Around the BLOCK

Private Dining in Kansas City

Written By: Mary Bloch - Dec• 05•13

It’s not quite too late to get on the phone…but almost! You can also save this list for occasions other than holiday parties.The Reiger private dining room

Broccoli Rabe with Cavatelli and Harissa

Written By: Mary Bloch - Dec• 02•13

Pasta doesn’t have to be bad for you.  There are plenty of recipes that don’t include cream or meat, and if you buy wheat or rice pasta instead of one made with white flour, you can partake without guilt.

A new pasta dish I just discovered is for veggie lovers, and those who enjoy spice. Using both harissa and smoked paprika, it’s packed with flavor and quite easy to pull together. This particular recipe does call for cheese, but if you use it in moderation, it’s still going to be a lighter dish than those rich holiday meals which we all indulge in at this time of year!

Here’s the recipe from Food & Wine, let me know what you think!

Broccoli rabe in the sauce after roasting

1 1/4 pounds broccoli rabe, ends trimmed

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


Freshly ground pepper

6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 Fresno or jalapeño chile, seeded and thinly sliced

2 teaspoons harissa

1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika

1 pound cavatelli (or other short shape)

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving

1/2 cup packed mint leaves, chopped

1/2 cup packed parsley leaves, chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. In a bowl, toss the broccoli rabe with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the broccoli rabe on 2 baking sheets and roast for 15 minutes, until crisp-tender, then chop.
  2. In a deep skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the garlic, chile and harissa and cook over moderate heat, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe and smoked paprika and cook until tender, 2 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente; drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta, cooking water and 1/4 cup of Parmigiano to the skillet and cook, stirring, until the pasta is coated in a thick sauce, 2 minutes. Stir in the herbs and serve with more cheese.Orchiette pasta with broccoli rabe and harissa

Pecan, Caramel and Fudge Pie

Written By: Mary Bloch - Nov• 25•13

Are you panicked that you don’t have time to make a Thanksgiving dessert? Help is on the way in the form of one of the easiest pies you will ever make. All you need are some chocolate wafer cookies, pecans, chocolate, and a few other ingredients like whipping cream and corn syrup. You can make the whole dessert in 30 minutes and it might be the dish that gets the most compliments on Thanksgiving. Chocolate wafer crust

The recipe calls for a 9 inch pie pan, and you can see from the pictures that mine, at 10 inches, was too large. Using an 8 x8 square pan and cutting the “pie” into bars is another option. Just improvise; it’s hard to mess this up!IMG_0166Adding chocolate to the pecan mixtureIMG_0171

Finding the Perfect Wine for your Thanksgiving Feast

Written By: Mary Bloch - Nov• 18•13

Thanksgiving will be here in the blink of an eye. In addition to planning your feast, why not give some thought  to what wines will best complement it? You deserve to drink something that will highlight the countless hours you spend preparing that gorgeous bird with all the trimmings. rose wine

I’m a firm believer that you should drink what you enjoy without consideration of the connoisseurs’ rules. Most experts would tell you that white wine is the most appropriate selection with turkey, but with so many health studies extolling the virtues of red, the color white has certainly fallen out of favor.

Regardless of your preference, take an inventory of your buffet table before deciding upon a varietal. The intensity and flavors in the wine should match that of the cuisine. Unoaked Chardonnays match up well with cream sauces and giblet gravy, while Sauvignon Blanc works best with butternut squash, oyster stuffing, Brussels sprouts, and even mashed potatoes. Riesling stands up to spicy foods as well as sweet desserts. Viognier is a fashionable grape of the moment and would be a pleasing, all-purpose choice.

Of the red varietals, Pinot Noir is a safe choice. But keep in mind the cornucopia of delectable and rich options sitting on that groaning sideboard. Zinfandel has deeper flavors to match such fruity dishes as cranberry sauce, and Shiraz/Syrah will bring out the best in that peppery, spicy, and oh-so-rich sage stuffing.

First Taste: Libertine in St. Louis

Written By: Mary Bloch - Nov• 10•13

Josh Galliano’s name means as much to St. Louisans as Colby Garrelts’ or Michael Smith’s means to Kansas Citians. Galliano is a recipient of Food and Wine’s Best Chef-Midwest award and a multiple James Beard award nominee. His latest venture is a neighborhood eatery in Clayton called Libertine.Libertine in St.Louis

Diners first walk by the very cool looking bar that utilizes rustic wood and subway tile. The dining room is in the back part of the space, offering a bit of separation in terms of noise and ambiance.Libertine--St.Louis

I went on a busy and loud Saturday night with my parents, but fortunately the restaurant had a Roaring 20’s theme going on and they liked the music. The menu is fun, but it isn’t easy to find something for those who may not be adventurous, except perhaps for the hamburger. I spied one at the table next to us- on a beautiful bun with cheese smothering the double patties, it was accompanied by a gorgeous pile of crisp French fries.Sunflower Seed Fried Rice--Libertine

Libertine--Octopus Pozole

The menu itself is organized by food category–meat, fish, vegetable and seafood, with the appetizers and smaller meals at the top of each list and  larger portions at the bottom. I ordered sunflower seed fried rice with Chinese bacon, sprouts and pickled carrots and octopus pozole, both of which were in the middle of their respective lists. Though our server, who had not been well-trained, brought them both out at once instead of coursed out, they were both interesting and flavorful. In fact, though it may not have been an authentic pozole, it rivaled any I’ve had in New Mexico; the octopus was prepared perfectly and added an unusual and welcome twist to the dish.Mahi Mahi fish special--LibertineCrab curry--Libertine

Each night the restaurant serves a pan roasted fish of the day served with General Tso’s Mushrooms, Wilted Sprouts, Golden raisin and scallion relish. On this night, our server told us it was tuna, though it turned out to be Mahi-Mahi.

The crab boil curry was one of the smaller dishes, but it had a nice kick to it and the lo mein noodles were the perfect foil for all that curry sauce.

I had never seen the Korean spice togarashi used as a pepper crust for tuna, but now that I’ve had it, I will definitely try it that way at home. The tuna also came with creamed corn, Nduja sausage vinaigrette, roasted peppers and pickled corn. My sister asked for a vegetarian substitute for the sausage vinaigrette, which our server said she would take care of, but it came dry. Fortunately the corn carried the day.

The “candy bar” on the dessert menu was a hit. Made with Salted Caramel Semifreddo, Hazelnuts, Ganache, Chocolate Dacquoise, it was definitely meant to be eaten with your hands–using a fork would have sent it flying across the table. It was a fun way to finish a delightful dinner.Libertine--Candy Bar

Given Galliano’s pedigree, I imagine the menu will change at least seasonally , giving diners a chance to sample more of his creativity and also allowing an opportunity to find dishes that appeal. And despite reading rather mixed reviews before my visit, it’s only a matter of time before this imaginative restaurant hits its stride.


The Libertine on Urbanspoon

First Taste: Chuy’s Mexican Restaurant

Written By: Mary Bloch - Oct• 28•13

Chuy’s was just what I expected. It is a chain after all, another in a growing line of chains that now populate Country Club Plaza.  And though I prefer Southwestern cuisine to TeX-Mex, I figured I should try it. And now that I have, I’ve done my duty.Chuy's

Some of the food was good, and the portions are certainly substantial. If you have small children, it’s a great place to take them since there are lots of distractions. In fact, for those who remember the original Houlihan’s look with old tools, furniture and the like hanging from the ceiling, this is the Mexican version of that “style”.Chuy's

Chips are brought to each table in a basket and are  refilled with a mini shovel. A slushy pico de gallo comes with, though the menu also has a long list of house made salsas that diners can request, ranging in spice from mild to very hot, featuring different peppers. We tried the Hatch green chile and the tomatillo, both of which were fine, but not exciting. The Hatch green chile salsa was the perfect addition to the chile con queso that we had picked up at the Happy Hour Nacho bar, which is displayed in a portion of a car trunk.  Chuy's Happy Hour Nacho BarThe bar features the same chips and salsa that are brought to the table, along with the queso and ground beef.  It’s all free from 4-7 P.M.Salsas--Chuy's

We started with a bowl of tortilla soup that was chockfull of pulled chicken, corn, carrots and tortilla chips. It tasted very much like Grandma’s chicken soup, but adding more of that Hatch green chile salsa did wonders for it.Tortilla Soup--Chuy's

One of the Chuy specials is the Southwestern Enchiladas, stacked blue corn tortillas with pulled chicken, green chile sauce (a different green chile sauce than the Hatch) and a fried egg on top.Southwestern Enchiladas--Chuy's Each entrée comes with  Mexican rice or green chile rice, and refried or Charro beans. In addition to the enchiladas, which definitely tasted better than they looked, we ordered a Fajita chicken burrito smothered with red chile sauce. I had high hopes when it was placed before me, as the sauce was deep red and obviously made with chiles rather than tomatoes. But unfortunately, in addition to being too salty, I don’t think the chile powder had been throughly cooked into the sauce. However, the Charro beans that were stuffed inside the burrito and both rices were quite good.Burrito smotheres with red chile sauce--Chuy's

Tortillas are made on site, but even those seemed a bit doughy.Homemade tortillas--Chuy's

SO, I’m glad I tried Chuy’s, but I’d rather expend my calories at Rudy’s, Poco’s, Fiesta Azteca or El Patron, all of which are locally owned and serve up more authentic and pleasing Mexican fare.Chuy's

Chuy's on Urbanspoon

It’s never too cold for ice cream…or gelato

Written By: Mary Bloch - Oct• 20•13


The NoMad Hotel Dining Room–New York City

Written By: Mary Bloch - Oct• 13•13

Anyone who reads my blog or listens to me on the KCUR Food Critics show knows that my husband doesn’t like to spend a lot of money on “fancy” restaurant meals. So it was with some trepidation that I booked a table at The NoMad hotel in New York to celebrate my son’s birthday last month. I had heard it was a beautiful space and, since we hadn’t been to Eleven Madison Park where owner/chef Daniel Humm made his name, I figured this would be a way to experience Humm’s cuisine on a less formal scale. Not inexpensive by any stretch, but less so than the $195 multi-course meal at EMP.

The dining area is divided into 4 very distinct rooms–The Atrium (the largest and loudest), the Library (a gorgeous bar that serves light snacks), the Parlour (smaller than the atrium but still humming), and the Fireplace (the smallest and quietest). Each room is gorgeous, but I asked for a quiet room in advance because I wanted to be able to have real conversation rather than having to shout across the table. We lucked out and got a table in the five table Fireplace room. I don’t  know if they have a real fire in the winter, but this was summer and the fireplace was filled with candles to create a lovely glow.

Corn with corn cream--The Nomad

My husband was so impressed with the service throughout the evening that he didn’t complain about the hefty bill. Everyone who came by our table (and there were many) had been beautifully trained to provide smooth, knowledgeable and friendly service, not a surprise really since Eleven Madison Park was originally a Danny Meyer restaurant, so Daniel Humm learned hospitality at the knee of a master. But it did elevate the evening beyond the enjoyment of a good meal.

Fluke--The Nomad

Every dish was visually striking and there was an intensity of flavor in each bite. Here’s what we had:



GLAZED WITH ROMAINE, CUMIN & YOGURT Crab and Meyer lemon pasta---The Nomad


CONFIT WITH PEACHES, ARUGULA & BACON MARMALADESuckling Pig with Peaches and Arugula--The Nomad

WHOLE-ROASTED FOR TWO: FOIE GRAS, BLACK TRUFFLE, BRIOCHE Roast chicken for two--The NomadChicken breast with truffled mashed potatoes--The Nomad

CHOCOLATEThigh and vegetables--The Nomad

POACHED WITH ANGEL FOOD CAKE, RICOTTA & ANISE HYSSOPStrawberry with angel food cake, ricotta and anise--The Nomad


The chicken is the specialty of the house, and is based on a similar dish served at Eleven Madison Park. The entire bird is presented at the table with a flourish, and then taken back to the kitchen where the breast is plated for two, and served with a fricassee of  thigh meat, mushrooms and shallots that is presented on the side in a cast iron vessel. The chicken’s stuffing of foie gras, truffles and brioche transforms what could be a very pedestrian dish into an incredibly rich indulgence.

What we all noticed is that the menu description of each dish paled in comparison to what we ate. To say I ate a bowl of corn doesn’t begin to express the nuances of the dish, either in the  preparation or the presentation, and so it was with everything we experienced that evening.

The NoMad is a treat for all the senses. Without question it was a lovely spot to celebrate a special occasion.

The NoMad on Urbanspoon

La Pineta in Marina di Bibbona, Italy

Written By: Mary Bloch - Oct• 06•13

Okay, there’s probably no point in my writing up this restaurant since it’s on the coast of Italy. But I was fortunate enough to dine there last spring, and it was so memorable I had to share just in case any of you find yourself in the area. P1010602P1010601the door to La Pineta

La Pineta is one of the  finest seafood restaurants in Italy, and sports a Michelin star. If you do go, don’t curse me when you first lay eyes on it. The unassuming restaurant is attached to a beach shack, and you have to pass that and the shack’s casual patio before you get to the door of La Pineta, inconspicuously marked with a small sign. But once you enter, you’ll find yourself in a lovely dining room with white table clothes and a nautical decor. It overlooks the beach and is so close to the water that it almost feels like you’re on a cruise ship.La Pineta

Owner and chef Luciano Zazzeri is very hands on. In fact, he takes everyone’s order, patiently answering every question lobbed at him. And he came over to the table after our meal to make sure we were pleased with our lunch. Chef Luciano Zazzeri--La Pineta

Once the order was taken, we received a complimentary glass of bubbly and an amuse bouche that was similar to paella. Looking around the room, I noticed that diners were served pink or white depending on what they would be eating.

Everything we ate was extremely fresh, simply prepared, and mouthwatering. From the crudo and the seafood pastas to the special fish soup called Cacciucco, every bite was perfection. Take a look—Amuse-bouche--La PinetaCrudo--La PinetaRisotto--La PinetaGrilled seafood--La PinetaPasta with Octopus--La PinetaCacciucco--La PinetaSeafood gnocchi--La PinetaApple cake--La Pineta

Definitely a highlight of our trip, and one of the few times we had fruits of the sea while we were in meat-loving Tuscany.


Written By: Mary Bloch - Sep• 29•13

Despite recent pieces in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, Chef Alex Pope is not about to rest on his laurels. Last month he rolled out a new food truck called Pigwich, that will be permanently parked behind his Local Pig butcher shop. Located in a secluded part of the East Bottoms, you would not think this is a hot destination…but you would be wrong.Pigwich

Since opening a year ago, the Local Pig has attracted carnivores in droves; it’s rare for there not to be a line to buy cuts of beef, pork, duck, rabbit, lamb or chicken, as well as eggs, a wide range of homemade sausages, and even tamales. All meats are hormone, steroid and antibiotic free, the quality of which is reflected in every bite. Purchases are attractively boxed and come with cooking instructions if requested.P1010205

Now Pope has parlayed this success into a sandwich shop on wheels (or a pedestal to be more precise), putting his mouth-watering products between slices of fabulous bread in innovative and delicious ways. Staples on the menu include a double cheeseburger (the truffle aioli kills it), cheesesteak, a Banh Mi with Thai meatballs, and even falafel for non-meat eaters. Daily specials run the gamut from a pastrami reuben and porchetta to a cuban sandwich.P1010208P1010207P1010209

Courtyard seating is available for those who can’t wait to dig into one of Pope’s luxurious creations, or who just want to enjoy some fresh air before hightailing it back to the office.
Pigwich on Urbanspoon