In honor of Dario’s visit to Kansas City this week, I’m reprinting this article. Do yourself a favor and book a dinner with him at Michael Smith while he’s here!
If you are in Tuscany, make whatever detour necessary to get to Panzano. A tiny town in the middle of Chianti, it’s home to a world-renowned butcher–Dario Cecchini.
Dario ought to be in the movies. He’s a huge presence; full of charisma and warmth, holding court as he does from behind the counter. Walking into the shop, a staff member immediately greets customers and offers up a glass of house Chianti. He then points to a long table laden with a lovely spread of antipasto–cheese, lardo on toast, salami and fettunata (grilled bread drenched in olive oil.) It may have been 10 am when we visited, but we happily sampled their offerings.
I had read quite a bit about Dario before our trip. He’s been featured in several national magazines and the New York Times. He’d also participated in a special dinner at Michael Smith a few years ago, and Michael suggested I look him up and use his name. The minute I mentioned Michael’s name, Dario broke out into a huge grin and yelled that his wife should come out to say hello. He urged us to eat, eat, eat, and quickly cut up some chunks of the most gorgeous porchetta I’ve ever seen. He spooned some red pepper jam onto a plate, stuck toothpicks in the bite-sized pieces of pork and gestured to us to please sample it. It tasted as good as it looked, which isn’t always the case with porchetta. This was moist, tender, meaty and, except for the outer ring, not at all fatty. The jam, which I’d had before because my nephew brought me a jar after visiting Dario a couple of years ago, was the perfect condiment.
We bought a hunk of porchetta to take back to our rental house and, of course, a jar of that pepper jam. Dario asked us to stay for lunch at his restaurant next door, but since it’s an all meat affair (he does run a butcher after all) and we had too many non-meat eaters in the group, we regretfully declined. It undoubtedly would have been a lively experience and I’m sorry we didn’t stay no matter the fare.
There are actually two butchers in Panzano. The other one is in the old section of town, but ask anyone for Dario’s shop and they can direct you to his doorstep. It’s one of those memorable experiences you won’t want to miss.
Bridger’s offers more than 600 bottles of beer to grab-n-go or sip in the restaurant, as well as a number of rotating beers on tap. The beer is efficiently displayed in the refrigerated cases by style and country, making it very easy to hone in on ones that may appeal to each individual. The staff is friendly and helpful, and will be happy to guide you in your selection.
If you want food with your beer (or without), there’s a menu tear sheet as you walk into the space where you mark what you want to eat. Hand it to a person behind the counter, pay or open a tab, and get a number to take with you to your table. Your order will be delivered to you when it’s ready.
The menu features preserved and local farmhouse foods. With an emphasis on pickled vegetables, the first salad I gravitated toward was the beet salad with pulled pork, sweet corn relish, Brussels slaw and chipotle rosemary vinaigrette. I was intrigued by the ingredients and unclear how the combination would work. But boy did it. Not only is it a beautiful salad, and much heftier than I expected, but the flavors did a wonderful balancing act. As one of the servers suggested to me, it’s like a deconstructed pulled pork sandwich, with the beets serving as the barbecue sauce. Before I tried the salad, I would have considered that description a bit of a reach, but after trying it I could definitely see his point.
Another winner, and one of many vegetarian options, was the marinated tofu salad with warm mushrooms, feta, almond spice crumble, arugula and red wine vinaigrette. In addition to a wonderful array of flavors, the presentation was stunning.
On another visit my husband and I tried a couple of small plates; cheddar encrusted olives and flatbread with mushroom confit, caramelized onions and whipped brie. Other creative options include a chorizo tart, lamb tartar, pickled deviled eggs, as well as cheese and charcuterie plates.
The sandwich list is reminiscent of the Local Pig’s creativity. Options include a Buffalo chicken sandwich with wing sauce, gorgonzola ranch and fried onions, jerk chicken with manchego, habanero creme fraiche and a cashew and fig spread, lamb meatballs with marinated feta, pickles, orange preserves and yogurt sauce, and smoked pork loin with BBQ sauce, smoked provolone, sweet corn pickle and fried onion. Subway or Jimmy John’s this is not. The bread is as good as the ingredients, and all of the ingredients are mouthwatering. I enjoyed the Citrus-herb pork roast with pulled pork, swiss, spicy pickles, cilantro, raisin relish and cumin aioli. It was quite rich, but I managed to inhale it anyway. Next time I’ll ask for more pickles.
All sandwiches and salads come with a choice of barley salad, cornbread or the same awesome housemade potato chips that are served with Pigwich offerings.
Another cool thing about this place (can you tell I’m enamored of it?) is that Alex, Executive Chef Andrew Heimburger, along with General Manager and Certified Cicerone Erica Pyles will be hosting Beer Dinners the last Wednesday of every month, pairing featured wines from the bottle shop with innovative dishes from the kitchen of Preservation Market.
This innovative collaboration is just another example of how far Westport has come since its sketchy late-night reputation and spotty eateries. It’s now an area where all ages can co-exist while enjoying some awesome food and drink.
D.O.C.G. in Las Vegas is a winner. Extremely appealing in decor with a very contemporary yet comfortable vibe, the food is equally enticing. The space is long and narrow, with brick walls and a wood-burning fireplace in the open kitchen at the end. The menu is all Italian, but goes beyond pizza and pasta, delving into grilled meats and fish as well.
Chef Scott Conant also owns Scarpetta, an Italian restaurant in New York City that has an outpost right next to D.O.C.G in the Cosmopolitan hotel.
Diners can choose to order multiple dishes to pass around the table or go the more customary route of first course and entree. In keeping with what is really a family tradition, we wanted to sample as much of the menu as possible, and ordered several dishes from each category. Since there were only three of us we had to be judicious in our selections, but we still managed to enjoy a nice variety.
Our waiter highly recommended the fried artichokes, emphasizing that they were flash-fried and not dripping in oil. He was right. And they were addictive.
The grilled octopus was charred and extremely tender and, unlike any preparation I’d ever seen since it was sliced vertically. Paired with the crispy chick peas, it was another winner.
The mound of roasted beets, sitting atop yogurt and pumpkin seeds sounded like it might be what you see on every menu these days, but Conant managed to make it unique.
We then shared the margarita pizza and though it sounds mundane, it was anything but because of the perfect, chewy crust.
As tempting as it would have been to order the lamb T-bone (all grilled meats are offered with your choice salsa verde, marrow and barolo, fra diavolo butter), diver scallops or osso bucco with polenta and black kale, we decided to share a couple of pastas instead: Pici with braised duck sauce and black truffles; and Scialatielli, served “arrabbiata” with lobster & shrimp. Hands down my favorite pasta of the trip (and we had many!)
We also ordered grilled broccolini with garlic and chiles, but were just as happy when we realized our waiter forgot it, since we had eaten more than enough by that point.
But that’s not to say we didn’t succumb when the waiter suggested we cap off our dinner with a caramel budino. At Cafe Sebastienne in Kansas City, the outrageous chocolate budino is sliced like a loaf. This was served like a pudding in a small cup, but fortunately didn’t resemble Jello-O, and we all fought over the last spoonful.
My only complaint was that the food was not well paced. If we hadn’t sensed that and ordered each course separately, we’d have been in and out in under an hour. As it was we still felt rushed, and barely had time to sip our wine between dishes. The wine list, by the way, had some awesome selections, but there were no bargains to be had. The offerings were as expensive as in the most expensive restaurants in Las Vegas. It would make sense in its upscale next door sister, but not here so much.
My hope is that Conant expands beyond Vegas and adds another D.O.C.G.’s around the country. There are many other similar concepts in other cities, but not nearly as well executed as this one.
Admittedly, I don’t think about driving to the Northland to eat. I’m usually only in the area on the way to or from the airport, and never want to stop to eat after a trip in which I spend most of my time eating! But many Facebook mentions and online pictures of Saki Asian convinced me to make the drive, which is actually no farther and probably easier than driving to Leawood from the Plaza.
The name and the pictures I had seen made me assume that this is just a sushi restaurant, but when we sat down and were handed the extensive menu I discovered that it’s an Asian restaurant serving the cuisines of China, Thailand and Japan. Since we only ordered sushi and didn’t try any of the wok dishes or the hibachi grill or the curries, I have no idea if they’ve tackled too much, but I do know that they hit a home run with the sushi.
The sushi list is extensive, and our server recommended it all so it was hard to pare down our choices. But we were delighted with what we selected; it was beautifully presented and the fish was as fresh as any you’d find on the coasts.
We started with Jalapeno Yellowtail Sashimi, thick slices of yellowtail in a light and citrusy vinaigrette that allowed the flavor of the fish to sing. It’s in a different class than similar renditions of the same dish around town.
We then shared the Spider Roll, soft shell crab with eel sauce and the Sumo Roll, spicy tuna and asparagus topped with white tuna, red tuna, smelt roe and green onion. We didn’t realize at first that half of the pieces had white tuna on top and the other half had red, but fortunately we figured it out in time to sample both.
Service was attentive, oh-so-friendly and efficient. The restaurant personnel clearly wanted us to be happy and return. No worries, we’ll be back, and not just on our way home from the airport.
If you happen to be in Las Vegas celebrating a special occasion, have I got the place for you! It’s called Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare and it’s in the Wynn hotel. Paul Bartolotta won a James Beard Best Chef award for this restaurant, and also owns nine other restaurants, all in Milwaukee. I haven’t been to any of those, but I’d bet the house they are cheaper than this one.
Yes, you are going to spend some big bucks, but it will be a memorable evening. The key is to reserve one of the outdoor cabanas that are situated around a lovely pond filled with floating metal balls. This comes at a price of course, a $150 per person minimum. But if you order cocktails and or wine, you’ll have no trouble crossing that threshold. Oh, and when you make your reservation, ask for Enrique to be your server; he’s a personable and charming young man from Italy. And since the menu will transport you to Italy, you might as well have the server add to that sensation.
At Bartolotta, it’s all about the fish and seafood. There are plenty of other fine options, but considering the restaurant gets their fish shipped in from Italy every day and it’s still alive when it arrives, you might want to tame your carnivore urgings for the evening.
It was my husband’s birthday and since he’s an all-pasta-all-the-time kind of guy, he enjoyed three courses of pasta. I started with one of those same pastas, lasagnette con ragù di crostacei , “rags” of pasta, lobster, shrimp, crab, white wine, tomato. Bobby Flay once said it was the best pasta he’d ever eaten and, though I probably wouldn’t go that far in my praise, it was fabulous. The sauce was extremely flavorful without being overpowering so the freshness of the seafood came through, and the pasta was obviously homemade.
Keeping with the seafood theme, my son had a squid ink risotto chockfull of seafood. We both ordered the Abruzzi style seafood stew for our entree and were not disappointed. The broth was rich, and the seafood and fish swimming in it made it a feast.
My husband’s other pastas included hand made ribbon pasta with shrimp, and spaghetti with langoustine in a spicy marinara sauce. He was a happy man.
Grand tasting menus are available and served family style, which would have been a fun way to sample much of the enticing menu had pasta not been the main focus of our dinner.
They brought us a special dessert; Tahitian vanilla bean semifreddo, with dried figs in red wine syrup and bitter chocolate sauce. It didn’t sound very good when I saw it on the menu, but it was. We also ordered a variety of gelato, each better than the other. A sweet ending to a memorable evening.
Asparagus season is in full swing–don’t miss out on one of spring’s most versatile and tasty offerings. Select freshly picked stalks, without the chalky film at the bottom. Whether steaming, roasting or grilling, simply snap each one near the end; they will break at the proper point, where the woody and tender parts meet. Grilling is my favorite preparation. Before throwing the spears on a hot grill, dress them with olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Turn every couple of minutes until just cooked through. (Like green beans, if the vibrant green color disappears, the asparagus is overcooked.) Once off the grill, arrange on a special platter and splash with balsamic or sherry vinegar. Finally, top with shavings of Parmesan.
Alternatively, roast for 10-15 minutes in a 400-degree oven.
When the season nears its end and the stalks are more woody, use them to make soup. Cut up some scallions or leeks, sauté in olive oil or a bit of butter, add cut up asparagus stalks, reserving the tips for garnishing the soup, and add stock. When the asparagus is soft, use an immersion blender to puree. Add in the tips to cook until tender, and scoop into bowls. Top with some chopped herbs of your choosing and you’ve got an easy and healthy meal!
Domo in Brookside is one of those places I always forget about despite its close proximity to my home. More often than not when I think sushi, I think Kaiyo or RA Sushi, both of which are in Leawood. But I recently went to Domo for lunch and was pleased I did.
I’ve been to Domo several times, but it had been a while. I recall having always had a good meal there, but it is rare for me to not be happy with whatever sushi I order wherever I am–unless of course the fish itself is off.
Fortunately, I went with a friend who eats a lot of sushi and is more discerning than I. She’s the one who turned me on to Kaiyo years ago, and we both think it’s the best sushi restaurant in town. So I knew I could count on her expert opinion.
We ordered a house salad with miso dressing, seaweed salad, and three sushi rolls, including the beautiful Sexy Mama.
My friend agreed with my assessment that the presentation was spot on and each roll was fresh and creative.
Jose Andrés is to food and restaurants what Peyton Manning is to quarterbacks and football. He is revered in his industry and everyone tries to emulate him.
And it’s no wonder. Andrés has built a growing empire of restaurants from coast to coast and beyond. He started with Jaleo years ago, a Spanish tapas restaurant in D.C. and moved on to Zaytinya, Cafe Atlantico, America Eats, Oyamel, and minibar, also in DC. Jaleo has been replicated in other cities, minibar has entered the Vegas market under the name of é by José Andrés, and he recently expanded his reach to Puerto Rico.
I’ve eaten at most of Andrés’ DC restaurants, but I was very interested to try China Poblano, his newest concept that recently opened in Las Vegas. I had read quite a bit about it and was delighted that we were headed to Nevada so I could check it out for myself. It sounded like fusion, but once we stepped inside, we found that it’s really two restaurants in one, with two separate menus, two separate chefs and two kitchens. Diners can order off either or both menus, and build a fun and delicious meal…which is exactly what we did:
When Pigs Fly 4pc delicate steamed
buns/Chinese barbeque pork;
Tacos–Langosta lobster/salsa Mexicana/ arbol chile sauce and Lengua beef tongue/salsa pasilla;
Dan Dan Mian hand-cut wheat noodles/spicy pork sauce/peanuts;
Twenty-Vegetable Fried Rice with fresh vegetables/fried rice. Delicious, but probably not worth the extensive online raves it had received;
Col de Bruselas– caramelized Brussels sprouts/arbol salsa/chiltate;
Salt and Pepper Tofu–crispy tofu with shallot/garlic/fresno chile. It was the one dish our server raved about that I didn’t love.
China Poblano is one of a vast number of restaurants in Las Vegas where you can eat very creative food without it costing an arm and a leg. And the list seems to be growing all the time as big name chefs develop more casual eateries up and down the strip.
Taking their cue from West Coast restaurants that have been serving Asian fusion sandwiches (ever heard of Roy Choi and his Kogi Korean tacos?), owners Bryan Merker, Brian Thorne, and Carlos Mortera have started a little sandwich shop in the City Market. Open just a month, they will be ready for primetime when the Farmer’s Market opens and they get increased traffic from passers-by.
My friend and I made a special trip to sample the unique and creative sandwiches. Build-you-own tamales are also on the menu, but we chose to split two sandwiches instead.
The Señor Chang has Slow Roasted Beef Short Rib – cilantro – queso fresco – pickled onions – candied – jalapeńos – sriracha crema, and the Kicking Chicken is filled with Braised Chicken – Korean BBQ Sauce – Queso Fresco – Radish – Cucumber – Pickled Onions – Sriracha Crema.
The Kicking Chicken was a bit bland considering it was topped with Korean BBQ sauce, but it had a nice flavor. I really enjoyed the Senor Chang–it reminded me a bit of the Korean tacos from the now-defunct Westport Street Fare truck that Aaron Confessori used to run and I loved.
We also shared a side of delicious Sesame Slaw with Red Cabbage – Red Onions – Sesame Seeds – Cilantro – Sesame Vinaigrette, and used some of it to add crunch to the chicken sandwich. It also provided additional filling, which was the one thing these sandwiches needed more of. My friend and I both thought the sandwiches were a bit skimpy on ingredients; had we not been sharing I would have piled the meat onto one side of the sandwich. The good news is that the roll was fresh, soft and chewy, so I had no problem eating the whole thing.
We sampled one of the Abuelita Chocolate Chip cookies, which had a touch of cinnamon and chile powder in it and was quite good. Other choices include a bourbon bacon chocolate chip and a white Jalapeño chocolate chip. They also serve up homemade ice cream sandwiches.
I counted six totally vegetarian items on the menu, all of which were quite innovative, so it’s clear they aim to please. And it’s quick. Order at the counter and expect them to call your name within 5 minutes.
The Bite is a welcome addition to the neighborhood, and will expand the local color and flair of City Market.
Fat Choy’s slogan is “where Classic American diner meets Asian comfort food,” and it’s very apt. Situated off-strip in a very drab and unimpressive casino, Fat Choy has won more awards and received more accolades in one year’s time than most restaurants can ever hope to achieve.
Having read numerous articles on the restaurant, and knowing my two companions are extreme Asian food lovers, it seemed like a no-brainer to give it a try. Since it’s off the strip, you need to take a cab or rent a car, and since we were renting one anyway to go play golf, we stopped on our way to the course for “brunch”.
The restaurant does offer a Sunday breakfast/brunch menu, but we opted for the all-day menu which features all of their special dishes, including pork and chive pot stickers and bao, for which Chef Su first garnered attention when he served them out of a food truck.
The buns come with a choice of pork belly, duck or tofu; we opted for the latter two and they were perfection. They were every bit as good as those I’ve lusted after at Momofuku in New York City.
We hit the jackpot (this was Vegas after all) with the pot stickers as well. Our server said they are highly touted and very popular, so how could we pass them up with a recommendation like that?
Won ton soup comes with 4 light and delicious shrimp and pork dumplings and, unlike many soups of this nature, it was not too salty.
The duck rice was very unusual and incredibly tasty. I had envisioned duck confit mixed with fried rice, but instead what came to the table was a mound of perfectly cooked rice with a duck leg on top. A garlic and ginger sauce graced the meat, and a side salad with cucumbers completed the plate. There’s also a short rib rice that sports several short ribs atop the rice, but we were very happy with the duck. I picked up the bone so as not to miss a bite of the tender and moist meat.
Our server was from Minnesota and represented her state well: she was friendly and engaging and added to our enjoyment of the meal. She suggested we come back for dinner and try the Fat Choy burger with beef, short rib, bacon and cheddar cheese. Though it sounded like a heart attack on a plate, we were tempted!
I realize this joint is off the beaten path, but that’s part of the appeal. Even with the cost of a cab, it will still be one of your cheapest meals in Vegas!