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Manifesto: Delicious cocktails and enviable ambiance

Manifesto Kansas CityI’m a little embarrassed to confess to you that, until last night, I hadn’t yet been to Manifesto.

I know, I know … shameful, right? I can’t say what took me so long to head to this modern-day speakeasy, especially when my husband pointed out yesterday that I “talk about the place once or twice a month!”

After a busy Saturday spent running errands (and napping — duh!), the hubs and I joined the lovely Louise LeMans and her dapper husband, David, for cocktails in a belated celebration of L’s birthday.

If you haven’t yet been to Manifesto, I suggest you go — immediately! The cozy, dimly lit bar beckons from beneath The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange (an equally fabulous place at which to start your evening with happy hour or an unforgettable dinner.) Manifesto is an intimate enclave that begs for an evening of long conversations punctuated by the most deliciously inventive cocktails.

After an informative tour of the cocktail menu led by our adorable waitress, Candy, I also solicited suggestions from Louise. I contemplated the Stay Wet, Winter in Bueno Aires or Jessie A.’s favorite, Beautiful Red Bell. After some internal debate, I opted for Anyone For Tennis?, a delightfully refreshing Pimms concoction topped with strawberry, cucumber and mint. Actually, I had three. Yes – they’re THAT good!

If an evening at Manifesto is in your near future, I suggest texting ahead to make reservations: 816.536.1325. Seating is limited, so having a reservation will ensure your party can be accommodated.

Once you’re there, sit back, relax and let the glamour of old Kansas City wash over you as you imbibe. And when you leave, prepare for a lasting craving that will persist until your next visit. I’m already dreaming of another Anyone For Tennis? and maybe, just maybe, I’ll try something new, too. Cheers!


Satisfy your sweet (and savory) tooth at Nica’s Cafe

Let me introduce you to a little slice of heaven called Nica’s Cafe.

The cozy, character-filled bistro seems a little out-of-place in Strip Mall Central (otherwise known as the intersection of 143rd and Metcalf in Overland Park.)

It only seems appropriate that Nica’s is planning to relocate to the Crossroads District (which means you only have a couple of weeks to dine at the current location before a brief hiatus.)

Described as a restaurant “where tradition meets fusion,” Nica’s Cafe offers a deceptively complex menu filled with flavorful, filling fare that puts an inventive spin on classic dishes.

Luckily, I was with a Nica’s regular (the lovely Dana) during my first experience, so she deftly guided me through the menu. I opted for the pan-fried lasagna noodles. The edges are crisped by a delicate bath in seasoned oil, and then topped with your choice of ingredient combinations. I chose sweet Thai (chicken breast, shiitake mushrooms, caramelized onions) topped with a subtly sweetened red sauce and freshly grated cheese.

Other flavor combos include Italian, spicy Cajun, veg-head, margarita and the Caribbean, and you can choose from several entrees (crepe, bruschette pizza, gourmet salad or an open-face Sicilian style sandwich) with which to accompany your flavor. If you’re a breakfast lover, have no fear – Nica’s also serves up beignets, pancakes and breakfast sandwiches.

The best part of the meal? Free dessert (pictured above.) We were treated to an espresso topped with an indulgent dollop of whipped cream, accompanied by a chocolate chip-coated cannoli. As we enjoyed the unexpected treat, Dana filled me in that she hasn’t yet been to Nica’s without receiving some sort of unexpected dessert or snack.

Head south while you can! Nica’s plans to open the new location in mid-March, and I’ll be counting down the minutes. If you’ll excuse me, I have an inexplicable craving for pan-fried lasagna noodles . . .

P.S. Apologies for the blurry photo quality. Apparently I was too excited by the cannoli to take a decent picture.

Sneak peek: Market 3

Take it from me – living in the River Market is absolutely fantastic. The lofts, the City Market, scenic Delaware Street — it’s the stuff of which downtown dreams are made.

The only downside? A lack of basic services that are accessible on foot (unless you’re into really, really, realllllly long walks.) So imagine my sheer and utter delight when I noticed space in a nearby building (formerly an extension of Scott Fitness) was being converted into a market. A MARKET!

Welcome to Market 3 (near the intersection of 3rd and Wyandotte), a modest space that boasts all of the essentials: giant cinnamon rolls, The Roasterie coffee and a fresh, colorful salad bar.

OK, OK – maybe you have a different idea of essentials. You’ll also find milk, (fresh farm) eggs (priced at an obscenely low $1.89/dozen), toilet paper, paper towels, soup, canned vegetables, snack foods, Farm to Market bread and more.

If you stop in between now and the end of the month, you may notice the shelves are a lil’ sparse. Don’t worry. The shop’s official opening, according to owner and neighbor, Phil, is scheduled for Oct. 30.

The staff is actively seeking suggestions about what to carry, so if you live or work nearby, pop in and let them know what you’d like to find in a neighborhood market and deli. We just may bump into each other when you do – I have a feeling I’ll be a regular in no time!

The Food Network Hearts Kansas City!

Photo by Katy Ryan

I admit it. When Guy Fieri walked past me after taping the “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” segment at Columbus Park sandwich shop Happy Gillis, I was sorta definitely starstruck. And then promptly berated by a couple of lurking onlookers for not taking a picture.

I’m so excited to (finally!) see the episode air at 9 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 30. OK, OK – so I’m definitely curious to see if I make the segment while I’m destroying the delicious steak sandwich. But more than that, I’m so excited for more people (especially those outside of Kansas City) to be introduced to what is, without a doubt, one of my favorite restaurants in the city.

I’ll be sure to head back this week and enjoy the calm before the DD&D storm, but don’t worry – I’ll brave a line down the block for what I’ve declared the best biscuits and gravy in Kansas City. Seriously. You’ve got to try them.

So be sure to tune in live or set your DVRs! And while we’re talking about KC restaurants on TV, a huge congratulations to Julian mastermind Celina Tio on her selection as a competitor on “The Next Iron Chef.” As if I needed another reason to love the Food Network!

First Fridays, May 2010: Yoga flash mobs, snowcones and toys!

So, admittedly, we’re now closer to June First Fridays than we are to May. Perhaps it’s because May’s festivities in the Crossroads were so epic that I’ve just now recovered enough to blog. Or, more likely, life deadlines have interfered with my blogging agenda.

But here we are, in the midst of a gloomy weather spell that has many comparing Kansas City to Seattle. Conditions should improve tomorrow, so here’s hoping. Reflect back with me, if you will, to the first Friday in May, a clear but unseasonably chilly night. After an enjoyable meal (and a pitcher of margaritas) at Manny’s with R. and his co-workers, I left the group immersed in conversation and Boulevard Pilsner while I went outside to catch Kansas City’s first yoga flash mob.

Thanks to a Facebook event invitation that caught my eye in the Newsfeed, I knew the yoga flash mob was set to occur, so I came armed with my digital camera, Flip camcorder and iPhone. As soothing music filled the air, the flash mob began, with more yoga fans joining every few minutes to repeat a series of sun salutations.

As I dodged and weaved to snap photos and take video, I was amazed at how many photographers and passers-by collected along the small triangular park. Enough people spilled off the sidewalk as to block the right turn lane on Central St., but the drivers didn’t seem to mind. In fact, they were all trying to hard to see what was going on that I was shocked a pile-up didn’t occur!

The impromptu gathering emanated such an aura of peacefulness and calm that I soon became transfixed while watching. As I looked around at the participants and audience, I was overwhelmed with my own sense of contentment that this is what First Fridays is all about–an eclectic display of energy that’s as much fun to watch as it is to join. I look forward to more yoga flash mobs in the coming months, but as the crowd dispersed, my mind turned to one thing: snow cones.

It’s blasphemous, I know, but up until now, I had never sampled one of Lindsay Laricks’ icy confections. When I read that her snow cone season kicked off during First Fridays, I made a beeline for her easily recognizable trailer, joining a sizable line of others in search of snow cone nirvana. After much internal debate, and a recommendation from Lindsay, I opted for the blackberry lavender, which was insanely delicious. R., ever the citrus fan, chose lime mint, and loved it. I also snagged a bright red “Daredevil” T-shirt, which I have since worn proudly throughout Kansas City.

Next up? Another must-see event, and this time it was an actual art show. What’s that, you say? An art exhibit during First Fridays? How novel! R. and I walked a couple blocks to Third Eye Event Space, where we followed the thumping bass beats to the Hustle 2 group show, a phenomenal gathering of local artists that included Brian “Bullets” Holton, Nathan Fox, D. Ross “Scribe,” Jeremy Madl, Phil “Sike Style” Shafer and Zachary Trover.

Although I was excited to see work from all of the artists, I was the most psyched to meet Jeremy Madl and see his Mad Toy Design exhibit. I had written a profile about Jeremy a few weeks back, and couldn’t wait to see his creations in person. I’m not really a toy collector, but I couldn’t resist one of Jeremy’s custom-designed headphonies, who I’ve named “Beats.”

All in all, it was a fantastic First Fridays. Sadly, I won’t be in attendance in June, as I’ll be headed to my hometown of Columbia to cover the annual Art in the Park festival. I’ll be back in July and in desperate search of more snow cones–me and the heat don’t mesh so well!

Reasons I love Kansas City, #5: City Market

In all of the excitement surrounding my book release, you may be thinking that I abandoned my “Reasons I love Kansas City” countdown.

Not so, my dears! We’re going to keep the party going, this time with the City Market.

Photo by Rob Schamberger

Celebrated as the largest farmers market in the Midwest, the City Market is a fresh food lover’s dream. The perimeter of the market is lined with wholesale produce sellers and various specialty food shops and restaurants, including an authentic Italian deli and Middle Eastern restaurant + grocer. The middle aisles are generally populated by local farmers, gardeners and artisans offering everything from homemade pasta to crafts.

I’ve been visiting the City Market for years, even before I lived in Kansas City. I can remember walking longingly through the aisles, lamenting the drive back to Columbia that prevented me from buying fresh flowers and anything requiring refrigeration. So when Rob and I moved to the River Market last year, we spent our first morning wandering the market, buying everything in sight and sipping freshly squeezed strawberry lemonades.

In addition to the amazing food selection and prime people watching, I love the market because you never know what you’ll find. Magicians, musicians, food demonstrations, garage sales–the market has a fun, eclectic vibe that’s hard to find elsewhere in the city.

But above all else, the City Market is home to the Holy Grail, or as I refer to him, The Spice Guy. Follow your nose to the impressive line-up of fresh spices, available by the scoop at insanely low prices. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve recommended Al-Habashi Mart and its spice selection, especially for people like me who need hard-to-find Indian and other ethnic spices.

Now that market season is picking up, I feel that balance and order has been restored to my life. There’s nothing I love more than starting a Saturday morning with a leisurely stroll around the market, returning home with bags full of produce, spices, flowers, bread and anything else that catches my eye. If you haven’t yet been to City Market, don’t make any plans next weekend and stop by. This is one of the true jewels in Kansas City and it deserves to be treasured.

Bloom Baking Co.: UPDATE

As promised in yesterday’s post, I went back to Bloom Baking Co. today and had a lovely chat with Stephanie and the bakery’s owner, Janet. They clarified the fresh flavor combinations found in the hummingbird cupcake, which is a carrot cake-like cupcake with pineapple and coconut instead of carrot. The result? A more tropical flavor palette that’s perfectly balanced by the citrusy topping. The rich frosting is not lemony buttercream, as I originally thought, but a lemon-spiked cream cheese frosting.

Of course, I couldn’t leave empty-handed . . .

Vanilla bean cupcake and iced oatmeal cookie

After a convincing testimonial from Stephanie, I opted to try the vanilla bean cupcake while Rob went for the iced oatmeal cookie, which Stephanie said is a popular choice. Both were delicious, but the vanilla cupcake is definitely not for the faint of heart — the frosting is, in a word, intense, and the cupcake is made even better with freshly scraped vanilla bean seeds.

Run, don’t walk, friends — Bloom Baking Co. is waiting!