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Monday, May 28, 2012

The Posse Goes Tapas At La Bodega

It was time again to hit up a new eatery with our Dinner Posse group and this time around happened to be my turn to pick the destination. I went with a local joint that I had been itchin' to get back to: La Bodega! This little Spanish tapas restaurant is one of my fave KC restaurants and yet I hadn't been there forever. La Bodega is long overdue for a little blog lovin' from me...

We gathered in a primo spot inside, although the ever-busy outdoor patio was seriously hoppin'. Mike brought his brother and sister-in-law in place of wife Deb this time around (she was out of town). They dig food like I do, so it was a kick to have them there. I truly love everything about La Bodega, from the creative and whimsical decor to the friendly, attentive service. And, oh, do I love the food. Tapas is a traditionally Spanish way of eating, particularly in the Basque region of Northern Spain. When we first came here with our friends Chris and Kylee, they guided us through a parade of small plates that had us emitting a nonstop chorus of oohs and ahs. Most of us went the same way on this visit and ordered up multiple dishes to try.

We kicked off with a pitcher of La Bodega's famous Sangria to get us in the mood, so to speak. Once the mood was duly established, courses started to materialize: first up were the Plato de Embuditos; a platter of assorted Spanish meats and cheeses and the Queso de Cabra Al Horno; a warm, creamy goat cheese baked in tomato sauce and crusty garlic bread. One by one, they arrived...the Champinones a La Plancha (roasted mushrooms in a white wine-garlic sauce); the Pan Plano Con Salmon Ahumado (yet another concoction involving goat cheese, smoked salmon and capers - clearly a Holy Trinity in my food-lovin' heart); and thanks to Carey, Kiko's brother, a big highlight...the Solomillo Con Cabrales; a grilled beef tenderloin with Spanish bleu cheese. Mike and his family went for the entrees in the form of a heaping and delectable-looking platter of seafood paella full of mussels, shrimp, Chorizo sausage and saffron rice. These folks did it up right, finishing up the night with some sweet churros for dessert. Carey went for the house specialty for his dessert: La Bodega's Spanish coffee. The server mixes the drink up tableside by lighting 151 rum with cinnamon and sugar and then adds specialty blended coffee with Kahlua and cream. I ordered this last time and that drink's a wow in both taste and presentation.

La Bodega...I'd missed you so. It was good to be back.

Shindig Weekend Part 4: The Aftermath

The last post told the story of the big soiree and indeed, it was a joyful whirl. The weekend ended with breakfast bagels, rushed goodbyes to friends, a Wabash barbecue birthday bash for young Tanner's ninth b-day and a soggy drive to the airport with my sister. Yes, the rains came the chill set in after the perfect weather we had the night of the party. Nothing could dampen our good juju from the weekend. More pics from the party!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Shindig Weekend Part 3: The Soiree Itself

So much life, with all of its twists and turns, has occurred since the weekend of our Big Bash that I continue to struggle to keep up with the blog. Struggle that it may be, I will continue to write when I can. Also as far as I’m concerned, I’m also not writing up to par due to the mental fricassee my brain’s been experiencing lately. Rewrites may be necessary, but plug on I will, because that weekend needs to be properly documented. Finally, on the blog, I’ve arrived at the day of the soiree itself.

I wrote this first paragraph a week ago. I keep blaming our ever-busier life on my inability to finish these blog posts, but a little soul-searching has revealed to me a further barrier....self-imposed but still a daunting mental roadblock....I'm unsure how to do the party justice. It was such a whirlwind that it all seems a bit fragmented. So I guess I'll just sell it in fragments..

That Saturday kicked off in a flurry of activity, kicking off with a pancake breakfast at Broadway and Penn benefiting the Christmas Committee and segued quickly to the Gatsby Days parade. Keith would be driving his Dad’s vintage Model A car in this parade that served as the annual celebration of all things Roaring Twenties and indeed it featured many folks in period dress and flapper costumes. It made for a colorful segue to the main event.

More of our guests had checked into the hotel and the excitement was growing during the course of the day. Our dear friend Linda created our way-cool centerpieces which utilized cooking implements as part of their make-up. Kevin and his darling wife Christine arrived and started cranking up the awesome tuneage (everything from Bonnie Raitt to Gotye to a Croatian polka version of the Simpsons theme) we created for his iPod to play at our party. Our venue was The Montgomery, the new downtown event space that was just down the street from the Elms. Its a renovated historic Montgomery Wards building and it makes for a truly unique party setting. Our friendly barkeep Zedena arrived and was ready to sling some drinks. We had a fairly wide assortment of brews and vino from which to choose from. The food tables were prepped and our friends at Ventana Cafe, Willow Spring Mercantile and Oooey Gooey Chocolates arrived to set up. Things were coming together...

Keith's Dad brought a case of his homemade wine and walked in with his grandkids Tanner and Sierra as well as Keith's cousin's daughter Caitlyn. The girls were instantly everywhere...screaming from the balconies, pretending to get their hair done in the "salon" area typically reserved for brides or settling in the front display windows where they "performed" for partygoers and passerby alike. Tanner opted instead for the upstairs game room; going from billiards to air-hockey to the vintage shuffleboard game. There was even a poker table ready for the grown-ups.

Soon, the tunes were cranked and the guests began to arrive. From here on out, it all gets deliriously, deliciously blurry. It was a hug-a-thon of the first order. Hugs and smiles and kisses and well-wishes....what a heady, awesome rush. Around seven-ish, we lined up for the food which was truly above and beyond. Ventana provided their famous butter chicken on skewers, tender garlic roast beef rolls, tasty bruschetta and fresh fruit skewers. Willow Spring Mercantile brought savory olive tapenade and sweet roasted grape chutney, as well as gorgonzola-stuffed mushrooms, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes with pesto dressing and mini crab cheesecakes. Daphne and her Willow gang also brought bruschetta; a fantastic concoction with smoked salmon, creamy goat cheese and a caper-onion topping that made me want to slap someone, it was so good. Finally, Oooey Gooey Chocolates brought the Wow Factor with their whimsical cupcake display. And oh, the flavors of those confections: Mint Chocolate Chip, tangy Lemon, Carrot Cake with Caramel Icing, Red Velvet and one mind-blowing cupcake called Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla. We also had chocolate and red-velvet cake truffles wound in amongst the cupcakes as well.

Later, we took a few minutes to thank everyone for coming and pointed out various folks who were in attendance....the Dinner Posse, the Elms and Excelsior crews, my old Barnes and Noble gang, the Jeff City crew representing K's family and last but certainly not least, my sister Shirley who got to attend with her longtime friend Marilyn. We toasted Carolyn who couldn't be there with us. We then moved to the street in front of the venue where our DJ Kevin and his compatriot Shauna treated us to an amazing fire performance that they do as part of their Pyrosapiens group. It was just way cool.

The rest of the evening blurred by even faster, a wild and thrilling patchwork of images of people embracing and dancing and just having fun. It was such a kick to see people reunite or meet for the first time. My sister joined me at a table with Ronnie and Linda when Ronnie was serving shots of bubble-gum vodka - yikes. Keith's dad Ken won party V.I.P. with his homemade wine - he was buddied up to everyone from my coworker April to our darling Kiko. So many good friends that I hadn't seen in awhile...like Drew and Kara; the friends who stood with us in Des Moines, Annette,our St. Simons roomie and her hubby Dale, both in from Minneapolis, and Cassie and Abbey and her beau Brant who popped in last-minute and had a closing drink with me. It was fantastic to just take it all in at various moments throughout the evening...Dads dancing with their daughters, the kids swinging their hair in the display window, folks laughing and drinking and toddlers with cupcake icing all over their face. When the family gathered for a cherished photo on the staircase, it was firmly established as one of the best nights of my life.

It's indeed difficult to capture it all, there were so many amazing moments and so many folks I barely got to catch up with. One thing was clear as we floated out of there at night's end...it was a big, happy, slightly inebriated lovefest and I could not have been more content. No drama or off moments ; just happy-happy joy-joy. And fire!

A hearty and heartfelt thank you to everyone who made it happen. We will never forget it. In the next post, I'll show some more pics from the night....

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Shindig Weekend Part 2: The Chef's Table

Indeed, it is taking me forever and a day to get these posts out but get them out I will, so help me Emeril. Life is spinning out these days; in ways both celebratory and profound and I fully intend to capture all of these moments no matter how long it takes me. The party weekend alone is taking me a bit of time to complete, but milestone that it was, I want to do it justice. That said and without further adieu, on to Part Deux...

My sister Shirley was fresh from seeing the sights of KC and settling into her newly-refurbished room at the Elms. Soon, we would be regrouping in the also newly-designed dining space at the hotel, now called the 88. This would also be the first time a member of my family would meet members of the K-Man's clan, so it was an impotant summit to say the least. This night was also planned to be opening night for the 88, but various construction and other snafus kept that from happening, so we thought we might have dinner elsewhere when the Elm's resident Executive Chef Steven Cameron and his sous chefs Joe Spiegal and Jacob Moeller invited us to have a private dinner to give them an opportunity to flex some culinary muscle. We happily agreed, especially when we heard that while the dishes weren't necessarily going to represent what the future dinner menu would feature, it would show off some of the combined culinary skill of our new kitchen team.

We were seated at the new marble-topped centerpiece table of the dining room, placed in front of the fireplace. In the shadow of the crest emblem over the mantle and the large chandelier; sitting at the table felt very Game of Thrones. Had the fellas brought out platters of wild boar at this point, it would have been quite fitting.

Instead, they rendered us dizzy with the fine foodness that followed. We kicked off with a tasty amuse-bouche course of a small, loaded baked potato that had been deep-fried. Already digging the experience, we soon were on to the next course; an artistically-displayed plate of blanched and tempura-fried asparagus with pickled oyster mushrooms, picked garlic, and asparagus and garlic puree in a sherry reduction. After Jacob presented this delicious wonder, Joe dazzled us with his shrimp pannacotta; a creamy blend of fresh shrimp, cognac, garlic, shallots and cream in a bitter-orange reduction with fresh herbs. The courses kept flowing, leaving oohs and ahhs in their wake; from a delicate salmon and spicy black-eyed peas dish to a sliced, roasted striploin served on a bed of grilled polenta with a smoked hollandaise sauce that tested my resolve to not lick the plate. This mouth-watering dinner finished with a take on strawberry shortcake that utilized lemon-zest biscuits and a Champagne sabayon that had us swooning.

While this is a food-loving crowd, its always difficult to satisfy every palate, especially when they range from Keith's meat-and-potatoes Dad to the younger, more persnickety kids. In the end, Ken loved his meal and heartily thanked everyone, while 9-year-old Tanner high-fived Chef Cameron. Job well-done indeed. Finally, my sister and Keith's family got on like a house on fire and Sierra entertained us with her burgeoning piano skills.

A great beginning to a soon-to-be-awesome weekend...

Shindig Weekend Part 1: Thai One On

The K-Man and I hosted a perfectly monumental weekend recently to celebrate our recent nuptials and the party went on for three days as it were. We had been planning for quite a while and as the shindig came into fruition, my nerves; to no one's surprise, grew ever more frayed. When last I worked as an event coordinator, I counseled many a wide-eyed clientele to understand that stuff, as it does, happens and to simply roll with the punches. I've never been one to be graceful in listening to my own advice, however, and as the weekend closed in, I found the stress begin to eat away at my resolve to be more zen. Keith; he of the everlasting calm and patience, led us through all of the preparations with ease, while enduring my exhausted emotions. I remain ever so lucky to be marking more than twelve years with him.

That said, it was indeed a remarkable weekend and we were very touched by those who came to celebrate with us. I was especially honored that my sister Shirley flew in from my home state of West Virginia to attend the party. It was her first visit to see us in Kansas City and so I took advantage of the opportunity to show her our beloved KC. I drove her to Country Club Plaza and strolled her around to show her the intricate architecture reminiscent of Seville, Spain. We took in the new Rodin exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins and I drove her through downtown to show her the sights.

Of course, food had to be involved, so we settled a particular craving by having lunch at Thai Place in Westport. Since our first KC year in our Westport apartment, I've been a fan of Thai Place and their spicy goodness. My sis and I settled in with drinks; me with a sweet Thai iced coffee with cream. To my utter delight, my sister led the ordering with a medium-hot spicy Thai chicken dish with jalapenos and scallions in a brown garlic sauce. I ordered the same thing. My sisters and I had nearly two decades in age between us and to show that there is still much I don't know about them, Shirley enlightened me to the fact that, like me, she and my sister Mona also loved spicy food and were big fans of Thai fare. We devoured our lunch, allowing the delicious heat to open our senses to the rest of the weekend.

We had a great day and this was only the beginning...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Weekend For Marlie

Life is moving at such a breakneck pace these days that I'm really having a difficult time keeping up. As many of you know, we just had a big weekend that will require some proper thought to recount. I will catch up soon, but in the meantime, I want to take a moment to promote a benefit event that we will be hosting at the Elms to benefit a very special little girl. Read on for the details:

Join us for a dinner and dance to benefit Marlie Lee. Marlie has a rare lung disease called Bronchiolitis Obliterans Organizing Pneumonia or BOOP for short. Her parents are struggling with medical bills and Dad is in basic training for the Army National Guard. The Elms... has a connection to Marlie through a relative that was hired by the hotel this spring.

Here is what we are doing to raise some money to help Marlie and her family:

Friday May 11th - Dinner and Dance with a New Orleans themed buffet - Creole Pasta Salad, Celery and Pecan Remoulade, Pickled Cucumbers, Corn Muffins, Cajun Fried Catfish, Jambalaya, Pork Smothered Cabbage, Crawfish Maquechoux and Chocolate Bread Pudding and Bourbon Caramel Sauce. Yummy!

Dinner and dance is $35 per person with a portion going to Marlie.
This event is family friendly so kids 12-4 are $25 each and kids 3 and under are FREE

Dave Stephens Band will be performing from 8pm-midnight.

Cash Bar opens at 6pm
Dinner starts at 7pm
Dance starts at 8pm (dance only if space available will cost $15)

Saturday May 11th - Pyrosapiens will perform on the pool deck at the Elms Hotel and Spa Saturday at dusk, May 12, 2012. We will have a fiery, fun-filled show for you. Please donate / tip heavily as proceeds are going to help Marlie and her family! Get your new 2012 PyroSapiens T Shirts there too.

Hope everyone can come and help Marlie!