White Trash Picnic

As God is my witness, if I ever found out that someone I invited to my birthday party was one of those assholes who constantly goes to food blogs/pages/sites to leave comments like “you forgot the address……you got the address wrong…….oh nice spelling…..uh, BIG difference between pan frying and deep frying, how about learning about cooking?……you added the address but you got it wrong”  OR weighs into every goddamn compilation or list with shit like “How could you not talk about Chef SoAndSo…I can’t take you people seriously if you don’t know THAT much about your own town…..Hello?  Good tacos?  Are you saying that inauthentic crap is good? I’ve been to Cancun, I KNOW good Mexican food!  Sushi is meant to be eaten with CHOPSTICKS!”…..yeah, those pricks….if one of them somehow slipped through the cracks and I found out about it, I would wordlessly kick them to death.  Then I would work my way backwards, interrogating whoever it was that vetted them.  It’s what I call “Stroud’s Syndrome”.  Nothing against Stroud’s, there is room in this town for all kinds of food.  There is just one small minority of online commandos who jump in anytime Kansas City is mentioned and go apeshit whenever Stroud’s is left off of some fucking list. They never shut up and as far as I can tell they never eat anywhere else.  How are they still alive? “As someone who has remained blissfully unaware of any new restaurant that has opened since 1982, I am telling you people…to even think about fried chicken in this town and not immediately start screaming STROUDS, just tells me that if you do have loved ones, you deserve to lose them in a fire.  A giant fucking cancer fire.  I’m not going to debate whether a cancer fire is even a thing.  You did this to yourself.”

All I’m trying to say is that I cherish my time with those I love.  That’s why I put so much thought into what might be the greatest and most exclusive meal in Kansas City, and then trust people who know what they are doing to pull it off.  The key ingredient in all of this though, is having the single best possible American birthday.  You can come up with whatever bullshit reasons you want as to why New Year or Halloween are better, but we both know you would just be lying to yourself.  First kid in your family to not be born in Ireland and your birthday is St. Patrick’s Day?  Fucking lame and weak, it’s not even a real holiday.  That’s like being born on Mother’s Day, it’s completely fabricated to sell shit.  But July 4?  That’s legit.  I mean, if you were born on what ended up being D-Day and you got drafted and killed some Germans ON D-Day and lived to tell the tale, then you are the winner times one million.  I’ve honestly given this a ton of thought, and other than the Nazi killing machine example I can’t come up with anything comparable.  So you honor that.  You honor it with fine food that pays tribute to your heritage.

White Trash 2014 Small-2White Trash Picnic, as a concept, was more than likely born in the same manner as all of my other world class ideas….sitting in the basement watching TV with my wife and something on a reality show made me think of it.  Then when my wife said it sounded like a good idea, I probably floated it past Howard one day during lunch at The Rieger and off we went.  The meal has truly evolved in the three years we’ve done it, dishes have come and gone, some mandatory items like the onion rings will always make an appearance, but the focus has remained singular.  Not truly white trash, not all picnic items….more like a throwback  midwestern Sunday potluck.  But White Trash Picnic sounds awesome, so that’s what it’s called.  As far as non-wealthy, non-industry special dinners go, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that White Trash Picnic at The Rieger is the premiere dining event in Kansas City.  Rich people?  They don’t even have to have taste or common sense to throw a hell of a bash.  Industry folks?  When they’re doing special dinners for each other, nobody outside of that world possesses the level of voodoo to even come close to their abilities.  So for the rest of us, White Trash Picnic is going to be as good as it gets.

White Trash 2014 Small-5 With the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket stink starting to fester on this event, what individuals represent the who’s who of attendees?  It’s a birthday party, so family and lifelong friends, as well as folks I would love to share a good meal with on any given evening.  People who get it.  The name is funny, but it’s not a joke.  The food is based on classics that many of us from the Midwest can relate to, and the group I assemble is second to none in the ability to survive an unrelenting onslaught of food.  This isn’t for picky eaters, vegetarians, folks with allergies or anyone who requires special dietary considerations….I bring in my own special sodas since I don’t drink, but that’s about it.  This is for eaters who can withstand a sustained attack with an unbridled enthusiasm coupled with boundless senses of wonder and humor.  And at the same time, they are people who know I am absolutely NOT fucking around when I say “you might want to pace yourself”.  This year I think it hit the level of the legendary private dinners held on the third floor of The Spotted Pig.  It went to a whole different place that I would never have anticipated two years ago.  Even I didn’t know what the majority of these dishes were going to be before I arrived.  Howard must have really applied the pressure, because everyone fucking delivered BIG time.

White Trash 2014 Small-9My favorite restaurant is The Rieger.  The introduction of a new Rieger menu is one way in which I measure time.  Food to me is sense memory, and it is an occasion.  I know I can trust the team at The Rieger to honor those things by simply executing their normal daily routine.  There isn’t another restaurant in town that could create something that brings this much joy to everyone involved while still satisfying my taste for the…..eclectic.

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Crockpot meatballs.  Normally they are of the pre-formed frozen variety cooked in a combination of ketchup and grape jelly.  Don’t get me wrong, those are fantastic in every way.  But this classic WTP version is made with pork and ricotta meatballs in a nice ragu.

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Pimiento cheese spread works best with the appropriate garnish.  The aroma of fresh rosemary brings with it harbingers of spice and a touch of kindness.

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Science isn’t just for champagne bars and fancy cheeses.  Raclette made with a large block of Velveeta was shockingly delicious.  The extremely flammable nature of Velveeta lent itself to an added smoky, burned flavor that was addictive.  I’m not being ironic, it was fucking delicious.

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Deviled Eggs as imagined by Tony Glamcevski are topped with small, house smoked oysters.  They lend themselves well to conversation and a sense of community.

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Hot Dog Men…you only grill them on one side.  Then you give them the Dexter treatment with the last available jar of Crum’s ketchup in Kansas City.

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Just because I don’t drink doesn’t mean I’m one of those whiny little bitches who doesn’t think anyone should get drunk.  If you can party without it becoming an extinction level event, go fucking wild.  Maybe work your way up to twenty seven American flag jello shots like Dolly Wood.

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School District 500 in KCK served chili and cinnamon rolls on Wednesdays.  Dave Crum remembers this too, so he made chili stuffed cinnamon rolls, deep fried them and covered them with a black olive butterscotch sauce.  I want to open a food truck next to a Denver marijuana dispensary that only serves these, and make fifty billion dollars.  They are that good.

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We gave Craig Jones the day off from making pizzas, so he made these little pigs in blankets in the form of amazing goddamn Chicago style hot dogs.

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Apparently I had a heart to heart with Andrew Heimburger a couple of years ago that involved old school grocery store olive loaf.  He created a version using good olives and lamb for Preservation Market that I specifically wanted to see at this party.  It found its way into “fried bologna” sliders.  I love their work at Preservation Market…. and bonus- it’s the same room where I saw bands like Foetus back in the day.

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The American Restaurant is doing some amazing food with Michael Corvino at the helm. I seriously love that place, as evidenced by earlier ramblings in this blog. It was understandable that he had to go through a few different ideas before arriving at a WTP worthy dish…he is very used to creating fancies.  His version of PB&J included vadouvan cured foie gras and plain white bread from CVS.  I love that guy.  Andy McCormick too…he had a place of honor at the table.

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I’ll be honest, ever since a staff member at Novel told me about the special Saturday post-shift cheese slippers, I started angling for any opportunity to get some of Ryan Brazeal’s pork cheek ragu in bulk.  His is another restaurant for which we have a genuine love, so his creation of “Chili Mac” using that ragu and spaetzle was one of the most perfect things ever.  Spicy.  Really spicy.  If you’ve eaten it on top of the pork chop at Novel, you know what I mean…thank God for chefs who send that level of spice out to their dining rooms.

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Josh Eans made some scrapple that won him the title Scrapple Champion of Kansas City.  He’s very proud of it.  Proud enough that someone is going to come gunning for him next year.

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In between crying and dealing with customers, Smythe makes a world class version of Layered Salad.  She’s someone who totally gets what this dinner is all about.

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These onion rings are on the menu every damn year.  If you can’t understand why that is, I don’t want to know you.

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Remember that shitty canned creamed corn you grew up eating?  This version is a lot better.  The corn was still on the stalk that very morning.

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First year of WTP we had scalloped potatoes with pork cheek ham, then last year was loaded baked potato casserole.  We revisited the scalloped spuds this year, but with Paradise Locker’s ham.  This is what you call a crowd pleaser.

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I think it was the idea for Shake ‘n Bake pork chops that we had the first year that kind of set the stage for the entire WTP concept.  Then last year we had Salisbury Steak.  I wanted to make it a little fancier this year and requested Surf n’ Turf, but with popcorn shrimp and bbq chicken.  The shrimp was spot-on, worthy of being served alongside the Admiral’s Feast, and just to take it to the next level they made smoked chicken sausage with additional pork fat….because that’s what you do.

White Trash 2014 Small-26There won’t be another birthday cake like this one again.  Unless it’s the one Natasha’s Mulberry and Mott makes for me next year.  I mean, just look at it.  Fire. Umbrellas. Flamingos.  Two people strained their shoulders just bringing it into the room.  As you can imagine, by this point in the party people are just fucking keeling over from the pain of eating so much food. The sheer volume is impossible to describe. But somehow everyone in the room makes room for Natasha’s desserts. As I’ve mentioned many times, they are the official cake provider of the Fisher Family.

Anyway, this is just some gratuitous showing off and bragging on my part.  I have the best birthday dinner in Kansas City, I don’t think anyone who is sane will deny that.  But it has very little to do with me, and everything to do with the creativity and generosity of our favorite local restaurants and producers.  White Trash Picnic is a concept that hit a high point this year, and immediately after it was over Howard and I started talking about how to approach it next year.  It will be similar in a lot of ways, you can’t really tweak it that much…it’s kind of perfect.  At some point I’ll be waiting along with everyone else to see if I’m even invited, and I’m cool with that as long as some Stroud’s Syndrome dickhead doesn’t get my seat.


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


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