Cosentino’s Market Downtown

If you haven’t already explored Cosentino’s Market downtown, treat yourself to the experience. Regardless of whether you live or work downtown, it’s worth the drive. A grocery store was the missing link to entice people to live downtown, and Cosentino’s (the same family that brought us the Brookside Market) really did it right.

Among other features, it has a salad bar that doesn’t quit, made-to-order sandwiches, a coffee bar with Kansas City’s own Roasterie, pizza and pasta, a bakery and pre-prepared foods for carry-out. And then’s there the sushi bar by Kaiyo. Kaiyo is my favorite sushi restaurant in Kansas City, and David Loo travels from his Leawood outpost to prepare sushi at lunchtime for downtowners who stop in. If you’re lucky, there will be leftovers in the display case to take home for dinner…..

If you’re a beer lover, you’ll be thrilled with the vast selection of brews from around the country and world. There are very fine wine labels to choose from, too–worthy of a picnic or romantic dinner.

If you’d rather eat your meal in the store, there’s tons of table seating, both within the store and on the second level.

Many people think parking is a problem. Far from it. Drive into the parking garage off Main, just north of 13th St. There’s a door from the garage into a corridor that leads to the grocery store. The store will validate your parking ticket and an elevator makes it easy to get your cart full of groceries to the car. Piece of cake.

Cosentino's Market (Downtown) on Urbanspoon

888 International Market

For those of us living near the Plaza, 888 International Market is a hike. It’s located near Antioch and 119th St. in Overland Park.  But think of it as an adventure, a trip to Asia if you will, that costs less than a tank of gas as opposed to a very expensive plane ticket.

International? Not so much. Yes, you can find hummus and a few other Mediterranean items, along with some tortillas and salsa, but this former Hy-Vee is essentially an Oriental Market. It has a huge selection of Japanese, Thai, Chinese and Korean specialities. While it’s not difficult to find many of the jars in other Asian markets around the metro, what makes this grocery stand out is its emphasis on fresh. Fresh vegetables, fresh tofu, fresh noodles, fresh meats, fresh fish, fresh lobster and crab.There’s even homemade Korean kimchi.

But there’s also shrimp paste, every brand of soy, fish and hoisin sauces, palm sugar, lemongrass (fresh and in bottles),  Togarashi (an essential Japanese spice in David Chang’s Momufuku brussels sprouts), dried soba and udon noodles, pickled ginger and every other Asian ingredient you’ll ever see in a recipe.

If you want to make a seafood soup with Korean chile paste, they’ve got you covered, right down to ceramic bowls to serve it in.

Allow at least 30-45 minutes to check out the store so you have time to walk up and down each aisle. If you’re smart (like I wasn’t), you’ll go armed with a recipe or two that you’ve wanted to try but haven’t for lack of the proper ingredients. I had to wing it, but managed to gather noodles, tofu, vegetables and sauce components for a very delicious pad Thai.

If you’re hungry after all that browsing, there’s a restaurant within the store to enjoy dumplings, soup and noodles.

Did I mention it’s cheap? This bears no resemblance to a Whole Foods. The prices are extremely reasonable, so you can stock up now and decide later what to concoct with everything you bought.

The Tasteful Olive

On a recent trip to Napa Valley, we were blown away by a fabulous store that featured every imaginable flavor of olive oil. The best part was that sampling was encouraged before buying. Open the spigot, let a few drops fall into a tiny, tiny cup and dip a piece of bread or your finger in the oil to taste. Ah.

It gets even better. Now you don’t have to fly to Napa to have that same sensual experience. The Tasteful Olive has come to old Overland Park, offering a plethora of olive oils as well as flavored vinegars at a fraction of the price of those California shops.

Big jugs of olive oil are yours for the tasting. Once you choose from 20 varieties, including blood orange, fig, truffle and Tuscan herb, simply tell the salesperson what size bottle you’d like to buy. Small, medium or large–200, 375 or 750 ml, the latter being the size of a typical wine bottle. The salesperson will then fill a bottle and seal it with foil, using an old-fashioned hair dryer to complete the job. The date and flavor are added to the label lest you forgot when or what you bought.

The 18 or so types of vinegar are equally stunning, from chocolate balsamic to blueberry or apple. The store also stocks dried pasta, sauces, chutney and other gourmet items.

With the holiday season upon us, this would be the perfect place to find gifts for the cooks in  your life.

Roeland Park’s Price Chopper

It would be hard to find a more comprehensive selection of Mexican and Latino food items in Kansas City than at the Price Chopper in Roeland Park.

In my hunt for achiote paste to marinate shrimp before I grilled it, I explored aisle after aisle and enjoyed browsing the shelves. I felt like a kid in a candy store. In addition to finding a myriad of chile peppers, salsas, spices and  fresh produce items not available at my neighborhood store, I found fresh flour and corn tortillas made daily on site–the perfect wrap for those grilled shrimp!

And this store doesn’t just specialize in Mexican goodies, the Asian section is also a treat. They had several hard-to-find Thai sauces and Chinese seasonings as well.

The next time you don’t think you can make a recipe for lack of a particular ingredient, or your favorite grocer shakes his head at your request, head to Roeland Park. Whatever you wind up creating in the kitchen will be enhanced by such effort, and you may discover you have a new favorite dish to show off to friends and family!