Tomorrow - Saturday, October 26 - is the official National Pumpkin Day in the United States. A good time, I suppose, to drive-through McDonald's for one of their limited edition pumpkin latte drinks (I can't bring myself to order one, but I'm vaguely interested in hearing how the beverages taste from someone more adventurous than myself).
I was, however, happy to indulge myself with a plate of chef Jasper Mirabile, Jr.'s seasonal pumpkin ravioli (it's on the restaurant's menu through December at Jasper's Restaurant, 1201 West 103rd Street, 816-941-6600), pillows of pasta with a luscious soft and savory pumpkin filling under a thick blanket of the most decadently rich bechamel sauce in the city. You won't be able to resist sopping up the sauce with a piece of flour-dusted ciabatta bread, although you might not want to do it in public if your cardiologist is at the next table.
Donut King in the Northland (2320 Armour Road, 816-472-1412) will be selling its popular pumpkin spice doughnuts (94 cents for a single doughnut, $9.40 for a dozen) through the end of October. Donut King's drive-through window is open 24 hours; the lobby opens tomorrow at 5 a.m.
KC RiverFest at Berkley Riverfront Park (south bank of the Missouri River between the Christopher S. Bond and Heart of America bridges). Gates open at 4 p.m. with free admission until 5 (then it costs $5, except for children 12 and younger, who get in free). The celebration has two stages of local music, including Antennas Up, Shades of Jade, Funk Syndicate, and Four Fried Chickens and a Coke. Fireworks begin at 10 p.m. See kcriverfest.com.
Jackson County's Fourth of July Celebration at Longview Lake, Shelter No. 13 (11100 View High Drive). Find carnival games and rides, a drop-in salute to veterans by Skydive KC, and a performance by country-rock band Blackjack Billy. Gates open at 6 p.m. Admission is free, but parking costs $5. See jacksongov.org.
Once a bake shop staple, a fabulous chocolate-covered eclair is increasingly difficult to find in Kansas City. True, they're labor-intensive and fattening, and there's competition from those big-box stores that sell big bags of frozen mini-eclairs very cheaply. (I know - I buy them!) But there's nothing quite like a perfect eclair: a cylinder of crispy choux pastry filled (to bursting, preferably) with a sweet cream custard and blanketed with a thick robe of dark-chocolate fondant icing.
For years I've been hearing that eclairs were poised to become the "new cupcakes," at least as far as culinary trends go - the London Evening Standard was playing that old tune as recently as two weeks ago. But the rage for eclairs hasn't eclipsed the American cupcake obsession yet, unfortunately. Yes, I'm sick of cupcakes - an excuse for eating 3 inches of sugary frosting - and proud to say so. Give me an eclair any day of the week.
Don't feel guilty: You're not the only one, by any means, who has procrastinated until the very last minute to make reservations for Sunday brunch for your mother, your wife, your significant other, the woman who is still collecting your court-mandated child-support payments, and all the other lovely people who deserve to be honored on Mother's Day, May 12.
Instead of asking Mom to dress up in her best frock only to take her to the drive-through at Sonic, why not make a reservation - it's not too late! - at a place where she can sit, proudly, wearing the semi-lifelike silk corsage that the kids picked out at the Dollar General. She's worth it.
The weather report for Saturday: rainy.
But Cathy Kolenda-Smith, the longtime chairwoman of the annual Polski Day in Kansas City, Kansas, isn't concerned. "It's my first rainy festival in 10 years," she says. "But I'm not worried about tomorrow. Some people wait all year for this festival."
Why not? It's hard to find Polish food in the Kansas City metro, so if you've been craving pierogi, golambki, sausage, and kolache pastries, the $12 dinner served from noon to 7 p.m. (or until the food runs out, which hasn't happened in years) should be something close to nirvana. The food, by the way, is served inside the church parish hall.
The marriage of peanut butter and jelly seems like a timeless one. Because Tuesday, April 2, is National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day, it seems as good a time as any to celebrate the culinary combination, which most Americans seem to love (for the record: I'm not one of them).
No, it's not too late to make Easter brunch reservations for this coming Sunday, March 31. In fact, there are plenty of local restaurants that would be - forgive me for this - eggs-cited for you to call and request a table for holiday dining. Here are a buffet of suggestions:
Chaz on the Plaza, in the Raphael Hotel (325 Ward Parkway, 816-802-2152), is still accepting reservations for its Easter buffet brunch. The $39 feast ($15 for children 6-10 years old; children under 5 are free) includes seasonal fruit, pastries, grilled Caesar salad, smoked salmon and accoutrements, a Belgian waffle station, omelet station, prime rib of beef, eggs Benedict, bananas Foster French toast, and four entree items, as well as a dessert display. The brunch will be served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Renee Kelly's Harvest (12401 Johnson Drive, Shawnee, 913-631-4100) will host an Easter buffet brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. featuring fresh fruit, a mixed green salad, glazed ham, roasted chicken, breakfast pastries, cheddar biscuits and sage gravy, French toast, an omelet station, spring vegetable frittata and an array of desserts. The brunch is priced at $25 per guest.
I was riding on a bus from New York City to Atlantic City one day when I overheard two older women talking, loudly, about ravioli.
"It's a pasta," said one. "And it's square, like a big postage stamp. And it's got a filling in the middle of it."
"What kind of filling? Pork? Beef?" asked her friend.
"I don't know, some kind of meat. Maybe there was some cheese in there, too."
"Is it like a kreplach?"
"Yes, that's it. It's an Italian kreplach. But different from the Chinese kreplach."
"What's a Chinese kreplach?"
"They call them wontons."
If you're thinking that all of the really popular restaurants in Kansas City are booked up for next Thursday, February 14 - Valentine's Day is one of the busiest nights for restaurants in the United States - you're probably right. But because there are always procrastinators out there who wait until the very last minute to take a loved one out for a romantic dinner, Fat City offers some possibilities to consider in addition to the, well, more obvious alternatives (Winstead's, hot dogs in the parking lot at QuikTrip, In-A-Tub). Everyone has their own budget for this night of head-spinning seduction, so we're presenting ideas for almost every price point.
I LOVE YOU, I'M CHEAP...LET'S EAT
The Horizon's Buffet at the Ameristar Casino (3200 North Ameristar Drive, 816-414-7000) isn't taking reservations on Valentine's Day. It's strictly first-come, first-served for the $24.99 all-you-can-eat buffet.
The California Pizza Kitchen on the Country Club Plaza (4743 Pennsylvania, 816-561-2420) will offer a special Valentine's Day menu for two that includes an appetizer, two entrees and a dessert for $30. The promotion will run over Valentine's Day weekend for four days, from Thursday, February 14, through Sunday, February 17.
Yes, Papa Lew's Soul Delicious (2128 East 12th Street, 816-421-3378) will be open until 7 p.m. February 14, serving the traditional Thursday-night menu (chicken and dumplings, fried fish, fried chicken, neckbones) for $12.33 per person, tax included. But for soul-food lovers who want to get a rush on the Love Train, the restaurant will offer a pre-Valentine's Day dinner this Saturday, February 9, for $35 per couple. A band will perform romantic hits, and the dining room will be open until 10 p.m.
Not everyone wants to make Christmas dinner. But there aren't a lot of restaurants open December 25, including many Chinese restaurants (no matter what the movie A Christmas Story suggests). The six Bo Lings restaurants in the metro will be open Christmas Eve from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. None of the Bo Lings restaurants will be open Christmas Day. The New Peking Restaurant in Westport (540 Westport Road, 816-531-6969) will be open on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The Fusion Buffet in Westport (4039 Mill Street, 816-960-6598) will be open on Christmas Day from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Hong's Buffet and Mongolian Grill (6151 N.W. Barry Road, 816-741-9494) will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The Calypso Buffet at the Isle of Capri Casino (1800 East Front Street, 816-855-7777) will be open on Christmas Day, serving breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner from 4 to 8 p.m. The Horizon's Buffet at the Ameristar Casino (3200 N. Ameristar Drive, 816-414-7000 - one of the most elaborate in the city - will serve continuously on Christmas Day from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
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