Over the years, I have hauled my husband and our families to myriad landscapes in my quest to write about the world’s gardens. It is only fair, then, that my restaurant-loving relatives have conspired to drag me to a smorgasbord of gastric establishments during our travels.
I suppose I could pity my dear family who have willingly gone hither and yonder with me. They have seen more plants than they probably ever expected to rub elbows with. Honestly, I swore this time while in Kansas City; I only wanted to visit one 900-acre garden.
I go into unfamiliar eateries because my family enjoys surprise and variety in their food. All I want is sustenance and an engaging conversation. I do not look at traveling to a new restaurant as I would to a garden: I avoid writing about food or shooting photos of colorful dishes.
At home, my family spends much of their free time eating food, drinking wine, watching the Food Channel and cooking. Sometimes all at the same time! I have witnessed their marveling at the various ways one can cook a can of beer inside a chicken, for instance. When we are in a new city, I have learned that exploring new eating establishments is part of our adventure. For me, the whole experience feels like a wild roller coaster ride. The pickiest eater among us, I quite never have an inkling of what I will find.
Kansas City Family Welcome to Jack Stack Barbecue
My husband’s aunt, and my good friend, Carol, welcomed us to Kansas City by assuring us we had to have barbecue for our first meal.
The waitress ushered us into the beer garden at Jack Stack Barbecue while they set up our table. What could be better than that? It had actual living plants. I pulled my small camera out of my purse, pointed it at the potted plants and clicked away. Welcome to Kansas, I thought.
Oh, and the baby back ribs were delish!
Sever at The Brick Talks Oscar Wilde
The next morning, Carol was apologizing for the “dive” she chose for lunch. Today the weather is hot and muggy so I said a silent prayer that the derelict place will have a well-tuned air conditioner running.
The Brick is in a converted warehouse district of Kansas City. I stop at the front door where a half-barrel planter catches my eye. I reach out to grab some scented leaves but realize the herbs are so dry the foliage would crumble in my fingers. My family wonders where I went, thinking they had already lost me. “I’m coming I’m coming,” I mumble.
Carol is still saying, “I’m sorry,” as we slide into a red booth. But, my husband and I exchange smirks because we already love it. The varying clashes of color and design worn by the women waiting tables, the funky posters appearing plastered at unplanned angles on the walls, and the little sound stage where live music is offered up intrigue us.
The menu-god has smiled down on me. I scanned the choices and find my beloved favorite, the Bacon-Lettuce-Tomato sandwich. It is not compromised by chic ingredients, like arugula replacing iceberg lettuce, nor made on the lately fashionable sour dough bread. My eyes look up at the ceiling and express a second silent thank you.
Conversation at Lidia’s Kansas City Italy
“Hey, did you guys see that garden?” I asked turning my head. They were already through the door at Lidia’s Kansas City Italy. My family is in love with this cook, Lydia’s food show is religiously watched back home. I recognized the look of wonder in each of their faces, as glazed over as the huge Chihuly glass art dangling from the ceiling.
Early in life, I learned how to use the different forks set on the table, and I benefited mightily from my mother being a French cook. But the best lesson, though, was realizing the value of long, leisurely dinners. The drawn out service of multiple food courses is a good pretense for having long family conversations.
So: I would not have chosen the Italian dish Gnocchi, a potato dumplings dish, this one made with duck meat sauce. It would not matter what I ordered, or that I would inevitably only nibble at the dish of elegantly created cuisine. For me, it is always the ambience in a restaurant that makes the meal. My family and I were talking and laughing and having a joyful time. That is why; I will never tire of being dragged to foodie joints on our family travels.
And I hope the same can be said of my family being dragged to my beloved gardens.