Guilty Pleasures

Monday, August 18, 2014

d'Bronx has its own house baker, Alvero Medina

Posted By on Mon, Aug 18, 2014 at 2:24 PM


Mexican-born Alvero Medina arrives at the Overland Park d'Bronx restaurant at 5 a.m. every morning to begin baking the array of sweets -- including scratch-made carrot cake -- for all of the d'Bronx locations.
  • Mexican-born Alvero Medina arrives at the Overland Park d'Bronx restaurant at 5 a.m. every morning to begin baking the array of sweets -- including scratch-made carrot cake -- for all of the d'Bronx locations.

Last month, The Pitch ran a story about how few local restaurants could afford to employ a staff pastry chef, and that many new restaurants bought their desserts from commissary kitchens or big-box stores, like Costco. The dining spot that surprised us for having its own in-house baking program was d'Bronx Authentic Deli and Pizzeria, the locally owned chain of four popular metrowide pizzeria/delicatessens. (The original venue is still at 3904 Bell; the others are at Crown Center, in Mission and in Overland Park.) 

When Don Foringer purchased d'Bronx from its founders, Robert and Janet Bloom, in 2005, he says very few of the signature desserts were made by the culinary staff; the cheesecake and apple pie were made in-house, but some of the sweets were outsourced.

All outsourcing ended, Foringer says, immediately after he opened the Overland Park location at 7010 West 105th Street (in the former Hannah Bistro location) and created a fully equipped house bakery to supply all of the d'Bronx restaurants. To oversee the bakery, Foringer hired longtime Hy-Vee baker Alvero Medina to create a full range of standard desserts (cheesecakes, pies, layer cakes) and seasonal desserts — lemon cookies during the summer and maple sugar cookies or pumpkin bars during autumn, for example.

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Big Grill & More: Best barbecue you've never heard about

Posted By on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 at 3:36 PM

A slab of house-smoked ribs -- with lots of pickles -- is the Thursday special at Big Grill & More at 501 N. Sixth Street in Kansas City, Kansas. The slab goes for $16.99 on Thursdays.
  • A slab of house-smoked ribs -- with lots of pickles -- is the Thursday special at Big Grill & More at 501 N. Sixth Street in Kansas City, Kansas. The slab goes for $16.99 on Thursdays.

My task at hand, earlier this week, was to make another visit to Slap's BBQ in Kansas City, Kansas (it's my review subject for next week), but I discovered that Slap's has a problem: it's too popular.

In June, veteran barbecue-team competitors Mike and Joe Pearce and Brandon Whipple opened the lunch-only barbecue shack, which frequently sells out of smoked meats a couple of hours after opening. That's great for Slap's (an acronym for Squeal Like a Pig, the name of this trio's barbecue team) but not so terrific for hungry customers who show up too late for a brisket sandwich.

It was on one of those days that I was driving around downtown Kansas City, Kansas, and stumbled upon the five-year-old Big Grill & More at 501 North Sixth Street. It's located in a two-story brick storefront that was, six years ago, occupied by the Skillet Licker Cafe, a diner that made its own little fried doughnuts each day.

I'm ashamed that it has taken me so long to find this restaurant, operated by the Dantzler family, a combination barbecue restaurant and old-fashioned diner. The food is very good, and the house-made pear cobbler (made, like most of the desserts, by Jerri Dantzler Martin) is, to put it mildly, sensational.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Testing the sweets at Baked In Kansas City

Posted By on Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 7:30 AM

A crusty, sugary almond croissant at Baked in Kansas City bakery and cafe. - ASHFORD STAMPER
  • Ashford Stamper
  • A crusty, sugary almond croissant at Baked in Kansas City bakery and cafe.

An unexpected guest was at the three-day-old Baked in Kansas City bakery and café last week: former Napoleon Bakery pastry chef Guillaume Hanriot, who was there with his wife, Ingrid, and their newborn, Pauline. The Hanriots purchased the Parkville bistro Café des Amis last year, after running the restaurant for six years.

"I was the pastry chef here when Larry Schanzer still owned it," Guillaume Hanriot told me, as he handled one of the delicate macarons created by Baked in Kansas City's pastry chef, Nicolette Foster. "I took a tour of the kitchen to see what had changed."

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Joe's Downtown Donuts & Coffee: where the customers like big pastries

Posted By on Thu, Jan 9, 2014 at 1:43 PM

Maria Rehard and Matt Flanagan start percolating the java and putting out trays of pastries at 5:30 a.m. in the new Joe's Downtown Donuts & Coffee, at 641 Grand.
  • Maria Rehard and Matt Flanagan start percolating the java and putting out trays of pastries at 5:30 a.m. in the new Joe's Downtown Donuts & Coffee, at 641 Grand.


There's no scale behind the counter at the four-day-old Joe's Downtown Donuts & Coffee, which was disappointing to me, anyway: The glazed apple fritters in the glass display case look as if they weigh at least a pound each. Even I draw the line at eating a pound of pastry at one sitting.

But manager Matt Flanagan says that he and Joe Sacco Jr., the general manager (and son of the business owner, the Joe Sacco of the shop's  title), have observed that many of the customers coming into the doughnut shop seem drawn to the "big stuff."

"Big doughnuts, long johns, cinnamon rolls," says Flanagan, who also oversees the Sacco-owned liquor and convenience store, Grand Slam, adjacent to Joe's Downtown Donuts & Coffee.

The Sacco family decided to turn the empty storefront space in back of the convenience store into a doughnut shop because, last year, they acquired Ray's Donuts, at 315 N.E. Vivion Road in the Northland. Ray's Donuts serves as the baking headquarters for Joe's Downtown Donuts as well.

"The doughnuts are made at night, and we get them here at 4:30 a.m.," Flanagan says.

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The sweet life with Sasha bakery's Carter Holton

Posted By on Thu, Jan 9, 2014 at 10:54 AM

Carter Holton: He sings, he teaches, he bakes. - BROOKE VANDEVER
  • Brooke Vandever
  • Carter Holton: He sings, he teaches, he bakes.

Carter Holton didn't grow up going to bakeries. The 26-year-old pastry chef had a mother who baked his birthday cakes and a grandmother who taught him how to bake a pie. But Holton, like most of his fellow millennials, thought of a bakery as just another department at the supermarket, like produce or meat.

The traditional small-business bakery isn't extinct, but it's a severely endangered species. And no, cupcakeries don't count.

"I think, thankfully, that novelty has come and gone," Holton says. "It was strange to walk into a bake shop that only focused on one product. And not only that, but it was a pastry that most people could easily make themselves at home. A bakery should always be the kind of place with a variety of beautiful, enticing products, none of them easily made by a home cook."

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Stroud's is as old as Joan Collins, but has better legs

Posted By on Thu, Dec 19, 2013 at 11:12 AM

Mike Donegan is still giving Kansas City the bird at the two Stroud's restaurants in the metro.  He moved the original restaurant, which dated back to 1933,  to Fairway five years ago. - ANGELA C. BOND
  • Angela C. Bond
  • Mike Donegan is still giving Kansas City the bird at the two Stroud's restaurants in the metro. He moved the original restaurant, which dated back to 1933, to Fairway five years ago.



Several old birds turned 80 years old this year. Joan Collins, of course. Kim Novak. Also: Stroud's Restaurant & Bar. Breasts and legs have figured prominently in all of their careers.

Helen Stroud, a lawyer and a beautiful woman, by most accounts, opened a roadhouse on 85th Street with her husband, Guy, back in 1933. At the time, the spot they'd chosen was well outside the city limits. It wasn't more than a shack, really, and it sold liquor and a limited menu of barbecue beef, fried chicken and 10-cent sandwiches (cheese, salami, liver, sardines). The tavern grew successful enough that it might have thrived as a barbecue joint for decades (like Rosedale Barbecue, which opened in 1934). But meat rationing during World War II forced Helen and Guy to shift their focus from smoked meat to fried fowl. (Their place was still listed as Stroud's Barbecue in local phone books until the 1960s.)

Stroud's was the least glamorous of Kansas City's fried-chicken restaurants in the postwar years, but it outlasted snazzier contemporaries such as the Wishbone and the Green Parrot. Even after a move to a newer building - in Fairway, in 2008 - it remains the metro's most iconic fried-chicken restaurant.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Is it soup weather yet?

Posted By on Thu, Oct 17, 2013 at 1:43 PM

When the outside temperature dips, theres nothing more comforting than a steaming bowl of pho, dont you know?
  • When the outside temperature dips, there's nothing more comforting than a steaming bowl of pho, don't you know?

The weather is turning chilly. It's time to think about soup.

Kansas City hasn't had such great luck with soup-only restaurants. A popular Westport restaurant in the late 1970s, the Souper, by all accounts served very good house-made soups and freshly baked breads until (rumor has it, anyway) the owner vanished one day after hastily taping a "Closed" sign to the front door. Several decades later, another soup restaurant, Souperman, chef Rob Dalzell's clever spin on the theme, opened at 1724 Main for a few years. It was a popular lunch venue until it also seemed to disappear, all too quickly, in 2010.

The good news is that Kansas City has so many traditional restaurants serving excellent, soothing and nourishing soup, who really needs a soup-only restaurant? The possibilities range from Plaza III's legendary steak soup to the once-famous (but not so fabulous in recent days) French onion soup offered by Houlihan's; if you really want French onion soup, order it at Aixois or Le Fou Frog.

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Farm to Market brings back chile cheese sourdough for limited run

Posted By on Thu, Oct 10, 2013 at 12:55 PM

A limited edition Chile Cheese Sourdough from Farm to Market will be available starting tomorrow.
  • Farm to Market
  • A limited edition Chile Cheese Sourdough from Farm to Market will be available starting tomorrow.

If you're a fan of Kansas City's Farm to Market sourdough loaf, tomorrow marks the opening day - of a limited 17-day run - for the company's chile cheese bread, a sourdough loaf, baked with pieces of cheddar cheese and bits of fiery jalapenos, that hasn't been on store shelves for a year. The round loaves will be featured in select stores October 11-27.

The loaves, 7 inches in diameter, feature a light crust that is slightly chewy and golden, with a soft open crumb. The cheddar and jalapeno flavors are bold but not overpowering. It's perfectly delicious toasted with butter in the morning or used in a savory bread pudding.

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Stewart & Claire's Old Fashioned lip balm is a classic cocktail kiss

Posted By on Thu, Apr 4, 2013 at 11:04 AM

The Old-Fashioned is like a classic cocktail for your lips.
  • The Old-Fashioned is like a classic cocktail for your lips.
You can file this one under things I never expected to be writing about in this space. But I'd be remiss if I didn't share Stewart & Claire's Old Fashioned Lip Balm ($6). While aiming for a classic aesthetic, the tube is really a paean to the bourbon cocktail. It's scented with cedar, bitter orange, vanilla and cinnamon. When you open the cap, it hints at that terrific moment when a bartender slides a lowball glass across the bar and you raise it to your lips.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Men's Health takes the joy out of your candy box

Posted By on Tue, Feb 14, 2012 at 9:22 AM

Let your gut do the thinking on this one.
  • Flickr: Chrisser
  • Let your gut do the thinking on this one.
The Men's Health 'Eat This, Not That' series is a juggernaut for two very simple reasons: It preaches substitution, rather than denial, and it does a beautiful job of making us simultaneously covet and feel grossed out by a 2,000-calorie bacon-cheeseburger monstrosity. For Valentine's Day, the either/or maxim was applied to candy, and our very own Russell Stover made the list. According to Men's Health, you shouldn't eat the Milk Chocolate Almond Delights because they're high in calories, courtesy of partially hydrogenated oil. Your best bet is the Milk Chocolate Whips.

Our advice? It's Valentine's Day. Let yourself go — that extra weight won't show up until later this week anyway.

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