Wednesday, June 10, 2009
So, I’ve been in Kansas City for a week, and during my stay have been pleasantly surprised at the number of quality dining options available for most vegetarians. I say “most,” because I feel the emphasis is not as much diet with respect to animals as diet with respect to the environment and health. Vegan options are very often available (and we’re not talking peanut butter and agave nectar), but the number of vegan-only restaurants are limited. So, while you munch away on your soy noodles mixed with fresh vegetables and cashew sauce, your dining companion might be eating a bison burger. Bison is very big here in KC!
But, let’s talk about the positives…and there were many.
I’d heard about Eden Alley on my last trip to Kansas City, but didn’t have the time to stop in for a meal. It is located in the tawny Plaza area, in the basement of the very beautiful Unitarian Temple. I went for late lunch on a VERY rainy day, an hour before close. I will say, this is more on the “hippy-dippy,” side than most of my critter-eater friends would indulge in on a regular basis. There was a faint smell of incense, with New Age music playing in the background, with a gift shop adjacent to the restaurant sporting a good deal of tie-died wares.
This being said, the food was fantastic. I was starving, but still. Just after sitting down I was offered a lovely slice of homemade bread with honey butter. I could have had ½ a loaf! I thought seriously about getting a bowl of soup and offering the waiter sexual favors for another slice of that bread. Alas, I opted for one of the day’s specials, the vegan tostada.
My meal was terrific and incredibly filling. The tortilla was made of corn and potatoes and was covered with black beans, veggie bits, soy cheese and a wonderful homemade salsa. You could pay extra for cow cheese and cow sour cream, but I went vegan. This was so delicious and so filling I could only eat ½, and I really was starving. This, along with a small bathtub of their select peoney tea added up to about $15, with tip.
Everything on the menu at Eden Alley was available vegan. In fact, I was pleased to see many items on the menu were raw. They even had a cookbook for sale, Stir-Well to Heaven, which you can also purchase from their site. Lunch was awesome, but the atmosphere isn’t what I'd opt for when having dinner. They do have a lovely outdoor patio area, but due to torrential rains, this wasn’t an option. Might be nice to dine al fresco on a nice evening.
Tonight I had a delightful dinner at Blue Bird Bistro. I'd heard Gourmet Magazine gave this spot recognition in 2007 for farm-to-market fare. Couldn't wait to check it out!
It really had a “bistro,” atmosphere, complete with hexagon tiled floors, long, mahogany bar, and tin ceilings. Their shtick is offering locavore fare. In fact, on the wall is a listing of their ingredient resources, which are primarily located in central Missouri.
I must say, I came really early for dinner. So early, in fact, they hadn’t quite gotten their dinner specials on paper yet. I don’t typically like to order my wine prior to choosing my main course, but this time the wine called the shots. For some reason I ordered a glass of rioja. And wouldn't you know, I didn’t hang on to the wine list, thus cannot share with you the exact wine. I've already checked, and it's not something they list on their current menu. I will say it was somewhat young, but still had that predictable cola thing going, on both the nose and palette. By the time I got the specials I was so into the wine I opted for the pizza.
Pizza is typically not a first option for me. When I feel the urge, I like extra crispy crust with very light cheese and lots of veggies. This pizza touted a tomato cream sauce, with toppings of kohlrabi, onions, corn, cheddar and feta cheese. It didn’t sound great. To add insult, the crust was whole wheat. What made me order this pizza I will never know. I’ve never had a wheat pizza crust that tasted like anything more than stale whole wheat bread with tomato sauce smeared on. Typically the tastes is too…dare I say it, “granola.”
Much to my relief and joy, this did not taste a bit healthy, but just like the best comfort food in the world. The crust was indeed thin, and crisp and the slight sweetness of the whole wheat married perfectly with the corn and cheddar. The onion was a little heavy, but the kohlrabi was paper thin and just delightful. I ate ¾ of the 10” pizza and loved every bite. I would have licked the platter clean, but for the need to carry out my plan.
I need to insert a little tidbit about myself. I practice yoga to save my soul. I run to eat dessert. I can think of no other reason for putting my ballet-hips through such pain and agony but for the sake of sugar (and cuter clothing options). I have tried eating the sugar without running and it doesn’t work as well. Ok….so I ran today. I ran far. I wanted dessert.
The dessert menu at Blue Bird Bistro was, well, l’attack en bouche. I started salivating while reading descriptions of chocolate port cake, vegan orange cake, ginger and chocolate ganache tarte, and the like. And then came the “specials.” There is a bread pudding de jour, along with a sorbet and two daily ice cream flavors. All homemade and all sounded decadent.
I consider myself a bit of a bread pudding connoisseur, so I opted for the special cranberry-cherry-walnut affair. When it arrived, it was a vision in whipped cream. I took a moment to take it all in… the specs of red cherries and cranberries, with a dusting of cocoa powder on top. What I put in my mouth was not as wonderful as I’d expected. There were layers, with the bottom being sweet scrambled eggs. The top was really good, and the fruits were so perfect and tart, but I wasn’t blown over by the dessert, as a whole. This might have been a good thing, but I really wish I had opted for the orange cake with chocolate sauce and toasted almonds.
My total meal at Blue Bird Bistro came to around $40, with tip. I really loved the pizza and wine, but likely would go back to Blue Koi or one of the fun ethnic restaurants in Westport over Blue Bird Bistro. This is definitely a great place to try if you’re a locavore, as they had house-cured salmon, bison-fifty-ways, something done with chicken livers... just all kinds of madness. I could also see this being a great upscale place to dine with a mixed crowd.
Oh, I have to tell this story: As I mentioned before, dining alone allows me (sometimes forces me) to eavesdrop on my “neighbors.” At Blue Bird I was alone for a good part of my meal, as the only other diners were in the front of the restaurant. Finally a couple was seated next to me, and the young lady ordered the wonderful pizza. After the waiter had taken their orders and turned to walk away, she called out for him and asked, “Excuse me, could I have a side-cup of ranch dressing with my pizza?” I almost screamed!!!
Good bye wonderful Kansas City. I'll be back soon!