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ulterior epicure

bluestem: The new and improved - Kansas City

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The peas I experienced last time were WONDERFUL. ChefCAG, where are you getting them peas? They were big, meaty and sweet.

Yes, Z, how were the peas?! Did you try them peas?

I went over the menu about five dozen times before deciding on the Arctic Char, Mustard Greens and Lentils.......so none of 'dem peas for me. It was a tough, tough choice, but a very good one. Having such limited capacity for food now DOES have its drawbacks......BUT leftover char and greens makes a pretty great late night snack.

Oh come *on*, man!

"All we are saying is give peas a chance!" ;)

peas, love and happiness


It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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I had a terrific time in the lounge at bluestem tonight.

I find it easy to believe this is the best nice restaurant in Kansas City by several orders of magnitude, though I admittedly haven't tried them all.

I still haven't tried a full 7-course tasting menu yet, but finally had a chance to sit at the bar and sample the lounge menu this evening.

Started with a nibble of cheese, the Drunken Goat, served with some toasted bread and caramelized shallots. A little unorthodox to start with cheese at a restaurant, but comfortable and we were hungry.

Then ordered the parmesan truffle fries. It really speaks to the kitchen at a fine dining place when they can put out the best ham and eggs and the best fries in town. I didn't get much truffle flavor. Great on their own, also served with 5 different dips--a ketchup/Heinz 57 mix, horse radish-creme fraiche, aioli, spicy aioli, and spicy brown mustard.

I had planned to order the duck confit, but it had another day to marinate, or something, so we both ordered, basically, a shrimp and grits entree--Spicy Shrimp Fricasee with Creamy Parmesan Grits. Shrimp were sweet and perfectly cooked, the grits were both creamy and gritty in a delightful way, and the spicy sauce made for a killer dish.

The terrific bartender graciously poured us each a taste of a wine I'd never had, a Spanish grape called Godello (a Jorge Ordonez import called Viña Godeval) , which paired perfectly with the dish and is a recent arrival to the menu.

Followed it up with two desserts, both a little disappointing.

I liked the "Textures of Carrot Cake" the better of the two: "Sweet Mascarpone, Walnut Nougatine, Cinammon Emulsion, Carrot Ginger Sorbet"

Still, I think I prefer actual carrot cake to deconstructed carrot cake, especially with the sort of casual meal we were having. I wasn't looking for an intellectual exercise, and I hate having to put all the flavors together myself. My wife found the sorbet a little to close to the baby food we currently serve our 7-month old.

The "Rocky Road" Brownie (Nut Caramel, Milk Chocolate Ice Cream, Honey Bourbon Marshmallows) was more traditional, but too cloyingly sweet.

Okay, here's the kicker though, all the above food, courtesy 1/2 price Happy Hour Tu-Th 5-7: $26. Seriously. I'm just astounded that this place isn't packed, even if it is a bit early for dinner.

A ridiculous amount of very good food for the money.

Of course, we upped our tab a bit with the cocktails (also a hell of a happy hour deal at $7 per). It's not $3 draws, but this place also happens to have the best bartender I've happened to encounter in Kansas City. I had a couple perfect Negronis (orange peel flamed in), Kate had a terrific house margarita and a Hendricks martini.

The kicker...there was only one other couple in the lounge (aside from the Garrelts (chefs/owners) and their guests, also hanging out in the lounge) the whole time we were there. I don't understand that at all. It was a little cold and drizzly, and I know it's early, but still.

Anyway, I really dig this place.

Cheers.

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The kicker...there was only one other couple in the lounge (aside from the Garrelts (chefs/owners) and their guests, also hanging out in the lounge) the whole time we were there.  I don't understand that at all.  It was a little cold and drizzly, and I know it's early, but still.

Thanks for the great report. As far as the lack of crowds, my mind is boggled as well.....on one hand I'd hate to fight my way through a plaza-ish happy hour crowd, but I'd definitely rather see the place packed out than empty because I do think it's the best value around. Plus, once people taste the lounge menu they'll be intrigued enough to try the tasting menus.....and with spring arriving I can only imagine what great things await us.

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12 courses w/ wine on Thursday night - *swoon*

Next time I'll be nicer to the staff and make an earlier reservation, as we didn't finish up until almost midnight.

My best friend (who has joined me for this birthday treat two years running) has the menu with all our wine pairings written on it, so I'll spare you guys a full gushing report. I will say that if you haven't tried the deconstructed carrot cake, drop what you're doing and go try it right now.

Highlights for me were the olive oil poached halibut, the duck confit over pasta, the yellowtail hamachi, and the pea soup. I think we were both in agreement that the pea soup was wonderful, and stood out even amongst the more luxurious courses. Also, foie with rhubarb and vanilla is just about the most decandent thing ever. :wub:


"Nothing you could cook will ever be as good as the $2.99 all-you-can-eat pizza buffet." - my EX (wonder why he's an ex?)

My eGfoodblog: My corner of the Midwest

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Well, it's not at all an "event" for me to stumble in for a happy hour drink, but my schedule has prevented it for a month or so.

Tonight, a last-minute work dinner on the part of my SO found me there and I happened into a gathering initiated by Aaron Deacon on another forum.

We enjoyed some great conversation with one from the KC Rag Forum and some fabulous (and criminally inexpensive) apps: the charcuterie (it's actually called La Guernicia, IIRC), wagyu tartare, frites with a flight of sauces and the smoked salmon. All were primo and I honestly think we skated for less than had we gone to a dive and had well drinks and typical bar food.

Run, don't walk, to happy hour at the 'stem. I will [almost] underwrite a money-back guarantee.


Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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We enjoyed some great conversation with one from the KC Rag Forum and some fabulous (and criminally inexpensive) apps:  the charcuterie (it's actually called La Guernicia, IIRC)...

Yes, you remember correctly, if this were either art or history class. But, seeing how neither Picasso nor the Nazi's visited Iowa, they wouldn't know about La Quercia either. :raz:


Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Yeah, I was glad to run into you, Judy, it's been too long.

The La Quercia plate is indeed an enormous amount of cured meat, and really excellent at that. The "appetizer" portions are so generous that, to my dismay, we were too full to even order entrees or dessert. Really freaking good too.

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I had another solid meal at bluestem recently. Spring is here, and it's showing its colours on ChefCAG's menu.

Here's an excerpt from my write-up at the ulterior epicure:

I’m filing a complaint. Chef Colby Garrelts of bluestem is abusing his diners.

Witness: I was enjoying a magnificent spring pea soup (a little too much), poured around an airy quenelle of crème fraîche tableside at bluestem recently when my spoon hit bottom. I reached for the straw…. THERE’S NO STRAW!!

What did the chef expect me to do? Pick up the bowl and start licking?

Of course I didn’t lick the bowl. Who do you think I am?

There were too many people in the dining room.

I just had to find new and creative ways of using a spoon, like as a pavement stripper, scraping the enamel off of the china in order to get every little drop of that velvety, naturally-sweet soup. The truly wonderful thing about that soup: it was simply green peas pureed with stock with some salt and pepper. No butter. No cream (except for the crème fraîche added at the last minute). I also found myself bobbing for those crunchy crumbles of garlicky croutons.

...

As good as that sweet pea soup was, the headliner of my meal was, surprisingly, the Strozzapreti with Duck Confit. I say that it was surprising only because the pasta courses at bluestem have never been my favorite (although I do remember a rather spectacular Gnocchi dish, with bay scallops and Sur-du-Lac Grana, that I had last year). bluestem’s pastas have never been bad, per se, I’ve just not enjoyed them as much as all the other amazing dishes Chef Garrelts produces. This dish changed all that.

The strozzapreti, or “priest chokers” (there are a number of explanations for the origin of the name), were nestled in a little bowl and served with a generous helping of duck confit - meat only - in a rich orange-infused sauce. It was topped with panko and dehydrated orange zest powder.

It was like duck à l’orange, but better. The dark confit meat, which was impossibly moist, stood up nicely against the full-bodied sauce, which struck a wonderful balance between sweet and savory, with just a hint of tartness from the citrus. Also, the slight (I do mean slight) bitterness in the dehydrated orange zest worked a nice edge into the otherwise rounded flavor. This pasta composition achieved a level of complexity that I have rarely encountered in past bluestem pasta dishes.

The pea soup and strozzapreti with duck confit were my two favorite dishes. But, there's also a wonderful fava bean salad worth mentioning. And, if you're a shill for scallops like I am, you shouldn't miss the current version, which is attended to by *perfectly-cooked* shrimp and Jonah crab under a cloud of Champagne foam.

Upshot, get your fanny over to bluestem and order everything.

Oh, and Joe West has officially left the house. He's now at Delaware Cafe, which will be opening it's doors later this month, I think. Best of luck.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Upshot, get your fanny over to bluestem and order everything. 

Oh, and Joe West has officially left the house.  He's now at Delaware Cafe, which will be opening it's doors later this month, I think.  Best of luck.

I wouldn't have phrased it that way, but I second it. We did the 5-course there last week and, although I've had something to do every waking moment since then and haven't managed to write a psalm to it, it was all that and a bag of gaufrettes. :cool:

And, ditto, Joe. I'm sure you'll do well!


Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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moosnsqrl, did you have any of the dishes I had?  Did you order the pea soup?  Strozzapreti?

Funny, I met a fellow in from Chicago a couple weeks back, and we had planned on dining in the lounge, but a jazz musician drove us into the dining room. He ordered the 5-course, I was quite short on time and ordered two courses...the pea soup and the strozzapreti.

The pea soup was terrific, just bursting with essence of spring peas.

I enjoyed the strozzapreti but wasn't as blown away as UE. Of course, I don't have past pasta dishes there to compare. This may be a silly criticism, but I found it a little difficult to eat, which may have distracted me from the flavors.

The guy I met posted a full account of his meal on LTHForum.

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I enjoyed the strozzapreti but wasn't as blown away as UE.  Of course, I don't have past pasta dishes there to compare.  This may be a silly criticism, but I found it a little difficult to eat, which may have distracted me from the flavors.

It's not a coincidence that you should make this observation. For the first couple of bites, I was annoyed, too. I agree that the long tubular "priest chokers" were the wrong shape and size to match the chunks of duck confit. While something like orriechiette might be more appropriate, I found that the dish was much more enjoyable after I cut the noodles in half.


Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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I should also point out that the prices at bluestem have seen a recent increase. I believe the new schedule is 3-courses $60; 5-courses $70; 7-courses $80. I didn't pay attention to the 12-course "Spontaneous." Also, desserts, a la carte (in the wine lounge) are now $10.

And, as to my previous post about my latest dinner: *semi-comp disclosure* - I ordered an additional course (the scallop) as a supplement. Somehow, it didn't quite make it on to my bill; the serve got an extra nice tip.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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I made it back around to bluestem with a friend. We had 5-courses each.

The Spring Pea Soup and the Duck Confit pasta remain excellent. I think, along with the Wagyu Tartare (which I revisited on this occasion, is better than ever - with pickled giardiniera and that addictive olive caramel - and potato chips!) and Foie Gras au Torchon, two long-standing favorites, deserve the status of signature dishes at bluestem. I will note that ChefCAG has changed the pasta on the Duck Confit from strozzapreti to trenne. Trenne works much better - the shape more in tune with the pieces of duck confit. One note: there wasn't any panko (or very little, if any) or dehydrated orange rind this evening, which I missed, sorely.

I was really looking forward to my "Carbonara" pasta dish. I mean, pasta alla carbonara is one of those lovely things that so simple, yet manages to grab you by the scruff. Unfortunately, someone had turned the mute button on the flavor in this dish. I was quite shocked. With the exception of the bits of Berkshire bacon, which added a tiny bit of salty-sweetness, the rest of it was disappointingly flavorless. I could see all the ingredients, but they failed to register. I did like the fact that I got to beat the egg into the dish, that added some creaminess. I also loved that the pasta was perfectly-cooked. I think a heap of Pecorino Romano and some coarsely ground black pepper would help un-mute this dish. It needed more salt and spice - the bacon didn't quite offer enough. Again, the pastas at bluestem remain my least favorite dishes.

The current Halibut composition screams Spain. Well, with the exception of the butter in the sauce (I think there's butter in that sauce). A few notes:

1. Loved the linguica sausage - how can you not like smoky, salty, sausage?

2. Fish was perfectly cooked. So were the mussel, the clam, and the baby squid.

3. The white beans were undercooked - they were gritty and hard. This was more than just a little annoying. I wanted to enjoy them. Had they been properly cooked, they would have contributed wonderfully to the composition.

4. If you like saffron, you will like the boulliabaise. I do not care for saffron, but its infusion here was very subtle, and I did not mind it one bit. It figured much more in the aroma than the flavor. It was quite lovely, actually.

5. Loved the large slab of rendered celery (it tasted like celery, but the slab was so big, I think it might have been fennel, though it did not taste like fennel nearly as much as it tasted like celery) beneath the fish. It soaked up the broth and did a lovely number with the other flavors in the dish. The celery was an unexpected highlight. Can I get a clarification on this ChefCAG?

The aged Piedmontese striploin seems more focused in composition and flavor than it was the last time I was in. The tomato confit was yanked back, allowing the wonderful flavor of the beef shine more. The striploin was *perfectly* cooked. Gorgeous presentation.

My Hen dish would have been an A++ dish had the chicken been properly cooked. First, let me say the plating was heartachingly gorgeous - it was almost glowing with color. The artichoke heart wedges were tender, the other root vegetables were nice and crisp. The chicken (breast?) topped a silky bed of greens napped (I really hate that word, but I can't come up with anything better at the moment) in a flavorful pistou. This was dish showcased Spring at its best; it was so simple, yet so flavorful. In thought and composition, it was very Chez Panisse to me. The chicken was overcooked. No two ways about that. It wasn't so bad that it warranted a re-order, but it was enough to make the eating experience significantly less enjoyable. I was very sad.

The wine director, Jeremy, was kind enough to pour my friend and me a tasting portion of a Spanish sparkling (*comp disclosure*), "Bigaro" - Moscato meets Brachetto d'Aqui. The tartness of the Moscato really helped temper the often syrupy sweet Brachetto d'Aqui, which I generally do not care for. Imagine macerating strawberries in Moscato. It paired perfectly with my dessert, the "Fried Ricotta Strawberry."

re: Fried Ricotta Strawberry: Not sure I can complain here. Loved all the flavors. The sponge cake was *perfect* - and I actually loved that they soaked up a bit of the sweet rhubarb consomme poured into the bowl table-side. The fried ricotta was great - it was crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside. It gave this fancy dish a bit of a state fair twist. The one thing that was really distracting was the undercooked rice pudding. I don't think the composition needed the rice pudding at all. And, I'm not sure that rice pudding made sense in this composition - the wonderful thing about rice pudding is that it's creamy. But, after pouring consomme over it, it becomes diluted. Actually, the undercooked rice kinda ruined some bites for me. It was hard to isolate the pudding once the consomme was poured in, otherwise, I would have just moved it aside.

Wish I had a spoon and fork for this dessert.

My friend had the Textures of Carrot dessert, the same as I had on my last trip (see upthread). It was good. No changes.

In summary, this meal wasn't the strongest showing by bluestem in the now twenty-nine times I've been. However, it certainly will not deter me from returning. I do know that ChefCAG was not in the kitchen that evening, but I'm sure he would not want me to make excuses for his kitchen on his behalf. I look forward to seeing how the menu evolves as the seasons change; that's what makes bluestem, and Chef Garrelts' cooking exciting.

Oh - the amuse this evening was particularly lovely: a refreshing grape soda. Petits fours this time included papaya pates de fruits, citrus almonds, and a wonderful five spice truffle that delivered a nice hit of red peppercorn.

Photos of this meal can be seen on my Flickr account.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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I should add that, in addition to flavor, I was led to believe that it was celery, and not fennel, on the Halibut dish because it was garnished with what looked very much like celery leaves. I suppose they could have been lovage leaves.

I still say it was celery.

This matter really bothers me for some reason, because this was truly a successful use of celery, if that is what it was. I mean, along with the turnip, celery is too often an undeservedly maligned vegetable. I'm really rooting for turnips (mind the pun) and celery here.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Congratulations to Colby, Megan, Jeremy, Van and all the staff at "the 'stem" - for once Ms. Chapin and I are in complete agreement. :wink:

bluestem revisited


Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Congratulations to Colby, Megan, Jeremy, Van and all the staff at "the 'stem" - for once Ms. Chapin and I are in complete agreement. :wink:

Wow, this is one time when she really got it right. Congrats!


"As far as cuisine is concerned one must read everything, see everything, hear everything, try everything, observe everything, in order to retain, in the end, just a little bit!"

F. Point

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****congrats to chefs colby and megan, as well as the talented team at bluestem for this badass achievement****


Graham Elliot

@grahamelliot

www.grahamelliot.com

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Awesome review! No one deserves it more than Colby and Megan, congrats!


"cuisine is the greatest form of art to touch a human's instinct" - chairman kaga

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Dang, I thought I was first to see it. Oh well.

Congrats on a well deserved review.


That's the thing about opposum inerds, they's just as tasty the next day.

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Congratulations, I would of posted sooner but I was dealing with being in a car wreck in a strange town and all that accompanies such trauma. My new ride is being delivered this afternoon so you will be seeing me in the next few weeks or so. The next bbq judging for me is at the end of August in Winfield and I will be needing to get out of town before then.


It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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Congratulations,  I would of posted sooner but I was dealing with being in a car wreck in a strange town and all that accompanies such trauma.  My new ride is being delivered this afternoon so you will be seeing me in the next few weeks or so.  The next bbq judging for me is at the end of August in Winfield and I will be needing to get out of town before then.

Wow, hope you're ok. I guess the vehicle isn't. Give me a shout when you plan on heading north.


That's the thing about opposum inerds, they's just as tasty the next day.

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bluestem has a new website design.. It has more emphasis on the quality of the restaurant and the site itself is very functional.

bluestem

edited: to make the link work


Edited by JWest (log)

"cuisine is the greatest form of art to touch a human's instinct" - chairman kaga

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