Thursday, July 23, 2015

Bluestem's Boulevard beer dinner coming August 31

Posted By on Thu, Jul 23, 2015 at 11:52 AM

Colby and Megan Garrelts (and Boulevard): brewing up a beer dinner. - ANGELA C. BOND
  • Angela C. Bond
  • Colby and Megan Garrelts (and Boulevard): brewing up a beer dinner.

Colby Garrelts and Megan Garrelts, owners of Bluestem restaurant in Westport, are finally doing the Boulevard beer dinner that they've had in mind for a long time.

"We've done beer dinners at Rye," chef Colby Garrelts says, naming the couple's Leawood restaurant. "Over the years, we've tried to get something going at Bluestem but couldn't get it nailed down. This time, the dinner is truly a better fit at Bluestem." Not least because when Boulevard Brewing Co.'s ambassador brewer, Jeremy Danner, approached Colby Garrelts about creating a dinner that focused on three of the company's craft beers, he was specific about the venue being Bluestem.

So the Garreltses will open Bluestem for a four-course meal on Monday, August 31 (when the restaurant is usually closed), that features Boulevard's Saison-Brett, Long Strange Tripel and Pale Ale.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Room 39 in Leawood updates its look, banishes stuffiness

Room 39 in Leawood updates its look.

Posted By on Mon, Jul 20, 2015 at 8:01 AM

Just like Paris: a zinc-topped bar.
  • Just like Paris: a zinc-topped bar.

Most restaurants, as they edge toward the 10-year mark, need some kind of change. Sometimes a subtle cosmetic makeover is in order. Sometimes a complete personality change would be better.

The eight-year-old Room 39, at 10561 Mission, in Leawood's Mission Farm development, didn't need a physical or spiritual overhaul, but its recently completed remodel (on the heels of last winter's update to the midtown original) is an undeniable improvement all the same.

Chef Ted Habiger — who co-owns both the Leawood venue and the one at 1719 West 39th Street with his wife, Jackie — did much of the work himself over the 11 days that the restaurant was closed. From June 29 to July 9, the Habigers did a major number on the dining room, tearing down walls and removing ... tablecloths?

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  • Room 39 in Leawood updates its look.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Chipotle's Cultivate Festival makes its Kansas City debut on Saturday at Penn Valley Park

Posted By on Tue, Jul 14, 2015 at 2:04 PM


Chipotle’s Cultivate Festival has been stopping at various cities since the summer of 2011, but this is the first year the food and music event stakes its flag in Kansas City. In addition to some tasty eats and libations — provided by Chipotle and a couple local vendors — Saturday’s fest will also offer food exhibitions and chef demos.

That’s all spliced between sets from a rather impressive lineup, starting with headliners Portugal, the Man. Also on deck: South Africa-via-Brooklyn electro-pop act St. Lucia, power-pop foursome Smallpools (think Passion Pit on a formidable sugar high), the badass Betty Who, producer-songwriter Max Frost and resident Chipotle DJ Christopher Golub. 

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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Novel's Ryan Brazeal not sure yet what he'll do with 1935 McGee

Posted By on Wed, Jul 8, 2015 at 9:00 AM

Behind the wooden barriers at 20th and McGee is this building.
  • Behind the wooden barriers at 20th and McGee is this building.

Plywood has surrounded the 97-year-old brick building at 1935 McGee for some time. In the spring of 2012, a portion of the structure's roof collapsed, effectively closing down the previous tenant, Cadillac Catering, forever. Since then, the plan has been to raze what was constructed as a car dealership, back in 1918.

The new owner of that building and its neighboring structure on the northeast corner of 20th Street and McGee, Ryan Brazeal — chef-owner of Novel Restaurant at 815 West 17th Street — says he's talking with architects and his bank to see whether the building can be saved.

"I'd still like to do something in the Crossroads," Brazeal tells me. But how soon?

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Cacao to juice the 51 Main building

Posted By on Mon, Jun 29, 2015 at 10:00 AM

Esqueda, Mattiella, and Marquez are in a Cacao mood.
  • Esqueda, Mattiella, and Marquez are in a Cacao mood.

Victor Esqueda, owner of Ixtapa in the Northland, and Ivan Marquez, former owner of Frida's Contemporary Mexican Cuisine in Overland Park, want to add some Cacao to a hot neighborhood.

Cacao — that's what the restaurateurs mean to call their proposed Mexican bistro — would open next to the corner space where Jonathan Justus is slated to open Black Dirt. The business partners (who together opened the original Frida's, before having a famous falling out) are in negotiations with developers Van Trust to take the 2,500-square-foot, street-level space in the 51 Main building.

The chef — Victor Esqueda's 25-year-old nephew, Cristobal Matiella, who moved to Kansas City four months ago and is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of Mexico — has some juicy ideas for his breakfast, lunch and dinner menus.

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Four questions for award-winning student chef Matt Phillips

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2015 at 11:31 AM

Chef Matt Phillips will be competing in Budapest. - SUSAN MCSPADDEN/JCCC
  • Susan McSpadden/JCCC
  • Chef Matt Phillips will be competing in Budapest.

June has been a very good month for Matt Phillips, a  22-year-old student in the hospitality program at Johnson County Community College. Phillips traveled to Las Vegas on June 14 to compete in the national Chaîne des Rôtisseurs young chef competition and won first-place honors.

Phillips' win will give him the opportunity to represent the United States in the international competition sponsored by Chaîne des Rôtisseurs this September in Budapest, Hungary. Chefs from 20 to 24 countries will gather in Budapest to be named "the best of the best" during an intense competition; Phillips will be the first JCCC student ever to participate in this prestigious international competition.

Phillips, who has been studying at JCCC for the past three years, was also a member of the JCCC culinary team that won first place last summer in the American Culinary Federation Student Team Championships. In addition to his studies, Phillips has been an apprentice chef for three years at the Blue Hills Country Club, where he still works.

The Pitch asked Phillips a few questions about competing solo in Las Vegas — where each chef was given an identical "mystery market basket" and a limited amount of time in which to design and create a three-course meal — as well as his upcoming trip to Budapest and his future plans.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Affäre restaurant introduces a summer bison menu

Posted By on Thu, Jun 18, 2015 at 12:22 PM

Affäre's bison Bourguignonne is on the new dinner menu.
  • Affäre's bison Bourguignonne is on the new dinner menu.

Chef Martin Heuser told me at least three times that the bison he just added to the lunch, dinner and lounge menus at Affäre, his Crossroads restaurant at 1911 Main, formerly led happy, stress-free, grass-eating lives on the Kansas prairie before, you know, being slaughtered.

I couldn't resist asking: "Will eating bison with a stress-free childhood somehow make my life more stress-free?"

Heuser looked puzzled for a minute, then told me, "I hope so. Stress-free life makes the bison meat much more tender."

And if you follow that line of logic: Tender meat requires less chewing, which is certainly less stressful on the jaw muscles, thus creating a more tranquil dining experience. Not as effective as Xanax, maybe, but certainly more delicious.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Westport Cafe & Bar celebrates five years with free frites

Posted By on Wed, Jun 17, 2015 at 8:23 AM

Wiles, left. and Confessori with the fabled frites.
  • Wiles, left. and Confessori with the fabled frites.

Instead of making birthday cake, Aaron Confessori and Rich Wiles, the co-owners of the Westport Cafe & Bar, are celebrating the venue's fifth anniversary with free frites. It's an offer good through the end of June.

When Confessori was a 19-year-old college student at Wichita State — majoring in ceramics — he would make the occasional foray to Kansas City, and he liked going to Westport to see the variety of bars and restaurants.

"I remember sitting in a Westport restaurant, back in 1996, thinking, 'One day, I'm going to own one these,' " Confessori says.

Less than a decade More than a decade later, after completing culinary school in New York City, Confessori took over the original Blanc Burgers + Bottles space at 419 Westport Road and transformed it into his ideal 60-seat bistro. One of his first employees, 19-year-old fledgling chef Rich Wiles, became indispensable in the kitchen.

Today Wiles and Confessori co-own the popular restaurant, which turned five years old yesterday, June 16. As part of the anniversary festivities, Westport Cafe & Bar is giving all customers who come in for a drink or a meal a complimentary bowl of the venue's golden, crispy fried potatoes, pommes frites. This offer is good through June 30, 2015. "You have to order something to get them," Confessori says.

"And dine-in only," Wiles adds.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Jonathan Justus to sign lease for Black Dirt, at 51 Main

Posted By on Tue, Jun 16, 2015 at 12:00 PM

Future home of Black Dirt restaurant
  • Future home of Black Dirt restaurant

"There are a lot of people out there who don't like fine dining," Jonathan Justus tells me. Which is another way of saying that plenty of people not only like fine dining but seek it out — even if that means driving to Smithville. That, of course, is where the chef and restaurateur has operated the upscale, formal-leaning Justus Drugstore for eight years. 

And if you've wanted to sample Justus' cuisine without making the trip, things are about to get easier for you.

The James Beard Award-nominated chef says he's about to sign the lease on his long-gestating second restaurant, Black Dirt, at 5050 Main. He plans to open it by the end of the year.

"It won't be Justus Drugstore Lite," he says, "but a completely different concept that's more casual, more accessible and contemporary, but not modernist. I'll be doing my own take on a lot of classic dishes, and the menu will be constantly evolving and changing."

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Update: Michael Smith anniversary dinner is all about eight: courses, wines and years

Posted By on Wed, Jun 10, 2015 at 3:27 PM

Chef Michael and Nancy Smith. - CHRIS MULLINS
  • Chris Mullins
  • Chef Michael and Nancy Smith.

Update: Evidently I subconsciously wanted the Michael Smith anniversary dinner to be held earlier than it was planned, In an earlier version of this post, I reported that the dinner was to be held this month. The actual date of the event is Sunday, July 12, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Apologies to the readers and to the staff at Michael Smith restaurant.

Eight years after opening the sophisticated Michael Smith Restaurant at 1900 Main Street, the co-owners — executive chef Michael Smith and his wife Nancy, the venue's general manager — are celebrating next month on Sunday, July 12, with a special eight-course meal accompanied by eight different wines.

The anniversary dinner, priced at $125 per person (tax and gratuity are extra), is by reservation only, but Nancy Smith says several spots for the 6:30 p.m. event are still open.

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