Justus Drugstore's Burgers and Beignets - Only second in preference after making joyous new flavor discoveries is returning to some tried and true eats. Justus Drugstore in Smithville is one of my favorite restaurants in the metro area because I think Jonathan Justus truly knows how to create a deeply satisfying dining experience with the restaurant's triumvirate of creative cocktails, informative, attentive service and truly sublime dishes. I also enjoy the fact that you can hang outside in the all-weather patio area for a more low-key (and lower-priced) but equally satisfying experience. I had two of my faves: that killer housemade veggie burger with Shatto cheese on fresh-baked buns that remains the best veggie burger I've ever had; and those marvelous carrot cake beignets that Keith and I split. It also wouldn't be a Justus visit without sampling one of those imaginative cocktails. This night's chosen elixir was the Malus Aforethought (the name I'm assuming is a riff on an antiquated legal term called malice aforethought meaning premeditation) or as the menu moniker stated, the "cocktail geek's delight". This concoction was a blend of Laird's applejack, Aalborg aquavit, yellow chartreuse liqueur, lemon juice, celery bitters and fresh sage. This was our last night on the Justus patio for awhile, so this was just the perfect kind of bright and complex cocktail to sip as the crisp fall air was settling in. It was Carl's birthday at his favorite local eatery, so all was well.
The Orange Julian-Drenched Sunday Brunch - I had long been eager to try out Brookside restaurant Julian partly due to the fact it is the favorite of our friends Ken and Renee, but mostly due to the reputation of owner and executive chef Celina Tio. Ms. Tio is a James Beard award-winning chef who has done stints on both Top Chef Masters and Iron Chef. The Posse gathered for a fine Sunday brunch here recently and it was quite good. Several of us kicked off brunch with the signature cocktail called the Orange Julian: a creamy blend of Ketel One Oranje, cream, vanilla and fresh orange juice that tasted like the cocktail version of the childhood Push-Up bars
Poutine is a common Canadian dish of french fries and gravy with cheese curds. I discovered french fries with gravy at the Hi-Way Grille in my hometown as a child and it's a cozy food memory for me for certain. Chef Tio's poutine certainly achieves comfort-food nirvana with eggs your way and a peppery gravy over the fries with Shatto cheese curds melted through. Everyone enjoyed their dishes such as starters like the flaky bacon and scallion scones and sugary ginger doughnut holes as well as entrees like the crispy pork shoulder and the tofu scramble with roasted veggies.
I didn't get to meet Chef Tio on this visit, but she is one very busy chef as she has opened another eatery in downtown KC called The Collection and the menu sure sounds appealing, particularly the calamari that king-of-all-KC-critics Charles Ferruzza calls 'the best he's ever had". Can't wait to check it out...
Japanese and Honey-Wasabi Mayo in Sushi on a Wicked Afternoon - Thanks to our show diva Kiko, I had the at-long-last opportunity to see the national tour of Wicked when it came to the Music Hall recently. You would think there might be at least a twinge of disappointment after such a drawn-out anticipation lasting many years, but indeed, it was a gorgeous dream of a show with great songs, relentless humor and a top-notch production value. We followed that day-glo scenario and replaced with another for our post-show meal: Drunken Fish at the Power and Light district.
The sushi was as sexy as the decor, especially our Starburst Roll, a colorful mix of fresh crab, Japanese mayo, shrimp tempura, avocado, masago (roe) and tamago (grilled egg with rice vinegar) that was topped with honey-wasabi mayo and a spicy sauce all rolled up in bright pink soy paper. As we savored our sushi, it came to my attention that our Wicked experience was not over...I thought that the well-dressed diners going up the stairs next to our booth looked familiar and then one particular woman really struck me. It was Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, the star of the production we just watched! More specifically, it was the actress who just took over the role on the national tour, accompanied by her mother!
She was gracious and told us it was only her second performance as Elphaba, and she was smashing. Jolly good show it was...and jolly good sushi as well.
Jim's Kitchen - Finally, several of we Posse crew gathered at our favorite eatery...Jim Schutte's kitchen. We visited with Carolyn and shared Dove chocolates with her before supping on some classic Jim fare: spaghetti carbonara with freshly made pasta, Ceasar salad, creamy feta dip, buttery foccacia bread and the best damn cheesecake flan he's ever made and that's saying something.
Thank gracious goodness for these Posse outings.