Around the BLOCK

Tomato and Basil Pizza

Written By: admin - Aug• 31•15

Just as I enjoy making bread, I love making pizza at home. Because I don’t have an oven that heats to 800 degrees, I typically grill my pizza. My favorite time for pizza making is in the summer when I can top it with fresh tomatoes and basil.pizza dough

I have always wanted to go to Roberta’s in Brooklyn for pizza, so when I saw a recipe for  the restaurant’s pizza dough, I decided to give it a try. It’s quite easy to make, and uses a combination of all-purpose and 00 flour. Rather than using a mixmaster, I kneaded the dough by hand and then let it rise in the refrigerator overnight. The dough was very easy to work with and I had no trouble shaping it.IMG_3700

One of my combination of toppings is pesto, mozzarella and fresh tomatoes, the latter added after the pizza comes off the grill. IMG_3705IMG_3710I’d rather have the tomatoes at room temp than hot. Just so I could get my greens, I finished the pizza with a handful or arugula, torn basil leaves, olive oil, salt and pepper. From garden to plate, nothing finer.

Tomato Time

Written By: Mary Bloch - Aug• 20•15

Time for a repost of what was one of the first stories I wrote. It was originally published in 2007.

Heinz seems proud to boast of 57 varieties of ketchup, but did you realize that there are actually 10,000 varieties of tomatoes? My favorite is the Sungold, a tiny, orange sphere of heaven. Popping them in my mouth like grapes, they burst with summer and a profound sweetness not found in common cherry red tomatoes. While most recipe books and magazines focus on large, beefy tomatoes, which now grow in a myriad of colors and sizes, the cherry tomato always seems to be the less favored relative. The month of August is the perfect time to pay homage to these little jewels.Sungold tomatoes

No matter the size or the type of tomato, there is one unwavering rule — NEVER put any of them in the refrigerator. Storing a tomato under 55 degrees will zap its flavor. If you have a big batch and they are going to rot, eat them quickly. Make a tomato sauce, salsa or gazpacho. Give them away to your friends or neighbors. Just DO NOT put them in the refrigerator.

To make a cherry tomato even sweeter, try drying them in the oven to imitate the sun-dried version found in the store. Cut in half, (horizontally, not through the stem), put each half side by side on a cookie sheet, and roast in a 200-degree oven for 5-6 hours, or until dried (but not completely shriveled). It takes twenty pounds of fresh tomatoes to make one pound of oven-dried tomatoes, but even having a few on hand to throw into pastas or salads makes it worth the effort.oven-dried tomatoes

For a luncheon or light supper, put together an orzo salad with mint, basil, feta, olives, cherry tomatoes, and scallions (add shrimp for a complete meal). Toss with a light red wine vinaigrette or, to dress it up, make a Kalmata olive vinaigrette.

An old favorite among the Silver Palate crowd, the tomato and Brie pasta dish is a winner, exploding with an array of flavors on the tongue, from the soft, melted texture of the cheese to the powerful bite of the raw garlic. The earlier in the day you make the sauce, the deeper and more flavorful the result. Chop lots of garlic (8 cloves is not too many!) and three to four shallots and put them in a big serving bowl. Add a cup of olive oil, cover with saran wrap and set aside. An hour or so before you want to eat, halve dozens of cherry tomatoes and add them to the bowl along with oven dried tomatoes, torn basil leaves and bite-sized pieces of Brie cheese. At dinnertime, cook a batch of your favorite pasta (I like to use cavatappi (corkscrew), farfalle (bowtie), or linguini) and, after draining, toss with the room-temperature sauce. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan at the table.Pasta with tomatoes, basil and brie

For a striking presentation, spread a variety of heirloom tomato slices (yellow, orange and purple, not just red) on a platter, sprinkle with cut cherry tomatoes, goat or blue cheese crumbles and leaves of basil (a common theme at this time of year). Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and oil and season with salt and pepper.

Bruschetta is a terrific party food and it’s fun to offer your guests a choice. (When their mouths are full, it won’t even matter if they don’t know the proper Italian pronunciation of this appetizer.) Toast or grill slices of pain de campagne (Farm to Market makes a French Farm bread that works beautifully and is available in most grocery stores) that have been brushed with olive oil. Top with olives, feta and oven-roasted tomatoes. Or try one with pesto and fresh mozzarella. Warm in a 350-degree oven until the cheese melts, and add cherry tomatoes on top before serving.tomato bruschetta

The best way to eat a cherry tomato is, of course, “straight up”, freshly picked from the vine and warmed by the sun. If one isn’t enough, which it certainly isn’t for me, try one of the other 10,000 varieties!

Food Facts

Though typically thought of as a vegetable, the tomato is botanically a member of the fruit family. However, in 1893, as vegetables and fruits were subject to different import duties, the Supreme Court was asked to rule on the tomato’s classification. Because the tomato was commonly eaten as a vegetable, the Court unanimously decided to give it that designation. (This was undoubtedly one of the juiciest decisions in the Court’s history.)

Tomatoes, which are consumed in higher quantities than any other vegetable or fruit in the United States, are high in vitamin C and also provide beta-carotene. Studies have shown an association between consuming a diet rich in tomato-based foods and a decreased risk of cancer and heart disease, possibly due to the presence of large amounts of an antioxidant called lycopene (watemelon is another good source of lycopene).

An average tomato has 35 calories, 2g of protein and 8 carbohydrates, no cholesterol, less than a gram of fat and 12 mg of calcium. A fresh tomato is 93% water and 100% summer, so enjoy this seasonal treat all month long!

 

Novel restaurant–Special Sunday evening Tasting Menu

Written By: Mary Bloch - Aug• 10•15

IMG_0125 (1)I’ve been saying to anyone who will listen that Kansas City is becoming one of the country’s great food cities. We don’t have the volume of restaurants that one finds on either coast, but we have some very talented chefs who are offering up incredibly creative and exciting fare. My recent dinner in the kitchen of Novel, with Chefs Ryan Brazeal and Jessica Armstrong reaffirms that belief.

Chef Ryan and General Manager Richard Garcia have started offering a special 18 course tasting menu once a month, on Sunday evenings when the restaurant is typically closed. A table is set up in the kitchen, and ten lucky people get to watch the chef meticulously prepare every course. Once each diner is served, Ryan gives a short description of what is on the plate and how it was conceived. Almost all ingredients are locally sourced, and a nod is given to each grower. Richard pairs each course with a beer or wine selection, all of which you can count on being conversation starters.IMG_3797 (1)

Aside from the complex flavors, textures and stunning creativity, what impressed me the most about the evening was how incredibly organized it was. With so many courses to plate and serve, there could have been a long lag between them, but there was a lovely flow to the evening from start to finish. Everyone was served at the same time, the pace of the dishes was perfect, clean wine glasses arrived in a timely fashion, our water glasses were never empty, and there was a general calm in the kitchen that was quite extraordinary.

Here’s a photographic lineup of each dish. Feast your eyes and then get yourself on Novel’s mailing list so you, too, can sign up and participate in one of these incredible dinners.

Potato chip, lardo and chive

Potato chip, lardo and chive

IMG_3799 (1)

Chicken skin, foie gras, kale chip

Corn soup, lobster gelée, wasabi, hijiki

Corn soup, lobster gelée, wasabi, hijiki

Hamachi, ponzu, caviar and oxalis

Hamachi, ponzu, caviar and oxalis

Roast turnip, turnip ash and XO aioli

Roast turnip, turnip ash and XO aioli

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Fairytale eggplant, miso, red pepper, rice puff

IMG_3804

Grilled zucchini, smoked ricotta, rice puff

tomato ceviche, red onion, cilantro

tomato ceviche, red onion, cilantro

Quail egg, romaine and anchovy

Quail egg, romaine and anchovy

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Salt Cod, lamb chili, malt vinegar

Oyster mushroom, ginger scallion, radish

Poached salmon, black bean and celery leaf

Poached salmon, black bean and celery leaf

Panzanella with short rib, green tomato and sherry

Dry aged Duroc Pork, lemongrass and pork belly

Dry aged Duroc Pork, lemongrass and pork belly

Oxtail soup with tamarind and herbs

Oxtail soup with tamarind and herbs

Dark Chocolate, peach leaf and coconut

Dark Chocolate, peach leaf and coconut

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Watermelon, mescal, basil

Corn pudding, beet, lime and blackberry

Corn pudding, beet, lime and blackberry

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Buckwheat chip, Prairie Tomme, chive

 

 

 

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Sakae Sushi

Written By: Mary Bloch - Jul• 27•15

We recently went with some friends to Sakae Sushi, a sushi restaurant tucked away in an unassuming strip center in Parkville.  Despite us all living near the Plaza, glowing reviews of the place were enticing enough to make the drive.

I knew before venturing north that the restaurant’s ambiance is an afterthought and, since I’m all about the food anyway, that was not a deterrent. Walking in to the restaurant and seeing the sushi bar front and center, it’s clear that is the focus of Chef Peter’s attention and the reason for the restaurant’s numerous accolades.Sakae SushiSakae Sushi

With six  hungry table mates, we were able to sample all of the evening’s specials as well as a handful of signature maki rolls, all of which were photo-worthy. But aside from being visually stunning, what set this sushi apart from other local sushi restaurants was the unique and creative flavor pairings. Tuna and orange, salmon and lemon, to name two. Perhaps those don’t seem that special, but on the tongue they were delightfully different.

It’s almost a sin to dip each bite into soy sauce. The fish is so fresh and flavorful that it needs no adornment. In fact, next time I want to try a Sashimi platter just so I can experience the incredible fish as a standalone.

My recommendations? Spicy Salmon Bites, Sizzling Salmon, Hamachi Jalapeno, Lemon Drop, Florida and the Yellowtail Mexicano. This is definitely a place to be adventurous; you can get a California roll at your neighborhood grocery store…Spicy Salmon Bites--Sakae SushiSizzling SalmonFlorida roll--Sakae SushiBlacken Tuna--Sakae Sushi

While acclaimed for its sushi, those who prefer more traditional Asian fare will find crab rangoon, fried rice and many cooked entrées.

Road trip anyone?

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Auction Napa Valley

Written By: Mary Bloch - Jun• 23•15

I fully subscribe to the axiom that life is too short to drink bad wine. “Bad” is, of course, a subjective term and certainly subject to financial considerations. But one foolproof way to drink really good wine is to go to the Napa Valley wine auction, which I was fortunate to do at the beginning of the month.

Meadowood resort

Meadowood resort

To say it’s a four-day party is like saying Donald Trump tends to exaggerate. For wine and food lovers, Auction Napa Valley is an over-the-top, liver-damaging, scale-busting extravaganza. From the Thursday evening Welcome Parties to the Farewell Brunch and Open Houses on Sunday, the only break in the action was to sleep or work out in preparation for the next event.

Surprisingly, my least favorite activity was the auction itself. Since we weren’t going to spend $250,000 or more on a lot (some of which went for as high as $800,000), it did drag on through the afternoon, though a surprise visit by John Legend provided a jolt of excitement. The auction was sandwiched in between a market-style lunch, with food provided by Michael Chiarello and a banquet dinner orchestrated by Chef Pierre Gagnaire of France and produced by the Meadowood kitchen. Both meals were well-executed though unremarkable.

lunch before the auction

lunch before the auction

John Legend, Auction Napa Valley

John Legend, Auction Napa Valley

Ready for dinner after the auction

Ready for dinner after the auction

The star of the weekend was the Barrel Auction, which this year was held at Hall Winery in their gleaming new facility. More than 100 vintners bring a barrel of an unreleased wine for guests to taste and then bid on to secure a case once the wine is bottled. It’s all handled by mobile bidding, with TV screens to follow the action. If you get bumped from the top ten, the only way to re-enter the bidding is to outbid the person in the #1 position. Bidding lasts all afternoon, and it becomes a game to try to be one of the last of the top 10 bidders to win a case, rather than ending up at the top of the list where the case will cost more.

Barrel Auction

Barrel Auction

Barrel Auction

Barrel Auction

In addition to the barrel tasting and auction, guests can wander the grounds of the winery and enjoy food from top Napa restaurants while sampling even more wine. After three hours of alternately lining our stomachs with food and tasting wines that we had never before had the opportunity to try, we cried “Uncle” and headed back to the hotel for a nap so we could enjoy the Vintner-hosted dinner at Pride Mountain to which we had been assigned.

Food station at the Barrel Auction.

Food station at the Barrel Auction.

food station at the Barrel Auction.

food station at the Barrel Auction.

Redd Wood pizzas at the Barrel Auction.

Redd Wood pizzas at the Barrel Auction.

Dessert station at the Barrel Auction.

Dessert station at the Barrel Auction.

Barrel Auction at Hall Winery

Barrel Auction at Hall Winery

Barrel Auction at Hall Winery

Barrel Auction at Hall Winery

Though I love Pride Mountain wine, I’d never before visited the vineyard, in part because it’s at the top of a long and winding road up Spring Mountain. Half of the vineyard is in Sonoma County and half is in Napa Valley, which makes it somewhat of a novelty. It was worth the drive to experience the view from on high. The dinner that night was in the Summit Room which opens up onto a beautiful terrace that allowed us to take in the stunning vistas. With our multi-course dinner we sipped on the full array of fine wines Pride offers, and even took a tour of the cave between courses.

Pride Mountain dinner

Pride Mountain dinner

Vintner Hosted Dinner at Pride Mountain

The night before we went to the St. Supéry vineyard for a Welcome Party. We sat below a huge old tree in front of a beautiful Victorian house, and enjoyed a lovely meal with wine pairings. The fun continued with live music and dancing.

St. Supéry

St. Supéry

Quintessa Farewell Brunch

On the last day we went to a farewell brunch at Quintessa Vineyard, where we had breakfast tacos from a food truck, pizza from Redd Wood’s mobile pizza oven, and freshly picked fruit from Quintessa’s garden and orchard.

Farewell Brunch at Quintessa

Farewell Brunch at Quintessa

As if that wasn’t enough, we headed over to Alpha Omega to one of the Sunday Open Houses, where we enjoyed a tasting of Alpha Omega wines and had some Kansas City-style barbecue from the winery’s owner, who happens to be a certified Kansas City BBQ judge.

Open House at Alpha Omega

Open House at Alpha Omega

We never saw a cloud the entire time we were in Napa, which made the whole experience that much more special.

Would I do it again? Absolutely… next year!

China Chilcano, Washington, DC

Written By: Mary Bloch - May• 12•15

I’m a fan of José Andrés, and have consistently enjoyed exciting and unique fare at all of his restaurants. I remember when I first went to Oyamel (Mexican) and Jaleo (Spanish) and was so impressed with the quality of the fare, and then Zaytinya (Mediterranean), where I was blown away by the creativity and execution. Andrés continues to up his game, as evidenced by China Poblano in Las Vegas(Mexican and Chinese) and now China Chilcano (Peruvian, Chinese and Japanese).IMG_3144_2

China Chilcano is new enough on the scene that we were not able to land dinner reservations, but many of the same dishes offered in the evening are available during lunch. And what a cheery place to start the day! The decor is eye-popping and the sun streamed in the windows, necessitating the donning of sunglasses.IMG_3117

This is definitely the kind of place to go with a group that likes to share. Four of us ordered ten or so dishes and passed them around the table for all to enjoy.

The breadth of the menu was a bit overwhelming, but our server did a great job of walking us through it and offering suggestions as to how to maximize our dining experience.  Accordingly, we ordered at least one dish from each of the various sections so we could enjoy all of the different cooking techniques employed in the kitchen.

Here’s a visual rundown of what we ate:

China Chilcano

California: Potato causa, jumbo lump crab, tobiko, spicy mayo, cucumber, avocado, huancaína sauce

China Chilcano

Sánguche de Chancho Nipón Fried pork belly (Heritage Farm, Silver Spring, NC), fried lotus steam bun, pickled daikon, sweet potato, miso, ají limo, hoisin sauce

China Chilcano

Tam Tam Hand-cut wheat noodle, spicy pork, peanut, ají panca

China Chilcano

HaKao Steamed glass dumpling, shrimp, pork, soy sauce-rocoto

China Chilcano

Peruvian street barbecue Chicken thigh, potato

China Chilcano

Aeropuerto Fried rice, egg noodle, crisp sweet potato, 20 vegetables, soy sprout, “airplanes

China Chilcano

Concolón Crispy fried rice pot, pork belly (Heritage Farm, Silver Spring, NC), Nikkei broth, pickled turnip, egg, lap chong sausage, shiitake mushroom, bok choy, chi-racha

IMG_3132_2 IMG_3127_2Every bite was a revelation. When  the parade of plates had stopped, we seriously contemplated ordering more, not because we were still hungry; we certainly were not, but rather because we wanted to keep exploring the offerings. We will definitely be back.

China ChilcanoChina Chilcano on Urbanspoon

Bloch wine

Written By: Mary Bloch - Apr• 26•15

 

Bloch wine

A number of people have asked where Bloch wine can be purchased in Kansas City. It can be found at the following restaurants:

Cafe Europa
Cafe Sebastienne
Cleaver & Cork
The Farmhouse
Justus Drugstore
Michael Smith/Extra Virgin
The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange
Room 39
The Sundry
Webster House

Wine shops carrying Bloch wine are:

Cellar Rat
Underdog Wine Shop

For those of you who have not yet tried it, Bloch wine is a Cabernet Franc blend produced by Amigoni Urban Winery, using grapes from our tiny vineyard in Pleasant Hill, MO. All proceeds benefit local non-profit organizations. Buy a bottle and let me know what you think!

 

My Dinner with Ferran Adrià

Written By: Mary Bloch - Mar• 31•15

Okay, so he wasn’t at my table. But I was fortunate to be a part of a dinner for 30 in Chef Ferran Adrià’s honor at the Nelson-Atkins Museum on Monday evening. (If you don’t know who he is, Google “el Bulli”. Suffice to say, many consider Adrià to be the world’s great chef.) It was held in the Cloisters, a very intimate and beautiful room that provided the perfect backdrop for a memorable evening.Mary Bloch and Ferran Adrià

Ten great Kansas City chefs, all in one room, came together to prepare dinner for a master. They outdid themselves and made our city proud. From start to finish the meal was exquisite and the service flawless. Each chef was responsible for creating one dish, and a “Who’s Who” of Kansas City sommeliers did the wine pairings.  The restaurateurs brought their general managers, top servers, and sommeliers to make sure the evening went without a hitch. The amount of talent in Rozelle Court where the staging took place was unlike anything that has occurred in KC’s culinary history, and watching each chef pitch in to help execute the meal course-by-course was a sight to behold. It was also exciting to see that the chefs sourced their ingredients from local farmers.

Jonathan Pye of the Nelson started us off with White and Green Asparagus, Pickled Asparagus Coins, Speck, Preserved Egg Yolk, Citrus Chevre and Chorizo Lace, which was paired with Moet and Chandon Imperial Brut. It looked like a painting.

White and Green Asparagus, Pickled Asparagus coins, smoky preserved egg yolk, citrus chevre, chorizo oil, tangerine lace

White and Green Asparagus, Pickled Asparagus coins, smoky preserved egg yolk, citrus chevre, chorizo oil, tangerine lace

Course Two was the responsibility of Michael Corvino of The American, and he scored with a beautiful dish of King Crab, Chicken Liver, Turnip, Nasturtium, served with a delightful 2012 Brut Rosé from Sotor Vineyard in Oregon. To say it was luscious is an understatement.

King Crab, Chicken Liver, Turnip, Nasturtium

King Crab, Chicken Liver, Turnip, Nasturtium

Michael Smith’s Course Three was a ceviche that played more like a crudo, with different tunas binded together and sliced to create a stunning presentation. It was topped with caviar and served with a chimichurri that was sublime. The 2013 Lagar da Condesa Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain that accompanied it was a revelation to me, as it isn’t typically a wine I seek out, but it was lovely with the fish.Course 3-Hamachi and Big Eye Tuna Ceviche, Ossetra Caviar, City Bitty Cilantro

Jennifer Maloney of Café Sebastienne  made a colorful coconut ginger broth. While it sounded simple on the menu, each spoonful was silky and the flavors were beautifully harmonious. There was even an edible flower with a button of a soft sheep’s milk cheese substituting for the pistil. The 2012 Navarro Gewurztraminer that was paired with it had floral notes and a dry finish to set off the spices in the broth.

Coconut Ginger Broth, Spring Greens and Pickled Mango

Coconut Ginger Broth, Spring Greens and Pickled Mango

Tad Habiger of Room 39 was in charge of Course Five, making a light and lovely Spinach and Fresh Cheese Gnudi with Lamb Pancetta. The crunch of the pancetta was the perfect counterpoint to the softness of the gnudi. Thje dish was paired with a 2011 Henry Fessy Chateau de Reyssiers Beaujolais Régnié, a light red wine.

Spinach and Fresh Cheese Gnudi, Lamb Pancetta, Sunflower

Spinach and Fresh Cheese Gnudi, Lamb Pancetta, Sunflower

For Course Six Debbie Gold served a Coddle Duck Egg, Sunchoke and Chocolate Coffee Crumble, a very dramatic dish that was the topic of much conversation. We were instructed to break the yolk by using a baby spoon and pushing it all the way to the bottom of the shell to ensure that we had the full onslaught of flavors in every bite. A stunning 2103 Domaine de la Reserve d’O “Bilbo”, St. Saturnin, Languedoc, France cut the richnes of the dish.

Coddled Duck Egg, Sunchoke, Chocolate Coffee Crumble

Coddled Duck Egg, Sunchoke, Chocolate Coffee Crumble

Carl Thorne- Thomsen of Story presented us with a simple, yet elegant fish for Course Seven. Wild King Salmon with Carrots and Radishes was paired with one of my new favorite Pinot Noir producers. It was a 2012 Anthill Farms Comptche Ridge Pinot Noir and it was the ideal pairing for the light salmon dish.Course 7--Wild King Salmon, Carrots, Radishes

Course Eight was under the purview of Howard Hanna of  the Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, and knowing his affinity for rabbit, it was no surprise to see his Smoked Rabbit and Dumplings with Spring Vegetables and Fines Herbs. Each cylinder of rabbit was wrapped in bacon, and adorable little dumplings were tucked in around them. The 2010 La Spinetta, Langhe Nebbiolo, Piedmont, Italy played nicely with the smokiness of the dish, but was very enjoyable on its own as well.

Smoked Rabbit and Dumplings, Spring Vegetables

Smoked Rabbit and Dumplings, Spring Vegetables

By the time it was time for  Ryan Brazeal’s Course Nine, we were all slowing down a bit. But who could resist Beef Sirloin, Short Rib Lemongrass Braise and Rice Noodles? The distinct Thai flavors that the short rib had been braised with shone through, and the 2009 Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Tuscany, Italy, was strong enough to stand up to their intensity.

Beef Sirloin, Short Rib Lemongrass Braise, Rice noodles

Beef Sirloin, Short Rib Lemongrass Braise, Rice noodles

Around 10:30 pm, we were served Course Ten, and though it was getting late I was sorry to see the evening winding down. Megan Garrelts, employing Chef Colby as her sous-chef gave us her interpretation of Creme Caramel, and though it was almost too pretty to touch, none of us could reist. The Creme Caramel,  Rhubarb, White Sesame, Lemon, Strawberry and Thyme was paired with a not-too-sweet dessert wine, the 2005 Isole e Olena, Vin Santo del Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy.

Crème Caramel, Rhubarb, White Sesame, Lemon, Strawberry, Thyme

Crème Caramel, Rhubarb, White Sesame, Lemon, Strawberry, Thyme

We concluded the meal with Petit Fours in Cocoa, but we weren’t finished indulging. Ryan Maybee of Manifesto and The Rieger had concocted a Digestivo, A Sevilla Stout. It was distinctly layered with Bitter Coffee Cordial, Vanilla & Spices, Anis del Mono and Cream. Strong yet comforting.

Sevilla Stout: Bitter Coffee Cordial, Vanilla & Spices, Anis del Mono, Cream

Sevilla Stout: Bitter Coffee Cordial, Vanilla & Spices, Anis del Mono, Cream

The wine pairings were every bit as memorable as the dishes themselves, as they elevated the cuisine to a higher level and were spot on. A shout out to those who made the wine selections:

Stephen Blackmon, general manager, American Dining Concepts at the Nelson-Atkins

Ross Jackson, wine director, The American Restaurant

Ryan Sciara, Underdog  Wine Co.

Dean Smith, general manager, Café Sebastienne

Kathy Rohlfing, general manager/sommelier, Room 39

Jeff Thrall, general manager, Story

Tony Glamcevski, general manager/partner, The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange

Richard Garcia, general manager, Novel

Jeremy Lamb, general manager/sommelier, bluestem/Rye

If I had all the servers’ names, I’d list them, too. Their professionalism and skill was very much appreciated.P1030194

It was obvious that Chef Adrià was extremely impressed and delighted by the high level of quality and execution that was on display through the entire evening. I have to believe that being at a table with all Spanish speakers allowed him to relax and revel in the entire experience, rather than having to speak through an interpreter throughout the dinner.

I have been fortunate to have been able to enjoy some pretty incredible culinary adventures in my life, but this was undoubtedly one of the finest and most memorable. It was certainly enhanced by the fact that it occurred in my hometown, but what made it more meaningful was that the professionals who orchestrated and executed this huge undertaking are people that I know, admire and respect.

San Miguel de Allende–Part 2

Written By: Mary Bloch - Mar• 19•15

I wanted to follow up my first post on San Miguel with a description of our most memorable meal there. Though most evenings we either had tapas on rooftop bars or simple Mexican fare, one night we decided to splurge at one of the many upscale restaurants serving more international fare.

After much research, we settled on Aperi, in the Dos Casas hotel. Chef Matteo Salas is at the helm and is a lovely, warm man. We met him one afternoon when we stopped by to make a reservation and he explained the concept. Born in Italy, he has staged all over the world, including with Paul Bocuse.Chef Matteo in the kitchen at Aperi

The a la carte menu is available each afternoon (except Tuesdays). There’s also a tasting menu which is only available during the 6:30 seating. The real joy at that hour, however, is the opportunity to sit at the kitchen table to watch Chef Matteo and his staff cook, and have them serve the four people lucky enough to be seated at the huge marble island that dominates the room. Reservations in the kitchen are booked three to four weeks out, so we were out of luck on that score, but we did get a table in the main restaurant, which has an intimate dining area inside, as well as patio seating.Aperi

We ordered the tasting menu with wine pairings, a steal at $100 per person for 7 nice-sized portions. We enjoyed foie gras, ceviche, squid, pork belly, salmon, a chocolate dessert and an almond dessert, all of which were beautifully presented and had an amazing array of textures and flavors. Matteo was very attentive and checked on us many times during the evening, both to explain each dish and to see if we were pleased.foie gras at Apericeviche--Aperisquid--AperiSalmon at Aperismoked pork belly--Aperipig at Aperichocolate dessert--Aperichocolate dessert at Aperi

My husband (who typically does not go in for this kind of meal) and I were blown away by the food and the entire experience. I asked the chef if he had thought about opening a restaurant in the states and he said he has been asked that question often. It was clear that he has considered it, because he responded that if he opened a restaurant in NYC, he’d fly back and forth rather than moving to the U.S. He could command higher prices and quite a bit of fame, but for now he’s mostly known in Mexico. I suspect his days at the Dos Casas hotel are numbered, as more people experience his food and he gets the itch to make his mark.

Cleaver & Cork

Written By: Mary Bloch - Mar• 11•15

There’s a new kid on the Block, Cleaver & Cork. And that Block is KC Live in the Power & Light District. FINALLY!  Aside from BRGR, the district is populated with chain restaurants or those owned by a national outfit. Yes, technically Cleaver & Cork is owned by an affiliate of the Cordish Companies, but it is being independently run by a team of local hotshots. Alex Pope of Local Pig is the culinary director, and he has brought in Chef Andrew Heimburger, previously at Pigwich and Local Pig, to helm the kitchen. Eric Willey, former GM at Bluestem, is managing partner and oversees Cleaver & Cork’s wine list. Rounding out the dream team is Andrew Olson, former bartender at the Rieger, who is the man in charge of cocktails.The three amigos at Cleaver and Cork

Situated in the former Maker’s Mark space, the meat-centic restaurant has been completely renovated. Reclaimed wood from a barn in Kansas is used to great effect, and old logging skids show up as chandeliers to evoke meat hooks. The soft colors make for a soothing look, but with all the hard surfaces, a beautiful long bar and a great patio space adjacent to KC Live, the vibe promises to be anything but sedate.Cleaver and Cork

Alex Pope is a talented guy, and he brings the same creativity to this menu as he has to his previous ventures.  Pork jowl with fried grits and roasted jalapeno, Cheese Curds and Pickles, Local Pig sausage soup, Oyster Mushroom salad with chipotle vinaigrette, and Zucchini Fritters with fresh ricotta and citrus jam get diners off to an adventurous start, though there are definitely more tame options available.

Local Pig Sausage soup at Cleaver & Corkzucchini fritters at Cleaver and Corkpork jowl--Cleaver & Cork

Entreés include several pastas, fish and seafood selections (including a perfectly cooked Salmon with Fennel Risotto as a colorful counterpoint), as well as a Fried Pork Chop with heirloom white beans, Pork Osso Bucco, Smoked Ribeye and BBQ pork shoulder, to name a few of the meat dishes.

Pork Osso BuccoSalmon at Cleaver & CorkDon’t even think about skipping dessert while you’re there. The Smoked Creme Brulee is a winner, as is Chef Andrew’s take on my hometown gooey butter cake. The Pecan Butter Cake is a less rich version, allowing room to enjoy the bourbon ice cream and salted caramel that accompanies it.

smoked creme brulee and a ValentinoPecan butter cake at Cleaver & Cork

It’s clear that Cleaver & Cork is also serious about its Happy Hour, with great deals on beer, wine and cocktails from 4- 7 pm on weeknights. And many menu items, including one of the best burgers in town, are 1/2 priced.

Burger at Cleaver & CorkWith Big 12 tournament action and a beautiful forecast, make the time to check out Cleaver & Cork this weekend. But unlike most restaurants in the P&L District, this is a destination all its own regardless of what’s going down at the Sprint Center or elsewhere downtown. If, as I suspect it will be, Cleaver & Cork is a success, I’m hoping Cordish is paying attention and will consider replacing some of the not-so-great chains with more local flavor.

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