Kansas City residents didn’t contend with just a mere withdrawal from the holiday season’s glitz and bright lights after Jan. 1.
By KIMBERLY WINTER STERN
We also suffered through the Chiefs’ disappointing playoff loss against the Indianapolis Colts. Weathered the bitter polar vortex. And we realized that not only is Opening Day at Kauffman Stadium on the other side of several breathless grocery store runs to stock up for a snowstorm or two, but also that farmers’ markets around town are a distant beacon on the horizon.
So Kansas City Restaurant Week 2014 — hash tagged in the Twittersphere as #KCRW2014 — is a welcome January distraction. It’s an annual food fest that started Friday and ends Sunday.
Now in its fifth year, #KCRW2014 celebrates the city’s vibrant cuisine landscape, injects cash flow into an industry traditionally slow during January and supports not only Harvester’s Community Food Network, but also scholarships.
Approximately 135 restaurants from across the metro are participating, most serving both prix fixe $15 lunch and $33 three-course dinner menus.
According to Zach Doerfler, chair of the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association who also serves on #KCRW2014’s steering committee, Friday’s kick-off to the weeklong event hit it between the goal posts.
“People are excited about KC Restaurant Week,” said Doerfler. “Families, couples, friends — it’s the perfect excuse to get out, enjoy great food and support worthy causes.”
Judging by the packed tables at The American Restaurant in Crown Center last Friday evening and Story in Prairie Village on Saturday, people are more than eager to exercise their taste buds and wallets for the many virtues of Restaurant Week.
In fact, the hostess seating my party of four in the iconic Crown Center penthouse dining room at 6:15 p.m. on Friday said reservations were nearly full for the week and that people started clamoring for tables months ago.
Chef Michael Corvino, no longer the new chef in town, pulled out all the stops on Friday. Since his touchdown in Kansas City from Dallas last July, he’s been embraced by peers and The American loyalists and new fans and has found his rhythm in a city that years ago shed its flyover image.
Corvino’s imaginative culinary perspective takes diners on a roller coaster ride of flavor, texture and bold interpretations, so it’s not surprising that his #KCRW2014 dinner offerings are no exception.
Starters include a stunningly beautiful beet salad that elicited gasps from my dinner companions and me when the plates were delivered to the table.
“I just didn’t want this salad to end,” sighed my friend, Judith Benson, as her empty plate, stained with beet juice, was whisked away for the next act.
Entrée choices include Maine scallops and pork cheeks, Campo Lindo chicken with radish kimchi and black sesame caramel, and ricotta cavateli with smoked maitake and carrot emulsion. Pastry Chef Nick Wesemann’s evocative finale of deconstructed desserts is The American’s third course, including a memorable lick-your-bowl clean tiramisu.
General Manager and Wine Director Jamie Jamison’s wine pairings selected for each course are brilliant and The American’s signature choreographed and attentive service makes dining there a seamlessly delightful experience.
Same buzz, different chapter over at Story on Saturday night. Susan Thorne-Thomsen, chef and owner Carl Thorne-Thomsen’s wife, said Restaurant Week is just like New Year’s.
“Full house, festive atmosphere,” said Susan Thorne-Thomsen, who, during my two-hour respite perched at one of the highboys in the bar, was a blur as she greeted guests, reset tables and ferried trays of coffee to tables of guests in the dining room.
Carl Thorne-Thomsen is amongst the most renowned in the city and the recipient of prestigious national and local awards. He’s humble and quiet, unleashing his creativity in dishes that showcase an evolved and inspired palate.
His Restaurant Week dinner menu is a snapshot of his culinary point-of-view, including mahi mahi with artichokes, shrimp, capers, olives and California gold rice or pork cheeks with Brussels sprouts, roasted apples and grapes and faro.
The chef’s famous donuts with a vanilla pastry cream and topped with a shimmering golden disk of spun sugar were like that last teasing burst of fireworks during a spectacular Fourth of July show — you know it’s going to end, but getting there is half the fun.
Get out on the town now through Sunday Kansas City and indulge in the bargain pricing and culinary talent that are highlights of #KCRW2014.
It may just be the best remedy for January cabin fever and is guaranteed to have no side effects — not counting, of course, the few extra pounds you’ll gain by polishing off desserts such as Wesemann’s tiramisu or Thorne-Thomsen’s donuts.
For more information, go to Kansas City Restaurant Week on the Internet.
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.