazaki 12-year Japanese Single Malt, cherry heering (a Danish cherry liqueur) and whiskey barrel and cherry bitters. We sipped these standout cocktails; hunched into whispered conversation while vintage 20s jazz played in the background. Even the back of the cocktail menu carried vintage rules of behavior, including the instruction for "gentlemen not to approach uninterested ladies". Kansas City was in its heyday in the roaring 20's and this felt as close to experiencing a real speakeasy as I'll ever get. It seemed thrillingly unseemly....these devilish drinks sipped in a shroud of darkness made the air feel a bit charged....as if the danger were real and we might get busted at any moment. What a brilliant beginning to our evening.

Readjusting to sunlight upon leaving, our caravan motored to River Market for a rustic dinner at The Farmhouse. Our location in the dining room was ideal; our long, black-lacquered wood table was next to the patio door and a perfectly gentle breeze wafted through the entire evening. The decor is indeed akin to a country farmhouse; featuring painted portraits of roosters and servers in cowboy boots. The menu centers around farm-to-table fare featuring many local farms and growers. K and I started with the Cheese Plate Featuring Assorted Local Cheeses from Green Dirt Farms from Weston and Heartland Farms Dairy in Fenton. Our favorite cheese was the sheep's milk cheese from Green Dirt and the candied walnuts. For my entree, I went with one of the house specials: tagliatelle pasta tossed with fresh asparagus, black olives and housemade pancetta in a lemon-butter sauce (continuing the bright, lemony taste theme established with my earlier cocktail). Keith chose the veggie burger consisting of white beans and smoked feta with a side of crispy, house-cut fries and housemade "tomato jam". I stuck with a New Belgium IPA here but those that chose cocktails found that the creativity didn't end with Manifesto. Carolyn sipped a chocolatey creation and Ken, the gentleman next to me sipped on a drink featuring pistachio liqueur.

It was a grand evening all around. I can't wait to see what we do to top this one.

4 comments:

Kate (Cathy Johnson) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kate (Cathy Johnson) said...

Ooooh, I think I'd like the Farmhouse! Wonderful review...(trying again with correct spelling!)

Confounded Cook said...

I think you would, too, Kathy. You should totally visit Manifesto as well.

A. Graham said...

I can't possibly describe the level of excitement that I had reading this. Definately going to check both out very, very soon!

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