For chefs and farmers, the arrival of spring means growing season has begun and fresh ingredients will inform some menus around Kansas City.
Nick Goellner, executive chef and co-owner of the Antler Room, says the "harbinger for spring" is an explosion of mint and the prevalence of wild garlic and spring onions. Timeliness is everything when sourcing local produce.
“A lot of the best spring ingredients have a very short season,” Goellner explains.
Central Standard’s food critics sat down to talk about their favorite farm-to-table dishes and the local providers who make them possible.
Mary Bloch, Around the Block:
- Novel — Sautéed mushrooms with scallions and ginger highlights the local produce on the menu this time of the year. While I love all of Ryan Brazael’s dishes, I think his vegetables are always a stand-out selection.
- Homesteader Cafe — Sweet potato hash topped with eggs and chilaquiles tostadas are among my favorites. The Homesteader Cafe sources organic, local, grass-fed and free-range meats as well as produce, grains and dairy, and is working toward being zero-waste as well.
- Pigwich — The pork sandwich and burgers here feature meat from the Local Pig butcher next door. Both are owned by Alex Pope, who seeks out local farms and does all the butchery at the shop, which moved earlier this year from the East Bottoms to the River Market.
- Room 39 — The cheese plate, featuring Green Dirt Farm and Jason Wiebe Dairy, is a good start, before moving on to Campo Lindo Chicken livers, then Palmberg spinach and local mushrooms. Chef Ted Habiger is one of the few restaurateurs whose menu still highlights all of the farmers he uses.
- Cafe Sebastienne – The seasonal salad gives diners a good idea of what’s in store here. Chef Rick Mullins is all about local, organic and sustainable, with herbs, greens and veggies all picked from the area. Cafe Sebastienne recently earned KC Healthy Kids' Carrot Gold Status for supporting local farmers and reaching a certain level of excellence in sourcing and sustainability.
- Black Dirt — The Missouri Caesar, made with Shatto cheese and locally caught catfish bites and trout that tastes like anchovy dressing, has been on the menu since Jonathan Justus opened his restaurant last year.
- Black Sheep and Market – The Reuben is my favorite dish at this new project — part restaurant, part market — from Michael Foust of the Farmhouse. Both sides of the operation incorporate eggs, meats, chicken and veggies from a long list of farmers.
- The Rieger — The charcuterie platter is beautiful and filled with local goodies. Chef Howard Hanna, who gets all of his meat and veggies from local farmers, also serves a dish with fried artichokes, carrots, pickled ramps and a duck egg combined for a stunning and delicious dinner.
- The Farmhouse – The burger on the menu right now is made with Hatfield’s local beef and bacon-jalapeño Quark cheese spread from Hemme Brothers. Also try the Lamb Pappardelle, with house made pappardelle and braised Barham Family Farms lamb, tomato chili sauce and shaved manchego on top. The Farmhouse menu has a farm-fresh focus from Chefs Michael Foust, Vincent Parades and Ryan Wellfort.
- Novel – Spring pea soup with duck eggs, herbs, wild strawberry tapioca and edible flowers are all in this gorgeously green soup. Chefs and owners Ryan Brazeal and Jessica Armstrong have always made a commitment to sourcing their ingredients locally, and most of the ingredients in this dish are supplied by Linda Hezel from Prairie Birthday Farm.
- The Rieger — Carrot ricotta gnudi is a little, light dumpling made with ricotta and carrot-top pesto made with Missouri Northern pecans. Owner and chef Howard Hanna is known for his interesting seasonal menus; another of these dishes is his risotto alla primavera, with new spring vegetables and Green Dirt Farm Bossa cheese.
- Webster House — The mushroom tart, with local mushrooms, sheep's milk cheese, cranberry, braised radish, sunchoke and mustard greens, is another example of chef Brandon Winn's passion for farm-to-table cuisine.
- Black Dirt – The halibut dish features wild spring garlic puree that's bright green with grilled spring onion, peas, soybeans, braised radishes, crispy oyster mushroom chips, tikka masala and house fermented chili pickled allium.
- Leeway Franks – The Leeway Frank is all-natural and made in-house with 100% Kansas beef, smoked over hardwoods and served on a poppy seed bun with brown mustard, sautéed onions and house-made sauerkraut. This Lawrence-based concession stand and butcher also serves a Kansas White Bean and Ham Hock Soup made with chunks of locally sourced potatoes and carrots. It takes me right back to grandma’s house for lunch.
- Reserve Restaurant and Lounge – Colorado Lamb chops marinated in red wine, mint and oregano served over tzatziki and garlic naan. Chef Jeremiah Lyman is a hunter, fisherman and gardener who is currently growing six different types of heirloom bush beans from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Farm, as well as heirloom squash.
- Brookside Poultry Company – The fried chicken is some of the best in the city. Their sour cream brine is magical, and the chicken is sourced from Barham Family Farm.
- Heirloom Bakery and Hearth – Pastries, sandwiches and bread are among many wonderful baked items, but my favorites are the cookies and the hand pies. Heirloom relies on many local sources for ingredients, including Heartland Mill wheat farmers, David’s Pasture and Green Gate Family Farm.
Chris Young is an associate producer for KCUR's Central Standard. Reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.