The interesting thing about researching this week's Pitch Cafe feature about Kansas City's finest pancakes was the discovery that most area restaurants, even first-class restaurants like Chaz on the Plaza in the Raphael Hotel, don't use real maple syrup, but serve maple-flavored corn syrup.
Actually, in defense of Chaz, chef Charles d'Ablaing uses a 50-50 blend of real maple syrup and corn syrup, which tastes very close to the real thing. "The reason that most restaurants don't offer pure maple syrup," d'Ablaing says, "is the expense. The costs of pure Vermont maple syrup are now running between $50 to $80 a gallon."
"You can buy five times as much maple-flavored syrup these days as 1 gallon of pure syrup," chef Marshall Roth says. "It's all a matter of economy."
Interestingly, one of the last restaurants I expected to be serving real maple syrup was suggested by one of the commenters to this week's story: Commenter Celeste Lindell said Tennessee-based restaurant chain Cracker Barrel serves the real stuff. I was wary, but the manager of the Cracker Barrel at 7920 N.W. Tiffany Springs Pkwy. confirmed that the dining room uses pure maple syrup.
"I'd like to offer real maple syrup," says Beth Barden, chef-owner of Succotash, "but I'd have to charge extra for it, which, actually, I don't think some of my customers would mind."
Leslie Stoddard, the owner of the Classic Cookie in the Brookside-Waldo area doesn't even use maple-flavored syrup; she offers a butter-pecan blend instead.
So why is pure maple syrup so costly? It's a time-consuming process, beginning with tapping the maple trees for the sap, which is slowly drained into buckets, strained and boiled; it can take as much as 20 gallons of maple sap to reduce down to a single gallon of pure maple syrup.
If Cracker Barrel isn't exactly your cup of tea, there are a few locally owned restaurants that serve real maple syrup, including Webster House Restaurant, which offers the pure product during the Sunday-brunch hours.