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Showing posts with label kansas city restaurants. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kansas city restaurants. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Corner Restaurant: Water for Ants

Farmer's Breakfast

I'm pro-breakfast. I've been to The Corner Restaurant once before, and had a vaguely icky experience(more because of the company I was with than the restaurant itself), but I was looking forward to being back. I was crazy-hungry and B. and I decided that if the wait was too long for Sunday brunch(more than 30 minutes), we'd go somewhere else. The wait was estimated at 20 minutes, but only took 15.

We were seated at one of the hi-tops in the "bar" area underneath some exposed insulation and hanging lamps that looked like they were from a really trendy salvage yard. Our server's jewelry was really cool(I remember the gold piercings sort of glimmering through the sunlight) and she was friendly enough, albeit a little slow and seemed a bit distracted.

Many of the newer, hipster-esque, nose-to-tail style restaurants seem to have been jumping on board with this trend that the tables should be set with their own chilled wine bottles full of water, and have teeny tiny water glasses to accompany said water. I have no idea if this is to keep the servers sane while the customers suck down water by the thimble-full, or if it's to give the diner a sense that they're at a friend's house, serving themselves. Either way, I'm not sure I'm a fan of it.

What is this??? A water glass for ANTS???
One might argue that the glasses are to portion soda sizes or juice sizes, but it just seems a little ridiculous for a water glass. One might also argue that I'm just a greedy American girl that's used to giant-sized everything and I also have giant hands so everything in my hands look small to me. Either way, it was really annoying when the water bottle became empty halfway through the meal and nobody refilled it. I would have flagged someone down, but it was a busy Sunday brunch, so I think that everyone sort of had tunnel vision, just trying to get through the push.

After a 25 minute wait, I got the farmer's breakfast/Babe's breakfast(pictured above) which came with two eggs, a hash brown, two slices of bacon, and two slices of toast with jam and butter. It was well-prepared, although I like a really soft poach and for the egg yolks to just come sort of flooding out. My egg yolks were, runny, but  poached medium, so the egg yolk remained fairly solid. Am I splitting hairs? Of course. Would anyone other than a really annoying food blogger notice? Likely not.

It's not running like a herd of stampeding buffalo. 
Another thing was the hash brown. It was kind of like a little hockey puck of potato. It was decently seasoned, crispy-ish, and ate well...it just seemed like kind of an odd portion. It was fine-looking, sure, but I think the unusual shape was offputting. The bread and jam were great(the jam was made by a local purveyor) and the bacon was nice and crispy. I give the dish a 7 out of 10.

B. got the pear pancakes with the cilantro salad. He said the cilantro thing sounded weird, but I really love cilantro so I talked him into it. The pancakes were huge, which seemed odd considering the portion size of my plate, and there were four of them. Four pancakes, all bigger than your face. That's a great value, for sure, but the pancakes had some issues.

Just so you now, B. is a 6'2" MAN. He's not like a skinny "dude,", he's a MAN.
Like...with MAN shoulders and stuff. And a beard. So those pancakes are big.
For one, those are way too big! If you're going to serve smaller, more refined portions of hash browns, eggs, etc., it seems inconsistent to cook giant pancakes. Also, the pears in the actual pancake itself seemed like they weren't cooked at all. It appeared as if the water in the pears had sort of seeped into the batter and affected it in such a way that they were (tragically) undercooked. When we asked our server if the pears were poached at all before they were added the the pancake. She said she knew they were cooked, "probably sauteed."

A saute is when you cook on high heat with a little bit of fat in the pan. A saute is usually a quick cooking method in which you get some nice color on your items. There were no signs of color on these pears, so I'm not sure how they were cooked, if at all. But the point is that the pancakes were too big, not cooked, and the pears inside(though tasty) weren't really helping. I think that if they sort of were diced up in pretty little cubes and were poached, drained, and then folded into a well-rested buttermilk pancake batter, it would have been better. I also think the portion sizes were way out of control, but I will say it was sort of nice to have pancakes for two more days once they were heated up in the oven.

Another slight annoyance was that our server took forever to get us our check. We were really hungry and ate quickly, sure, but I could see her(and several other servers) cleaning the tiny ant glasses and talking in the corner while we(and the table next to us) were looking for someone to bring them/us the check and clear away the plates. I could hear the couple next to us mumbling about how slow the service was.

I tend not to be impatient when dining out, as I've worked in the industry for over seven years now, so I know how things go on busy Sunday brunches and have empathy for the poor sleep-starved bastards behind the flat-top. I understand that Sunday brunch sucks for the servers and for the cooks. I don't understand why that has to translate to the customer experience. I think I would have been less apt to judge if I hadn't been staring at an empty water glass and bottle for 15 minutes during my nice and salty bacon binge.

The Corner Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - ZomatoOnce we finally got the check and got out of there, it had been nearly an hour and a half. That seems long(to me) for a busy place in Westport looking to turn tables and serve customers quickly. Granted, there are people that like a long brunch and want to sit and enjoy their food, savor the conversation... B. and I aren't those people when we're tired and hungry, which we were that morning.

All in all, I like The Corner and I'll likely be back again. But I think it's safe to say that it's a good brunch, versus a great brunch. What's wrong with a good brunch? Nothing at all! A nice, good brunch is a Godsend after a night of drinking. B. and I seldom drink, but there were points that I did have a drunken hangover brunch...and if I was having a drunken hankering for some brunch, this would be the place to be. Being a sober and annoyingly thirsty food blogger, though, I don't think I'll say "this is the place to be" for The Corner Restaurant. I'll say "this place has a good brunch with items from local purveyors, so you'll definitely feel good about supporting them."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Lunch at The Farmhouse

Smoked shortrib lasagna, Parmesan crisp, fresh ricotta
I had my first doctor's appointment in 15 years today. It was at a lovely little office in the River Market area of Kansas City, and it was right next door to the Farmhouse. I had not only gone to the appointment without any help, I had made the appointment all by myself and used my insurance to find myself a new doctor.

Can you say 500G for Adulthood??

Of course you can.

Anyway, it was the first time I'd done blood work and I felt a little peckish afterwards. I normally stand by the very familial notion of "it's unhealthy to eat alone", but my hunger rules me, and I decided to dine solo. Oscar Wilde once said that learning to love one's own company is the beginning of a lifelong romance. I figure that if I can't stand to eat alone, nobody else should have to stand eating with me.

The staff at The Farmhouse were a friendly, young, and eclectic group of people, much like a cast of extras from Portlandia. The entire ambiance was really open and chill, and the art on the wall was gorgeous. There's a big picture of a giant rooster hanging over the bar that, apparently, the Chef painted, according to one of the regulars I met.

The cocktail/wine/drinks menu is given to you on a clipboard of dog-eared paper, and the lunch menu is no different. This is a good thing, because it shows the menu is not only recycled, but changeable. The Farmhouse boasts its seasonality and farm-to-table mentality, so seeing a menu like this is a good sign.

Although the triple-decker grilled cheese caught my fancy, I saw the pasta special on the board(pictured above) and just had to try it. After all, I did blood work at my doctor's appointment--I need some bright red in my diet. (In case you didn't know,  tomatoes especially have a high amount of potassium and vitamin C, so that means that they're good for your heart, like many other naturally-red foods are!)

They had posted on Facebook(apparently) that every person that finished the special would get a big high-five from the staff. I finished mine without fail, and got a high-five, so good on them for being good on their word. The staff was so friendly and fun, and I cannot stress enough at how utterly delicious it was to have coffee that was freshly pressed.

It's National Coffee Day, by the way, on this day of September 29th. Do you know how I received my coffee this morning? Do you? Like this:

That's a genuine French Press with cream and raw sugar. Hell to the yes on that one.

The restaurant is very clean and has a fun vibe. I ended up sitting at the bar next to the artist of several paintings on the wall, and chatting up a storm. The bar manager learned that I was in the industry, too, and we three just had a fine time, gabbing the afternoon away.

Another thing about their menu that I want to stress is that it's truly farm fresh American cuisine. They make everything in-house that they can make in-house and they're doing a good job of it. That dollop of white on my lasagna? Fresh ricotta. The burrata is made with fresh mozzarella, too, and that's a good thing.

The Farmhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - ZomatoYou might say "Burrata? That's not American!" It might not have American origin, but the thing about American cuisine(and really any cuisine, if you think about it) is that it is able to have fun with what it has. If we, here in Kansas/Missouri have access to all of this gorgeous farmland and these wonderful animals and the products those animals have to offer...why not use them in tried-and-true delicious ways? That being said, a burrata is a fantastic thing to show off on a menu, as it is very difficult to do well and to do well consistently. While I did not have the burrata, I did see it go out to another table, and the smell and look of it was just perfect.

All in all, I really dig The Farmhouse. Friendly staff, awesome location, great food...two thumbs up! I will most-definitely be back for dinner.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Taco Republic - My New Neighborhood Joint

Among the most-stressful times in a person's life, moving from one home to another definitely resides in the Top 3. They say that moving, getting married, and public speaking are some of the most stressful events in life. Fortunately for me, I'm moving to a quiet neighborhood, adjacent to the things  love: food, parks, and the Volker/Rosedale/Westwood marriage. These powerhouse neighborhoods create a vibrant and wonderful incubator for Kansas City's most-trendy people, the yuppies, if you will, and the foodies that come along, too. I'm just happy that we bought the house before the neighborhood value skyrockets.

Right down the street from my gorgeous new house just happens to be Taco Republic, a food truck turned brick-and-mortar that seems to be my own, real life version of the "El Jefe" food truck from "Chef." Although Taco Republic does not serve Cuban sandwiches, it does serve a damn good taco.

Taco Republic on 47th & Mission, a converted gas station, serves with an open-air approach. One wonders what happens in winter, but one is grateful for such beautiful summer nights as these. Beer, margaritas, chips and salsa all welcome you with plentiful and colorful outdoor seating, as well as several flatscreen TVs for you to watch the news, the game, etc. There was a Royals game on tonight, and this little taco stand was abuzz with baseball and tequila. The vibrancy of the atmosphere is fueled by it's decor, which can be described as Austin-tacious. (I can't really explain how this is; just imagine a trendy cool place in Austin where all the college-age kids would go, and it's that.)

Oh, and service was great both times I've been here. (Once our server found out I was a food blogger, his manager made it a point to ask how the service was. I told him that I seldom comment on service, and mostly comment about decor and food.)

The food at Taco Republic could be described as Tex-Mex, but I think that it reminds me of the late night club tacos I would eat in LA after a long night at Das Bunker. My friends and I would clamor in our platforms and jelly bracelets for carne asada tacos with lime at 2 in the morning in some shady East LA shack, talking about how we should probably hit Denny's, too, to get some coffee before we scrape off enough of this eyeliner to be at least half-presentable at work tomorrow. Ah, to be young and in LA...but I digress.

These are authentic, Mexican-American-ish tacos. I like these tacos. Do you know why I like these tacos? Because they aren't pretending.

Take the Del Mar(tilapia) and Ortiz(chicken) tacos that B got. Look at the corn, the cotija cheese, the guacamole... The tacos make no assumptions, ask nothing, and aren't pretending to be the next big thing. It's a taco, and it's good. What else do you need to know? It's on a corn tortilla, which is good and authentically Mexican. Tortillas de maiz, as they are called, are considered to be a sign of authenticity in Mexican cuisine. Flour tortillas are more of an American thing, but the Mexican-American fusion of food that lies in the Southwest is so damn convoluted that I don't think anyone can honestly tell what's what and where's where anymore.

Now, onto the Tex-Mex...

These are the carne asada tostadas that I ordered the first time I ate at Taco Republic. They look appetizing, right? Upon first bite, though, one gets an overwhelming punch of pickled jalapenos, which I honestly found really overpowering and off-putting. I picked as many of them off as I could, but the pickle flavor had seeped into the sponge-like iceburg lettuce that was piled on in a sloppy chop, rather than a nice fine chiffonade like it should have been. I think it could have used a little more radish, and the meat could have been a little more. I think it was a bit light on the cheese, too, but perhaps I'm splitting hairs at this point.

I did not enjoy this dish. They pickle all of their onions and jalapenos in-house, which is great, but I guess I just don't enjoy pickled jalapenos. I like jalapenos raw, sauteed, deep-fried and stuffed with cheese, but not pickled, apparently. So, hey, maybe this dish just isn't for me.

Now, I come back tonight, on the most gorgeous evening you could imagine, and had a fantastic meal with a wonderful crowd and a wonderful man. He ordered his same Del Mar and Ortiz tacos, while I opted for the beef Old-Fashioned tacos.

These tacos are made from stewed ground beef, veggies, cheese...the works. And you know what? Not a pickled jalapeno in sight. Awesome. Oh, and it's made with corn tortillas? Even better!

The first bite of these tacos are a big splash of juicy, soft flavor. The sharp crunch of the onions and tomatoes, the lettuce, the creamy cheese, and the flavorful beef, all sort of collide. Upon second and third bites, you feel like you're eating something familiar. Upon tasting the beef on its own, I found it reminded me of the kind of taco meat your mom makes...you know that taco seasoning that you find in the grocery store, in the spice aisle, in packets? It reminds me of that...or, at least, the romantic idea of what a Midwestern Mom's "Taco Tuesday" night at home would be. These tacos taste familiar, like "Home", which is definitely not a bad thing. Big thumbs up. I did enjoy this dish.

**heavy breathing**
Of course, I must nod to dessert.

The cheesecake chimichanga is to die for. Let me say that again for the people in the back: the cheesecake chimichanga is to die for.

Click to add a blog post for Taco Republic on ZomatoPicture this: cheesecake filling, warm and gooey; crisp, crunchewy shell of an almost phyllo-like pastry...all smothered with a warm chocolate sauce. Are you sweating, yet? Because I am. Honestly, I could have twelve of these. Just...get in my mouth. All of them.

Growing up in America, you have this romantic notion that you're supposed to have "a place." You know all of the sitcoms where your main characters sit in their same booth, in their same diner, around the same time of day with the same people? That's the feeling of routine, of solidarity, of community that you're sort of raised to believe in, to expect. I don't know how realistic it is to have a place like that in modern American life, especially for a Millenial, but I definitely wouldn't mind making Taco Republic my regular place...for these reasons:

  1. It's close.
  2. It's cheap.
  3. It's good.
  4. It's seriously close...less than 5 minutes away.
  5. Great atmosphere and decor.
  6. Trendy without being pretentious. 
  7. Neat lawn chairs!
  8. Awesome people watching.
  9. Super-friendly staff with a lot of personality.
  10. Their house salsa is a close match to the kind of stuff you can get in Tucson, so bless.
  11. It's cheap. I mean, seriously, really cheap, really good for what it is. 
  12. Cheesecake chimichangas.
  13. Did I mention that it was close to my house?
I'm very glad that I came back to Taco Republic for a second go. Had I let that bitter taste of pickled jalapeno sour my entire impression of the place, I wouldn't have discovered the old-fashioned beef tacos or the cheesecake chimichangas or the churros(which are also really delicious). You can bet that I'll be back for more.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tannin Wine Bar & Kitchen - An Ode to Urban Romanticism

I went to Tannin for dinner last night. It seemed the perfect thing to do after a successful showing at the Gathering of Pagan Souls for Witchcraft and Wellness, for whom I am the official Kitchen Witch! Here, you can read all about it! But more on that later...

It seemed wrong to go to Tannin without ordering wine, so I opted for a sweet gewurtztraminer(say that five times fast), even though I seldom drink. I had definitely heard great things about this little place in the Crossroads, so when B suggested it for dinner on a rainy Saturday evening, I just couldn't say no.

The decor was nice, intimate without being too dark or cramped. We sat by the big bay window and watched as the rain fell down around us. It was like being in a 40s Noir film, and felt very sexy and romantic. When I was little, I would imagine how fabulous I would be as a gorgeous grown-up girl, with my hair long, wearing a pretty dress, sitting romantically across from the man I loved at a perfect little bistro as the rain fell down around us. These feelings were magically conjured up as B and I held hands over our table at Tannin.

The wait staff was attentive without being overbearing, and the tables were small without feeling, well, small. The wine list was, obviously, quite extensive so I can't imagine there would be something there that couldn't work for a person. I am not a wine aficionado, of course; I'm more of a food person. Onto the food.

Sausage. Potato salad. What else do you need?

On the appetizer menu, we decided to split "the Local Pig sausage" while we decided on an entree. It came sort of 'shielding' a really tasty potato salad hidden underneath! The sausages from The Local Pig are always great, and seeing businesses that support them so vehemently are nice. Kansas City truly is the biggest small town out there!

Now, THAT, is how you sauce a dish. 

When it came time for entrees, I opted for the chicken, and B got the short ribs. The short ribs came with yummy, garlic-y mashed potatoes and green beans. It was fall-apart tender, but still kept its shape nicely, which is hard to do. It was seasoned perfectly, and he ate the whole thing before I was halfway done with my chicken.

The chicken, though beautifully seasoned, was sadly a little dry. It was flavorful, but it was dry, and swimming in a pan-sauce that really needed to be reduced. It was just a crap-ton of liquid on a plate, albeit tasty liquid, that begged for some bread to sop it up. I actually kind of regret not asking for some....

Though gorgeous, the chicken was(tragically) a hair dry.

The chicken came with brussel sprouts and oyster mushrooms, which are my absolute favorite mushrooms ever. There were plenty of brussel sprouts, all yummy and hard-seared, but I really wished that the mushrooms were more aptly presented and not just tossed in. But then B said something:

"Not everyone likes mushrooms as violently as you do."

Damn, he's right.

I love mushrooms! I love them grilled, and I could just eat nothing but mushrooms of varying kinds for a whole meal. I just wanted a big fukken wedge of mushrooms, just grilled, and on a plate......but not everyone likes mushrooms like that. Some people like them just as an accent piece. Some people don't like them at all, so it actually makes sense for the people of Tannin to make it a more accessible dish for people who don't want their mushrooms loud and proud like I do. I almost felt like the mushrooms were hiding in the sauce/broth/stuff, but it was probably perfect to a person who wasn't a total mycophile.

The rain was coming down really hard by the time we finished up with our entrees, and we, like idiots, didn't bring the umbrella. This was my excuse for ordering coffee and dessert, and boy am I glad I did!

*heavy breathing*

What you see before you is easily the best dessert I've had in a long time. It's French toast, made with challah bread, and served with whipped cream. Dear God, was it delicious. I can't even begin to describe how moist yet crispy, soft yet textured this thing was. I just wanted to shrink myself down and crawl onto the bread and snuggle up into a sleepy, sugar-coated slumber on it, and then eat it. The coffee was good, too, I guess. I got a few neat pictures of it. I was trying to get a solid, clear picture of the milk swirling in the hot coffee, but a lot of my photos ended up a little blurry. Oh well.

When the rain finally let up, we had just finished scraping the dessert off the plate and were able to pay the check. We didn't have to sprint to the car, which is good, because I was really full, but I did not leave wanting to run away from this place. Rather, I would like to run TO this place. It was a great little bar, perfect for unwinding, meeting friends, having a date night.... I cannot think of a single thing wrong with that place. Even if the chicken was a touch dry, I'll be back. I will be back for the sausage, the French toast, the wine list, the atmosphere...I might just go there tonight, just for the heck of it! Big thumbs up for Tannin Wine Bar & Kitchen!  Great job!

Tannin Wine Bar and Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Anna's Oven - Americana, Searching for a Voice

"Beef Stroganoff"
I live near the 39th st/Volker district, and I love it. I love the diversity, I love the culture...I practically live on 39th street! I even have a credit at Prospero's Book store; they gave me $30 more on my store credit when I gave them my old espresso machine for their newly renovated upstairs! Across the street from Prospero's Book Store, however, is a quaint little bistro called Anna's Oven.

I know the Lead Cook/Chef there because he's got a dog that's about the size of mine. I spotted this gorgeous Great Pyrenees from across the street and went up to pet him; about five minutes later, I acknowledged the human that it was attached to, and we started chatting.

Thank you, Anna's Oven.com!
What really grabbed my attention at Anna's Oven was their commitment to charity. 50% of the profits this restaurant makes goes to the improvement of a girls' school in Kenya. I realize that there are many domestic problems, but part of being American is helping others, oddly. I know that sounds odd, but when your neighbor trips, you help them up, and that's a very American mentality, regardless of the certain Xenophobes in Congress. I finally was able to drag B here tonight and check it out.

Anna's is a small bistro with globally good intentions, but the staff running it is a bit cobbled together. This is not a bad thing! The lead cook, Victor, has been a Sommelier, a cheese monger, and a world traveller in his lifetime. He's been to France, Italy, and he and I always find something nice to chat about. He lives in the 39th street area, too, so I see him around a lot. It's just him and his apprentice in the tiny kitchen at Anna's, and they're really trying their best. They're even experimenting with more vegan options so they can better serve their clientele!

"King me."
Anna's has a really fun and eclectic environment. I think it's the perfect fit for 39th street, because it's a little bit funky, and it's a little bit home-y. The table that we sat at had a checker board built in, which chips in a tiny coffee cup to play! B crushed me, of course, but whatever, checkers isn't my game. I am more of a rummikubs kind of girl. What was really cool about the table was that the checks themselves were cut-outs of pop culture and paintings. We had fun recognizing the pictures, and chatting about it.

B got the chicken Pot Pie, which had a crazy flaky crust on top! It was poofed up like a big frosted cupcake, and I heard the audible crunch as he broke through it with the spoon. The flavor was good, but the inside itself was rather soup-y and thin. It was disappointing, and not the wonderful thick gravy that you would normally expect from something labeled chicken pot pie. When I spoke to Victor about it, he said it was made that day by the apprentice who was still learning; a forgivable offence, in my mind. I mean, hey--you remember being young and still learning! I think what people forget is that there are individuals cooking for them in restaurants. People are very hard on the cooks, who are often just trying their best. But I digress.

Good lord, that's a lot of pasta...
I got the Beef Stroganoff, which was oddly red-colored and not the traditional thick, white creamy mushroom sauce that we all know and love. It tasted a bit of tomato, probably to give it a different kind of kick, and was in need of seasoning...but it's, in my mind, not quite Beef Stroganoff. It was a good beef noodle dish, but I wouldn't call it Stroganoff. Beef Stroganoff is a very traditional comfort food that we have come to adopt and love here in the Americas, and we know how we like it. So it's a classic; what's wrong with keeping it a classic? In America, when you say "Beef Stroganoff", you have a vision in your head of what that should be. It's not red, and that unctuous mushroom flavor is very apparent. The noodles, however, were paper-thin, and while it was odd...it was good! They make their lasagna with it, which is really neat. I think the sauce could have been a little thicker, and more mushroom-y, but the flavors were really great. Again, though, I don't think I'd call it beef stroganoff.

When Victor and I first spoke, I told him I was a pastry chef and he asked for a few tips on creme brulee. I didn't want to give away all of my secrets, but I did give a tip or two...so when we came in tonight, we were brought out one of the lavender creme brulees. And it was good!!


They did a really great job of infusing the lavender, and the texture of the creme brulee was just perfect. It had come out of the oven not long before we arrived, so it was still a touch warm...but quite the perfect texture. The only trouble with having a still-warm creme brulee is that the heat often prevents the sugar from getting terribly crisp, or rather, staying terribly crisp. It was crisp to begin with, but as we ate it, it got a little soft from the residual heat. But, hey, I won't say no to a creme brulee! I can tell you that once it cools, it'll be a really good dish.
Anna's Oven on Urbanspoon
All in all? Though I think the menu itself is a bit all over the place, I still give Anna's a solid 7 out of 10. There are some technical flaws, probably things that only an anal-retentive foodie jerk like me would notice, but they're good people working for a good cause that are really trying their best. I will be back.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Lulu's Thai Noodle Shop (Crossroads)

Beef Jantaboon
It's no surprise that I love Asian cuisines of all types, and Thai holds a very special place in my heart.

When I was in Culinary School, I learned about Thai cuisine for the first time. I suppose I never understood it until then, but here's a little excerpt on Thai food from my notes:

Thai Cooking brings in the….Five tastes:


There's also, usually, a crunchy bit or two in there. They also have influences from Portugal and China, which include the stir-fry thing and the sweet egg thing...but that's not what this is about: this is about Lulu's Thai Noodle Shop in the Crossroads, where I ate lunch at yesterda.

I got mango and she got strawberry...and both were delicious!
I completely love this place. I couldn't think of a better place to drag my friend Marietta to on a nice sunny day like yesterday. The atmosphere is really tropical and fun without being kitschy, and the service is always impeccable. They've got a wide selection of cocktails and infusion, as well as Bubble Tea, which I couldn't help myself in getting.

The menu is extensive, but not overwhelming; it has something for everyone. They can easily do vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free. Actually, the noodle dishes are mostly all gluten-free, since rice noodles are...well, gluten-free. You could choose from some appetizer platters, or perhaps just go with a salad or wrap. They have bahn mis there, which are more of a traditional Vietnamese sandwich(from what I understand), but at the same time...who cares, they're delicious? They also have papaya salad, which is a really traditional Thai street food, and just perfect for a light lunch dish. I was hangry, though, so I set my sights on the beef jantabon(seen above), while Witchy opted for the Thai cashew chicken.

I tried getting an action shot.
The beef jantaboon is a stir-fried rice noodle dish with cilantro and a crap-ton of delicious sliced flank steak to go with it. The cashew chicken is, obviously, chicken with cashews and spring onions, served with rice. Both were filling and delicious...we each ate half and wrapped up the other half to go.

I'm actually eating the second half for breakfast, right now. Or, maybe, since it's 11 am...it's brunch? Yeah, I think it's brunch. 

My favorite part about the meal(oddly) was the end, when we got these adorable little fortune cookie! They're not the flavorless vanilla-esque wafers you get with Chinese food, but flavor-packed coconut-y little tubes of awesome. Honestly, they were like those yummy pirhouette cookies you get in the tin cans, but the cookie part was about ten-times thicker. I would have loved it if they were filled with some kind of coconut custard cream, but they had a fortune in them, instead, all rolled up in a tiny scroll. Seriously, I wanted a handful of those cookies.
They are so freaking cute.

I've eaten at Lulu's once before on a date with B. I seem to remember the both of us getting Drunken noodles, and I also remember teaching him how to use chopsticks. I also remember the meal being similarly excellent, as well as the service.

I'm so lucky to live right down the street from this place! You can bet that it comes highly recommended for a date, for lunch, especially with how diverse the menu is, and how consistently good they are. I don't think I'd come here for a business meeting with the whole office, trying to work on paper work or finish a big project, but maybe a business lunch with a client that you're trying to keep casual. (Maybe I don't know the difference?) Two thumbs way up! Happy eating, Kansas City!

Lulu's Thai Noodle Shop & Satay Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Stroud's - An All-American Comfort Food

After 4 long years of living in Kansas City, I've finally made it out to Stroud's. This place has been featured on many a Food Network show, and for good reason. Stroud's is even the holder of a James Beard Award for American Classic/Comfort food. My boyfriend suggested that we give it a shot, finally, since we had just eaten at Julian last week and (being the wonderful, supportive, aspiring foodie that he is)thought that we keep the James Beard theme running. (I guess that means Michael Smith had better watch for us.) Gladly, I agreed.

I live in Shawnee Heights, so rather than going all the way up to the original location, we opted for the Stroud's on Shawnee Mission Parkway, which was only a 10 minute drive. The parking was a bit difficult, mostly because it was packed. I suppose that I shouldn't have been surprised that a Kansas City staple would be packed, even on a Tuesday, but we almost didn't go in. I figured that if the wait was more than 20 minutes, then we'd hit somewhere else, so we decided to go in and find out how long the wait was.

When we got out of the car, we found that the outer door wasn't actually a door at all, but a plastic "meat locker" curtain that led you to the entryway. When we got in, several tables were empty, and we were seated immediately. B was pretty surprised, but we later agreed that the parking was so few because of the many employees that worked there, combined with a small lot.

The interior was cozy without being kitsch, and the walls were adorned with family-style photos that one might find in your grandmother's house. There was also a lot of red gingham hanging out. Whatever. It's the Midwest, right? Go, gingham!

The managers pulled apart a larger table for us so that we could sit in a booth, and we were promptly greeted by our server. The bottoms of our water and iced tea glasses were never reached, and I must say that the service was, all in all, pretty darn good. The dinners came with appetizer, entree & sides, and a dessert of cinnamon rolls. B got the salad with ranch(like the true Midwestern man he is) and I got the chicken soup.
It was hot and yummy, perfect for a cold night.

The soup was good. No frills, no tra-la-la, no grease or slop...just a good, honest, simple bowl of chicken soup with dumpling-like noodles. I'd heard about the whole "chicken and dumplings" phenomenon in the middle of the country, but never really experienced it myself. B commented that the noodles looked like the kind his own mother used to make, so Stroud's gets a point for that. The herbs were dried herbs, and the salt level was perfect in the broth. I added a few dashes of tobasco, though, since I'm addicted to spice and acid in some form.

The prices seemed high, at first, for what we were getting(ultimately, fried chicken), but when I saw what it all entailed, I was honestly a little blown away. I had heard of the fabled "Stroud's family-style portion sizes" but I didn't think it would actually come with all of the sides in big fukken bowls that you stack around in the middle of the table to share. The gravy was thick, like my grandmother (my white Grandmother, not the Filipino one) makes, and was full of salty goodness. The green beans looked like they came out of a can, and the potatoes were so smooth it made me wonder if they were actually the instant mashed potato flakes that school cafeterias get. I'd actually be willing to bet money that it was, if I didn't get a tiny lump of potato chunk in a bite I took. To tell you the truth, though, I don't think I would mind the idea of the instant mashed potato flakes in a place like this, if they were using them.
I almost stood on the seat to get this shot, but ultimately opted against it.

I ordered the 3-piece chicken dinner while B had the Chicken-fried Chicken with gravy. The sides were obviously big enough to share, and there was so much leftover at the end of the meal. The chicken was a touch greasy and, disappointingly, the meat was under-seasoned, though deliciously moist. I wouldn't call it a spectacular fried chicken dish, but I wouldn't call it mediocre, either. The chicken, for which they were famous, was good. Just...good. Honest and good. I do now understand, however, what people mean when they say that they suck for leftovers: the somewhat greasy chicken isn't the best the day after...unless you know how to treat these kinds of leftovers properly, which means par-heating in the microwave and finishing in an uber-hot oven to get that crispy skin  back.

I wrote a piece titled 5 Comfort Food Spots in Kansas City and put Stroud's at the top of that list. I honestly did it as a bit of a risk, since I only knew it by reputation. Now that I've tasted the food, experienced the atmosphere, I must say that I still stand by my decision of putting it as my #1 choice for comfort food in Kansas City. This food is, honestly, exactly what I would imagine being the staple of the Midwestern diet, coming from a Southwestern/West Coast lifestyle. It is almost exactly what I expected in just about every way. It is, to me, a piece of Kansas City's culture, and I can understand why it received marks for "American Comfort Food". I understand why, now. I get it. It's just a good, no-frills, old-fashioned, family-style fried chicken place. It's tradition, family...it's the Midwest. I get it.
Stroud's on Urbanspoon
Just one word of advice to the ladies: don't wear your skinny jeans. Seriously. After all of the iced tea combined with the ridiculous amounts of food, I was about dying as I shuffled my way to the restroom. Just wear an empire-waist dress or your fat pants, and I wish you luck getting into the car.

Friday, October 3, 2014


Not to be confused with the Hostess snack, these Snowballs are completely homemade! (Or, rather, Housemade. Because, you know, I made them at work.)

The restaurant industry is a fascinating one, that cannot be contested. There are a million factors as to why a restaurant could fail, and one of these factors as far as losing money goes is over buying. What does that mean? It just means that you didn't quite keep the best track of your inventory, and you bought stuff when you do need to buy stuff. Now it's sitting on the shelf, not being sold, and therefore not making any money. I have a lot of the stuff on my rack at work. Things like almond paste and flaked coconut and ground oats. They're not saying that I can't use, but there's things that aren't on my menu. So, now, in an attempt to help out the restaurant, I have decided to turn to a childhood favorites: snowballs.

(Disclaimer: I have never eaten a hostess snowball in my life. When I was a kid, I pointed at one of the gas station once asked for my dad if I can have it, and he said "no, sweetheart, no food should be that pink." And that was the end of it. I never tried it. But I'm very familiar with them, as I would see them in the lunch pails of my friends at school growing up. And in various gas stations around the country.)

I had initially gotten the idea from Chef Elizabeth Falkner, a very famous pastry chef, whom I admire quite a bit. She's got this shop called Citizen Cake where she makes art out of cake. I don't know why, but it somehow inspired me to make a sexy version of that gas station childhood classic. So I googled what a snowball actually was: chocolate cake, marshmallow like fluffy stuff, pink coconut. Easy! So off I went.

The best ever chocolate cake recipe I have come across has got to be, hands down, the devil's food cake recipe from Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery Cookbook. It's a masterpiece. That cake brings me closer to God. (Spend $12 and get a little scale that reads grams. It's worth it.)

Devil's Food Cake
202 g AP flour
62 g cocoa powder (alkalized, please)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
Pinch of kosher salt
112 g eggs (cracked and strained, about 2)
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
172 g mayo
205 g water, at body temperature

Preheat the oven to 325 F, and prepare a sheet pan with parchment and pan spray.
Sift all of your dry ingredients together whisk in the salt. Set this on another sheet of parchment paper for later.

Put your eggs, sugar, and vanilla into the bowl of standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk to combine, and then for 2 minutes on medium speed. Scrape the bowl, then whip at medium high speed for about 5 minutes. Add the mayo and whisk to combine. Remove the bowl from the standing mixer and fold in the dry ingredients, alternating with the water, with two additions each using a spatula. For the batter into the prepared pan and, using an offset spatula, read it into an even layer making sure that it reaches into the corners. 10 minutes if using a sheet pan. You can also use muffin cups, but I can't give you time for that since every oven works a little differently. 10 minutes. It should be fine. But let cool completely before using/sculpting.

With this cake, cut circles using a cookie cutter and stack, using either marshmallow fluff or just melty, gooey marshmallows that you blitz in the microwave for a few seconds. But I would recommend just getting a big jar of marshmallow fluff and going to town on this, because you're also using it to "frost" the outside of your cakes and get the coconut to stick!

As for dyeing the coconuts flakes, I prefer the Wilton paste eyes. But invest in a pair of gloves. Because that stuff will stay in your hands like no other. I like Wiltons rose color for this particular application. I also use it in other cakes and frosting s. Wilton really does put out a great line of products as far as colors go. They last for a long time, and the colors are always really intense! Look at what they did to these cupcakes.

See? Totally perfect pink color, just in time for October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Thanks for reading and happy cooking! Post your results and request for new blog content in the comments below.

posted from Bloggeroid

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Main Street Coffeehouse

Choco-vanilla soy mocha
For those of you who know me, know that I love coffee. This shouldn't come as a surprise, since (I think I can say with utter confidence) nearly every Chef on the planet has some kind of vice. Mine happens to be caffeine. This can come in the form of coffee, coca cola, and/or chocolate. Has it got caffeine? Give it to me. Ideally, in an IV that I can just wheel around the kitchen while I'm peeling peaches or kneading bread dough. I get major headaches if I don't get my caffeine, right behind my eye, so when my BFF JJ asked me to come down to the Main Street Coffee House, the coffee shop she's been working at and check it out, I was totally down.

JJ and I have been friends since the very beginning of Culinary school. She was, in fact, one of the very first friends I acquired three years ago when I first moved to Kansas City. We're tight. Plus, she's having a baby right now, so I have got to cram in all the time I can with her before the little one comes along.Not that we won't be tight after the baby, mind you...but I'm not the most maternal woman on the planet. I mean, no offense to babies, but it's awkward when we lock eye contact.

Main Street Coffee House on Urbanspoon Anyway, JJ is having a little girl come this spring, and she and I are getting our friendship on before her little bundle of joy comes. JJ has been a barista for over ten years now, so if she's making coffee, then I can say for certain that it is going to be good. She knows how to run every machine under the sun, perfectly tamp that tamper-thingy, and make the shot of espresso with that elusive crema on top that says: "Hey, you did this right." This woman knows coffee like the back of her hand, and she, like a well-trained sommelier, can tell you every note of every flavor in every kind of roast she might taste. She also has a hyper-developed sense of smell since her pregnancy, kind of like the little rat from Ratatouille, and it's the best she can do since no caffeine can come in contact with her for awhile.
It's an espresso. I don't have a giant hand.

Walking into the cafe, which(if you couldn't tell by the title of this blog) is called Main Street Coffeehouse, you get that immediate warmth that all coffeehouses should have. Nice red walls, a decently-sized wooden stage for performances, a big blackboard with a menu written out in colorful chalk...you know, the kind of coffeehouses you see in movies. It also has these really cool black wrought iron(or at least it looks like) chandeliers that give this oddly-cool Spanish feel.

It also has a REALLY cool area out back to sit in!

It was slow-ish when I came in, so JJ put me in an apron and took me behind the counter to show me how the machines worked, little tricks and tips about espressos and the new coffees from the Roastarie that they'd received. For those of you whom are unaware, The Roastarie is this big, wonderful local coffee roasting company that serves for Kansas City. Generally speaking, if you have a signature coffee blend from the Roastarie, you've gotten an immediate thumbs up from the KC public. Here in Kansas City, we fancy ourselves localvores, and a signature blend is a good thing.

She made me several things, such as mochas, lattees, drip coffees and French pressed coffees...all from varying roasts. To be honest, they were well-executed, but the roasts themselves were decent-to-fair at best. They were honestly just a little too acidic for my tastes, and one of them kind of reminded me of that weird, soapy mouth-feel you get when you drink water from a glass that your dishwasher didn't rinse properly. I truthfully didn't care for the coffees themselves, but the coffee drinks were pretty darn good. The lattes had a firm foam, the mochas and signature drinks were not only well-executed but had a really good balance of heat, body, acid, and sweetness...so I was happy. And then came the food.

Room 39 on Urbanspoon
Room 39 is gooood!
Many coffeeshops shouldn't be thought of as restaurants, and we should all just accept that. A coffee house should serve coffee and pastries, and just concentrate on that. Heck, I'm at Room 39 right now, and that's a cafe/restaurant that just happens to serve coffee and pastries, but they're still awesome and accomodating enough to let me type away at the end of the counter like a madwoman, using up their WiFi like any other coffeeshop would do. (Seriously, though, they're really cool there and I highly recommend them. All of the food that's gone out of the kitchen looks consistent and they make a pretty darn good soy mocha. Plus they let me plug in my laptop into the outlet behind the counter so that's a big thumbs up. Check them out if you're ever in the Westport area.) But Main Street Coffee House is just that: a coffeehouse. They make all of their pastries in an offsite location(technically, that may not be 'in-house', though it is claimed to be), and all from the same woman who makes pastries locally for the area. Here's where I'm going to get annoying and entitled and technical. Strap in.

Roast beef bagel sandwich
I was honestly starving when I got one of their bagel sandwiches(roast beef and horseradish), so it tasted amazing on the first bite. When hunger wore off, I began to see a few technical flaws. First off, it was just straight, raw horseradish spread on the bagel, so that was overwhelming to start with. The onions were unevenly cut white onions(whereas red would have been better), and the lettuce I got was pretty, but the storage of the lettuce and the quality I had seen of it was kind of sketchy, in my book. Granted, it was a teeny-tiny fridge under the counter, and I know it was probably just the best they could come up with, but I think one should strive for perfection if you're going to serve food.

The bagels were decently well-made, and consistent. The pastries were pretty-darn poorly displayed and tucked away behind a too-tall magazine, though, and mislabeled. I was able to sit down with one of the managers and asked about why they had labeled a muffin as a cupcake, and why--in Gods' name--was there misshapen pipette of frosting on a  pumpkin muffin with a random Brach's pumpkin candy on top. He had said that it was a combination of the pastry person's doing, and that people like cupcakes. Here's the thing, though:

A cupcake and a muffin are two entirely different things. A muffin is a quickbread. A cupcake is a cake. A freaking cake. HUGE difference! They're not only made differently, but the ratios of ingredients are totally not interchangeable. This is a huge annoyance with me, especially after spending so much time learning the differences while in school. One could argue: "Hey, the general public doesn't care." Well, they should care. They should care what they're putting into their body, and they should have the right to know that what they're eating isn't a cupcake, but a muffin with frosting(ugh) on top. It's a muffin, guys. Put some struesel on it and call it good.
Cafe! Ole! (Haha, no seriously, though, it's au lait.)

The cafe au laits(a coffee-free steamed milk drink) were super-tasty, and JJ (along with the other staff) like to make signature flavors. The one she had come up with on that particular day was called a Hayride. It was a pumpkin caramel-y cider-y tasty thing that was so good I asked for another one to go.

The menu on coffee was well-rounded, and had a really large variety of cleanly-presented flavors and syrups to choose from. The food menu was kind of jumbled together with a few mistakes that only working culinary professionals might notice, but I don't think that your average joe would really care about the menu size or weirdly inconsistent menu names. In the midst of the bagel sandwiches called "roast beef" and "hummus and cucumber" was randomly "the Da Vinci Code", and under the sandwich menu was a whole section of varying peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. One was called "The Elvis" which featured "peanut butter, banana, fluff(marshmallow?), bacon, and no jelly, and the Nutty Nutella was just peanut butter, peanuts, and Nutella, no jelly. It's really anal and kind of annoying, I realize, but why advertise a section of signature PB&Js if they're not going to have jelly on them?

Menu was okay, but could have been cleaner...
I couldn't speak for the customer service without being biased on that day, since I've known the acting barista for over three years now and she's one of my best friends. The other barista on duty(who, apparently, was a manager there, too) seemed like a nice enough guy, but I overheard a few things he was saying to the customers that honestly just sounded like he was pulling random answers out of his ass. There's no shame in saying 'I'm not sure, let me check,' and I just don't know if he seemed like 'manager material,' to me. I had since been back a few times to just kind of check in without JJ knowing, and the other employees were pretty nice, as people go, but as baristas? I could take them or leave them. Not horrible, not exceptional...normal, I guess.

All in all, the Main Street Coffee House rates as "Not bad at all." I wouldn't go out of my way for it, but I certainly wouldn't call it anything dreadfully special. I give it a 7 out of 10. It marks fairly high on decor, pretty darn well on coffee drinks, medium-ish marks on coffee choices itself, and not-so-hot on food and pastries...mediocre, I would say. So just go for the coffee. The espresso is good, the mixed drinks are good, and all the menu really needs are a few tweaks here and there to turn mediocrity into something better: good food. There's nothing stopping this place from becoming something amazing. Change the menu, tighten some things up, get a better roast blend...little things.

Will I go again? Sure, to see JJ and maybe pick up another mocha. But I won't be back for any food.