Food & Drink

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On the face of it, bread is such a simple thing. But the difference between an ordinary, ho-hum slice of bread and a lovingly-prepared morsel with a crunchy crust and a melty middle … there’s just no comparison.

Whether it’s hard and crusty or soft and spongy, bread is more than just a delivery mechanism for sandwich fillings.

On this week’s Central Standard, our Food Critics Charles Ferruzza, Mary Bloch and Lou Jane Temple weigh in on the best bread in Kansas City.

Charles Ferruzza:

Daniel Boothe / KCUR

The first thing you notice when you walk into Thou Mayest in the east Crossroads district of Kansas City, Mo., is the eclectic décor. It’s got cozy corners with funky furniture. Exposed brick and recycled wooden tables. Fishing poles and Boy Scout badges from the 1950s. You feel like you are in a high-end flea market, inside a cabin in the woods, located in a bustling downtown neighborhood.

The whole place is one gigantic conversation starter. With coffee.

Humble beginnings and a chance meeting

Americasroof / Wikipedia

Westport has always been at a crossroads. So says urban design specialist Daniel Serda, noting that the historic neighborhood has been changing since its beginnings. But news of three chain restaurants entering the neighborhood where prime parking spots now stand has sparked a heated response, not just from Westport residents and business owners, but people throughout Kansas City who are passionate about the entertainment district.

Guests:

Wiki

When you walk into a restaurant, there is a certain je ne sais quoi that can make or break the experience.

Of course the food is of paramount importance, but poor lighting, decor and authenticity can make even an exquisite plate of duck confit look like a soggy KFC drumstick.

Luckily, our Food Critics Charles Ferruzza, Mary Bloch and Jill Wenholt Silva know a thing or two about restaurant ambiance. Here are their picks for standout restaurants with great ambiance:

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

Oh the heat. Sometimes it hurts so good — too much can make it hurt so bad.

If you like the pain, there are a handful of restaurants across the metro that invite you to test your limits. For the rest of you spice lovers, there are even more places that try to strike a tolerable, yet delicious balance both in heat and flavor.

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

1. Thai Place in Westport, Kansas City, Mo.: The "Demon Gapow" is made with 10 habanero peppers, 25 thai chili peppers, 10 fresh jalapeno peppers, 10 serrano peppers, and two large tablespoons of house-made dried chili.

Patrons must eat the entire plate in 30 minutes, and they get it for free, plus a t-shirt, a $50 gift certificate and a photo on the restaurant's "Wall of Fame." (Note: the Thai Place Hot Challenge has taken a winter hiatus and will return in the spring)

Sylvia Maria Gross

Featured: Central Standard intern Patrick Quick and Central Standard food critic Emily Farris.

Patrick Quick / KCUR

In a city known as a cowtown, what are the tastiest burgers around? Enjoy debates about cheese on a burger, house-made ketchup, bun preferences and what to order on the side (hint: it's hard to argue with french fries). We take a trip to an East Bottoms food truck to meet a new burger on the block. Plus, our friends at Harvest Public Media tell us what going on in the industry that brings us burgers: the beef industry.

Guests:

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From happy hour treats to sumptuous desserts, Central Standard's Food Critics covered a wide swath of Kansas City cuisine in 2014. And what better way to test their culinary knowledge than with a "Best-of" list?

Here are the Food Critics' choices for the best dishes of 2014 in Kansas City:

Mary Bloch:

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Even the lunch ladies got political in 2014.

KCUR's Harvest Public Media was created four years ago to report on agriculture and food production in the geographic area where the majority of that takes place – the Midwest.

This year, my third of counting the top ag stories of the year, I find that the issues taking center stage were set not here, but in the politics, policies and processes of Washington D.C., state legislatures or the ballot box.

Grape orchards on the Les Bourgeois Vineyards
Courtesy photo / Les Bourgeois Vineyards

The holidays are a great time to buy local, especially when it comes to picking out a great bottle of wine.

In the past 20 years, Missouri’s wine industry has grown in size and sophistication, with more than 100 wineries throughout the state.

On Tuesday's Up to Date, master sommelier Doug Frost, of Kansas City, Mo., will talk about one of his favorite subjects — local and regional wines.

Here are some of his top 10 picks out of Kansas and Missouri in the past year:

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

Wine merchant Ryan Sciara says “slurping” is the proper way to taste a wine.

Suck in some air to help move it to the different taste receptors in the mouth.

“You get acidity on the front, tannins in the back, and sweetness in the middle,” Sciara says.

And then he spits, so that he can function through the rest of the day.

Sciara, who opened Underdog Wine Co. in Crestwood Shops in Kansas City, Mo., earlier this year, developed a taste for wine as a small child, sitting in his grandmother’s kitchen.

Chris Yunker / Flickr-CC

With holiday vacation days in sight, many will be leaving the Kansas City area to go visit loved ones.

Instead of just eating gas station burritos that look like they've been irradiated, why not stop for something a little more refined?

This week on Central Standard, food critics Mary Bloch, Charles Ferruzza and Cat Neville discussed the best spots to eat within 250 miles of the Kansas City metro. From fried chicken to artisan chocolates, they covered a wide range of tastes and culinary styles.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

JJ's restaurant re-opened Wednesday night for dinner in its new location in the West Plaza district of Kansas City, Mo., inside the Polsinelli Building at 900 W. 48th Place.

It's been a work in progress for more than 11 months. When a natural gas explosion destroyed the original location in February 2013, it was questionable if the popular meeting spot would ever recover. 

In the days following the explosion that left server Megan Cramer dead, JJ’s co-owner Jimmy Frantze couldn’t even bring himself to look at the building.

Missouri Valley Special Collection / Kansas City Public Library

A fire at the historic Hotel Savoy in downtown Kansas City, Mo., late Thursday damaged several floors of the building, which used to be known as a frequent stop for several U.S. presidents.

Firefighters told KSHB 41 Action News that the fire started due to "inattentive cooking" in the Savoy Grill. There were no customers in the restaurant at the time. Residents of the apartments above evacuated without injury. 

madame.furie / Flickr-CC

For some, coffee is simply a quick way to perk up and start the work day. But for others, a lovingly roasted coffee with steamed milk and all the accoutrements is the source of near-religious worship. 

On this week's Food Critics, Charles Ferruzza, Emily Farris, Jenny Vergera and some callers helped narrow down which coffee houses and shops have the best cup of Joe in the Kansas City metro.

Here are their picks: 

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We all must eat and drink. But sometimes it seems like we’re just absorbing fuel, rather than being delighted by our dietary decisions. Not this weekend!

That which is consumed so that we may press on can provide greater meaning — as well as a greater waistline —when folks gather around the metro to make a fuss over chili, barbecue, beer, wine and more.

And, remember, it’s the greater meaning that makes the difference at the table – along with maybe a napkin.

Kansas City cuisine may be best known for the smoky taste of barbecue, but the earthy goodness of smoke isn't limited to pulled pork and brisket. 

From rich, smoked Gouda, to smoke-infused cocktails, adding smoke to a dish can add another layer of complexity to its taste. 

Central Standard food critics Charles Ferruzza, Mary Bloch and Emily Farris and callers gave us their picks for the best smoked foods and drinks in Kansas City:

Skånska Matupplevelser / Flickr-CC

As temperatures start to drop and fall begins, it's time to start thinking about culinary standbys that characterize the season.

From root vegetables to fresh apple cider, there are plenty of seasonal ingredients and dishes in the Kansas City area to get you in a fall mindset. 

Here are Central Standard's Food Critics' and local callers' choices for good seasonal dishes in the Kansas City metro:

Julie Fallone / Town Topic

  At some point, we all get a sweet tooth. For some of us it is a little more frequently than we would like, for others its an occasional craving.

Whether you are in need of a decadent mousse or plain old fashioned ice cream cone, our Food Critics are here to guide you (and your tooth) to the sweetest treats in the metro.

Here are suggestions from the Food Critics and listeners to Central Standard:

Elle Moxley / KCUR

A popular frozen custard shop in Kansas City, Mo., could close after an outside real estate company didn't renew its lease for its Brookside location.

Foo's Fabulous Frozen Custard has been in the same storefront on Brookside Plaza for more than two decades. But owner Betty Bremser learned last week that First Washington Realty Inc. in Bethesda, Md., the company that owns much of the neighborhood shopping district, didn't plan to renew her lease at the end of this month.

Erica Firment / Flickr--CC

Brunch. Sometimes it is leisurely and relaxing, sometimes after a long night, it is just necessary. 

From upscale to fresh and light to downright greasy, the Central Standard food critics have you covered for all your mid-morning needs in the Kansas City metro. 

Here are our food critics' recommendations:

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From Southwest Boulevard to 7th Street Trafficway, it's hard to go anywhere in the Kansas City metro without running into delicious taquerias and Mexican restaurants.

On Friday's Central Standard, host Charles Ferruzza and the rest of the Food Critics came up with a large list of some of the best tacos in Kansas City.

Here are the Critics' and callers' picks:

Geishaboy500 on Flickr

Music is often connected with emotions, but what about food? Can a cocktail taste like a song? On Thursday's Central Standard, we spoke with two Kansas City bartenders who recently completed a feat of synesthesia - creating original cocktails inspired by songs from local musicians.  The event was called Mixtapes & Mixology.

Sean Powers / Harvest Public Media

With farm to table restaurants springing up left and right, cooks are having to go beyond the grocery store. That’s why about a dozen chefs from Chicago and central Illinois recently gathered for a two-day crash course on where their food comes from – the farm.

Mitch Altman / Flickr-CC

The dog days of summer are upon us and everyone is looking for good ways to keep cool. Though cocktails might do the trick, not everyone wants to get intoxicated while they sip a cold drink.

On Friday's Central Standard, guest host Charles Ferruzza is joined by the Food Critics to find out where the best refreshing non-alcoholic drinks in the Kansas City area are. 

Here are their picks:

Edsel Little / Flickr-CC

Many people enjoy a glass of wine or a beer to loosen up, but sometimes those just don't quite do the trick. From Moscow Mules to Brandy Alexanders, a good cocktail can be a great companion to a nice meal or a casual social event.

On Friday's Central Standard, guest host Charles Ferruzza is joined by the Food Critics to find out where the best cocktails in Kansas City are.

Here are their picks for cocktails at restaurants and bars:

Food safety regulators are recalling beef that could be tainted by parts of cattle nervous system that can carry mad cow disease and a Kansas City restaurant may be affected.

Music, food, and craft beer will jostle for center stage this weekend at Boulevardia, a three-day festival in the West Bottoms of Kansas City, Mo.

More than three dozen brewers from 11 states, from Oregon to Maine, as well as two Belgian breweries, will be on tap to provide samples. And – of course — there will be beer from local favorites in Kansas and Missouri (such as Boulevard Brewing Co., the organizer of the event).

Charvex / Wikimedia Commons

As part of KCUR's Beyond Our Borders series, Central Standard met with a handful of residents of Kansas City's historic Northeast to hear about the people and projects shaping the future of that part of town. In particular, artist Hector Casanova told us about his project working with students to transform a boarded-up old school building in the neighborhood by treating its surfaces as a giant canvas.

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