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Friday, January 9, 2015

Chef Michael Smith ends venture with Cocobolos restaurant

Posted By on Fri, Jan 9, 2015 at 3:46 PM

The street tacos introduced by chef Michael Smith are still on the Cocobolos menu. - ANGELA C. BOND
  • Angela C. Bond
  • The street tacos introduced by chef Michael Smith are still on the Cocobolos menu.

The idea was a good one: Open a local outpost of a popular Manhattan, Kansas, restaurant and hire one of Kansas City's most celebrated chefs to create a new and imaginative menu. The result was Cocobolos (or "Cocobolos by Michael Smith," according to an early menu), in the PrairieFire complex at 135th Street and Nall.

The developers of the PrairieFire development, Fred Merrill Jr. and his wife, Candy, hired Smith and his wife, Nancy, to create the menu for the restaurant, staff the kitchen and dining room, and give the venue some serious culinary gravitas (which the Manhattan location, while popular, does not have).

But the creative partnership forged by the Merrills and the Smiths ended last month.

"We just were not on the same page as far as future menu plans," Nancy Smith tells The Pitch in an e-mail. "It was time. We had signed on to get it staffed and up and running."

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Veteran waiter David Hayden took off his apron for the last time

Posted By on Wed, Dec 31, 2014 at 3:46 PM

David Hayden has left the dining room. - MICHELLE SPINOLA
  • Michelle Spinola
  • David Hayden has left the dining room.



Waiters and waitresses leave the restaurant industry all the time. Serving just isn't perceived as a career — or at least a professional career — in the United States (unlike Europe), but more of a steppingstone job until something better comes along. (Believe me, I know this from personal experience.) But David Hayden, who may be Kansas City's best-known waiter, finally made the decision to take off his apron for good last night after 20 years on the floor, the last three at the Majestic Restaurant.

Hayden's celebrity status comes from publishing his own training manual for servers, Tips Squared, now in its eighth printing; his five blogs about the hospitality industry; and his awards: Pitch readers voted him "Best Waiter" in the Readers' Choice poll for the 2010 "Best of Kansas City" issue, and the staff voted him "Most Ambitious Server" in 2011 and "Best Server" the following year. 

"I was down to two shifts a week," Hayden says, "and I still enjoyed it a lot, but my other business was taking more and more of my time."

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dietrich's: potato pancakes, bacon-wrapped brats, and Black Forest cake

Posted By on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 1:20 PM

Dietrich's in Lee's Summit has thin, crispy potato pancakes.
  • Dietrich's in Lee's Summit has thin, crispy potato pancakes.

Last night was the first night of Hanukkah, a holiday that all but demands fried potato latkes as part of the menu. If you're craving the dish but not so interested in actually making the potato pancakes, it's not so easy to find this delicacy on local menus; Grunauer in the Crossroads offers them, but only on special occasions, according to Nicholas Grunauer.

I did discover a pretty damn satisfying version of the dish at the three-month-old Dietrich's Modern German Cuisine and Biergarten at 1313 Northeast Douglas Road in Lee's Summit; the restaurant opened in the location formerly occupied by Monetti's Taste of Italy.

Dietrich's is a family affair: Owner Randy Schulenberg operates the front of the house while his 28-year-old son, Craig Dietrich Schulenberg, oversees the kitchen as sous chef. Dietrich is a family name. Randy's great-grandfather, Dietrich Schulenberg, immigrated to the United States in 1874. A former IT consultant, Randy Schulenberg says he was looking for a new career opportunity when he decided to open a German bistro in Lee's Summit.

"Before we did, we met with restaurateurs like Martin Heuser from Affare and Nicholas Grunauer from Grunauer for ideas and suggestions. Martin Heuser has been a great mentor to Craig," Schulenberger says. "So much so that we buy our bratwurst from Affare. Our customers love them."

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Prospect Avenue evolves into a dining destination

Posted By on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 10:33 AM

E& J's Soul Food's Michelle Walker has smothered pork chops for you. - ANGELA C. BOND
  • Angela C. Bond
  • E& J's Soul Food's Michelle Walker has smothered pork chops for you.

It’s easy to find lots of good things to eat on Prospect Avenue. Last week’s Pitch cover story, “Comeback Street,” detailed the restaurant resurgence going on along the historic East Side thoroughfare, which was the racial dividing line in Kansas City for decades, until the late 1960s. A new generation of restaurateurs has taken over — even on the most forlorn stretches of the avenue — and created one of the most vibrant dining environments this street has seen in years.

There is a caveat: Because of the avenue’s slow decline (precipitated, many believe, by the long construction of midtown freeway Bruce R. Watkins Drive, which razed and disrupted properties east and west of Prospect), it’s still not easy to find a good cup of coffee.

Starbucks and Kaldi’s haven’t landed on Prospect. If you want to find anything resembling a cappuccino, you’ll have to use the self-service machine at the Pick ’n Save Market at the corner of 58th Street and Prospect. There you’ll find the sweet, foamy brew, sold by many big-name convenience stores, that has more in common with hot chocolate than it does with coffee. But the Pick ’n Save — which sells cigarettes, prepaid phones, and a couple of green peppers that have seen better days — is as close to an upscale coffeehouse as you’ll find on this street, even if you have to pay a cashier who sits behind a thick pane of bulletproof glass.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Grate Spatula is Vijay Malik's latest invention...but wait, there's more

Posted By on Tue, Dec 9, 2014 at 1:07 PM

Vijay Malik has a spatula for you.
  • Vijay Malik has a spatula for you.


Yes, I do own a vintage Veg-O-Matic. And a set of Ginsu knives. Hell, who could live without them?

But a local inventor, Vijay Malik, has a new kitchen tool that, while it may not have as many uses as a Veg-O-Matic, fits more comfortably in a kitchen drawer. Malik introduced his newest kitchen device, the Grate Spatula, at a launch party last Saturday at Mike Kelly's Westsider in Westport.  He hired the Tres Diablos band to play, and he gave away 50 hamburgers that afternoon; he grilled them behind the saloon using his newest product.

"It's designed to use on an outdoor grill. It keeps meat and fish from falling apart and sticking to the grill," Malik says. "It's slightly larger than a traditional spatula and has these spoonlike indentations right on it for any kind of sauces. I call them super spoons."

The 16-and-a-half-inch tool is manufactured in China ("Walmart is looking at it," Malik says, "so the price point has to be low"), unlike the plastic versions of Malik's other culinary innovation, the Butter Mill.

"It's like a pepper mill for butter," Malik says.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Golden Ox co-owner Steve Greer is ready to un-retire

Posted By on Tue, Dec 2, 2014 at 2:40 PM

They haven't called "last call" for the bar at the Golden Ox, but for co-owner Steve Greer, it was time to leave. - JAIME WARREN
  • Jaime Warren
  • They haven't called "last call" for the bar at the Golden Ox, but for co-owner Steve Greer, it was time to leave.

Steve Greer, the former co-owner of the iconic Golden Ox restaurant in the West Bottoms, has been retired for only four months, but he's already bored and looking for a new job.

"I've painted every room in our house," Greer says. "I've run out of rooms to paint. And my wife tells me I have to get back to work."

A veteran of the legendary Gilbert/Robinson restaurant chain for more than two decades, the 63-year-old Greer purchased the Golden Ox steakhouse with Bill Teel in 2003, after opening several other restaurants and consulting on a half-dozen more. Greer retired this year because, he says, "it was time — I thought I was ready to retire."

Greer still owns his stake in the 65-year-old steakhouse: "I'm waiting for Bill Teel to buy me out or for something to happen with the business," he says.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

'37 Steak is ready for big World Series spenders

Posted By on Mon, Oct 27, 2014 at 1:33 PM

Nick Estell, the young chef at '37 Steak, at Harrah's is cooking for a lot of high rollers this week.
  • Nick Estell, the young chef at '37 Steak, at Harrah's is cooking for a lot of high rollers this week.


Chef Nick Estell is gearing up for Tuesday night.

He won't be watching the sixth game of the World Series. He'll be too busy in the kitchen of '37 Steak, the four-month-old steakhouse — a fancy steakhouse, unlike its predecessor the Range — grilling ri- eyes and lamb chops for the high rollers from other Harrah's properties.

Harrah's Kansas City has been hosting its high-rolling patrons since the beginning of the World Series, says 26-year-old executive chef Estell, who took over the kitchen at '37 Steak over the summer after being wooed away from his previous job at another venue for big gamblers, the Final Cut Steakhouse at the Hollywood Casino.

Estell, a former sous chef at the American who had also worked at Celina Tio's Julian and the Michael Smith Restaurant, likes the opportunity to build a new restaurant brand and sees the job with Harrah's to be a positive step in his career. "Definitely in terms of job security and benefits," Estell says. 

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Summit Grill in Waldo is ready to open, maybe Monday

Posted By on Wed, Oct 22, 2014 at 2:07 PM

After leaving the McCormick & Schmick's chain, chef Domhnall Molloy, left, and veteran manager Andy Lock turned a  failing steakhouse in Lee's Summit into the highly successful Summit Grill. They're opening a new, smaller version of the concept in Waldo next week.
  • After leaving the McCormick & Schmick's chain, chef Domhnall Molloy, left, and veteran manager Andy Lock turned a failing steakhouse in Lee's Summit into the highly successful Summit Grill. They're opening a new, smaller version of the concept in Waldo next week.

Hey, don't blame Andy Lock and chef Domhnall Molloy for taking so long to open the new Summit Grill in Waldo. These two entrepreneurs, former McCormick & Schmick's employees who branched out on their own two years ago and turned the former Rumors Steakhouse in Lee's Summit into the first Summit Grill & Bar, are ready to open their doors. The staff has been hired and trained, the kitchen is fully stocked, and the bartenders are poised to start pouring drinks. That is, once the liquor license is in hand and the booze is delivered and positioned on the glass shelves at 500 West 75th Street.

Until a month ago, this was the address of the two-year-old Remedy Food + Drink, a cafe and saloon with the best intentions but a revolving door for chefs. Unsurprisingly, the cuisine was so inconsistent that you never knew if the menu served on Saturday would be the same menu offered on the following Wednesday. That doesn't seem likely to be a problem with the new Summit Grill, tentatively set to open next Monday at 3 p.m.

"I'm the co-owner," says Domhnall Molloy, "and I'll be in the kitchen almost every day."

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Tippin's celebrates the Royals with a blue French silk pie

Posted By on Fri, Oct 17, 2014 at 11:47 AM

Kansas City's Tippin's Gourmet Pies is offering a Royals blue French Silk pie -- only the whipped cream topping is tinted blue -- during the World Series games. - TIPPIN'S
  • Tippin's
  • Kansas City's Tippin's Gourmet Pies is offering a Royals blue French Silk pie -- only the whipped cream topping is tinted blue -- during the World Series games.

Kansas City's blue fetish — in honor of the Royals making it to the World Series — continues everywhere, including in the local culinary world. This morning, for instance, Tippin's let us know about a blue version of its French-silk pie.

The Kansas City, Kansas-based company (a subsidiary of Balls Foods) is delivering the pies to almost all of the Hen House supermarkets in the metro. It features a blue-tinted whipped topping. Underneath all that baby-blue stuff, though, is a traditional chocolate silk pie.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Don't panic, getting tapeworm from sushi is 'exceedingly rare'

Posted By on Mon, Sep 29, 2014 at 4:09 PM

Eating sushi in Kansas City might hurt your wallet before it upsets your gastrointestinal tract. - MATTHEW TAYLOR
  • Matthew Taylor
  • Eating sushi in Kansas City might hurt your wallet before it upsets your gastrointestinal tract.

The Internet was practically infested last week with the story (and the ghastly X-rays) of a patient in China who arrived at the hospital (Guangzhou No. 8 People's Hospital in Guangdong Province, to be precise) with vague complaints and was discovered to have tapeworms throughout his body. What created this hellish situation? Sushi, allegedly. (This story has since been debunked by snopes.com.)

But the story was wriggling all over the Web and Facebook over the weekend, giving local sushi eaters some hesitancy in going out for a plate of sashimi. One local physician, Dr. Richard Gilroy, a gastroenterologist at the University of Kansas Medical Center, scoffs at the reports.

"Yes, you can be exposed to fish tapeworm, or diphyllobothrium, through raw fish," Gilroy says, "but it would be exceedingly, exceedingly rare."

Many species can carry some form of parasitic worm, including beef and pork, Gilroy says. "But the fact that so few cases of infection have been reported, despite the increasing popularity of sushi in America, speaks volumes."

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