The arrival of the first day of Summer, ahhhhhh! Can you feel it? I can. OMG, it is hot. It is 400 degree oven hot. What do the soaring temps mean to me: time off, traveling to eat/drink my way through other cities or my own, more time by the pool wondering the answer to the question tan lines or no? (never have figured that one out), perfecting my sangria and experimenting with new home-made ice cream recipes (this summer it's basil ice cream and bacon and eggs ice cream) and finally droppin' da' top on the Foodie-mobile.
As the city clears out and the tourists take over the Plaza and the Power and Light District, it also seems like the official Foodie events start to drop off, as people start entertaining and getting together with family and friends in their own backyards and neighborhoods. I don't know about you, but we lit our grills and our Green Egg up on Mother's Day and they have been fired up ever since.
However, there are some Foodie Events that I have placed on the blog that I think are some of the hottest Foodie tickets in town this summer. One of them is my Brazilian cooking class at Culinary Center of Kansas City, so some do fall in the shameless self-promotion category . . .but isn't that what having a blog is all about? I plan to attend all of these events just to break up the monotony of all that sun, sangria and grilled food. You should too!
Chef's Classic - Sunday, June 29, 2008 6:00 pm, The American Restaurant. Knowing the good works that Harvesters, our Community Food Network, does for the hungry children and families in Kansas City, I feel only too happy to support such a worthwhile organization with both my time and money. I told myself if I volunteered my time to help put on Forks and Corks this year . . .and survived (Look Bob, still standing!) , I would treat myself for the first time to tickets to Chef's Classic. I purchased my tickets back in April. I bought them then because it is a limited seating event that sells out every year. I didn't want to miss out on all of the fun. But, a little birdie has told me that there are a handful of tickets remaining, so checkout the line-up and the menu and then buy your ticket and come sit with me.
Of course, little did I know when I bought my tickets, that this would be the final opportunity for me to see the now former Executive Chef of The American, Celina Tio, in action as she and her family will soon be moving to Charlotte, NC where she will be opening her own restaurant she plans to call "Julian" after her two culinary idols and teachers Julia Child and her uncle Julian. Meanwhile, July 1st is when American alumni, Executive Chef Debbie Gold, of 40 Sardines fame, will take back over the kitchen where she and ex-husband Executive Chef Michael Smith put Kansas City on the culinary map by winning our city's first set of matchy-matchy James Beard Awards. So, this dinner will be bittersweet for me, as I say goodbye to a fire-starter of a KC Chef in Celina who brought fresh, creative new food and flavor combinations to a restaurant that may not have always embraced the new and can sometimes suffer under the weight of it's own history. Celina will surely be missed from the Kansas City culinary landscape, but Debbie Gold will clearly rock as The American's new culinary Queen Bee. Buzz-buzz!
So besides getting to witness this changing of the guards at The American, the rest of the Executive Chef line-up for Chef's Classic is impressive and the menu looks even better. Check it out.
• Eddie Allen, Ameristar Casino, Kansas City, Mo.
• Roberto Donna, Bebo Trattoria, Washington, D.C.
• Mike Lata, FIG, Charleston, S.C.
• Joe Hafner, Gracie's, Providence, R.I.
• Keith Luce, The Herbfarm, Woodinville, Wash.
• Nick Wesemann, The American Restaurant, Kansas City, Mo.
• Dan Swinney, Lidia's, Kansas City, Mo.
• Howard Hannah, The River Club, Kansas City, Mo.
• Jonathan Justus, Justus Drug Store, Smithville, Mo.
Brazilian Party Food Cooking Class - Wednesday, July 23, 2008 6:30 pm, The Culinary Center of Kansas City - So before I was a Foodie, I was the owner of The Brazilian Cargo Company located west of the Plaza on Holly Street, a successful retail store that sold foods, arts and crafts from Brazil from 2000 to 2005. We provided the ever growing Brazilian community and Americans with Brazilian ties the staples to make the dishes from their beloved country.
I opened the store to have access to the ingredients of the Brazilian cuisine, which at the time I was trying to master. It all started in 1995, when as a newly married woman, I needed to learn how to make some of the Brazilian dishes my new husband and his family were used to eating on weekends and holidays. I didn't even think that what a Brazilian would eat on Christmas would be different than an American, but as soon as I saw my husband's face when my family served jello salad as part of the Christmas meal . . .I knew I needed a crash course in Brazilian cuisine. And fast.
So, I called up my husband's mother, Anna Lucia, who was also my devoted partner and right hand in the Brazilian Cargo Company, and asked her if she would teach me the dishes of Brazil. She confessed that she was not the cook in the family, but that her mother, my husband's grandmother, "Dona" Ita would be happy to come teach me the dishes their family grew up making and enjoying.
Over the next few months, we cooked together, with me writing everything down and then practicing over and over . . .and of course over time, I got better and better. I knew I had really achieved some level of expertise when Dona Ita declared my Brazilian cooking to be better than most Brazilians she knew. That's when I proudly gave myself the title: "The Dona from Oklahoma."
That's also when I reached out to Laura O' Rourke, the owner of the awesome Culinary Center of Kansas City, as a way to promote the store . . .if I taught Kansas City how to make the dishes of Brazil, then they would need to come to my new shop to buy the ingredients. I am in Marketing, ya know.
(Um, see this guy in the blue shirt in this picture . . .that's Kurt Oetting, owner and founder of the now famous local catering company CHOP! who was the "culinary host" for my cooking classes back in the day. Look at Kurt serving my food!)
Laura was willing to take a chance on a newbie, and I taught several classes there with much success and I even had a few requests for private party classes, which I happily did on the side to earn extra money for the store. I loved teaching cooking classes. It was a kick.
Many years passed, and I forgot how much fun it was to take classes and give classes at the Culinary Center . . .it had dropped off my radar screen. Life got in the way, and the store needed more attention than either Anna or I had time for with my new infant son, Dominic, now on the scene, so we sadly closed it and that chapter in our lives.
Imagine my surprise, when Laura calls me out of the blue (someone in her office found my blog) and asks me to teach a class, my old Brazilian Party Food class. I happily agreed and am proud to give you the details. (Just call the Culinary Center to register for a class.) If you never knew this place existed in KC, you need to. It is a wonderful resource for all home cooks and wanna-be Chef's.
BRAZILIAN PARTY FOOD
Get ready to party Brazilian style with “Table Hopping” columnist for Tastebud Magazine, former Brazilian Specialty Store owner and dedicated foodie. We’re happy to have Jenny back in the house teaching with us again! The national dish of Brazil is a black bean, sausage and rice dish called “Feijoada Completa” and is prepared only on weekends or celebrations. We’ll also learn to make Brazilian Cheese Bread (Pao de Queijo) Brazilian Rice, Manioc Meal with Butter and Egg (Farofa), Collard Greens (Couve), Vinaigrette Sauce, Passion Fruit Mousse (Maracuja) and Brazil’s most famous muddled lime and sugar cane rum drink, the Caipirinha, which you’ll learn to make the “right way”! We’ll also enjoy Guarana, a Brazilian soda pop made from berries picked in the Amazon jungle. (Tasting) Wed. 7/23/08 6:30-9:00 $50 Instructor: Jenny Vergara.
2008 Greater Kansas City Bartending Competition - Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 6:00 pm, The Uptown Theater.
Last Year, I attended the first annual Greater Kansas City Bartending Competition at The Uptown. I brought my ex-bartender husband to the event, along with my Foodie friends from Lawrence. After settling them into a table in the back, I partied with the crowd filled mostly with service industry professionals, who were attending and/or competing in this event. Yep, if it is on a Sunday night, you know it is filled with industry folk. I was among my restaurant peeps. Word!
With last year being the first year of this event, I wasn't sure what to wear or what to expect. It was basically like a combination of one of those Sunday afternoon food competition shows on Food Network, mixed with a rock concert. Only this event was a really cool cocktail competition, and the bands were awesome local hot shots. I later referred to it as a: "competitive cocktail-licious concert". It is certainly a youth movement event, with different hipsters from different restaurants camped out in the crowd cheering on their home team bartender. I wasn't sure what drew the bigger crowd last year, the bartending event, the delicious free food from local restaurants or the bands that played afterwards. It was all good.
As for the competition, each of the twelve finalist last year were asked to make their signature cocktail under a certain time limit, then they described it as each of the judges tasted the drink and they were rated. Then they were subjected to some pretty basic cocktail trivia questions they had to answer. Last year, there were 100 entries and 12 finalists that represented some real heavy hitters in the local restaurant scene: Bar Natasha, M&S Grill, VooDoo Lounge, JJ's, Morton's, Bluestem, Potpie, JP Wine Bar, Thai Place, 1924 Main, City Tavern and The Drop. Last year's grand prize winner was David Smuckler of Morton's, who walked away with $1,000 and his recipe published in Cheers magazine.
I thought that the panel of judges really gave an air of creditability to the competition, as they were taking the event serious, but not too serious. Of course, neither were the contestants, which was obvious when Potpie's bartender wore overalls and no shirt, and at one point pulled a flask out of his back pocket to add a special ingredient to his cocktail as he competed on stage. Then there was the antics of the bartender from The Drop who pulled a stunt at the end of making his drink that rivaled the Bobby Flay standing on the cutting board moment on Iron Chef, offending his competitor Iron Chef Morimoto.
This event is the love child of Ryan Maybee and Doug Frost. Ryan is an Owner/Sommelier of JP's Wine Bar and a mean Mixologist himself. He is soon to be responsible for a new bar downtown called Manifesto which is going to be serving old school cocktails with new school flavors. Doug Frost, well, he is an international wine expert, consultant and writer as well the Wine Zen Master to the Sommeliers of tomorrow. If you meet someone in Kansas City who is wicked smart about wine, see how many degrees of separation that person is from Doug Frost, usually only 1 to 2 degrees. We are lucky Doug Frost calls Kansas City home.
The event is put on for charity benefiting the HALO Foundation and at last year’s inaugural event, they raised nearly $8000 for the HALO Foundation. But as important as raising the money for charity was the goal was to “raise the bar” for the art of mixology in Kansas City. A lofty and important goal, my friends.
Dale “King Cocktail” Degroff will be the celebrity guest judge this year, along with Ryan, Doug and Lisa Burgess. Dale is one of the most revered experts in his field, and authored the book “The Craft of the Cocktail”. Lisa Burgess is a local expert in the restaurant and bar community.
This year your $20 ticket price will include not only front row seats to the bartending competition, but also live music from 2 local bands, a DJ, a flair demonstration by the Angel’s Rock Bar bartenders, and food catered from Jp Wine Bar, JJ’s, The Drop, and Makers Mark Bourbon House.
Okay, so honestly there is nothing truly Foodie, in the strict sense of the word, about this event. Not unless you count feeding your soul as a Foodie activity, like I do. This little local troupe of artists feeds me in powerful ways, and gives me such hope for the future of performance art in Kansas City, along with all of the other, more traditional, art genres this city has to offer.
Quixotic means: Caught up in the romance of noble deeds and the pursuit of unreachable goals; idealistic without regard to practicality. Yes, I want to be that . . . I want to support that kind of frivolity in myself and in KC.
I am one of the many in Kansas City who supports, protects, and champions this troupe; I am a sponsor, a benefactor and a regular customer. I am a patron of the art this troupe delivers with their impressive aerial feats and beautiful and whimsical costumes and choreography.
Every time I see the name Quixotic attached to any event, I buy tickets because I know it is going to be a good show and I know it is going to sell out. I even spent my New Years Eve night this year at Harrah's Casino at the VooDoo Lounge just to catch another live performance of this talented, local theatrical troupe. They never have put on anything less than a spectacular performance.
For a taste of our very own local Cirque du Soleil, buy your tickets now before we lose this talented team to bigger venues and larger cities. If you have never been Quixotic, there is no time like the present.
Have a tasty Summer. There is so much to sink your teeth into. Enjoy!