Even a week gone bad to the bone can be rescued by the prospect of a jam-tasting party.
By KIMBERLY WINTER STERN
Let me be precise. I was in the middle of a hair-pulling week, not unlike ones we all experience on occasion — deadlines, meetings, running to and fro, burning the midnight oil and getting singed in the process.
There were pleasantries mixed in during this particularly prickly seven days — a 20th anniversary party for friends in bluestem’s seductive lounge, savoring delicious edibles from the award-winning kitchen; a latte with the Bean Baron at The Roasterie’s Bean Hangar; a dinner party with friends where the host grilled a sublime salmon; research and development for a Chow Town post at Paleterias Tropicana; taping the radio show with Jasper Mirabile; picking up a 42-ounce bag of plain M&M’s at Hen House, munching the little chocolate discs by the handful one night while finishing a magazine article.
It was a late spring week in Kansas City and the rain wouldn’t stop. My left hand was constantly clutching an umbrella while my right hand was otherwise occupied — with M&M’s or other important tasks.
But one appointment on my crowded calendar kept me afloat that dastardly week.
Thursday, at exactly 6 p.m., I dragged my soggy self to Marisa Roberts’ Olive Events for a taste-testing party.
Jam — specifically bacon jam — was promised, along with other products requiring opinionated palates, and signature sippers.
Roberts is a culinary wizard — a caterer whose pedigree includes whipping up all sorts of memorable desserts as pastry chef at Steve Cole’s much-missed Café Allegro on 39th Street.
She’s always on some creative bent, developing dishes for corporate and private events and social gatherings. Her newest venture, Our Sassy Pantry, is in collaboration with cousin-in-law Kay Findlay.
When life gives Roberts lemons she makes lemon curd — and in this case, her inspired bounty includes jams and sauces from bacon, berries and chocolate that she and Findlay are preparing to bottle and market.
When I arrived the party was in full swing — tables with Roberts and Findlays’ friends and family happily nibbling on buffalo sliders with a grown-up ketchup, apricot-chile chicken satay skewers with a wicked green sauce, Brie crostini with Kahlua-caramel sauce and tartlets piped with white chocolate mousse, drizzled with triple-berry jam and topped with blackberries.
I had just surrendered my umbrella inside the front door of Roberts’ commissary when a server approached carrying a silver tray of shot glasses adorned with tiny, perfectly cut grilled cheese sandwiches.
“Could I offer you a roasted tomato and coriander sip with a grilled cheese and bacon jam bite?” she asked.
“Yes,” I was thinking. “Yes!”
“ Bacon jam,” she repeated, smiling, perhaps taking my non-response as incomprehension of the lusciousness at my fingertips.
As I finished one sip and cheese, and then another, Roberts sat down beside me.
“The recipes we’re testing tonight are from my catering business repertoire,” she said. “They’re so popular I decided to build a company around them.’
During the course of the party my obligation was to vote for my favorite jam or sauce. I politely accepted the hors d’oeuvres passed on lovely garnished trays and even managed to discreetly help myself to a third or fourth of this and that, and prepared to complete the secret ballot.
I was stumped.
I couldn’t make up my rain-addled mind. The Sassy Pantry products were all good — they all brought a smile to my face and perked up my taste buds. I couldn’t possibly choose the best.
I bid Roberts adieu, explained my dilemma, grabbed one last grilled cheese bite for the road with my right hand and my umbrella with the left.
I could make it through Friday now, I thought.
Jam —bacon jam, to the rescue.
Try these signature Olive Events recipes with Our Sassy Pantry’s Bacon Jam, soon to be available in stores throughout the metro.
Grilled Cheese Bites with Sassy Pantry’s Bacon Jam & Fontina Cheese
Makes 16 half sandwiches
1 small baguette, sliced thin, on a slight bias
4 tablespoons of Our Sassy Pantry Bacon Jam
8 small slices Fontina cheese
Butter, room temperature
Spread 8 slices of bread with 1 1/2 teaspoon of Bacon Jam, top with sliced Fontina cheese. Lightly butter the outside of sandwiches. Sandwiches can be prepared ahead of time. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to cook.
Heat large griddle. Cook each sandwich until both sides are toasted and cheese is melted. Cut in half on a bias and serve with Roasted Coriander & Tomato Soup Sips.
Roasted Coriander & Tomato Soup
Makes 16 shot glass servings
3 pounds fresh cherry tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
4-5 cups chicken broth
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Gently toss tomatoes with enough extra virgin olive oil to lightly coat tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes. Tomatoes will lightly brown and pucker.
In a large, nonreactive, heavy-bottom saucepan, heat extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until onions are translucent. Add garlic, coriander and paprika; cook 1 minute more. Stir in tomatoes and any juice collected in the pan. Stir in 4 cups chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes. Onions should be very soft.
Puree the soup in a blender and season with more salt and pepper if needed. Add more chicken stock to thin out if desired. Strain soup with a fine sieve for a silkier soup.
To serve: Carefully pour soup into 16 shot glasses and top with Grilled Cheese Bites. Serve immediately.
Kimberly Winter Stern — also known as Kim Dishes — is an award-winning freelance writer and national blogger from Overland Park and co-host with Chef Jasper Mirabile on LIVE! From Jasper’s Kitchen each Saturday on KCMO 710/103.7FM. She is inspired by the passion, creativity and innovation of chefs, restaurateurs and food artisans who make Kansas City a vibrant center of locavore cuisine.