Passing through Kansas City en route to New Mexico, we stopped at a favorite bakery in the Quality Hill neighborhood and found it has a new name but the same fantastic bread. Fervere Bakery is now Ibis Bakery. serving up the same great rustic breads (orchard loaf, crusty, chewy, nubby, packed with apricots and other dried fruit) and pastries, including the caramelized croissant I’ve come to adore, even if I can’t spell or pronounce its French name: kouign-amann. We bought one that had a tart blob of cranberry jam in the middle. Yum.
Sadly, on the outskirts of Kansas City today, we saw what appeared to be the makings of a trump rally – a procession of pickups and motorcycles with flags waving, American and Trump flags. Sobering.
It was almost warm enough to picnic, which is our only option besides eating in the car because we are traveling with dog so we found a pretty little Peter Pan park in Emporia, Kansas to eat our bread with other goodies from our fridge. It was 59 degrees, a welcome change from frigid temps in Des Moines and frisbee golfers wore t-shirts and shorts (the temp got to 66 a few hours later on Wichita). We never found the monument in the park to William Allen White, the famous newspaper editor of the emporia gazette and champion of small-town America who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1928.
(From early November) Reality set in as we drove home to Iowa from Bentonville. Our balmy weather suddenly turned cold and rainy. We listened to too much news about our awful current president denying the results of the election that booted him. And his awful Republican enablers. We also were clearly heading back into major Covid spread territory in Iowa.
But I am cheered by Biden’s steady leadership and ability to withstand Trump’s provocations. We stopped in the small Missouri town of Adrian to pick up a late lunch in Pecan country (and apparently in Trump country too,judging from the yard signs). We were the only folks wearing masks at Byrd’s Pecan Delights. fortunately we were also almost the only people in there. Not to be confused with Byrd’s Hoot Owl Pecans (great name), a farmers market in nearby Butler, Mo. Solid sandwich fare (chicken salad with, yes, pecans; a BLT) and bought some candied pecans for gifts and a slice of incredibly sweet chocolate pecan pie. Stopped at Gates in Kansas City for ribs to go and Dirck’s receipt came up with a STAR on it so he got a $10 bill. Only took 35 years of Gates visits to get that lucky! before we left Bentonville, we took me more bike ride, ending up for coffee at The Meteor, a cool little place in a bike shop near the Momentary. (Another one nearby is called theairport.)
We didn’t get too much time to hang out in Kansas (or Missouri) last weekend because the focus of our trip was attending the wedding of my niece Whitney in Manhattan, Kansas. But a family’s got to eat, right? So we stopped for lunch at Wheatfields in Lawrence, which was fairly quick in and out and had a solid selection of sandwiches (and excellent looking tomato soup). After a quick tour of his alma KU by Dirck, we drove another two hours to the Comfort Suites in Manhattan, which proved serviceable, as always. We stopped for coffee and iced tea at Arrow coffeehouse, where we also could have gotten cocktails as it doubles as a bar. The wedding was in Aggieville (the KState entertainment neighborhood), at a venue on Moro street next to…an offshoot of The Cozy Inn, the famous slider place in Salina, KS. (Who knew there was another Cozy Inn?) On the way home, after shopping for famous Kansas potato chips (Art & Mary’s) that we found out, sadly, no longer are made (Art & Mary went bankrupt about a year ago, we discovered), we ended up happily at Arthur Bryant’s. Emma, our pregnant daughter, was craving ribs and Rachel had never been to KC or for ribs (she was not long ago a vegetarian). One of the few things I’m not that keen on at Bryant’s is the sauce (yes, I know, the sauce is beloved by many). It’s too peppery. But we discovered Bryant’s offers two other sauces including, I believe, the President’s sauce, which – dare I say it – tasted much like the sweet and tangy sauce served by its competitor, Gates. We had hoped to go to Joe’s (formerly Oklahoma Joe’s) but found out it was closed on Sundays. Good to know.
Friends went to a Solar Eclipse viewing party at Green Dirt Farm in the pretty old tobacco-growing town of Weston, Missouri, just north of Kansas City. It uses milk and cream from grass-fed sheep to make cheese and yogurt. It also offers “dirt-to-table” meals prepared by visiting Kansas City chefs (although it looks like you need to book way ahead for some!) Also check out the $25 off coupon on the website!
After a quiet night at our airbnb in Rogers, we dropped in at the hip happening coffee shop in downtown Bentonville, Onyx, which was buzzing, on a Sunday morning no less. After a few jolts of caffeine, we drove north through Missouri, passing what seemed like many road signs advertising Jesus, guns, churches and anti-abortion.
Stopped for gas in Lamar and toured a local outlet of the “Beef Jerky Warehouse,” which had more varieties of jerky than imaginable and some interesting T-shirts. We were taken aback, while reading a little wall sign about Lamar’s history, to see a casual mention of the KKK meetings (once) held in town.
In Kansas City, where the fall colors were most spectacular, we had lunch with a favorite relative, Uncle Kenneth, on the Plaza at the Parkway Social Kitchen. Not bad. Particularly appreciated the servers, who were gentle and kind to our elderly relative, which was much appreciated. The drive home to Iowa – where the trees also have turned fiery reds, yellows and oranges during our one week away – was also uneventful.
I have wanted to go to the Justus Drugstore, a farm to table t
Restaurant in an old drugstore in the pretty small town of Smithville, just north of Kansas City for some time and we finally did! One of the better meals I’ve had in awhile and we didn’t even eat in the main dining room (the old pharmacy) but instead on the east side patio. We shared a delicious sweet corn salad (corn, heirloom cherry tomatoes, herbs, butter, cheese from a local dairy and butter. It was light and sweet and mysterious. I would love to know how to make it at home.
This is the kind of place that makes its own ketchup, which resembled tomato paste but tastier. It arrived with the crispy hand cut fries that came with the burnt end sandwich, whIch was like nothing I’ve tasted before. there is a lot to be said for good ingredients and when every ingredient is good, the net effect knocks your socks off. The roll was delicious on its own, then there was the BBQ pork, various other ingredients I couldn’t quite make out (arugula, capers) added up to a sweet but spicy flavor. The fried chicken was surprisingly light and the chicken tender but not undercooked, served atop a delicious risotto and fresh greens.
The desserts were crazy. We shared carrot cake beignets which came in an oblong narrow tray with a beignet on either end and in the middle this light goat cheese foam with carrot caviar (yes,,carrot caviar, little bright orange beads, who makes carrot caviar?) The beignets were warm and moist and fabulous, even better when dined in the foam. We also tried the homemade ice cream, chocolate Brownie and sage butterscotch.
The main dining room is small, charming, with lovely landscapes and abstract paintings, all by the chef. Talented guy. The old soda found is lined with jars of homemade, hand labeled bitters, for making cocktails.
Smithville itself turned out to be a pretty little place with a row of old well tended red brick buildings, a brick patio and bandstand.
now we are at a comfort inn in Lenexa, Kansas. Not bad.
I know, I know – I should be blogging today about the thwarted terrorism attack at the airport of my youth (my native Detroit). But I’m far more excited to share my latest unlikely discovery – a beautiful new mural we chanced upon inside – of all places – the spanking new welcome center along Interstate 35 in the northern Missouri city of Eagleville.
Installed in September 2009, the mural fills a long wall inside the Eagleville Welcome Center (opened in February 2008) and is made of 600,000 pieces of multi-colored glass tile. An homage to Missouri history, culture, and topography, the mural has all kinds of scenes (the Missouri River, the Kansas City Jazz and Negro League Baseball Museums) and portraits (Jesse James, Harry Truman, Thomas Hart Benton) and cultural touchstones (from the American Bison to the Missouri River steamboat, Arabia.) Among other things, I learned that Walt Disney not only grew up on a farm near the small town of Marceline, Mo. (the Disneys’ barn is featured in the mural) but that the main streets in every Disney attraction are based on Marceline’s main street. Walt even recreated the barn on his home property in Los Angeles.
Apparently I am not the only one curious about the many images embedded in the mural, which was designed by a Washington State couple who won a competition to design the mural, funded through a federal grant. At the center, I picked up a very helpful 16-page pamphlet all about the mural – entitled “The Prairie Passage” – produced by the Missouri Department of Transportation.
I love finding art in unexpected places – and I love that someone bothered to perk up my drive through northern Missouri. This rest area is a far cry from the dreary ones I remember from the family road trips of my 1960’s youth. Which leads me to wonder – how much of this is going on at other interstate rest areas and welcome centers across the country? Is this effort on the rise or in decline? Which states or rest stops have the best public art installations? I have seen some great examples of rest area public art in Iowa along Interstate 80 (funded by the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Art-in-Transit program). Googling for more info, I chanced upon a terrific website about rest area history (www.restareahistory.org) that may answer some of my questions.