Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Flea

After hearing how great Westport Flea Market is, from so many people, I had to stop driving by it and stop in to see for myself. I have been driving by this place for years, every time I go to the Westport Sunfresh for groceries. The concept was lost on me; I could not figure out why a restaurant was named "flea market" and every time I looked at their delivery vehicle it reminded me of the Mutt Cutts van from Dumb and Dumber. This place seemed to straddle the line between quirky and kooky. But they could not be all that lost, they do use McGonigle's ground chuck for their burgers, after all.

The burger itself was very good! Not the best I have ever had, but a very good chuckin' burger. I would give it honorable mention. This is in no way an indictment on the Flea Market, but more-so a statement of where the KC burger community is at the moment. This is not a fancy pants burger like you will get at BRGR, Blanc, Red Door Grill, or Providence NAK (and no burger can compete with my muse, the Indios Burger). But this is more of a straight up, blue collar burger: 10oz hamburger (with cheese and onions optional). The burger lets the chuck speak for itself.

The beer list was large, not the largest by any means, but at the same time tap contests between restaurants have gotten a bit out of hand. So I don't really mind a restaurant not having more than 44 taps. They still had all of the seasonal boulevards, and a few more obscure beers. I was able to get a Vanilla Bean Buffalo Sweat, for those of you who know what that is. They even have domestic light lagers (AB and MillerCoors products) for the lames. This large beer list does lend itself to a pretty insane (albeit early, 2-5pm) happy hour special: Any of the 44 tap beers for $0.99.

I liked the quirkiness of it, but it all kind of caught me a bit off guard as well. It is cash only (word to the wise), but that is fine. You do have to do food and drink orders separately, which is a bit odd. But everyone there was very helpful and friendly throughout the process. I also found out why they call it the Flea Market; there is a legitimate flea market inside (for those that are looking for a vintage Stretch Armstrong while you wait for your burger to come up).

There are some other pretty awesome things about WFM too: Karaoke night (for those that want to hear me belt out some O-Town or Simple Plan) and The Super Flea (which I may actually have to try my next trip). The Super Flea is a Man vs Food-esque challenge that involves: five 10oz burger patties, somewhere in the neighborhood or a half pound of cheese, 6 pieces of bread, and 3lbs of fries. So whether you are feeling like Pacquiao or Kobayashi, and are craving a nice ground beef patty, WFM has something for you.

Westport Flea Market Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Marv's Deli

Marv's may be located in the middle of Park Place in Leawood, but it will take you to a place that feels like the center of The Loop in Chicago. Owner Steve Kerner basically grew up in Chicago Jewish-style Delis. After cutting his teeth in the kitchen, Steve moved on to be the first Executive Chef for KC Hopps and later opened his own concept, In*gre*di*ent (Yes, In*gre*di*ent was Steve's concept. Do you love In*gre*di*ent? Good, me too!). Marv's is a bit different, but every bit, if not even more awesome! P.S. Yes, that is a real hot dog cart out front. No, it is not for looks. Yes, they do bust that bad boy out and start serving Chicago-style Dogs down by the Park Place Ice Rink (or whatever it may be in the season that you are reading this), and you know how I LOVE street food!

Named after Steve's dad, Marv (obviously), Marv's serves up old Jewish-style Deli classics and new trendy hits.  From the chopped liver to the Marvelous donuts, everything that I have had from Marv's is fantastic! 

Yes, that is right, I had the chopped liver! Admittedly, I had never been high on the idea of eating liver because it is quite literally the filter, but I gave it a shot and I was very glad that I did. Another thing that others may be weary of, when it comes to liver, is freshness. You never know how fresh this stuff is, you never see anyone order it, it has probably been sitting there the maximum amount of time that the health code allows. Not at Marv's, the liver is made fresh daily! 

Although the liver says chopped on the menu, it is not what I would think of a chopped, it is more like a dense puree than chopped chunks of liver, but that is fine. Having never had liver before, I don't know what I expected it to taste like. But whatever I expected it to taste like, it tasted nothing like that! It was sweet and peppery. The small chunks of hard boiled eggs and red onions served on it, that almost appear to be garnishes, compliment it well. But the real compliment is the almost pickle-iness of the soft, grainy, twice-baked rye bread (That stuff was amazing, I was fiending rye bread for days after that! I even started tasting rye beer differently afterwards.).

The potato pancakes, a Jewish tradition, were addicting, I had to literally force myself to stop eating them! Do not mistake potato pancakes for hash browns, or something so simple, the shreds of potato in potato pancakes are much thinner and are held together by a binder (often potato flour). Brought to you with apple sauce and sour cream, the traditional Jewish-style deli way. The way to eat them is to put a little sour cream on top, followed by a little apple sauce, eat, and repeat. Though Hanukkah may be over, Marv's serves them all year round.

The big dogs, what you really go to Marv's for, the sandwiches: range from traditional corned beef (piled high, as if there were any other way to have it) to Steve's awesome creations that have Chicago-centric names (and are also piled high, duh!). If you are as big of sandwich lover as myself (I may be second only to Jeff Mauro in my love for sandwiches), you will love Marv's. All of them are served with slightly sour pickles and really good house-made kettle chips, unless you want another side. My recommendation is to upgrade your kettle chips to the even more awesome potato pancakes, for a buck, you can thank me later.

Can't decide between the corned beef and the brisket sandwiches? That's fine, go with something like The Over and Under (named after the betting term "over/under", for those that are wager illiterate). I don't know why it's called The Over and Under, but it may have something to do with the fact that there is corned beef AND brisket Over and Under some pretty spectacular coleslaw. This is by far the best corned beef that I have had outside of my mother's kitchen! I am pretty elitist about my coleslaw, and this slaw is not slacking. Just look down the barrel of this guy, seriously.

And before you leave (or heck, before you even start your day), you have to pick up one (or a few dozen) of Marv's new gourmet "Marvelous" donuts. The flavours change weekly, some of them are pretty plane, some of them are pretty crazy (I think there were a Fruity Pebbles and Cap'n Crunch, two seperate flavours, one week). I had a plain donut with chocolate-peanut butter frosting. The donut was nice and dense, like I like them. My only request would be to get a bit more yeasty flavour to it without sacrificing too much density. That is not a knock, just a request for when Steve reads this and is working on his next set of donut recipes, the donuts are really wonderful!

Now, one thing that can be a bit confusing, is that Marv's is a sit down restaurant that serves deli food (so don't go in expecting a deli counter). Also, don't mistake Steve for some laissez faire owner. You can hear him calling out orders to the kitchen, under the sports ticker that is running the scores to all the games. There are TVs with the games on, in case you had money riding on one or something. The decor screams Chicago deli. It is a newer restaurant, but is still warm enough to make you feel at home (even if you are not from Chicago).

Marv's Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Happy Belated Turkey Day!

As I told those of you that read the last post, I spent part of my Thanksgiving Day with one side of my family, at the Golden Ox. Having been a lifelong Kansas Citian, I was pretty disappointed in myself that I had never been to the iconic Golden Ox. Although we didn't get the full Golden Ox experience, I formulated a pretty strong opinion about the place, and anyone that says that it is no longer relevant.

The smell of coals still smoldering on the charcoal grill fill the air. If it weren't for the thin gaps between the awards and pictures of Kansas City (and the West Bottoms) from yesteryear, you wouldn't be able to tell what the walls looked like. The dining room is dimly lit, but inviting. The whole place is just dripping with nostalgia, and not in some nouveau hipster-esque type of way, but in a great-grandmother's den room type of way.

The clientele were a rich melting pot of young and old, blue collar and white collar, racial diversity, and different socio-economic backgrounds, all coming together for a family meal and to give thanks on this day of Thanksgiving. The place was packed, it was all asses and elbows in there. The waiter told us that they were planning to feed something on the order of 2000 people that day, that sounded absurdly high to me. But sure enough, as we sat there eating, there did not seem to be a lull. There was always a line of people waiting to be seated.

The spread, on this day, was not the standard fare. The offerings were not dissimilar to what you could expect to have at a family Thanksgiving potluck. All of the usual suspects were there, but with a few surprises. Of course there was turkey, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, stuffing, "salads" (both of the lettuce and mayo based varieties), dinner rolls, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and the like. But this being a steakhouse, there should be no surprise that there was a lot more to offer (meat wise) than just turkey. There was pork loin, ham, smoked salmon and they even shreaded the dark turkey meat so that it resembled something like a shredded/pulled pork, it was fantastic! The smoked salmon was delicious, it was garnished with capers (that I believe were also smoked) and red onions, it really doesn't get much better than that! The shreaded/pulled dark meat turkey was pretty awesome as well!

The sides were good, don't get me wrong, but I believe that most of them were probably brought in (or at least a little bit pre-made and reheated). First of all, they could all be made from scratch, and I could be completely wrong, it has happened before (see Colby Garrelts' Rye). But that being said, this is not the kind of place that I would tell you to go for some killer side. This is the kind of place that thrived during the days when the only side option you had to go with your steak was a potato.

The Golden Ox opened in the late 1940s. Do you know who ate out, in Kansas City, in the 1940s and 1950s? NO ONE! Why would anyone pay to eat something that they could cook at home? The Golden Ox came to prominence by setting up shop right by the stock yards and serving you, literally, the freshest steak that you had ever had in your life. The stock yards have long since closed down, but the Golden Ox remains. I still get the feeling that when I go back for my steak dinner, and a stiff drink, the only side I would contemplate ordering is a baked potato.

Some view the Golden Ox as a dinosaur: slow and unable to adapt to change. I look at this quite differently: while culinary trends have come and gone, the Golden Ox still stands, after those trends have been long since forgotten. While a trendy restaurant like Voltare, that stands right across the street from the Ox, may taunt the powerful creature, none can ever challenge it's resolve. The Ox has stood, unwavering, holding steadfast to its identity, since the day that it was founded. The Ox has weathered many a storm, economic downturns, and floods. None of this has been strong enough to bring down The Ox. In fact, in the front of the restaurant, they hang pictures of the flooded bottoms, wearing it almost like a service man or woman would wear stripes. 

In a way, the sign (at the top of this post) embodies the restaurant. It is not new, it is not shiny, it may not have the luster that it once did, but it is still standing, and dammit, it is still important! I don't know if the Golden Ox will be able to take the crown from Anton's as my favorite steakhouse, but I will certainly be back to let them try! In this day and age when steakhouses that people mention as their "favorite" are all chains (M&S, Capital Grille, Ruth's Chris, etc.), you have to go get yourself some local flavour!

Golden Ox on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving (the real one, not that Canadian knock off)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

First off, let me begin by saying that I am not one for cliches. I am not one of those people that gets sentimental about things. I do not do the X number of days of Thanksgiving "thankful" social media posts, and that is not what I am trying to achieve here. But, I am very blessed and do have a lot to be thankful for. An incomplete list goes something like this: my faith, my wife, my family, our friends, my job (not this hobby, but my job that pays me actual money), good local food, my 3 readers, and my food truck family.

My food truck family works hard to bring excellent food to the people, at reasonable prices. Most of them are hard working weekend warriors, like myself, working day jobs and then running a food truck in their limited free time. Only instead of pushing keys on a keyboard like I do, they work for hours: prepping food, taking orders, being a line cook, struggling to break even, driving home, and then spending hours more cleaning their trucks (to meet health department requirements). This is a tight-knit community that looks out for each other. They have also been very kind and really supported me since I first started blogging. They have been here since Day 1! And when you are from where I am from, you look out for those that look out for you. All of that being said: I raise a Thanksgiving toast to you, Mr. Food Truck Owner/Operator Guy (in my Bud Light "Real Men of Genius" commercial voice).

Although, the days that are nice enough for my food truck fam to go out are few and far between at this time of year, they rallied together for a rare November meet-up earlier this month; here are a few of my takeaways.

One new truck to the local scene (whom someone at KCFTA needs to tell to get a Twitter account) is Chickhoovenswine. Chickhoovenswine brings their brand of championship barbecue (along with all of the hardware that comes with it) to the streets. As the name may (not so subtly) hint at, Chickhoovenswine can rock out with just about any kind of meat in the smoker: Chicken, Beef, or Pork. 

I gave the "Hoggy Style" sandwich a shot, because, well, I mean, how can you not with a name like that? The Hoggy Style consists of delicious pulled pork, smoked sausage, and creamy slaw piled high. Chickhoovenswine also has 3 distinctly unique sauces available for saucing, if you so choose. I can't wait to try more from this truck!

Another newcomer, Organized Chaos (who has a Twitter account, that will tell you where to find them), prides themselves in what they consider to be a eccentric take on fusion sandwiches. If you are anything like me, you LOVE a good sandwich! My love for sandwiches runs so deep that I may even give the "Sandwich King" Jeff Mauro a run for his money! You can even ask my wife, if I had to eat one thing, every day, for the rest of my life, it would be a sandwich. Organized Chaos can feed your insatiable itch for a good sandwich.

Of sandwiches that Organized Chaos has on their menu, I have had two: the Tequila Chicken and the Bahn Mi. The Tequila Chicken is as tender as you could hope for a chicken sandwich to be. It is topped with melted cheddar cheese, cabbage, cilantro, and chipotle mayo. The Bahn Mi, which could probably be considered the signature sandwich for the truck, is Marissa's (co-owner/chef of OC) take on a Vietnamese classic. Tender, delicious, pork meatballs, pickled veggies, cilantro, and Sriracha mayo all on a toasted hoagie bun. The only thing that can bring the Bahn Mi down is the pending shutdown of the Sriracha plant.

Other big sellers that OC offers, that I have yet to try, but will be back soon to try are: the Chorizo Mac & Cheese and the Buffalo Chicken Balls. Give them a follow on Twitter, they have a couple engagements left this year, check them out!
Organized Choas on Urbanspoon

Now that I have covered the new kids on the block, I want to give a shoutout to some of the usual suspects too. Indios Carbonsitos has yet another new creation that will change the way that you think about Mexican food AND BBQ. He calls it the "Triple C", but I call it the "Triple 'Si'", because I cannot say "yes" to this burger enough! The Triple C burger is a Chorizo, Chihuahua Cheese, and Chipotle sauce topped burger. This burger has kick, but will not melt your face, perfect for someone like me that cannot handle the hot sauce equivalent of sulfuric acid. This burger is up to snuff with all of the other amazing menu items on this truck, you are doing yourself a disservice if you have not had Adrian's creations yet!

Lastly, my wife (at her ripe young age) had never had a Twinkie (if you can believe that). I knew that for her first Twinkie experience I would have to do it right. Luckily for us Funnel Cake Truck was at this event with his namesake desserts, along with deep fried Snickers, Oreos, Twix, Reece's and... wait for it... Twinkies! We were in luck; instead of suffering through the cheap, dry, plain worn out Twinkie, we got the funnel cake batter coated, deep fried, melty, gooey Twinkie. Top that sucker with a little bit of powdered sugar, chocolate, or cinnamon and you have a damn good way to end a meal (in which you had already eaten way too much anyways). My wife left the truck claiming that she had a new favorite dessert, that it is safe to say that although this was her first Twinkie, it will most definitely not be her last!

I hope that this short list of truck food has somehow, some way, provided you all with something to be thankful for on this day of Thanksgiving! Whether it is for the amazing food, the means by which you have to provide for your family, or for those that have always been there for you. I hope that you and yours have a happy Thanksgiving and safe Turkey Trotting!

In case you were wondering, I will be spending my Thanksgiving at the KC legend, the Golden Ox. I will either see you there, or let you know how it was afterwards. For having lived in KC my entire life, it is a shame that tomorrow/today (depending on how you look at it) will be the first time that I have been to the Golden Ox.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Beignet & Coffee

I recently had the pleasure of dining at Beignet, the brain-child of the good people that brought you Nica's 320 (now Nica's Lagniappe). Beignet takes its namesake (the beloved dessert from Nica's) and makes it the main dish!

These stuffed, powder covered, doughnut-like fritters are the perfect morning-time (or any other time of the day, for that matter) treat! My wife and I split the Pumpkin Pie and Bananas Foster Beignets.

The Pumpkin Pie, because it is fall, and well, since when is Pumpkin Pie not delicious? Never! Stuffing a Pumpkin Pie into a fritter doesn't make it any worse either. This beignet literally tasted like a slice of homemade pumpkin pie had been stuffed inside a beignet.

The Bananas Foster was an obvious second choice, being the chosen flavour of New Orleans (the American headquarters of Cajun food). It was everything that you would hope for from a banana foster dessert: not overwhelmingly banana flavoured, sweet (but not too rich), and creamy.

I could honestly deal with about half as much stuffing in each beignet, but that is because I appreciate the the base pastry quite a bit.

These stuffed treats, being as delicious as they may be, are still based on the ever delicious (and ever simple) plain beignet. At risk of over simplifying the beignet, for someone whom has never experienced one (because it is an experience), it is a rich man's version of the powdered donut (not so much in price, but in quality).

Having two locations (one in the River Market, one on 39th Street) makes a beignet that much more accessible. My preferred location is the one in the River Market. You can enjoy a Beignet break while shopping for produce & local honey (if you aren't against bee enslavement, which is what vegans actually believe). The interior is as eclectic as that of Nica's on the Boulevard. New Orleans inspired paintings, finger painted tables, and a doll head sighting round out the usual suspects.

Beignet can also offer you some pretty spectacular drip coffee to enjoy with your beignet.
Beignet on Urbanspoon

Just mentioning the word "coffee" beings to mind a situation that I read about in the news about the "quaint" Prairie Village Starbucks moving across the street to expand and add a drive though window. I could not believe this! 1) This is the epitome of what we call a Jo-Co problem. There are kids dying of cancer and this is what people are getting upset about. 2) This is the coffee bully Starbucks that we are talking about here, not some "Ma & Pop shop", the words "quaint" and "Starbucks" should NEVER be used in the same sentance! This being said, I write this hoping to help this gentleman (and others like him) realize that Starbucks is in fact the Walmart of coffee shops and in no way "quaint". This is like being mad at McDonald's for not using organic beef.

This city has plenty of great local coffee shops! I cannot even pretend to have been to half of them! On top of The Roasterie and Crossroads Coffee, that I have already written about, there are The Filling Station, City Market Coffee House, and Mildred's Coffeehosue (plus numerous others that I have yet to enjoy coffee in) that I also love. 

The Filling Station is a must-stop for any lover of good coffee or pastries. The Filling Station, like Beignet, also has 2 locations: one in Westport & one on Union Hill. The "Garage" location, on Union Hill, has a slightly larger menu that includes lunch items. This location is also done up with gears and license plates to resemble a garage (or a "Filling Station", if you will). The Westport location is in an old 1-hr Photo (or similar) hut and is decorated with nostalgic cameras and paraphernalia. Cameras that actually took pictures that looked like the filters that you use on Instagram today. The Westport location does have a drive-thru window, which despite what the a-hat Mr. Dehney (see above article link if you are skimming) would lead you to believe, does not ruin the quaintness of it at all!

The pastries are baked locally at SoHo Bakery and the beans are roasted by Broadway Roasting Company (who is said to have one of the best espressos around). This isn't pre-packaged stuff that is sent in from some factory in Seattle. Give Filling Station a try if you are looking for an awesome local coffee shop with uber talented baristas (every time you order a latte, it comes with a different design).
Filling Station on Urbanspoon

City Market Coffee House, located just steps from Beignet, in the River Market, is another great place to grab a cup of locally roasted coffee. The walls and customer side of the coffee bar are adorned with the burlap sacks that their coffee beans are shipped to them in. You will see bags from all four corners of the globe. I like to look around and see if I can find one from Puerto Rico.

They beans are roasted in house. If you are lucky, you might even walk in while the antique roaster is churning away in the corner, just to add to the appeal of the place. Every cup of single source or blended coffee that I have had in this place has been amazing!

Grab a cup, take a load off, and enjoy the atmosphere. Or grab a cup to-go, put some pep in your step, go pick out the freshest produce back beyond the doors to the Farmer's Market. You can even buy a bag of the artisan coffee beans  to take home with you. 
City Market Coffee House on Urbanspoon

Finally, Mildred's Coffee House, which admittedly I have been to far fewer times (and know much less about) than the previous two coffee houses. However, that does not make it any less of a kickass place to get your caffeine fix before a night of art exhibits on First Fridays. Mildred's Crossroads location has the perfect location for First Fridays! The place always smells amazing and, although I have never been for anything other than a coffee, everyone always talks about how great the food is (especially for a coffee house). Needless to say, Mildred's too is a much better place to walk to get coffee than is a Starbucks, Chuck Dehner (again, see above).
Mildred's Coffeehouse on Urbanspoon

My opinion on this whole Starbuck's "dilemma": get a local coffee shop to take the lease of the old Starbuck's location, or God forbid open one yourself, instead of using your energy to cry on the 6 o'clock news. Take all of Starbuck's clients and put them out of business. Then you will have something really quaint, instead of just the illusion of it. 

Be blessed, and until next time... Eat local!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Still Not Just Meat and Potatoes!

My love for Providence New American Kitchen has made me do something very rare, unprecedented in fact. Outside of my food truck family, I have never written twice about the same place. That is all about to change, and you have a revised menu (and new lead bartender) at PNAK to thank for it. If you want to know more about PNAK, click on the link above, this post is going to get straight into the food and drink.

The new food (at least what we tried of it):

For starters, the P&P Tots and Clam Chowder Dumplings are both great!

Porcini & Pecorino Tots
The P&P Tots are not your run of the mill tots that Napoleon Dynamite would stick in his pocket. They are porcini crusted and crunchy on the outside, soft and creamy (from the pecorino cheese) on the inside. The tots are garnished with pumpkin ketchup (which isn't as pumpkin-y or as ketchup-y as you might expect, but nicely compliments the delicate fried starch nuggets) and laid atop pumpernickel crumble (which I could honestly eat by itself, and did after the tots were gone).

Clam Chowder Dumplings
The CC Dumplings are exactly what they sound like: creamy chowder in a crunchy fried shell, topped with crispy bacon and served on a vinegar slaw (with chunks of clam in it). It is not often that I talk about garnishes, but both of these starters have garnishes that I would eat by themselves. How do they get liquid soup in that crunchy shell, you ask? I imagine that they freeze the chowder, bread it, then fry it (which melts the chowder and crisps the shell, all at once).

Kobe Burger
You can find the Kobe Burger on the lunch and dinner menus, probably because it is hard to think of a time of day when Kobe beef, Beemster cheese, pickled mustard seed, pickled onions, and shallot jam is not out of this world good!

Beer Braised Short Rib
A Boulevard beer braised short rib that is so tender that you can shred it with a spoon, served on top of house-made cavatelli pasta, smoked mushrooms, roasted cherry tomatoes, a jam made with more Boulevard beer, and topped with sprouts. You can really tell the difference that the house-made cavatelli pasta makes in this incredibly savory dish!

Spiced Doughnuts
These spiced doughnuts have replaced the ricotta doughnuts that I wrote about in my last post about PNAK and are just as amazing as they sound. These doughnuts taste like fall incarnated (or whatever the word would be for fall to take object form, but not necessarily human form). These doughnuts kick the highly coveted apple cider doughnuts (from Louisburg Cider Mill) in the crotch, hard. Add on to that the pumpkin glaze and pepita caramel brittle that come with the donuts and you have everything that you could hope for, from fall, on a plate.

Sticky Toffee Pudding
I can honestly not say enough about this dessert! This is probably the best dessert (and best ice cream) that I have ever had in my life (even better than the S'More's Flavors dessert from PNAK that I got put into the Ink Summer Dining Guide)! The hot date cake, covered in campfire whiskey glaze, and paired with Boulevard 6th Glass ice cream is unlike anything that you have ever tasted in your life; sweet, but not overly rich. This dessert is beyond words, do not plan to eat anything else for a few hours after this for risk of it tasting like hot feet comparatively. 

The Cocktails: 

Not only is PNAK shaking things up on the food menu, but also the cocktail menu. Some of the new cocktails that have been added are The Quiet Man, Bootlegger's Punch, and TIPple de Jalisco. We gave The Quiet Man and Bootlegger's Punch a try. 

Bootlegger's Punch (left) & The Quiet Man (right)
The Quiet Man is a whiskey cocktail, featuring Jameson, that is named after the 1952 John Wayne film about an American Boxer who retires to Ireland (so awesome, on so many levels). This cocktail runnith over with fall flavours: spiced apple cider, cinnamon & cardamom syrup, topped with ginger ale, and garnished with a piece of house-made candied ginger. Bootlegger's Punch is an equally awesome citrus-y rum cocktail: Goslings' Rum, Cherry Heering Liquer, Falernum, Fresh Lemon, and Orange Bitters.

Finally, the TIPple de Jalisco, that I did not get a chance to try, but supports a cause that is close to my heart. We all know that I love Mexico! The "TIP" in "TIPple" stands for Tequila Interchange Project, a non-profit that supports the preservation of regional tequila (aka the anti-Cuervo). This cocktail contains: Tequila Ocho "Plata", Mexican Coca Cola syrup (real sugar, not HFCS), and Regan's Orange Bitters.

Some of the new cocktails were formulated by the famous Brock Schulte (Drum Room Bar Manager). Some were created by the new lead bartender, who was brought over when Hickok's closed (sad face, I loved that place), Travis. After you have a couple cocktails with dinner, at PNAK, walk up the stairs to the Drum Room for a nightcap. If the Drum Room is not that busy, do the following: ask Travis about the time he got kicked out of the Robert Mondavi Vineyard in Napa (it is such an amazing story!), show him the below photo, tell him that you heard that it was the best New York themed cocktail out there, and ask him very nicely to make it for you.

Happy 1st Anniversary to PNAK, the new Drum Room, Rick Brook, Chef Eric Carter, Brock Schulte, Travis (who I am a jerk and forgot his last name), and crew! Cheers!

Monday, October 28, 2013

7one5 in the 7eight5

We all know how much I love Lawrence, KS. The last time I had the pleasure of staying the night in town, the night before my last triathlon of the season, I had to check out 715. The place has been open a little over a year and has been receiving all kinds of praise, and as I found out, it is for good reason.

Since we didn't have reservations, we had the option of waiting or sitting in the kitchen window. Kitchen window? Yes, please! Whenever you have the option to sit in the kitchen window, or the chef's table, at a restaurant, you take it (unless I am on my way, then you save it for me)! After putting in our drink orders (for one house red wine & one house white wine) a Rosemary Flatbread came over the counter at us, compliments of the chef (BTW, they have no idea who I am. This was not because I was a blogger, just because they are nice people.). The buttered flatbread was delicious and the fresh rosemary was joyfully fragrant. Since I am a strong believer in taking care of those that take care of me, I bought the kitchen a 6-pack. Buying the kitchen a 6-pack is a $12 menu item (it is $12 because you are not buying them Bud Light, since they did not buy you a Pizza Hut personal pan pizza), this ensures that this tip amount goes to the hard workers in the kitchen.

The house wines are served in tumbler style glasses, which I loved the un-pretentiousness of this, and the house varieties are very good. However, if you are a big wine snob (you know who you are), and want a wine glass that allows you to swirl and sniff your wine, they non-house varieties come in stemmed wine glasses.

After we polished off the rosemary flatbreat, we had to try the smoked trout crustini because of the combination of smoked trout and arugula & lemon caper aioli. They did not disappoint! One thing about the smoked trout that did catch us a bit off guard, was that it was cold, I guess I had expected it to be freshly smoked and still warm. Nonetheless, the flavour was amazing and it actually reminded me of the smoked fish and crackers that I had while ocean kayaking off of the Prince William Sound in Alaska.

I badly wanted to try one of the nightly specials that all looked so good, but since I was in town for a triathlon, I decided to be safe and stick with a pasta dish. My smoking hot date concurred. We got the spaghetti with lamb meat balls and tuna spaghetti, respectively (and switched half way, as usual). The house-made fresh spaghetti was out of this world! The lamb meat balls were tender, juicy, and everything that I had hoped that they would be. Top that off with a very nice marinara sauce and you have a recipe for a good night!

The tuna spaghetti was just as good, if not even better! The absence of the marinara in the picture shows just how hearty those house-made spaghetti noodles are. The oil (presumably of the olive variety) is the perfect lubricant for the noodles, while the saltiness of the capers and creaminess of the fresh mozzarella chunks are the perfect compliments to the flaky Italian Tuna in the pasta. Also worth noting is that we both got the "half" size of pasta and we both had some left over for a midnight snack. Granted, we had a couple appetizers and split the dessert that you are about to see, but these were still very generous portions.

715 has daily, nightly, and seasonal specials. When we were in, one of the seasonal desserts was something that I believe they called a Peach Pie(or a Fried Peach Pie, or something to that effect), what it was was essentially a peach empanada that had been covered in blend of cinnamon, sugar, and other spices. It came with two delicious scoops of what was either house-made ice cream or ice cream that was made somewhere close. The peaches were fresh local peaches (as we visited right at the end of peach season), and they were caramelized and glazed then stuffed in that empanada dough and deep fried.

The motto at 715 is "Local Handmade Food, Reasonable Wine" and they delivered on that, hard! We sat around for a while after our meal, talking, sipping our wine out of tumbler glasses, and watching the kitchen work as if they were our own personal live version of a Food Network show. This place is very impressive, the kitchen runs like a well oiled machine, and I saw some of the most gigantic cuts off meat that I have ever seen (in my life) come across that counter. They have a 2+lb rib-eye and what looked to be the worlds largest lamb chop, these both match the super-sized swine that is pictured on the folded receipt discretion deal (for lack of a better term, someone please comment below if you know what this is called). The kitchen staff are also very friendly and happy to answer any questions that you have (provided that they are not in the heat of battle at the particular moment you decide to be inquisitive).

You have not seen the last of me 715! Cheers!

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