Elms Hotel and Spa fully open; that would be where. There hasn't been many extra minutes left for writing and more so, the addled mind is suffering from a bit of abject brain drain from rapid-fire problem-solving, so the blog has been hibernating somewhat as 2013 has debuted. Happily, this doesn't mean my life has been completely devoid of meaning...or extracurricular activities, anyway. Allow me to summarize a few of these in the form of some Random Bites:
The Elms -Speaking of that spectacular setting where I toil away, the final pieces of the renovation puzzle are finally falling into their long-awaited places. The centerpiece of the spa is the grotto (pictured at right), a truly stunning oasis of serenity featuring rain showers, hot tubs, saunas and more of those luxurious chaise lounges that are also featured in the quiet room. The European lap pool (pictured upper left) is also open and looks so inviting and soothing that once you are there, it's difficult to muster the desire to leave. In the food and beverage realm, Chef Cameron and his culinary staff have continued to rock some glorious dishes for the dining public, including the new buffalo chicken wrap for lunch and the bacon-wrapped quail and mushroom risotto starters for dinner. During a recent employee appreciation party, we all got to partake of the ever-popular Sunday brunch where bakers extraordinaire Tisha and Sam featured some of their butterscotch blondies and maple-bacon cupcakes (pictured lower left). We also experienced a unique and delicious luncheon recently....several of us participated in a "Largest Loser" contest in order to try to stay healthy in a stressful environment and the goal was to lose a collective 100 pounds. The group did indeed reach that goal and the main winner of the contest, coworker Nazim, was top "loser" with most percentage of fat lost. Nazim is from Azerbaijan and so Chef Cameron created an Azerbaijani menu for the luncheon in Naz's honor. It was some seriously delectable Middle Eastern-style fare with baskets of warm naan, fabulous dolmas (stuffed grape leaves, pictured upper left), a wonderful tomato and cucumber salad and a savory stew with lamb and chickpeas. It was a healthy yet mouth-watering way to celebrate an even healthier journey we all took together.
The Never-Ending Pursuit of Healthiness -Segueing to said healthy journey, we have embarked on cooking lighter during these post-holiday days, at least at home. We haven't always been successful at sticking to the best eating habits, but we have signed up for another 5k run, so we need to get with the program. We did make a hearty lentil soup from a Barefoot Contessa recipe (found here). We've also pledged to try out some healthy gourmet pizzas and thoroughly enjoyed a flatbread Pizza Margherita version we whipped up with fresh basil, cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella from a recipe we found on Epicurious here. Pizzas are a new obsession with us, so look for us to be trying some new pies.
Visiting some KC Classics -Caloric challenges always abound though, and our restaurant choices in January didn't help as we chose to hit up some local classics. We hooked up with the Paradise Playhouse crew to visit the venerable Golden Ox, that paean to beef in the West Bottoms. Open since 1949 and long a central location for decades of KC Stockyards action, the Golden Ox has served many a hunk of top-grade meat over the years. The Ox also handles the catering at the Playhouse, so it was good to finally visit this amazing piece is KC history. I savored every bite of my petite medium-rare filet and Keith loved his blue-cheese topped filet (pictured at left). When the Ox says top-quality beef, they mean it. Another longtime local that we visited recently was Cascone's, known for its many years of family-recipe Italian fare. Cascones' has been open since 1954 and has been operated by four generations of the Cascone family. Raves over the dishes abounded from us and the Posse gals throughout the night, for everything from the grilled artichoke starter (pictured at right) to my fiery Pasta Diablo to Keith's Chicken Spiedini, cooked in Italian breadcrumbs and wonderful amogio, a lemon-garlic marinade, and then topped with banana peppers. Lucky us, it was also half-price wine night (Wednesdays), so we were pleasantly fortified with yummy Italian goodness as well as a few sips of a lovely Malbec before seeing Billy Elliot at the Music Hall (pictured at left)...and that show was divine, by the way.
Finally, a fun time was had by all at the Dickerson's Super Bowl party. It was my kind of Super Bowl party, where great food was abundant (like the spicy bacon-wrapped, cream-cheese filled jalapenos pictured) and conversations were ongoing and boisterous until someone yelled, "Commercial!" and THEN we stopped and gathered 'round the flatscreen. The unique part of the evening occurred before Beyonce or the blackout for us, though: our host was a former Kansas City cop and apparently was featured in a couple of Cops episodes and we were treated to a showing of these episodes at the beginning of half-time. What a hoot seeing a younger Jim chasing after a suspect yelling, "get on the ground!"...
Bad boys, bad boys. Whatcha gonna do...whatcha gonna do when they come for you?