Off to KC

There’s a one-week delay going on right now, just so you know.  As I write this entry about heading from SF to KC I’m actually just one day away from doing the return trip.

After a pleasant and, as you’ve ready, busy and filling few days in San Francisco, I headed back to Kansas City.  While I was born and raised in the SF suburb of Sunnyvale, my parents are from Kansas City and that is where grandparents and many other relatives have always been.  My sister moved there for university and married and settled down there, so KC continues to be a primary destination anytime I head to the United States.  Finally, I spend fourteen months living in KC immediately before moving to Thailand (I love contrasts), so I know my way around very well.

Below: Midwest Airlines 921 at the gate in San Francisco.

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My airline of choice for flights to and from Kansas City is Midwest.  This regional carrier offers a lot of nonstop service into KC and while they have suffered the same challenges of the rest of the US airline industry, they’ve managed to retain their friendly service and are still more comfortable than most airlines.  Plus they fly these great old McDonnell Douglas jets, nicknamed “Mad Dogs” for the amount of takeoff power they have.

Sadly, Midwest has just announced they will ground their entire fleet of MD-80s, leaving only their smaller but more modern B717s.  Along with this is the reduction of 40% of the employees and a similar percentage of the route structure.  Tough times but I understand the strategic decisions they are making and hope that the company survives and eventually thrives again.  Best wishes to all the YX employees!

Below: Views from the air.

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When I arrived in KC Tuesday evening, I was met at the gate by my sister and two nieces.  Thankfully, they are now both at the age where there isn’t a lot of shyness, hiding behind their mother’s legs, etc.  Hugs, kisses and fighting over who will carry the bag, abound.

My presence back in the US during a non-holiday time is quite rare.  My manager and six colleagues decided to take advantage of it to hold a team meeting.  Instead of having to fly somewhere else to meet them (thankfully, KC is in the geographic center of the continental US), they all flew to meet me.  I’m honored!

P1080129 Wednesday and the first half of Thursday were spent in very productive meetings, which lends credence to my theory that if you only have meetings once every twenty-four months, they can be very effective uses of time.  From left to right: Becci, Debbie, Darla, Keith, Jenni, Kim and my manager, Sally.  Expert corporate trainers, all.

Half the team members are people I used to manage (or managed their managers), so it was a fun reunion.  The other half of the team are new since I left, so it was an opportunity to meet people face-to-face for the first time, after having worked together remotely for a long time.

Lydia The highlight of the two days was dinner on Wednesday.  We went to Lydia’s restaurant.  You might know Lydia Matticchio Bastianich from the United States Public Television (PBS) shows Lydia’s Italian Kitchen and Lydia’s Italy.  She is the grandmotherly Croatian-Italian who makes wonderful, no-nonsense food.

For whatever reason, Kansas City was the location selected when Lydia and her husband opened their first restaurant outside of Manhattan, where the flagship Felidia’s still operates.  Perhaps because of the large Italian immigrant population or maybe just the carb-happy populace, but Lydia’s – located in a renovated rail freight depot on the back side of Union Station – has been a huge success.

For an appetizer, I tried the Frico, shown below.  From the menu: “A speciality of the Friuli region of Italy, the Frico is an envelope of golden-brown, crisp Montasio cheese with potato, leek, onion and Luganega sausage and roasted tomatoes. 

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This was like a quesadilla made with cheese on the outside rather than tortilla.  Really tasty!

For the main dish, I had Gnocchi con Anitra in Guazzeeto, below.  These hand rolled potato dumplings are served in a rich sauce of slowly-simmered pulled duck and vegetables.

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The duck meat was succulent and the portion size just right.  Not too filling, which was perfect because I had my eye on the dessert menu!  The nice thing about eating in groups is that you can sample others’ desserts.

First off, the Tiramisu, below.  This traditional Venetian dessert is made with layers of espresso-soaked ladyfingers and rum-flavored mascarpone cream, topped with a generous sprinkling of cocoa powder.  You know it, you love it, and this one was not only beautiful but very well made.

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Torta del Marchese, below.  A very rich (emphasis on “very”) and silky chocolate cake with candied Amarena cherries and fresh spearmint ice cream on a bed of bittersweet chocolate curls.

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When it was ordered, Keith initially expressed skepticism at how small the serving was.  Once he tried it, though, he was shocked by how much flavor and richness was stuffed into such a small package.  A single bite shot your glycemic index through the roof!

Lastly, the dessert I chose for myself (but graciously shared a few small bites with others) was the Torta Di Oliva e Limone, below.  This was a most unusual dessert, a moist olive oil and lemon cake served with Meyer lemon ice cream, sweet basil sauce and candied basil leaves. 

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This was such an intriguing combination.  It shouldn’t have been a surprise – basil and lemon are a natural pairing, after all – but the herbal flavor of the basil was such a nice complement to the sweetness of the cake and ice cream.  And the candied basil leaves?  What a refreshing idea!

Our service was impeccable (other than a fly landing in my glass of wine, which was promptly replaced) by a flirty waiter named Michael.  This was actually one of two restaurants in KC where I was given an extra glass of wine on the house, for no explanation other than, “With our compliments.”

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The treat to end the evening (besides having a surprise for Darla’s birthday next month when a cake and candle arrived) was when Lydia came over to visit, above sitting next to me.  With her many restaurants and multiple responsibilities, it was a surprise that she was in Kansas City.  She graciously sat with us for a picture and some small talk.  I left the restaurant with an autographed copy of her latest cookbook, so there will be some Italian cooking going on once I’m back in Thailand.

After the conclusion of meetings mid-day Thursday, my vacation officially started.  More on that soon.

21 thoughts on “Off to KC

  1. Meeting in KC was a very efficient way to take advantage of your time.  Very smart idea.  You seem to have a very nice group of team-mates.  Seeing family is definitely one of my favorite time! Good for you for taking time to see your family!!  I am the same way, whenever I go to asia, I found an excuse to stop-over in Hong Kong to see my mom, and siblings.   I love watching food channels, and your blogs are sometimes like my personal food channel, hehe. Great food pictures.  Lucky that I do not get fat looking at yummies.  Look forward to watching your Italian food cooking segment.  Have you ever thought of competing to be a Food channel TV star?   Wish you a very Happy Vacation!! 

  2. That’s really awesome that you got to meet Lydia! I really love her shows and her no-nonsense style of cooking. How exciting! The gnocchi with the duck sounds heavenly. The desserts too! I’ll have to add this restaurant to the list of ones to take Bill to when I can finally get him out to KC.

  3. That Frico looks AMAZING.  How can you go wrong with crispy cheese??  I’ve never heard of it before and we frequent a lot of Italian restaurants here in the Bay Area.  I may have to go in search of that recipe….

  4. @stevew918 – Funny you mention that – I was actually watching the finals of the “I want to be a Food Network star” show.  Don’t think I could actually make it work, but would be an interesting idea.

  5. @alextebow – Which leads to the question: when will that be?  Tawn and I will be there for Christmas.  Pat, Carl, etc. are going to try to make it, too.  Maybe we should do a full-scale family reunion then.

  6. LYDIA CAME OUT?!  hahahaha, that’s so awesome!  Is she baldish in person as she is on tv?  I really enjoy her, despite her thinning hair.  The duck gnocchi looks divine, and that appetizer….I just know I want it.

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