Saturday

As a classically trained vocalist, I admit that I had the advantage over Pete Dulin when we were going down the road early on a Saturday singing the chorus from Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” on a constant loop.  He doesn’t understand breathing.  Hell, it took me the first full year of lessons before I really started trusting the methodology.  I could have picked a different song, but the request was for “the normal Saturday routine”, and that’s the Saturday song after the first coffee stop.  What he lacked in vocal ability he more than made up for with his version of the Christina Aguilera flaccid nazi salute she does when she’s hitting the high notes.  But perhaps I am getting ahead of myself, just like how it happens in some movies!

Saturday morning, as a concept, exists for me as much more than a way to annoy the living shit out of my friends on Facebook, as I check in at the exact same places every week and really phone it in with the wit.   It is my standing appointment to maximize my free time by spending it with as many of the people, places and things that I love as possible.  I’m not an evangelist because I’m pretty selfish…..I only like to deal with those who are already converted, because I love great conversation and hate small talk like it is a slow death by torture.  And beyond my credentials which consist solely of an enthusiasm that forced me to get my stomach stapled several years ago, I don’t really view my weekly activities as particularly unique or noteworthy.  I’ll take any chance I can get to promote my friends, but I leave it to my consistency in the places I go and the things that I eat to win anyone over.  It’s part art or spirituality and part science for me….the science is simple enough; it consists of starting small and moving outward organically vs. having some nightmarish Type-A checklist in need of conquering.  For the most part, and there will always be exceptions, but about 99% of the time I’m just getting to know someone who grows, produces or cooks something I really, really like, and taking their word for what else I should check out.  And I just repeat that process over a period of years without any set goal, because the generosity, talent and enthusiasm to be found in this town is one hell of an amazing and humbling ride if you just let yourself turn off the frenetic foodie-kingdom bullshit and enjoy it.  I’m not a guy who has the money or social leverage to get eight of the most popular chefs in KC to make retro trailer trash dishes for my annual birthday party at The Rieger, but somehow that still happened.  You can’t purchase or name-drop your way into that kind of stuff…you just need to be authentic in your enthusiasm and friendships, and make sure one of those friends is a Samoan who can apply the pressure and get results.

6:55am- Parkville Farmer’s Market

Saturday Small-1

The best holidays are the ones that don’t involve crushing debt and unrealistic expectations from family and/or a deity.  Those holidays you have to create for yourself.  One of our favorites is the first Crum’s Heirlooms CSA pickup of the season. That usually happens in late April or early May, and it is a huge damn deal.  Having CSA farmers who are among the most popular and respected in the restaurant community is not a small thing, and I have learned a lot about seasonality and cooking from them since way before they even started the CSA.  The farmer’s market is the beginning of all things, I can’t possibly encapsulate its importance in one paragraph…it’s the hub that is the connection between me and so many of my favorite restaurants and chefs.  I’ll go to other markets as time allows, but Parkville’s is literally down the street and while it may be small there is plenty of great produce….that and I dance with the one that brung me.  Much of the time I’ll pick up one or two items that roll around in my brain all morning until I come up with a satisfactory cooking plan for them…adding ingredients and cooking ideas from friends as the morning progresses.  That is the luxury of the home cook…we actually get to take our time with no real pressure or expectations, and pretend to be chefs.

I definitely have several friends who would be welcome to come along on a Saturday morning, but Pete Dulin is on a very short list of folks who would inspire me to max out the experience. When he suggested that we get together on a Saturday and write about the experience, I knew immediately he’d get my “all or nothing” Saturday rule…it starts before 7 and ends around 11 or so depending on the total number of stops.  Industry friends would obviously be the exceptions to this rule….they work late on Fridays and have serious shit to do on Saturdays.  The people I weed out are civilians who think there is any such thing as showing up to your first farmer’s market around 8 or 9 on a Saturday…..we just don’t have enough in common to spend four hours together.  You’re there when it opens.  Pete gets that.  He was in for the full tour.  My only regret is that I didn’t pull the trigger on my plan to have two friends fake a carjacking at some point during the morning.  I didn’t know how Pete would react to that, and there is a good chance that anyone I know who would do it might get too into their character.

7:47am- Oddly Correct

Saturday Small-2

Oddly Correct is my across the board favorite place for coffee in Kansas City. How do you know if someone is a vegan, an evangelical, or will get butthurt over the no-cream-no-sugar policy?  Don’t worry, they’ll fucking let you know…every.single.time.the.subject.comes.up…that way you can avoid them in the future.  I like having someone who loves their product enough to stick to their guns and manage to get such a huge following.  I’m more than a little familiar with the subject of coffee, I’ve roasted my own for about a dozen years and I make sure I feather the other shops into my rotation for comparison purposes.  It’s completely subjective, I’m just saying it’s my favorite place for overall quality.  I know that anyone handing me a drink is going to know way more about coffee than me, and they have managed to get me to love beans that did not originate in Africa.  We do a whole lot of coffee talking during my brief visits, and they have gone out of their way more than once to help me out in my own home roasting and brewing adventures. My usual order is a macchiato or a Gibraltar, and then a pour-over of their choosing to go.  My Saturdays are caffeinated.  That was the only thing to throw me off a bit with that Pete…he’s not a big coffee drinker, but he took one for the team.  And for an amateur he can do a pretty decent Alicia Keys impersonation.  But seriously, what is tea?

Besides the fact that I believe they are masters at roasting and preparing beans, there is a lot more to the drive clear across town for a cup of coffee than a simple caffeine fix.  A big part of the past five years without a drink has been about gratitude, reflection, and just appreciating the moment where you exist.  In as much as the farmer’s market is a touchstone for all of my other food connections in town, being up really early on a Saturday morning after a solid and sober night’s sleep is the touchstone to the fact that my decision to quit drinking is the only reason I get to do any of this or have the majority of the friends that I do.  I don’t have to get into all of THAT here…I wasn’t just some yuppie who got too caught up in white wine and Xanax, I’ve got a maintenance and accountability regimen down that has double, triple, quadruple redundancy…I’m not immune but I do not take unnecessary risks or take off
into flights of euphoric recall.  I paid a lot for that cup of coffee. A whole lot.  I look at it kind of like an allergy. And not one of those fashionable tummy bloat/spastic shitting/annoy your friends and family “allergies”…..more like one of those suffocating to death from a peanut or crab claw allergies.  When the penalty is serious enough, being a fucking martyr about it is just demeaning and makes you look like an idiot.  Some people just don’t get to eat or drink some things, and I’m assuming that a shitty, fake version of something like shrimp would be equally as depressing and pointless as alcohol free bourbon.

Every other Saturday with rare exceptions-  8:07am

robert_paulson_400

8:46am- Tortilleria San Antonio

Saturday Small-7

The best thing about spending Saturday with a friend like Pete is talking all kinds of heinous and vicious shit about everyone else in town.  Absolutely nothing is off limits.  We got to the point where instead of wasting words on someone, we’d just draw a very unflattering caricature of them and then lay it out in the parking lot and spit on it.  Pete would get so worked up that I’d have to put him in a half nelson to snap him out of it.  What kicked off all of THAT, was getting some caffeine in us and talking about the “the best”.  People love to argue about “the best”….and the more people you have in the conversation, the goddamn dumber it gets.  It always goes from one well meaning foodie asking where to find something straight to an impromptu white pages ad of every single business that offers it in Kansas or Missouri….and all of them are the best, because it’s the internet and nobody wants to shut the fuck up or back the fuck down.  “I know you asked about pizza in Lee’s Summit, but if you CARED ABOUT FOOD you would try this hamburger in Atchison…and did I mention I’m easily offended and always get the last word?”  I’m not saying that my favorites are by any means “the best”, but when it comes to San Antonio, I base my findings on a hell of a lot of taco research within the short span of last year’s government shutdown.  I ate a whole lot of tacos all over this city during that time.  There may be a better torta here or a version of barbacoa there, but as far as overall Mexican magnificence (and service hours starting at 6:30am!), this is my place.  A dozen tamales, a bag of tortillas and a to-go container of pastor tacos.  I got a couple for dine-in with Pete so we could talk about “the best”, but normally I’m literally driving across town with that shit just falling all over my clothes as I eat because that’s how I roll. I maximize my time and my enjoyment that way.  You ever fly down I-70 at 8am with Pantera blasting, chewing on the still-crisp fattiness of tacos al pastor with salsa falling into your lap?  Then shut the hell up, showing up at the next spot smelling like tacos is the shit.

9:22am- Happy Gillis

Saturday Small-8

When I say “the American Dream”, I have absolutely no question that owning and running a restaurant can be the worst kind of stressful nightmare….but I think that Happy Gillis is a great example of why most people have their vision of the American dream all wrong.  Not to gloss over the mental and financial peril that are inherent to the business, but doing something you’re great at on your own terms and for the most part having evenings off to be with your family is pretty damn amazing.  Even if I don’t stay to eat my food, stopping in to see what’s up with the Eans crew is a big part of Saturday morning.  Food I love to eat that is cooked and served by people I love to know.  The food is great, you can afford to be a regular there, and you will usually run into someone you know or run into someone worth getting to know.  And you can add as many eggs as you want to any dish.  You have to pay for them, I mean what the hell kind of place would it be if they just gave away eggs.  Nice bathrooms.  Great coffee mugs.  Good soda selection.  Eggs.

9:55am- Little Freshie

Saturday Small-4

 

“Hey Pete, I know you’re not up for the four shot small latte I usually get, so how about some chai?  You like chai?  You do?  Well it’s pretty good here, it even made a best of list. Not one of those bullshit blogger lists, one that people actually read.  He’ll have the chai. Oh, looks like they don’t have the raspberry oat bars today…those are my favorite.  You’ll have to eat some honeybees, they’re fantastic.  Get him a couple honeybees. They’re a superfood.  Maybe you’ll work your way up to one of these goddamn four shot lattes if you eat more superfoods.”

I take my previous comments back…..Little Freshie really is the best.  It’s the best business in the world. First of all, the name is perfect.  It is the greatest thing about my non-resident westside yuppie strolls…always someone super friendly working the counter, and one of three different young families I’ll always run into on a Saturday morning.  This is where some great information sharing happens, whether it’s local restaurants, markets, seasonal and/or artisanal goods, and the reason for this is simple- foodies, and I include myself in this category, know a little bit about a broad category but lack depth.  You have to get to know your specialists.  The people who are incredibly good at one or two things.  Where does the person who creates a cult worthy raspberry oat bar get their berries?  When they aren’t drinking their own coffee,  what other places live up to their standards?  I don’t think I could care any less about the wisdom of the hobbyists or compilers of huge swaths of shallow data…the career person has the hookup, and if you keep a reliable circle like I do you are able to reciprocate.

 

10:05am- Fervere 

Saturday Small-5

 

To get straight to the point- Fervere taught me the importance of good bread.  Sure, we love the baguette from Le Monde and Farm to Market is a workhorse in our kitchen, but as a standalone “I could live on bread alone” foodstuff, I don’t think it’s going to get much better than Fervere.  I’ve eaten a whole lot of every one of their breads, and if you’re a beginner I say that you should pick up a cheese slipper and a loaf of polenta bread.  Those are a couple of solid hooks to reel you in before you start applying copious amounts of their Pain de Campagne to your sandwich, toast, or just plain gorging routine.  People seem shocked that you have to call ahead or get there early in order to get what you want.  In fact, between their limited hours and the fact that there isn’t an unlimited megamart selection that has to be discounted at closing time, I’ve known a few people who get a little pissy about it without even visiting.  Fuck them, right?  They have no clue about the importance of bread.  One morning I saw a new customer ask if there was any way they’d be able to come in and see the bread being made.  That is something I’d never have the balls to ask, but hey, the question was received politely and she was told that they could probably work something out.  So then she completely blew the whole thing by asking if it was something she could buy as a gift for someone besides her.  Moron.  That’s why I don’t ask a lot of special favors.  I don’t ever want to be confused with someone who has no sense of place or basic courtesy.  Although Mr. Dulin is someone who has seen the bread making magic in person, he was still impressed with my ability to play middleman between Crum’s Heirlooms and Fervere in support of Cheese Slipper Saturday.  Not the first big bag of something in high demand I’ve trucked across Kansas City, but there was virtually nothing to worry about from police dogs other than them eating our food.

10:20am- Broadway Butcher Shop

Saturday Small-6

 

At this point it’s worth mentioning that while this is a pretty good picture of my current weekly route, places rotate in and out, and as I learn about new spots as a natural result of my method, new places get added into the mix.  Paradise Locker is the butcher shop that I’ve been visiting the longest.  The Fantasmas have taught me a whole lot about buying and preparing meat, and their customer service is at the very top in the entire region.  I’m also a big supporter of Local Pig and Pigwich. I know Stuart at Broadway from his days at The Rieger, and with loyalty and familiarity being as important to me as they are, I was obviously meant to add this shop to my rotation.  There is something about having a “local butcher” that is different from any other supplier…there is a level of legitimacy given to them that most other merchants do not have.  I think part of it is the reverence our culture has for meat, as well as the fact that it’s generally going to be the most expensive part of your meal and you do not want to screw it up.  A butcher is someone you depend on to tell you the best way to cook unfamiliar proteins….I’ve cooked a few meals before and I still always get a second opinion from Stuart and the guys in the shop.   Customer service is the thing at Broadway…customer feedback often gets an immediate response; it’s a big reason why you’ll see meatloaf in the case.  It’s about dialogue…having a supplier who is an expert and NOT a know-it-all allows plenty of room to learn.  If four sandwiches on the daily menu aren’t selling like you’d expect….didn’t someone just mention they haven’t seen a bierock in KC before?  That would probably make a good sandwich…maybe knock it down to two daily specials and get the new pulled pork bierock dialed in.  Learning and changing as you go has to be humbling, a little unnerving, but it’s what keeps someone like me interested and coming back.  If a guy can do a fantastic eight dollar sandwich, I’m more likely to buy a fifty dollar piece of fish from him, if that makes any sense.  I really enjoy the conversations we have at Broadway, and I was particularly happy to have Pete along to help take that to a new level…I hope he realized the amount of sampling we did was in no way staged or set up…that’s how they roll on Saturday mornings.

11:22am- Natasha’s Mulberry and Mott Production Kitchen

Saturday Small-9

It was two or maybe closer to three years ago that I got weirdly into making macarons.  I’ll do that from time to time; focus on one thing intensely until I get it right.  In the midst of this existential torture a friend of mine asked me if I’d met the lady who made them for Natasha’s Mulberry and Mott.  I was more than familiar with their products already, so it was kind of a big deal to get to know the Goellner ladies and talk about things like “The goddamn things keep clamshelling on me!  No rhyme or reason either!  It will be like half a pan, but the rest are fine!”.  Over time they’ve become great friends, and the go-to people for every family birthday cake except for my wife’s…for better or worse, I bake her birthday cakes.  I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time in their production kitchen (I even piped macarons there once), so I did set that up special for my Saturday with Pete.  The shop on the Plaza is awesome, I can’t recommend it enough, but a professional pastry kitchen really opens your eyes to the process.  The funny thing is, when you visit there will either be a room full of amazing goodies or there will be zero…it all depends on what is about to go to the shop or if it has already left the building.  When I asked if they’d be sure to have a cinnamon roll or something to impress  Pete, that’s really all I meant…..I don’t invoke “best” often, but their cinnamon rolls are the best in KC.  I’ve eaten them all over town, I understand the different styles and icing/goop ratios…and it’s not just that they are the best, there really isn’t a close second.  And I say that with the knowledge that I have several friends who are pastry chefs who will hear me say it.  But, being the generous hosts they are, they took it to a pastry extreme for us that is hard to express without just hurting your feelings.  We got more than just the cinnamon roll. I get some special treatment here and there, I try not to gloat about it or take it for granted, but some days you just have to say it’s good to be king.   Hanging out in the Mulberry and Mott kitchen, eating a coma inducing level of pastries, and yapping unapologetically about every reality program on the Bravo network is without question one of my favorite ways to end a Saturday morning.  If you ever get the chance to do that, they like tacos.

So anyway, not a 100% typical but also not that unusual of a Saturday morning for me.  The ridealong was a great addition, and I wish I wasn’t so jaded to the experience…Pete did a much better job of relaying the exact details of the morning.  His recollection is sharp.  It’s something I’m so used to that I forget what it must be like to a newbie.  I’ll totally go and check out his favorite haunts on a Saturday, and that goes for several solid folks I know and respect.  I’m not saying I’m the easiest guy to get to know, but when you’re in you know it.  I definitely want to put one Saturday in Lawrence in the mix every four or six weeks as soon as a couple new places open that I’ve been anticipating.  There’s just this this irrational fear of the slippery slope to “Oh GOD!  We should get a fucking BUS! And call this group ‘Saturday for FOODIES because FOODIES are the BEST’ And have shirts and a mission statement!  What business wouldn’t LOVE to see fifty of us coming through their door!?!?”, so I play it close to the chest.  I don’t like the strange social climbing and profile jockeying that is peppered throughout the community.  I don’t know how good a job I’ve done of it, but as I already mentioned I try to keep my relationships as genuine as possible.  Something as minor as asking Howard to give Michael Corvino a heads-up before my wife and I had dinner at the American can eat away at me for a long time.  I question that type of thing. Big time.  And I’m not pretending to be some kind of unimpeachable saint, but the types of people who use their professional exploits, status, money, online communities, and a million different types of self-assigned foodie credibility as leverage are the opposite of the type of people who would get any of my time.  When you get to a point where you just expect special treatment, or for people to “know who you are”, you’re a fucking fraud who uses the hospitality of the hospitality industry in vain.  And I make zero dollars from the industry, so I’m exactly the guy who can call call them a fraud with zero chance of repercussions.  I make up for my piety in some aspects of this thing by indulging in the luxuries I have as a complete outsider.  Maybe my followup post should be about the comped dishes you get from time to time when you completely unload on some asshole in a grand and public fashion.  Those moments are precious, and also incredibly rare.  Nobody likes a sociopath, repeat business and kindness are actually the best ways to make friends.  Get in the car, drive from a place you like to another place you like. Do that for a few hours every week. Someday someone will tell you that you should blog about it.  Or not.  I don’t know how it all works.  It’s not like I invented Saturday.

Saturday Small-10

 

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Categories: Food, Food Blog, Kansas City, Kansas City Food Scene, New

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One Comment on “Saturday”

  1. Donna Fisher
    July 17, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    great writing and what fun to read!

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