Chow Town

Kansas City spring menus are here. These 3 highlight flavors, colors and freshness

A spring menu find: Pistachio crusted lamb with mint chimichurri and herbed corn pudding at the Dining Experience at Kauffman Center.
A spring menu find: Pistachio crusted lamb with mint chimichurri and herbed corn pudding at the Dining Experience at Kauffman Center.

With Easter behind us and Mother’s Day ahead, we are smack dab in the middle of one of my favorite times of the year — spring.

For me, spring is all about the new lighter, brighter and fresher items popping up on restaurant menus around town like so many morel mushrooms in the woods.

Here are a few examples.

Hotel Phillips

As the executive chef for Tavernonna in The Hotel Phillips, Bryant Wigger has the pleasure of working with both the restaurant and its wonderful PS Speakeasy. There are plenty of cocktail collaborations as well as cuisine creations at Tavernonna, including a new drink called The Rabbit Snack, which features Sons of Erin Whiskey from North Kansas City’s Restless Spirits Distillery served up with aperol, carrot juice and ginger syrup.

For dinner, the cocktail pairs seamlessly with an antipasti dish featuring di Stefano burrata, morels, English peas, pea tendrils, pistachio and grilled ciabatta.

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A spring menu item find: The carrot cavatelli, English peas, slow cooked baby carrots and carrot top pesto at Tavernonna in Hotel Phillips. Tavernonna

The pastas are especially impressive, none more so than the carrot cavatelli with slow roasted carrots, peas, almonds, and a carrot top pesto. The pasta has an almost gnocchi-like consistency, which I loved, and it couldn’t have been any fresher.

Hello spring!

Dining Experience at the Kauffman Center

I always enjoy catching up with the Kansas City Restaurant Association’s Chef of the Year, Laura Comer. Comer, the executive chef of the lovely and delicious Dining Experience at the Kauffman Center, recently rolled out her three-course spring menu. I asked her for a few highlights.

They include a citrus and white asparagus salad, olive oil poached Skuna Bay salmon and pistachio encrusted spring lamb.

I asked her where she drew her inspiration for the menu. Not surprisingly, much of it came from our wretched winter.

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A spring menu find: Pistachio crusted lamb with mint chimichurri and herbed corn pudding at the Dining Experience at Kauffman Center. Don Ipock

“I think we were all ready for this winter to be over! We really wanted to be playful with color on this menu and each dish focused on a color and a flavor,” Comer said. “For example, the Pink Champagne dessert is shades of pink and red, strawberries, rosé and rose petals. We never want to sacrifice flavor, though, so we wanted to make sure everything was lovely, light, and fresh first and foremost, and really emulated spring.”

Comer’s three-course tasting menu is available any night there is a performance at the Kauffman Center. You do not need a ticket to the event to get a seat at the table.

Q39

It wasn’t just a spring menu debut at Q39, the haute cuisine temple of the Kansas City barbecue scene. It was a menu overhaul.

Chef owner Rob Magee has added 15 new items. I had the chance to taste many of them, from appetizers to desserts, and then have some face-to-face time with the Culinary Institute of America graduate turned barbecue pitmaster turned restaurant mogul. Magee was understandably excited.

“I get jazzed coming up with new dishes and so does the staff. It’s really cool to see them take such an interest,” Magee shared. “With these new items, I’m stepping away from barbecue sauce and just letting the meat do the talking.”

Let me tell you, the meat isn’t just talking, it’s singing opera.

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The P.B.L.T. — a pork belly, lettuce and tomato sandwich — is a new menu addition at Q39. Q39

From dishes like the smoked brisket poutine to entrees like a barbecue smoked pork shank and a certified Angus strip steak served with a Bearnaise butter, these are amazingly full-flavored yet beautifully balanced culinary creations.

Two sandwiches top my list — the grilled pork belly and the P.B.L.T., a pork belly, lettuce and tomato creation, which has just entered the pantheon of my favorite sandwiches.

Yep, spring has sprung at restaurants across the metro and my taste buds couldn’t be happier.

Dave Eckert is a longtime Kansas City food and beverage journalist. He was the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS and AWE for 12 seasons. Follow Dave’s eating and drinking experiences on Instagram at @eatsanddrinkswithdave.

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