By Porcshe N. Moran
Rural Missouri magazine-July 2017
Derek Bryant has fond childhood memories of visiting his grandparents at their 300-acre farm in the central Missouri town of Fayette. He recalls days spent fishing, exploring the woods and shooting BB guns. Read story.
When you think food in Kansas City, Missouri, your mind might get overtaken with visions of succulent, slow-smoked meats slathered in a tangy, sweet sauce. Afterall, the metro area is home to more than 100 barbecue joints (my top pick is Oklahoma Joe's). However, Kansas City's culinary offerings go far beyond its most famous food. Whether you are craving Spanish tapas or salivating for soul food, Kansas City is equipped to satisfy any appetite. I recently took a weekend trip to KCMO to indulge in my inner-foodie. One of my best friends from college lives there, and we both love to eat, (read about our Columbia, MO dining adventures here) so we had no shame in devoting my visit to the pursuit of getting our grub on. Here's a little taste of our mini-food tour. These are three Kansas City eateries that get the official PNM Media Blog seal of approval. Bon Appetit!
La Bodega Tapas & Lounge (703 SW Blvd, Downtown, labodegakc.com)
Posted by Porcshe N. Moran
My first experience with Spanish tapas was in 2008 while I was living in London. After a tasty lunch at El Parador in the city's Camden/Primrose Hill neighborhood, I was hooked. So, of course, I jumped at the chance to try out Kansas City's take on tapas. La Bodega did not disappoint. We arrived during happy hour, and kicked things off with glasses of white and red Sangria. Several menu items were half-off. We eagerly selected six tapas to share. Everything that arrived at our sidewalk table was fresh and flavorful. Each dish was layered and complex. The ingredients boldly unfolded one by one in my mouth. In addition to the yummy food, the service was lightening fast. I also enjoyed the interior decor which featured decorative, mosaic wall tiles. If tapas are your thing, Las Bodega is a must-stop when you're in KC.
The Peanut (5000 Main Street, Downtown, peanutkc.com)
The Peanut promises patrons the best wings in Kansas City. They describe their buffalo wings as "famous", "world-class" and "winger lickin' good." My friend, who had already had the wings several times, backed up the claims. Needless to say, my expectations were on high when we arrived at The Peanut at 11 PM on Friday night. My first bite into these extra large wings (they include both the wing and drumstick) confirmed all the hype. The sauce has a slight kick to it without being too fiery to enjoy. The wings are fried nice and crispy. They even make their own blue cheese sauce in-house for your dipping pleasure.
We reheated our leftover wings the next morning for breakfast, and they were still very tasty. Another plus for The Peanut is that their kitchen doesn't close until 1 AM Monday-Saturday, which is great news for those like myself who love a late-night snack. Best of all, it is super easy to get your Peanut wing fix even if you aren't in KC. A quick online order will get their wings and sauces shipped nationwide.
Peachtree Buffet (6800 Eastway Traffic Way, Eastwood Hills West, peachtreerestaurants.com)
When I was thinking about what to write for my review of Peachtree Buffet, I realized that words simply can't do this place any justice. Peachtree serves up ridiculously good southern-style comfort food in the tradition of Thanksgiving, and old-school Sunday dinners. I took more trips than I care to admit up to the buffet to load up on soul food staples like macaroni and cheese, collard greens, candied yams, spaghetti, rolls, BBQ rib tips and honey buttermilk cornbread muffins. The law of diminishing returns doesn't seem to apply at Peachtree, as every bite is more awe-inspiring than the one before it. If you want to try everything that this restaurant has to offer, be quick. Trays of the more popular items such as the fried chicken, catfish and peach cobbler, empty out almost as the servers set them out. Run, don't walk, to this Kansas City gem, and treat your stomach to the Peachtree experience.
Pro Tip: Wear sweatpants, and block off a few hours for a nap after your meal. This is SERIOUS eating.
Leave a Comment Below: Where are you favorite places to eat in Kansas City?
Posted by Porcshe N. Moran
Anyone who reads this blog won't be surprised to know that I love food. It's a big part of both my professional and personal life. My first restaurant review was published 15 years ago in my junior high school newspaper. Now, I write about food and wine for various print and online media outlets. Every Saturday morning, I excitedly read the business section of the local newspaper to see if any new eateries are opening. I plan vacations around the dining establishments that I want to visit. If there is a food-related event that is happening near my home, I'll likely be there. You get the point, food is quite important to me!
Last Friday, I had the opportunity to attend The Art of Food: Culinary Arts in the Media Conference on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia, Mo. The conference, presented by the University Club of MU, consisted of panel discussions, educational seminars, cooking demonstrations, lunch and dinner. The purpose of the day was to explore the relationship between chefs, culinary artists, and the media experts, journalists, photographers and writers who tell the stories of their edible craft. My goal was to get tips on how to improve my food writing and photography skills and to network with others in the industry.
Here are a some highlights from the event:
The first demonstration of the day was from Chef Ray L. Duey who showed us his stellar fruit and vegetable carving abilities. His impressive resume includes being part of a team that did fruit carvings for President Barack Obama at the White House, competing on two Food Network shows and winning seven gold, silver and bronze medals with the Professional Chef's Association and the American Culinary Federation. As if watching his amazing artistry wasn't enough, he kept his presentation interesting by inserting heartfelt stories, humor and music. For example, he played the Eagles' song 'Life in the Fast Lane" while carving a turtle out of an apple.
The University Club provided a delicious lunch buffet of seasonal dishes made with local produce. I filled my plate with heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, a candied bacon lollipop, and sweet potato and maple profiteroles. I also had Missouri Legacy Beef roulades with onion confit, bacon and blue cheese herb-roasted fingerling potatoes, Troutdale Farm pan-fried trout with grapes, pecans and lemon Worcestershire sauce served with tri-colored orzo, and Country Neighbors Farm chicken in natural au jus served with roasted squash and a root vegetable medley. There were a variety of desserts available too. I tried the club-made sorbet and the creme brulee. During lunch, Todd Kliman, food and wine editor at Washingtonian magazine, gave an excellent speech about the experience and expectations of dining out. He was followed by Chef Martin Heuser, owner of Affäre in Kansas City, who did a demo-tasting of baked quail ballontine wrapped in cabbage with almonds, cranberries, cassis jus and red beet puree.
The final session of the day was a demonstration by Nathaniel Reid, executive pastry chef at The Ritz Carlton, St. Louis. In an hour and a half, he showed us how he makes three of his most popular desserts including Ruby, a chocolate cake filled with raspberry tea-flavored mousse and wrapped in a shiny, red raspberry glaze. He also made a pistachio cake, called Jarmo, filled with a pistachio mousseline and topped with fresh strawberries, raspberries and chopped pistachios. Reid's third dish was his Ambrosia raspberry macarons that are filled with raspberry jam and orange blossom water chantilly. He was joined on stage by his wife Lee Lee who is also a pastry chef.
The grand finale of the conference was a dinner reception at the Missouri Theatre. Each section of the building featured a different type of food and beverages. In the main lobby, there were Missouri wines, champagne and passed appetizers. Another lobby had a cold buffet of domestic and exotic fruit, chilled and marinated vegetables, smoked, chilled and cured sustainable seafood, and pâtés and terrines. On the theatre stage, there were four stations. The Asian noodle bowl station was helmed by Chef Daniel Pliska of the University Club and apprentice graduate Scott Gestring. They served a trio of lo mein, soba and pad thai bean thread noodles mixed with Asian vegetables and hoisin ginger roast duck, star anise brine smoked pork, and Thai chili and lime spiced grilled shrimp. Chef J. Kevin Walker, of The Vintage Club, served chili-seared duck breast with anchor-maple braised duck ragout and semolina dumplings. Seared salmon with pickled blueberries, smoked onion caramel and fennel confit was on the menu at chef Tim Bucci's station. Chef Gui Alinat presented aigo boulido, a provençal garlic soup topped with a poached egg. The rooftop patio area was reserved for an incredible spread of desserts and pastries by Reid, verrines and macarons by patissiers Jen Grob and Margaret Hughes and tortes by Pliska.
I can't say enough about how much I enjoyed The Art of Food: Culinary Arts in the Media conference. It was a well-organized, inspiring event that brought together incredibly talented people from both the culinary arts and media worlds for a day of great food, thoughtful conversation and professional development.
Posted by Porcshe N. Moran
On the first Friday of September, I hit the road for the five-and-a-half hour drive to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois from my home in Missouri. One of my best friends from college lives in this east-central Illinois metropolitan area, and it was high time for me to pay him a visit. Champaign-Urbana is best known as the home of the University of Illinois flagship campus, but higher education isn't the only thing that these two cities have going for them.
It was 8:30 p.m. on Friday when I arrived at my friend's apartment in Champaign. I was ready for something to eat, so we walked the short distance to downtown for dinner and drinks at Big Grove Tavern. While we waited at the bar for a table to open up on the outdoor patio, I sipped on the Georgia Peach, a house cocktail consisting of Absolut vodka, peach liqueur, melon water, lemon juice and simple syrup. The bartender supplied us with complimentary oregano-basil popcorn, and my friend and I split an order of tasty house-cut Kennebec fries served with a malt vinegar aioli. For my main entree, I got the Tavern Burger, a beef, bison & pork burger topped with red onion marmalade, cornichon aioli and Rockome's Amish white cheddar. Big Grove Tavern is a nice, casual place to spend an evening. I loved the upscale, rustic decor, lively atmosphere and their self-proclaimed "Midwest craft cuisine" menu that focuses on fresh, local ingredients.
After dinner, we went across the street to a stylish cocktail bar called Boltini Lounge. Unfortunately, the outdoor patio was full. But, there was plenty of room inside at the bar, and a DJ was playing. I love fancy drinks, and Boltini is abundant with traditional and updated versions of martinis, Manhattans, cosmopolitans and gimlets. They also have wine, craft beers and small-batch distilled spirits. The food menu stays away from fried fare and features tapas, soups, salads, tacos, sandwiches and desserts. Boltini would be an ideal place to take a date or a group of friends for a classy night out.
Saturday was a busy day. We kicked things off at Urbana's Market at the Square. There were tons of vendors selling everything from fruit, vegetables and homemade pastas to jewelry, clothing and pet accessories. There were some food trucks at the event, and I grabbed breakfast at one called Cracked. As the name implies, the menu revolves around eggs. However, I managed to find two egg-less selections. The Parmesan truffle tots and the buttermilk biscuit pancakes, which are fried buttermilk biscuit dough drizzled in honey or maple syrup and dusted with powdered sugar, were amazing! I was craving them for days after I was back at home.
We left the market at around noon and went next door to the Common Ground Food Cooperative. This community-owned grocery store promotes organic and local foods and products. They also host cooking classes and programs on overall wellness. The Co-op is connected to Lincoln Square mall which has various stores, eateries and offices, but the main attraction for me was wandering around the Urbana Landmark Hotel & Convention Center. It was built in 1923 by a group of Urbana citizens who wanted to increase tourism, entertainment and cultural opportunities in central Illinois. The hotel closed for in 2009 before being purchased and renovated by developer Xiao Jin Yuan. The European-style boutique hotel reopened in November 2012. We also checked out some other places in the mall including Art Mart Food (I had their delicious banana fudge praline gelato), Art Coop, Inc. and Transitions, a non-profit secondhand clothing store that raises money for the residents of The Center for Women in Transition.
We refueled for the second half of the afternoon with lunch at Rosati's Authentic Chicago Pizza. I ordered a slice of their double dough pepperoni pizza and split an order of the Teryaki chicken wings with my friend. Everything was delicious. Their slices are big enough to be a meal, and they come with a drink for just $5. Just like my meal at Cracked, I found myself craving Rosati's days later. The food is inexpensive and quick, but the taste is high-quality.
Next, we took a abbreviated tour of the University of Illinois campus which included the Morrow Plots, the University of Illinois Observatory, the McFarland Memorial Tower, the State Farm Center arena and the colorful, enormous blob sculptures known as Darwin's Playground. We also stopped by the Krannert Art Museum in the College of Fine and Applied Arts. This museum has more than 10,000 permanent works spread throughout 10 galleries. There are 12 to 15 rotating exhibits each year. I was impressed by the size of the museum and the diversity of the artwork on display.
The final location on our campus excursion was the University of Illinois Arboretum. It's 57-acres of plant collections and gardens. I could have stayed at the Arboretum all day just soaking in the immense beauty of the grounds. Every inch of the natural space is gorgeous, but my two favorite spots were the Miles C. Hartley Selections Garden with its hundreds of flowering plants and Japan House. The three-room house wasn't open during our visit, but we got to take a walk through the property's serene Japanese-style gardens.
We ended the afternoon with a snack at Pekara Bakery & Bistro. They specialize in all-natural European breads and desserts in addition to salads, sandwiches, soups, omelettes, crepes, coffee, tea and smoothies. I had an almond croissant dusted with powdered sugar.
Despite a jammed packed day, we didn't slow down for the evening. We went to the Art Theater Co-op to see Woody Allen's latest film, Blue Jasmine. At the concession stand, I purchased popcorn and my first-ever glass of Illinois wine, the semi-sweet Weiner Dog White from Alto Vineyards & Winery. After the movie, we had dinner at Radio Maria. They have a full tapas menu, and we indulged in the fried artichoke hearts, eggplant frites, lamb meatballs and steamed mussels. We ate our delectable feast outside on the sidewalk patio. Our meal was followed by live music and dancing at Cowboy Monkey and then more dancing at the chic Soma UltraLounge.
My weekend in Champaign-Urbana was the ideal blend of great food, culture, art, and tranquil nature. From the University of Illinois' museums and gardens to a vibrant, hip downtown scene that appeals to adults and college students alike, the twin cities of Champaign-Urbana are Midwest destinations worth a visit.
Posted by Porcshe N. Moran
My story "Dining (All) Out" is featured in the latest issue of Inside Columbia magazine. The article is about some of the uncommon culinary experiences that are available in and around Columbia, Mo.
In the story, I cover everything from chef's tables to traditional English tea service at local establishments including Bleu Restaurant and Wine Bar, Bangkok Gardens, Victorian Country Inn, Catalpa and Room 38.
You can read the article here & check out the entire September issue of Inside Columbia magazine here.
Hello! I am Porcshe N. Moran. My nearly two decades of professional experience covers print and digital journalism as well as strategic communications, content marketing and copywriting.