It’s almost officially summer, which means it’s time for fresh herbs from the garden. From lavender-scented lemonade to basil chocolate chip cookies, local chefs and mixologists are finding ways to add a kicky punch — or a subtle depth of flavor — to savory and sweet dishes, drinks and dessert.
On this week’s show, our Food Critics Mary Bloch, Charles Ferruzza and Jenny Vergara put together their ideal herb-friendly meals — and explore the best herb dishes in Kansas City.
Mary Bloch, Around the Block
- Appetizer: Esquite asado — grilled corn with spicy habanero mayo, poblanos and epazote — at Port Fonda (epazote is the herb in the dish).
- Entrée: Hangar steak with chimichurri at the Bluestem lounge. The Farmhouse also serves a similar version with salsa verde.
- Dessert: Basil ice cream at Lidia's in the summertime.
Other recommendations from Mary:
- At the lounge at The American, I had half a strawberry topped with ricotta and tiny square of lovage (which is kind of like a mix of celery and parsley; it’s fresh and clean). The lovage made that bite pop.
- In the summer, Glaće Artisan Ice Cream serves a lime-basil sorbet and a pineapple-cilantro sorbet. They’re so refreshing when it’s hot out.
Jenny Vergara, Contributing Editor, Feast Magazine
- Appetizer: Bo Ling’s home-style chive dumplings (boiled dumplings stuffed with fresh chives and ginger in hand-rolled rice wrapper).
- Salad: Story's Green Salad, which is made with tarragon, mint, pistachios and lemon vinaigrette.
- Entrée: Room 39's Goat cheese gnocchi with lobster, local mushrooms and nettle cream. Nettles add a grassy fresh green flavor. It’s texturally similar to how you’d use spinach.
- Dessert: Heirloom Bakery & Hearth’s salted rosemary shortbread cookies served with a scoop of Glaće's honey lavender ice cream. The salted rosemary shortbread cookie is savory, salty, buttery and sweet – perfect. Just absolutely crave-able.
Other recommendations from Jenny:
- I had the pesto pizza at Il Lazzarone. It was delicious.
- The rosemary olive oil cake at Story was very moist and delicious.
Charles Ferruzza, The Pitch
- Appetizer: At JJ’s: The starter of sautéed mushrooms, sleek with garlic butter and dappled with fresh herbs, spooned onto brioche toast.
- Entrée: The Vietnamese dishes at the Vietnam Café in Columbus Park, including chicken with ginger, beef with lemongrass, basil chicken, and several others that combine exotic herbs with familiar ingredients. They’re all rejuvenating and fresh, and the herbs really complements the meat.
- Dessert: I love the way that Meg Hariford of the Ladybird Diner in Lawrence — currently closed because of a fire, but schedule to be re-opened in July — mixes fruits and herbs for her wonderfully flaky pies. My favorites: blueberry-basil, peach-cilantro, lavender-cherry.
Another recommendation from Charles:
- Piropos has a delicious chimichurri sauce; it’s one of the best.
- Tropicana Paleteria on Southwest Boulevard has cucumber mint-infused water.
- Aladdin Café adds rose bits to its lemonade. Heaven!
- Also on the flower front (yes, not exactly herbs, but ...): Boulevard's Hibiscus Gose is a good summer drink.
- Little Freshie – Lindsay Laricks uses the herbs from her garden in her snow cone desserts. It also sells shrubs (soda with herbal infusions).
- Parkville Coffee is trying to use herbs in its cold brews. Fresh mint and basil are incredible in a toddy or lemonade. One menu item: lavender mint lemonade.
- District Pour House and Kitchen infuses its liquors and cocktails with fresh muddled herbs. One drink is the 816 (includes rosemary-infused gin and a balsamic reduction, and is garnished with a full sprig of rosemary).