Food Around Kansas City

Best of “French Fries”

Written By: Mary Bloch - Apr• 07•17

I am often asked about this topic, given my rather well-known penchant for fried spuds.  Unfortunately, I was out of town for the KCUR Food Critics show this week that focused on the best French Fries in town, so I decided it was time to weigh in on my favorites in this space.

All of my favorite French fries have the same essential attributes; 1) they are thin, not thick (no steak fries for me), 2) they have not been dipped in a batter, 3) the skins are still on, and 4) they must be crispy.  I’m partial to potatoes that have been fried in duck fat, but triple fried also do the trick.

On any given day, one batch of fries may be better than another, so in alphabetical order, here are my favorites:

Bluestem Lounge

Blvd Tavern

Brewery Emperial

Cafe Europa (as long as the slicer is set to a thin setting; if they are thick they lose my vote)

Char Bar   

Danny Edwards Blvd BBQ (order them crispy)

Gram and Dun      

Howard’s Cafe


Q 39

A new favorite is at the barely week-old Corvino Supper Club and Tasting Room, which takes the concept of fries to a whole new level by providing a touch of elegance to this traditional side dish. Fingerling fries are snuggled in a beautiful pottery bowl with aioli and green garlic  XO dipping sauces. 

Please weigh in on my list in the comment section and add your own favorites!

Best Dishes of 2016

Written By: Mary Bloch - Dec• 20•16

Both in terms of travel and incredible food experiences, 2016 was a standout. In no particular order, here are the most memorable dishes I enjoyed:

  1. Kansas Citians were lucky that Bob Shin and his family came back to the area to open Bob Wasabi on 39th St. His spicy fish bowl is, hands down, my favorite dish ever at a sushi restaurant, combining my love of sushi with my love of heat and spice. I love the contrast of the cucumber and lettuce crunch against the softness of the fresh fish.  I can’t have a meal there without ordering it. Did I mention the stunning visual of it? 
  2. Chef Michael Corvino has left the American, but on the menu and at a ShuttleCork auction dinner last spring, he prepared salmon with burnt lettuce, bonito and tofu. The fish practically melted in my mouth, and the flavors and the textures of the dish were amazing. The picture doesn’t do it justice, but I’m hoping he’ll serve something similar at his new restaurant, Corvino Supper Club and Tasting Room, so I can taste it…and photograph it…again.
  3.  The Blvd Tavern changes its menu seasonally, but last summer Chef Nacey wowed me with he grilled spanish octopus, patatas bravas, green olive, pickled celery, and charred spring onion. The octopus was cooked perfectly and always love potatoes with romesco. I didn’t know before I took my first bite that I also love octopus with romesco sauce. 
  4. When in St. Louis last spring, I went to the new restaurant in the venerable Cheshire Inn called the Boundary. One of the appetizers layered Brussel sprouts, stracciatella, local honey and walnuts on toast. Simple, but one of those V-8 moments, where I wondered why I had never thought to create that myself. 
  5. Early in the year I went to a pop-up at Blvd Tavern in which Nick Goellner, his wife, Leslie, and a chef  from St. Louis collaborated to serve an incredibly creative, delicious multi-course dinner. My favorite dish of the night was roasted duck with flatbread, grilled romaine and fermented honey, served family style. The Goellners have since gone on to open their own restaurant, the Antler Room, and I’ve had a similar dish there, made with roasted lamb, though I’m told the duck will be making a reappearance. 
  6. At a ShuttleCork auction dinner in the Cloister room of the Nelson-Atkins museum, Justin Cogley flew in to prepare an incredible meal for 20 happy guests. While each course was lovely, the Japanese ribeye really shined. For someone who doesn’t eat much red meat, it a revelation. 
  7. While in Napa last spring, I attended a Napa Auction Valley auction dinner at Dana Estates, with Chef Gary Danko of San Francisco in the kitchen. The lobster with potato puree was pure luxury, as was the setting. 
  8. I was also very lucky during that same trip to be treated to an incredible meal at the French Laundry in Yountville. While each dish was a showstopper, the sweet crab with caramelized sunchoke puree was my favorite. I savored every bite. 
  9. On the other coast, I enjoyed a tuna pizza at the Mark restaurant in NYC.  Tuna, chewy flatbread and wasabi in every bite, how great is that?
  10. As I wind down this ridiculously embarrassing list of riches, I thought I should end with the most unusual dish I ate this year. It has to be the squid, spinach and foie gras with squid ink sauce that I ate at the Clown Bar in Paris. And considering that I’m not a huge foie gras fan, I was surprised how much I loved it.

Here’s to more happy eating in 2017!

We all scream…

Written By: Mary Bloch - Jun• 30•16

It’s that time of year again and, in Kansas City, the choices are better than ever for those of us who love ice cream. A few weeks ago we discussed the topic on KCUR’s the Food Critics. Here’s my list.

Betty Rae’s in Waldo is a newcomer on the scene and has quickly risen to the top of the ranks.  It will transport you back to your own childhood, and your kids will also love this old-fashion ice cream shop. If you like coffee ice cream, here you can find your nirvana; the very intense coffee ice cream uses Thou Mayest coffee. Be sure to try it in one of the soft and chewy homemade waffle cones. Friendly service and an array of unusual flavor combinations (s’mores ice cream anyone?) win the day.IMG_6065-1-420x280

Glacé reigns supreme when it comes to upscale favors with trendy ingredients, including my favorites–basil lime sorbet, fresh mint chocolate flake, and the fleur de sel caramel. Beware the chocolate is VERY rich.

Murray’s in Westport is a Kansas City institution.  I love any of the flavors featuring chocolate chips…expressly espresso, chunky chocolate chip, ultimint mint, chocolate chocolate chip.

Mely’s in Corinth has been around for more than 25 years. The ice cream is not homemade, but I love the Colombo Frozen yogurt. We used to take our kids there since it was relatively healthy, and then brought quarts home to store in our freezer for whenever the urge hit us.

Sylas and Maddy’s from Lawrence reminds me of Ben and Jerrry’s and Haagen Daz. My favorite (no surprise for anyone who knows me) is the cappuccino chip. The same ice cream is also sold closer to home at Miami Ice on 39th St.

Poppy’s Ice Cream and Coffeehouse in Lee’s Summit is another old-fashioned ice cream shop that brings them in at all hours. I love the toffee coffee ice cream (detecting a theme here?)

With the 4th of July right around the corner, you have a long weekend to check out some of these shops. The list is certainly not exhaustive, so let me know your favorites and I’ll do some more research!

7/1/16 Update: Betty Rae’s was just named one of the top new ice cream shops in the country!

“Best of” Vegetarian

Written By: Mary Bloch - Apr• 07•16

The Kansas City metro area has come a long way in the past several years in terms of satisfying vegetarian tastes. Many people these days prefer to eat healthy, which has spurred chefs to make vegetables a main consideration rather than an afterthought. No longer do we have to suffer through steamed vegetable plates.

Here are some of my favorite veggie dishes around town:

1. Mushroom ramen at Columbus Park Ramen Shop in Columbus Park.  The mushroom-charred leek broth with miso, black garlic oil, roasted and marinated mushrooms, seasonal veggie, nori, and scallion has an intensity that is incredibly rich and satisfying.IMG_4381

2. The kale and shaved Brussels sprouts salad at Westside Local is one big bowl of crunch. Tossed with slivered almonds, fried shallots, Parmesan and an addictive maple-tahini dressing, the salad is typically gilded with crisp brown sugar bacon, but you can easily ask your server to leave it off.

3. Another lovely vegetarian option at Westside Local is the quinoa bowl. The vegetables are changed up seasonally; my favorite highlights spring veggies. Non-vegetarians can add salmon or chicken for a heartier meal.

4. At barbecue restaurants, vegetables other than coleslaw or potato salad, don’t typically grace the menu, but at the Char Bar the Roots & Fruits salad will have you reconsidering that pulled pork sandwich. Beets, Brussels sprouts, roasted parsnips, goat cheese are finished with goat cheese and blackberry wine vinaigrette. Pass it around the table or keep it for yourself, but do give it a try.

5. Pizza may not be considered healthy vegetarian food, but it certainly can be vegetarian. If you want to expand your repertoire beyond a Margarita with just tomato sauce, moaazarella and basil, check out the Potato pizza at Pizza Bella. Thin coins of roasted potato and melted Gorgonzola are smothered with thin strands of radicchio for a lively taste treat. The mushroom pizza with rich taleggio cheese is another great option.pizzabella-potato-1024x768

6. Chef Craig Howard of Howard’s Cafe spent weeks/months developing a veggie burger that would rival any beef burger, even going so far as to make his own cheese for it.  The burger is made with French green lentils, red beans, rehydrated porcini, brown rice, quinoa, carrots, garlic, nutritional yeast and vegan Worcestershire sauce. After much trial and error, the final product doesn’t fall apart and is a exemplary entry in the veggie burger sweepstakes, along with Room 39’s, Westport Local’s and the Beer Kitchen.Veggie burger at Howard's cafe

7. Plate, the new modern-Italian eatery in Brookside, serves up a Brussels sprouts crostini that had me questioning why I had never come up with the idea…it’s such an obvious and idyllic combination. Crispy Brussels sprouts leaves sit atop grilled bread and are complemented beautifully by creamy ricotta, honey and preserved lemon.

8. I am a long time fan of Princess Garden. Sam and his family treat their guests like family, and brother Robert serves up my favorite Chinese food in the metro. My go-to vegetarian dish there is the Harvest Vegetables. It’s an off-menu item, but it’s the non-meat version of Harvest Pork, with the same fragrant and flavorful garlic-ginger, and black bean sauce coating broccoli, snow peas, and peppers.Princess Garden--Harvest Vegetables on the right

9. The Magic Mushroom sandwich at Classic Cup is as much of a mainstay on the menu as the Thai Chicken pizza. While I don’t think the pizza is nearly as good as it was 20 years ago, the sandwich has stood the test of time. It’s stacked with portobello mushroom, pepper, lettuce and tomato and slathered with goat cheese aioli. Order extra aioli on the side so there’s enough for each bite.

10. I haven’t sampled the grilled pimento cheese sandwiches at Urban Table or the Char Bar, but it’s a trendy riff on the traditional grilled cheese, and worth a try. Same with Mac & Cheese. The renditions at Q39, Char Bar, Extra Virgin and Westside Local have a loyal following, though I’ve only tried the Poblano Mac & Cheese at Extra Virgin, and I’m a fan.

11. The Potatoes Bravas at Extra Virgin are perhaps more bar food than what would typically be considered a vegetarian dish, but they don’t have meat and I can make a meal out of them! Thin and crisp slices of potato are smothered with romesco sauce and served in a cast iron skillet, presumably to be shared at the table. They are addictive and I have trouble not inhaling them and ordering another batch.

“Best of” Lists

Written By: Mary Bloch - Mar• 21•16

It’s nice to have fans. In the past few weeks, several people have asked me why I don’t write on my blog anymore. I have found that my followers seem more interested in pictures than the written word and it admittedly takes less time, so I have primarily been utilizing Instagram (msbloch), Twitter (@aroundblockkc) and Facebook (Around the Block).

However, in an attempt to keep faith with you loyal readers, I am going to start posting lists from my radio gig. As many of you know, I am on KCUR’s Central Standard’s Food Critics show every other Friday morning (89.3 FM at 10am), and each time we tackle a different theme….best vegetarian, best bar food, best sandwiches, best pizza,  etc. It’s hard to sufficiently cover that topic in such a short period of time, and I don’t often get through my whole list on the air. So why not carry on the conversation right here?

Please chime in and let me know what you favorites you would add…we can learn from each other!

First up, Best Bar Food.

  1. Potatoes Bravas at Extra Virgin. A plate of those with a glass of wine or beer at the bar is all I need.
  2. Bluestem–I love their entire lounge menu but am partial to the great burger and fries (at Rye, too), shrimp and grits, and the hangar steak frites. 

    Hangar steak at bluestem.


    Shrimp and Grits at bluestem.

  3. Port Fonda–Queso fundido, either the one with grilled mushrooms, huitlacoche, chihuahua and goat cheese, or the chorizo with chihuahua cheese, poblano rajas, and oregano. Slathered on soft tortillas instead of the ubiquitous tortilla chips, it’s easy to make a meal out of these.
  4. Steamed Buns are perhaps my favorite bar food of the moment, essentially a meal in your hand. At Novel these soft Chinese buns are filled with crispy pork belly, cheek & jowl, and smoked tomato, served during Happy Hour only. Extra Virgin’s riff on them always has pork belly, though the toppings vary from ramp kimchi to cucumbers and hoisin. The most unusual (and on my “Favorites list” below) is Michael Corvino’s twist on these buns in the American‘s lounge, using homemade English muffins with pork belly, XO sauce and homemade pickles.

    Spicy Pork Buns--the American

    Spicy Pork Buns–the American

  5. While you’re at the American’s lounge, don’t miss the spicy crab fried rice with an egg on top. We’re talking real crab here, not crab sticks.
    Crab fried rice at the American lounge.

    Crab fried rice at the American lounge.






  6. Brookside’s newest haunt Plate focuses on modern Italian cuisine. One of my favorite dishes on the menu is the Brussels sprouts crostini with ricotta, honey, and preserved lemon, served at the bar or the table. When I first saw it on the menu, I had one of those I-could-have-had-a-V-8 moments…it’s such an obvious and lovely combination, I couldn’t believe I’d never thought to make it at home…but I certainly will soon.
  7. Of course, there are any number of restaurants serving up French fries that pair perfectly with a beer, but I’ll leave those for another “best of” list!

My Favorite Dishes of 2015

Written By: Mary Bloch - Dec• 29•15

I ate very well in 2015. Here are the dishes that were the most memorable, in no particular order but the first two, both of which I submitted as my favorite dishes of 2015 in the January issue of KC magazine.

Spicy Pork Buns--the American

  1. The Spicy Pork Buns in the lounge at the American Restaurant. Instead of using the more traditional soft Chinese bun, Chef Michael Corvino tucks a slice of luscious pork belly into an adorable, pillowy and chewy homemade English muffin that has been perfectly toasted, which he then tops with an addictive XO sauce, and homemade bread & butter pickles to cut the richness of the pork. There are three sublime little sandwiches to an order, and it is ridiculously hard for me to share with my table companion.

2.  Chef Ryan Brazeal often has octopus on the menu at Novel, but the one last spring that I begged him to never take off the menu was the Spicy Octopus with dried shrimp, polenta and red miso. Octopus is braised with lemon and chiles until tender, then charred with a torch to “blacken” it Cajun style. Served with soft pieces of polenta, a mix of local greens, and popcorn that has been tossed in a red miso butter, the  dish is pulled together by a dried shrimp XO sauce. The polenta tempers the heat while the popcorn is totally captivating and unexpected. Each bite is a revelation and invariably has my rapturous attention.

Carne Adovado Burrito--Tecolote Cafe 3. Carne Adovada Burrito Christmas style at Tecoloté Cafe in Santa Fe.  The pork is spicy and tender, and probably the best rendition of the dish in the city. The crispy potatoes are a bonus.

Reuben at Summit Bar and Grill
4. Summit Bar and Grill. This Reuben is made just like I love it. Thick slices of house-braised corned beef brisket, lots of melted swiss and 1,000 Island dressing on griddled rye.

Tuna Two Ways--Geranimo

 5. Tuna Two Ways from Geranimo in Santa Fe. Ahi tuna sashimi and tartare with Buttermilk Scallion Pancakes, Wasabi Crème Fraiche, Avocado, Soy lime Syrup, Shiso Leafs & Tobiko Caviar. Finger food for adults.

6. Roast chicken and mashed potatoes at Blvd Tavern. It’s the perfect comfort food, done flawlessly. Beautiful meat, smooth mashed potatoes and a lovely gravy.

Huevos Rancheros--Lavanda Cafe

7. The Heuvos Rancheros Cafe in San Miguel de Allende.  The poached eggs are picture perfect.

Beefsteak Burger at Cleaver & Cork.

8.  Beefsteak Burger at Cleaver & Cork. Topped with cheese curds, sweet onion mustard and porcini aioli, and serve with awesome crispy fries. Can’t go wrong with Local Pig meat.


9. Seafood Paella at my house. A shout out to Broadway Butcher Shop for the gorgeous tuna, the sweet scallops and shrimp, the mussels and the spicy chorizo…and service with a smile.

Pizzeria Locale

Written By: Mary Bloch - Nov• 19•15

All of us have experienced the weariness with turkey that sets in after the holiday has come and gone. Why not mix it up and take the family to Pizzeria Locale?

A partnership with Chipotle and the two restaurateurs behind  the highly acclaimed Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder, Pizzeria Locale is exactly what fast casual should be. Neapolitan pizza made to order, cooked in minutes and ready for pick up, practically before you’ve had a chance to pay your bill. And the pizza is the way I love it, with a chewy, flavorful and slightly charred crust, and light toppings that play nicely with each other.

Margarita pizza

Margarita pizza

Diners go through a line that slides along the open kitchen, so everyone can watch the dough being formed into balls and then stretched. A few salads are offered, as well as beer and wine. But this is not a place to linger. There is limited seating and, considering how long it takes for you to get your pizza, you can dine and dash in 30 minutes or less.Pizzeria Locale

I found the pizza pick-up to be a bit awkward when it’s crowded, but everyone just mills around waiting for their name to be called. But because it is so quick, the flow is pretty good.Pizzeria Locale

Pizza Bianca

Pizza Bianca

My favorite part of this experience is that red pepper flakes and red chile oil is there for the taking, to your table along with utensils, etc. One of my favorite pizza shops, Pastaria in St. Louis, features that same oil, and I love to dunk each piece in it. I wish Il Lazzarone would loosen its “authentic” purity and at least offer red pepper flakes for those of us who like it hot. I like the scene there, and the pizza, but try to remember to BYOPF to the party:)

Pizzeria Locale in Waldo is the group’s first foray out of Colorado. While it may seem like a competitor to our hometown Spin, I hope to see more of them sprout up. After all, you can never have too much pizza.

Pizzeria Locale

Pizzeria Locale

Pizzeria Locale Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Upland in New York City

Written By: Mary Bloch - Oct• 15•15

I expected Upland to be good after reading the rave reviews. But I didn’t expect it to be THIS good. Our table of four shared 8 dishes and each one was noteworthy. I would order them all again…and we thought of ordering some of them again that very evening! Thinking with our heads instead of our stomachs we restrained ourselves, but it wasn’t easy.Flatbread--Upland

We started with the soppresseta flatbread, which had a chewy crust that was ever so satisfying. We devoured the whole thing rather quickly.Heirloom tomato salad--Upland

Though we were just days from the start of October, the menu still had an heirloom tomato salad on it. Trusting that they would have replaced it had the tomatoes not been up to par (and getting confirmation of that from our server), we took a leap of faith and were richly rewarded. Visually stunning, the tomato salad was paired with a sesame dressing that made the dish both unusual and addictive.

The seared squid appetizer with fava beans and Calabrese sausage was another winner and  quickly disappeared.Seared squid--Upland

Though the chicken liver pasta is the restaurant’s signature dish, we opted for the spicy sausage ragu with pappardelle noodles. The noodles were homemade, had just the right bite, and the sauce was spicy and thick.Sausage bolognese--Upland

We shared two entrees; skirt steak with romesco and smoked chicken with roasted corn, mimolette, quicos + tajin seasoning . The skirt steak was cooked perfectly and was incredibly flavorful and tender. I’d rather have that particular piece of meat than a ribeye. The chicken was so moist, and the hash that accompanied it was brilliant. Remember the salty corn nuts that we used to snack on? They added both crunch and interest, in the same way that Josh Eans of Happy Gillis used them in his ham shank and grits dish. I had never seen them in an upscale dish until this year.Skirt steak with romesco--UplandAmish smoked chicken--Upland

As a side, we ordered roasted carrots with salsa verde. Caramelized, tender and spicy. Yum.Roasted carrots--Upland

We ordered a nectarine and blueberry galette, and the server also brought a peanut butter chocolate cake with milk chocolate ganache + peanut butter mousse, compliments of the house for my son’s birthday. Both hit the spot, but the galette’s crust was really special. Sugary, chewy, and light.Galette--UplandChocolate cake--UplandUpland

The space is contemporary and very attractive. Though the hard surfaces contribute to the energy, we were lucky enough to be in a booth and had no trouble enjoying our conversation.

What a great evening. We will be back.

Upland Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

ShuttleCork Auction dinner at Green Dirt Farm

Written By: Mary Bloch - Oct• 05•15

Last May, 6 couples banded together to buy an auction lot at ShuttleCork, a food and wine event benefiting the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Chef Debbie Gold, Julep owners Keely Edgington and Beau Williams, and ReGina Cruse of Green Dirt Farm all donated their services and talents (and GDF cheese and lamb) to put together an awesome experience, and I was one of the lucky bidders.

We started the evening with a quartet of cocktails, all expertly prepared by Beau and Keely.  They each smelled and tasted of autumn, which was ideal considering the chill in the air. Every drink was made to order, and the full array of bartending “instruments” had been transported to GDF to enhance the experience.  With our drinks, we enjoyed grilled oysters with kimchi (my favorite) salmon tartine, and guanciale palmiers.

Though it was a cool October evening, GDF recently bought table heaters, so no one needed more than a heavy sweater to be comfortable.

Once we took our places at the table in the gorgeous barn, Debbie treated us to an exceptional dinner. Each dish at least kissed the grill that is the focal point of all the cooking that happens at Green Dirt Farm, and all but one of the courses used either cheese or lamb that had been donated by GDF.

The menu is below and you can read the descriptions. I would be hard pressed to say which course was my favorite, though I don’t remember eating a better lamb dish, and it was the first time I’d ever had lamb confit. The Tuffet cheese and cornmeal pound cake with honey jam was a brilliant combination, and the group alternated moments of stunned silence and loud appreciation.

The wines had been donated as part of the auction lot, and Debbie’s pairings were spot on. Keely and Beau also mixed up a dessert cocktail as a fitting conclusion to an incredible meal. Needless to say, we were all glad we had arranged to have a car drive us to and from Weston.

If you have an opportunity to attend ShuttleCork next year (disclaimer:I am a co-chair of the event!), gather your friends and bid on an experience like this one. I promise it will be memorable!

in the barn

in the barn

Cocktail menu


Debbie preparing the apps

lamb and onions on the grill

lamb and onions on the grill

Red Beets and Fennel with ewe milk yogurt and saba

Red Beets and Fennel with ewe milk yogurt and saba


Homemade Cavatali and Crab

Homemade Cavatali and Crab

dry aged, confit of GDF lamb, buckwheat polenta and charred onion

dry aged, confit of GDF lamb, buckwheat polenta and charred onion

GDF Tuffet Cheese with cornmeal pound cake and honey jam

GDF Tuffet Cheese with cornmeal pound cake and honey jam

Sheeps milk budino

Sheeps milk budino

Chef Debbie Gold's dinner menu

Chef Debbie Gold’s dinner menu


Tomato and Basil Pizza

Written By: Mary Bloch - Aug• 31•15

Just as I enjoy making bread, I love making pizza at home. Because I don’t have an oven that heats to 800 degrees, I typically grill my pizza. My favorite time for pizza making is in the summer when I can top it with fresh tomatoes and dough

I have always wanted to go to Roberta’s in Brooklyn for pizza, so when I saw a recipe for  the restaurant’s pizza dough, I decided to give it a try. It’s quite easy to make, and uses a combination of all-purpose and 00 flour. Rather than using a mixmaster, I kneaded the dough by hand and then let it rise in the refrigerator overnight. The dough was very easy to work with and I had no trouble shaping it.IMG_3700

One of my combination of toppings is pesto, mozzarella and fresh tomatoes, the latter added after the pizza comes off the grill. IMG_3705IMG_3710I’d rather have the tomatoes at room temp than hot. Just so I could get my greens, I finished the pizza with a handful or arugula, torn basil leaves, olive oil, salt and pepper. From garden to plate, nothing finer.