Saturday, August 31, 2013

Killer Deviled Eggs, Smooth Breakfast Stouts and a Food Network Debut

On a recent Thursday eve during a particularly wild week at the hotel, the K-Man and I joined a few of our work compatriots at Cellar and Loft in the River Market to watch our new chef Kelli make her debut on Anne Burrell's Food Network show Chef Wanted.

 Executive Chef Kelli Daniels has been bringing an upscale Southern influence to our food and beverage program at the Elms Hotel and Spa, nurtured by a lifetime of professional cooking that started under her own father's tutelage and was most recently featured in her red-hot popular food truck and catering business called the Good You before taking on the Elms post.  During a recent MOD shift, I finally had the opportunity to sample some of Chef Kelli's cuisine and it's certainly safe to say I was duly impressed.  Among the items I tried were light and lively pan-roasted
beets with arugula and goat cheese and marvelous pan-fried Barham Farm chicken topped with a peppered pan sauce with collard greens and some awesomely smoked and fork-mashed Kennebec potatoes.  Chef Kelli sat with us while I tried some of the chicken and revealed some of the secrets to the delectably crispy skin on that chicken and indeed they are her secrets to reveal.  Probably most beloved (by me) of these dishes we tried were called Flora Daniels' Deviled Eggs, named after the woman whose recipe they belong to; Kelli's beloved grandmother.  I love that Kelli pays homage to her family through her food and that these deviled lovelies are on every menu she creates throughout her career.  Lovely indeed they are, and as I have an eternally strange relationship with huevos, I am somewhat picky where deviled eggs are concerned.  This version combines much of my favorite things: Dijon mustard, chopped capers, smoked salmon, pickled okra and hot sauce among other ingredients.  These are some righteous deviled eggs and needless to say, Flora Daniels has a new fan in me.

Those killer deviled eggs were also featured at Kelli's premiere party at Cellar and Loft.  Cellar and Loft is a rustic, buzzy River Market wine and beer shop with stylish tasting rooms, shelves of gourmet food, vending machines featuring wine by the glass and an astonishing array of wines and beers for sale that is also co-owned by former Kansas City Chiefs wide reciever Eddie Kennison.  The party was in the cellar area where our Spa Director Kevin and his fabulous wife Christine (who are also Cellar and Loft members) were holding court and replenishing those amazing eggs.
Along with those eggs was an array of cheeses, phyllo cups filled with a cream cheese and chicken mixture topped with blueberries and some of Bobkorn's gourmet popcorn with flavors ranging from coconut to smoked cheddar.  After a brief wine tasting, I went back to the brews, and sipped on a brilliant Founder's Breakfast Stout while we settled into one of the darkly lit locker rooms to watch the premiere of Kelli's debut on Chef Wanted.

Kelli was vying for a position in a Connecticut restaurant on the show with three other contestants.  It was a kick to watch a Food Network show debut with one of the contestants.  In the end, she didn't go to Connecticut and became our Executive Chef at the Elms, and we got to experience a fabulous watch party.  Too much fun..

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Joinin' Up at the J

It was a Posse kind of weekend, so certain things could be guaranteed: we would laugh heartily, dine well, sip libations and enjoy a patented kind of camaraderie that we not only cherish, but crave. Yes, it was time for the monthly Posse dinner and August's pick was a Crossroads Art District hotspot called the Jacobson, or the "J" for short. 

The Jacobson is a stylish little spot near Lulu's on Central Avenue.  The patio is a true see-and-be seen scene and last night's pristine weather helped ensure that it was packed with a fashionable crowd sipping on the Jacobson's signature cocktails next to the bubbling fountain.  Bustling tables of shades-wearing diners noshed on the J's small plates in the shadow of a sleek sculpture called the Delta Rings that was created by local artist Stretch.  We were inside, however, in the chic, industrial dining room and lounge area that was adorned with lots of eclectic local art.  This restaurant was in the former site of a warehouse owned by A.D. Jacobson, whose brother Eddie was a close friend of Harry Truman.  The aforemantioned patio was the former loading dock and is largely constructed out of recycled material. 

Our group of ten primarily went for the multitude of small plate offerings but before the food came the creative cocktails and we ran the gamut of selection down the length of the table.  Cindy got the house version of the Maragrita which was called a Steigl-rita and consisted of tequila, fresh lime, simple syrup and Steigl- Radler
which is a grapefruit shandy.  Larry got a truly artistic elixir aptly called a Leap of Faith which had an intriguing mix of ingredients: rye whiskey, red and white wine, lavender syrup and blackberry and he loved it right down to the bed of crimson seeds left behind in the glass that we couldnn't identify - pomegranate seeds, maybe?  Charlotte sipped on a simple but stellar chocolate martini with vanilla vodka and Keith and I decided to go for the flask service.  You can get any of the J's signature cocktails served on ice in vintage flasks, so we split a flask of the sparkling lemon-blueberry martini with blueberry vodka and fresh lemon.

As for those small plates called "mingles", our group covered the
full palette of these offerings, as well.  There was succulent salt and pepper shrimp; bright with lemon and garlic and there were crunchy crab poppers, stuffed with creamy goat cheese, tarragon and jalapenos with sundried tomato remoulade.  There was macaroni gratin in a rich and creamy mornay
sauce dotted with smoked bacon and there was more bacony goodness in our Angels on Horseback which were fresh, fried oysters wrapped in bacon served with tangy chimichurri sauce and garlic aioli.  It was difficult to choose a favorite among them and when I finally did it was with something delicious and somewhat familiar as well as something delightfully new: it was a tie between the fabulous smoked salmon crostini with house-cured salmon, balsamic, arugula and scallion cream cheese on Farm-to-Market baguette and the zippy ahi tuna wontons with seared ahi tuna medallions on crisp wontons topped with pickled vegetable slaw and drizzled in a Sriracha aioli that I wanted to lap off the plate.

We finished up with a sampling of desserts including the flourless
chocolate cake and the angel food cake with peach preserves and pistachio ice cream.  The Jacobson was quite the delight all in all and we vowed to return to take advantage of their patio and what sounded like a fabulous happy hour.  Yes, while this picture-perfect weather holds out, I would highly recommend hangin' at the J...the people watching and killer cocktails alone are worth the trip.