Sunday, September 22, 2013

Wined Up at The Waterpark

Mr. K and I received an opportunity to attend the Village West Winefest in Wyandotte County, KS recently.  We knew little about this event outside of the fact that it benefited the Kansas Special Olympics and Wayside Waifs and intriguingly located near the Legends shopping mecca at Schlitterbahn Waterpark. This would be an interesting evening, methinks...

The Fest was sold out and thus packed to the gills once we had made our way past Schlitterbahn's oddball version of the Walmart greeters: Star Wars stormtroopers and sandpeople bearing laser weapons and posing with attendees.  Schlitterbahn Waterpark, just open a couple of years now, was adorned with creative ice sculptures and multiple booths offering over 200 wines and food from over 30 area restaurants.  And Winefest this may be, but more than 100 beers were also featured in the Rogers Liquors Beer Garden also.  We strolled around the many water features and rides; noshing on chips and salsa fromMargarita's and pork tenderloin sliders with sweet onion marmalade from Brancato's Catering.  Keith sipped on a local Moscato but the humidity drove me to seek out the brews, specificially s couple of offerings from beloved KC brewery Boulevard: first, the 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat Beer and their perfectly delightful Pop-Up Session IPA.  We caught up with our friend Miss Major was laying down some bluesy goodness with her band The Minor Mood Swings at the Fest. I finished off the night savoring a sip of Leavenworth brewery High Noon Saloon's Stampede Stout paired with a cannoli from Yard House Brewery while K and I chatted with a brewer from Gordon Biersch.   We departed the fest while the evening fireworks lit up the night sky, thinking that this oddball idea of attending a wine, food and beer fest in a waterpark in September might just be the perfect way to cap off the summer.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Random Bites: The Savories of Summer

The shockingly short, strangely cool summer of 2013 was a wildly busy one and it was riddled with an overabundance of fabulous food that I sadly just didn’t have the time to keep up with writing about. This is a quick look at some of the summer’s best random bites:

I frankly never get enough sushi. KC has a plethora of good sushi and I have a lot more ground to cover in this category, but one little Liberty restaurant we enjoyed was Wasabi Sushi. This unassuming little strip mall joint served up some fine sushi such as the Wasabi roll with tempura salmon, cream cheese and spicy crab or the 007 Roll with spicy tuna, seaweed, cream cheese and eel sauce. It was quite the delicious way to kick off an afternoon at Barn Players Theater watching our friend Dennis play Wardell in a hilarious production of Sordid Lives.

My last trip back to my West Virginian hometown was an embarrassment of culinary riches largely
centered on the home of my friends Kaki and JB and their business The Greenhouse. I covered the pure joy that was Music by the Lake with its repast of grilled green tomatoes and Dipper D tribute burgers and of course, Dotte’s birthday celebration. Among the many other mouth-watering munchies of that visit were amazing stuffed burgers, oysters grilled on a salt block, grilled stuffed avocados and jalapenos, Ron’s killer crab-stuffed mushrooms and some rock ‘em, sock ‘em bacon-wrapped tater tots. All that Abicht’s Landing goodness plus a lovely Lebanese lunch at Cham’s with the bestie that included the addictive Foul M Damas (fava beans with lemon and garlic) and the Sfiha (flattened bread dough topped with lean ground beef, tomatoes and onions). So much tasty hometown goodness,,,can’t wait to see what the return trip in November brings.

It wouldn’t be summer without a lake trip with the K-Man’s family
and these family gatherings are always rife with great bites. Picture perfect weather and an afternoon of swimming with the kids were highlights of the weekend but these days were also dotted with delectables like French potato salad, Dave’s Reuben Calzone of Awesomeness and Sierra and Tanner’s wonderful dessert pizza with fresh strawberries and kiwi. Summer just feels so much better at the lake especially when armed with Tecate and margaritas at the new tiki bar on the dock.

One particular night was a perfectly lovely summer evening at the idyllic summer home of our friends the Calahans. Stacy and Chris and their fantastic brood hosted a wonderful evening for us and gave us a taste of their unique family life. Their wonderful kid-centric home was an absolute kick from the “monkey steps” (built so you have to climb up on all fours) up to the kid’s attic hideaway to their crazy-cool slide back to the kitchen. We sipped lavender cocktails while strolling through the lavender fields behind the garage and munched on grilled brats, Daphne’s creamy cucumber salad and Kevin’s bruschetta dip. The youthful exuberance on this property is infectious: soon there were tractors and four-wheelers abuzz on the grounds; Shawna was creating giant bubbles and Kevin was fire-spinning. Those kids have an enviable life…I was ready to move in!

There was so much more food shrapnel throughout the summer like Jim’s tiramisu and Keith’s farmer’s market fresh peach and blueberry cobbler and too blessedly much to keep with. But blur that it was, the season was a beautiful and blessed one so raise a handy to Summer 2013!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Dining In Denial at Michael Smith

Despite my best efforts to evade or outright deny its existence, my birthday made its annual return to defiantly remind me that I am indeed a year older. The birthday also set out to not-so-gently remind me that despite the growing list of aging-related issues I increasingly face (aches, pains, brain fog, cynicism and a general foulness in nature), it will return again next year with an even greater vengeance. I replied to Fate with a hearty “Harrrumphh”, blew it a raspberry, and marched on to my favorite comfort zone when (somewhat) bitterly facing one’s own mortality: a fabulous restaurant.

The ever-generous K-Man took me to local culinary wonderland Michael Smith in the Crossroads district for my birthday dinner last week. I have long watched Smith, a local James Beard- award winning chef’s accomplishments from afar, as he made his indelible culinary mark on Kansas City first with the American Restaurant and then with his two uber-popular hotspots: Extra Virgin, a tapas eatery, and the namesake Michael Smith where we were dining this night. We had dined in this very spot years ago when it was called Zin where we dined on foie gras and lavender cocktails on a First
Fridays eve before we attended a Dolly Parton concert. Lo, these many years later, the space is more airy and bright with vivid artwork and a very cool glassed-in cookbook display. Our server suggested a lovely bottle of white from the extraordinary wine list, a Paul Hobbs Crossbarn Chardonnay that we sipped on as we admired our surroundings. In fact, wine is featured heavily in the d├ęcor; gorgeous glass walls of seemingly endless bottles of vino make for a striking background to the dining room. We nibbled on our amuse bouche (gift from the chef) which was a tomato aspic with balsamic. Tomato aspic is essentially a vegetable jelly that is a 50’s throwback and by description not exactly a tantalizing temptation for me, but I found myself enjoying the fresh tomato flavor together with the balsamic. Our genial server brought our starter; lightly breaded Squash Blossoms that were stuffed with a wonderful mozzarella served with white Spanish anchovies and a tangy tomato-basil sauce that we made short work of. We savored our entrees even more: for K, an Eight-Hour Pork Roast that melted apart when cut atop flavorful green onion risotto and Jaliscan pico de gallo; for me the colorful Grilled Hawaiian Swordfish, perfectly cooked in a bright and fresh yellow tomato sauce with toasted garlic, couscous and peach salsa. Swordfish was greatly overfished in the late 1990s and was MIA for a long decade while getting restocked and indeed I had missed it so. That first taste of swordfish many moons ago (the Morgantown, WV restaurant I worked at during college had a dish I treasured called Swordfish
Acapulco) had me hooked and I have loved and craved swordfish ever since. This dish at Michael Smith just feels masterful; simply well done with the freshest of ingredients. I adored every bite and wouldn’t let the plate go until I had sopped up every bit of that wonderful sauce with the crusty bread.

We finished our evening splitting the airy yet decadent flourless chocolate cake. We sighed in
satisfaction as we left and couldn’t wait to come back. This culinary celebration was a perfect way to face Fate and say WTF.