Sunday, May 4, 2014

Seasons of the Plaza


It has been a ridiculously long while since I've spent an evening at the Country Club Plaza. This is sad to me, really, as I used to relish spending time in Kansas City's historic shopping mecca. We used to live in Westport and I worked on the Plaza and it was so gratifying to live and work in one of the most exciting corners of the city. In those days, the Power and Light district was barely an idea and the Plaza was the premier destination. When Keith and I were making the commitment to move to Missouri, we made an initial trip out primarily for Sierra's christening, but also spent a couple of days each in St. Louis and Kansas City. I enjoyed St. Louis, but KC kinda of captured us, hook, line and sinker. Part of it were the old college chums of Keith that showed us around and certainly the Arthur Bryant's barbecue (and experience) were major selling points. It was the Plaza, though, that I found utterly enchanting. How could a shopping center so capture my attention?

Sure, there were fine destination stores at the time like Saks Fifth Avenue and such, but I'm really not a shopper, so the allure of retail names eluded me for the most part. No, it was the design, the architecture, the history that so completely enthralled me.

The Country Club Plaza was built in 1922 and its design was largely inspired by Seville, Spain. The intricacies of the design mean there's something to see on every corner.

        Gargoyle heads peek out from walls and whimsical fountains abound on every block.

The surrounding apartment buildings shared an equal amount of surrealism, including one that had featured bizarre gargoyle heads that looked down at passerby.

It was like nothing I had ever seen, and I absolutely loved it. I often walked to my job here and I used to run in the park across the street. I would finish the run by winding through the streets of the Plaza, ending it at an underground grocery store that had a killer salad bar that I would pick up my lunch from (I don't remember the name, alas). Of course, there were the characters as the man who screamed obscenities at anyone who walked by or the dancing group of Hare Krishnas on another corner. I don't miss these particular characters, but I do miss some of the more independent businesses. I'm glad we tested out some black-and-white photography on the Plaza as we knew it back then.  The Country Club Plaza is never more noted, though, then at the advent of the Christmas season when the entire Plaza is lit up like a fairy-tale village.

Last night, our Posse dinner brought K and I back to the Plaza to one of their newer restaurants, Seasons 52.  Charlotte had met the head chef here and we were also intrigued not just by their commitment to the freshest of ingredients, but their claim to every item being seasonally inspired and under 475 calories.

Our goal of running half-marathons and a generally healthier lifestyle made this an attractive choice for sure. It is located in the old Eddie Bauer store and while I had been in this store before, I had certainly not grasped that this space was so...cavernous. Truly, it was huge, with several dining rooms, an outdoor patio and a sizable bar complete with ivory-tickling entertainer behind the bar. The dark wood from Eddie Bauer remains and Seasons 52 has created a striking and sophisticated space here. We kicked off our evening with their artisanal cocktails, with several of the group going for the Prairie Mule with organic vodka, ginger beer and fresh lime in traditional copper mugs. 

 I selected the more current selection of the mango-jalapeno crush with gin, fresh mango, housemade lemonade and fresh jalapeno, cilantro and cucumber. Appetizers about the table included the awesome artichoke and goat cheese flatbread and the ahi tuna tartare with wasabi-avocado mousse and tropical salsa.

Everyone raved over their dinners: Keith had the cedar-plank salmon with killer dill-mustard sauce and I had the amazing pork tenderloin with portabello, herb polenta and broccolini. Among the other choices at the table were the oak-grilled rack of lamb, grilled rainbow trout and the filet mignon with crimini mushrooms and red wine sauce.

We wound down with the "dessert tree" with had (blessedly) bite-size samples of everything from carrot cake with cinnamon honey, lemon curd with blueberries and Belgian chocolate s'mores.

It was great to be satisfied without being over-full and the flavors were exceptional from every dish we tried. Seasons 52 was packed to the gills, primarily with prom kids, as was most of the Plaza, it seemed.  It was fantastic to be back in the middle of that Plaza energy as well, if only for one night.


Kara Von Kelso said...

Oh Greg, you are making my heart long for Kansas City!! I miss you, dear friend, and that wonderful city!

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