Sunday, November 13, 2011

Kansas City MO

We left Kansas City about a week ago and really enjoyed our stay. I didn't do a lot of cooking there mainly because there were so many great places to eat.  The time I would have spent cooking I spent working out.  It could be really easy to get fat on this journey we have been on and I have to make a conscious effort to workout regularly! The one thing we really like about this adventure is visiting all of the cities we normally wouldn't see.  Its one thing to visit a city for business,  but the cool thing is we get to do both business and pleasure.  Kansas City isn't a place we would ever think to go on vacation and yet we get to experience it like we are!
Its pretty rare that Chris's business and my blog and food interest ever meet but they did in KC! Justus Drugstore was the reason.  This is a great place in the small town of Smithville MO just north of KC that is owned by Chef  Jonathan Justus. Everything here is locally sourced down to the herbs and garnish.  These folks are on top of their game and the food was outstanding!  The bar is a world of its own.  They have more house made infused liquors and bitters and herbal tinctures for drinks than I have ever seen and it is just incredible. Chef Johnathan's mother ran the local pharmacy for something like 45 years.  After she closed it, he decided to start his restaurant in the same building.  He also wanted to keep the name.  Funny thing is the State board of pharmacy didn't like that idea and filed a lawsuit against him, claiming that the restaurants name could confuse people into thinking that he could heal people with his food. Crazy right!? (As far as I am concerned he could! I am a believer!) Well, he won and got to keep the name. Chris was very interested in this story since her business and the reason we are on the road is to help support small independent pharmacies survive in a brutal environment.  So we had a nice time chatting with him about his journey in creating the concept.  The food was outstanding and again I wish I would have taken more pictures! But I have a few, so here you go...If you are reading this Chef Jonathan, I am sorry if I dont get all of the descriptions right...blame it on the wine, oh and ya the cocktails!
Fried striped bass pate with an arugla salad and a soy citrus jelly.
The Farmers Platter wild persimmon seed spiced rabbit terrine, house made sausage, house smoked Berkshire bacon, pickled and grilled vegetables, bone marrow mousse, and a beef tongue pastrami
 I have to make a comment on this...I am a newbie when it comes to offal and Charcuterie.,as well as some things on this plate (Beef tongue and bone marrow).  I  have always wanted to try them and this seemed like the right and safest place for it so thank you Chef Justus! I tried to play it cool but I was a little intimadated when it arrived. I really enjoyed everything! The only thing that was a little weird for me was the bone marrow mousse.  I'm sure it was only because of my own head and had nothing to do with the preparation or maybe it is just an acquired taste.  I will give it another try for sure.

A look at their many house made liqueurs

Indian summer sazerac

Ceviche soup special with fish broth and pea shoots

On to the other side of the coin, due to my alter ego and at a friends suggestion I ended up at The Peanut Kansas City's first bar and grill. Here we noshed on hot wings, BLT's and local brew! It was old, grungy, had intentional mediochre service to the non regular patrons and was equipped with a cigarette machine! Not that I smoke (very often) but I love the nostalgia. I felt right at home...this place would be a hit in Portland OR!  I have to say in all honesty the BLT wasnt the best I ever had.  The bacon was a little over cooked for my liking  and was slightly bitter tasting but it wasn't terrible.  The wings were very crispy, juicy, spicy, tangy and GREAT! The bluecheese has a very garlicy kick that is best enjoyed with a friend! Its a conversation about commitment that you should have prior to ordering!

I know it is "supposed" to be all about BBQ here and yes, I had some of that too. I do love BBQ! It seems to be the first thing everyone wants to suggest.  So, I went to two BBQ joints and liked some things about one more that the other and vis a versa. 

Arthur Bryants  and Smoking Guns

I know I know, everyone is going to say you should have gone to Oklahoma Joes or Jacks Stack or Gates. Well, I didnt get to all of them and was so busy getting to everything else that I will have to save it for KC II the sequel.

I liked Arthur Bryants ribs better than Smoking guns, but on the other hand,  I liked smoking guns burnt ends more than Arthur Bryants;  it is mainly because Arthur Bryants chopped the burnt ends up really small and doused them with sauce.  I prefer my BBQ suaceless so I can add just a drop here and there.

Arthur Bryants burnt ends

Smoking guns burnt ends

So, as you can see they are very different but I liked that I could really taste the meat and smoky fat on the smoking guns version.

Other honorable mentions are Strouds Fried Chicken This was pretty close to where we were staying and we went there twice to get take out.  Great chicken and great chicken noodle soup!

We stayed at the Worlds of Fun RV park on the North side of town.  It was a nice park and probably, from what I hear, the only one worth staying at  in the KC area.  The only downfall is the thunderous roar of the roller coasters at night with the screaming kiddies...But I got used to it and tuned it out pretty quickly

I hope you enjoyed my little tour of Kansas City and get a chance to check it out for yourself!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Twin Cities

Minneapolis had some great food finds and a welcoming energy that we really enjoyed! We stayed in Prior Lake, MN which is about 10 min SW of "The Cities" at Mystic Lake casino RV Park (It was the best option in the area). Here are a few interesting fact about Mystic Lake Casino ( for future reference).

1. It is a "dry" casino so there is no alcohol allowed on the tribal property. :-/
2. It is one the highest profiting casinos in the country.
3.There are about 250 tribal members that get a check from the profits of the casino that range anywhere from $30k to $80k per month starting at age 18.  Yes, you heard me right it is not a typo "per month".  I don't know about you but I don't think any18  y/o kid should ever have access to that kind of money. It has gotten the nickname by some locals of being called "Mistake Lake". For our purposes, it was a good place to stay.

Now, we had a couple really great food experiences but the one that I really loved the most was probably Brasa! What a great spread of all organic and locally sourced fare!  This place is a Cajun/ Creole style rotisserie. We ordered a little of everything on the menu and here is a look at that!

Rotisserie chicken, pulled pork, cornbread w/honey glazed,collard greens with smoked turkey,yellow rice/ beans,crispy yucca, roasted yams with andouille

It was all just fantastic, quick, simple, inexpensive, all local and organic, which made me very happy! It is a place that I would probably hit a least once a week if I lived in Minneapolis.  What a great concept this owner had and it showed; the place was a crowded, local, hot spot!

Other Minneapolis notable mentions was are Hells Kitchen located right down town (not related to Gordon Ramsey) We like it there a lot too! Im sad to say we didnt make it to Piccolo which I hope to try next time!

Next we went to Duluth for the day which was a few hours north up on Lake Superior.  I heard through Twitter about a place called Northwest Smokehouse. You can also try it yourself and buy right online! The pictures on their website are better than anything I could take.  The place is very crowded and very small, so it was hard to get any good shots.  Please trust me when I say being from the Pacific NW I am a major salmon snob.  The smoked salmon I had here was the best I have ever had.  It was light, very moist, buttery, tender and perfect! So was the smoked whitefish and the house made salumi.  I made a nice smoked salmon Benedict a couple days later that was outstanding, and pretty healthy too as far as Benedict's go.  I started with a whole wheat English muffin, braised kale with onion & garlic, the North Waters smoked salmon, a poached egg and topped it with a made for scratch hollandaise with a little fresh dill, cayenne and red onion garnish. 

We also found the cutest old school malt shop in the whole entire world called the Portland Malt shop  It is perched up on top of the hill looking over Lake Superior. I am a big fan of malts. I think they are way better than just a regular old milkshake. These folks are mixing up the real deal!

What a perfect ending to a great day! Except for this part...I couldn't finish my malt so, it melted while sitting in the cup holder of the car and on the drive home my iPhone got dropped in and went for a swim! ...Occupational hazard I guess!