A Post for 2012

I’ve spent the last 10 days on vacation. A much needed one. When you’re dealing with agencies on a large-scale project that requires virtually all of your time, it’s good to take a break when they do.

So I spent my Christmas vacation sleeping, catching up on movies and generally laying about while I wasn’t eating.

And man, did I ever eat. Three amazing dinners to celebrate my birthday — one at Trezo Vino, one at J. Gilbert and one at Blanc Burger. Great meals all, but my waistline is definitely worse for the wear.

My birthday and Christmas were terrific: I got everything I really wanted (except more storage for my computer…I’ll just buy that myself), including two new rad pair of sneakers and a new leather messenger bag for work (it makes me feel totally grown up).

And now, it’s officially 2012. Resolutions suck, but it’s a great time to start anew and set new goals for the year. So here are mine:

  • I’m getting back onto Weight Watchers for real. We had some great success with it last year, but I stopped counting points and really lost my way. No more messing around. I’ve got 50 pounds to get to my goal weight. I’m aiming for getting there by the end of the year. Ideally, I’d like to be there by summer, but I want to be realistic too.
  • I’ve got two big website launches this year. I want them both to go well.
  • I want to find some sense of purpose for this site. Whether it’s WordPress or Tumblr or whatever…I want to post more and have more clarity in my posts.
  • I obviously want to improve my work/life balance…whatever that might mean.
  • I want to go on another adventure with Alli. It’s been too long since our Italian adventure. It’s time for another.
  • Drink more water.
  • I’d like to take another crack at reading 25 books this year. It’s been 5 years since I last did it. Look for an upcoming post with the books I intend to read this year.
  • Keep being awesome.

Now that they’re written down, I have to stick to them, right? Isn’t that the point of stuff like this? What do you plan to do this year?

Eating Chipotle is Good for You

Chipotle Bag

Since January 1, Alli and I have been on the Weight Watchers online plan. I could lie and say that I wasn’t inspired by Jennifer Hudson’s crazy weight loss, but I won’t.

I’m not a skinny person by any means and I love food, especially burritos from Chipotle.

Fortunately, thanks to the beauty of online nutritional information, I have the ability to calculate exactly how many points I consume each time I eat at my favorite restaurant. As a rather large person, I have quite a few points that I am allowed to consume, so my regular diet of Chipotle 3 times a week isn’t too much of a problem.

Think I’m lying? Here’s proof: Since I started Weight Watchers in January, I’ve eaten at Chipotle no less than 2.5 times per week. This is the 16th week of the year. That’s about 40 times, a conservative estimate. In that same span, I’ve lost over 25 pounds.

Here’s what I typically get:

  • Burrito bowl
  • Rice (5 points)
  • Chicken (7 points)
  • Mild Salsa (0 points)
  • Medium (Green) Salsa (0 points)
  • Cheese (6 points)
  • Guacamole (4 points)

That’s 22 points for my entire, rather large and quite filling meal. If I was doing any other diet, I’d probably have to cut back on the Chipotle considerably, but since I know how many points I have to allocate, I can reserve the proper amount for days that I know I want to have Chipotle (which is, let’s face it, just about every day).

Then, there’s the added bonus of eating at a place like Chipotle who goes about their approach to food in the right way. Their Food With Integrity program is one of the differentiators of what makes them a great company and one of the reasons that I have no problem frequenting them as much as I do. From their website:

Food With Integrity is our commitment to finding the very best ingredients raised with respect for the animals, the environment and the farmers.

This system may not work for everyone, but it works really well for me an Alli. We have the ability to eat what we want and still lose weight. Plus, we support a pretty great company. Sounds like a win-win-win situation to me.

Top Chef GIRL POWER

Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite reality show on TV is Bravo’s Top Chef. And I’ve now had the opportunity to attend two of The National Golf Club‘s exclusive Top Chef events, the first with Kevin Gillespie and Eli Kirshtein and the second with Top Chef All-Stars finalist Mike Isabella and Season 7’s Kelly Liken (which contained my favorite dish of both evenings, Mike Isabella’s Greek-inspired ribs, below).

My good friend Eric is the director of food and beverage at The National and he continues to put together great events for the members, including his latest: Top Chef GIRL POWER with Chef Carla Hall (Fan Favorite for Top Chef: All Stars) and Antonia Lofaso (a finalist in the Top Chef: All Stars event).

The six-course dinner at The National will for the first time be open to the public. Reservations are being taken now for the dinner, which will be held on Saturday, April 16th with cocktails beginning at 6:00 p.m. and the dinner, complete with Terlato wine pairings for each course, begins at 7:00 p.m.

The cost for the evening is $100 per person, which is pretty reasonable when you consider 6 courses from top-quality chefs and wine included. Look, there’s no doubt I’m a fan of Top Chef. I’m not getting paid for this endorsement, I just think it is an awesome program and if you love Top Chef and great food, give the event a try. These events don’t come along often and they aren’t always open to the public.

The Menu

First Course (Antonia Lofaso)
Hamachi Crudo, crispy rice, mizuna, miso vinegrette
Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, Italy

Second Course (Carla Hall)
Asparagus, Golden Beet and Shitake Salad with goat cheese bousin and tarragon dill vinaigrette
Sokol Blosser Evolution, Oregon

Third Course (Antonia Lofaso)
Curried cauliflower soup with sweet shrimp, apples, micro cilantro
Wairau River Pinot Noir Home Block, New Zealand

Fourth Course (Carla Hall)
Grilled Halibut with ramps, pickled fennel and roasted sunchoke pesto
Chapoutier Crozes Hermitage Les Meysonniers Rouge, France

Fifth Course (Antonia Lofaso)
Lamb loin, fennel butter, brussel, blue bacon salad
Luke Donald Claret, California

Sixth Course (Carla Hall)
Strawberry Rhubarb Meringue Tart with lime basil coulis
Two Hands Brilliant Disguise, Australia

Credit card reservations can be placed by calling Meghan at The National at 816-746-0200.

If you’re interested, let me know and I can get you in touch with the folks from The National (or…you know…you could just call the number).

Top Chef at The National

Sometimes, my life is just far too awesome for words.

Place Setting

Sunday night, I was invited by a friend to attend an amazing event at The National Golf Club in Parkville — a 6-course dinner prepared by season six Top Chef contestants Eli Kirshstein and Kevin “Beardy” Gillespie and The National’s Executive Chef, Eric Barkley.

You may remember a few weeks back when I talked about the Top Chef Tour coming to Kansas City. In that post, I said:

[My friend] Eric [who is the Director of Food & Beverage for The National] is actually bringing back Eli and one of my personal favorites, Kevin “BEARDY” Gillespie for a special 6-course event (two by each Top Chef and 2 by Chef Barkley from The National) at their clubhouse in May.

Well, I was lucky enough to be invited as a guest to this amazing event. Alli and I were seated next to the pastry chef and executive chef (and 4-time James Beard Award nominee) of bluestem in Westport, which was really a treat. Not only were we treated to an amazing meal, but we had some great company and got some insight into the cooking side of things from Colby and Megan.

And now, the food…

Walleye with Sweet Corn and Black Truffles

The first course was prepared by Chef Barkley. It was a walleye served on a bed of sweet corn topped with ramps (wild leeks), morels, black truffles with a white wine foam. There were a lot of things that I just typed that I had never eaten before Sunday night, particularly ramps, which are apparently a very difficult to acquire vegetable (unlike normal leeks). As a lead-off dish, this was bright and interesting, but kind of large. The sweetness of the corn counteracted the acidity of the pickled ramps and the richness of the walleye and black truffles. I liked it a lot.

Scallops with Mushrooms

The second course was prepared by Chef Kirshtein, a scallop served on top of black garlic with Enoki mushrooms. I was really looking forward to having some scallops, but was a little disappointed in this dish. The scallop itself was nicely cooked and the black garlic was delicious, but I couldn’t get into the mushrooms. I want to be adventurous in my eating, but these were a little out there.

Chicken with Broccoli Gremolata and Lily Puree

This next dish surprised the crap out of me. I did not expect that Chef Kirshtein’s chicken with broccoli gremolata and lily bulb puree would be my favorite course of the night. I have never tasted a chicken that was cooked better. The skin was crispy and the meat of the chicken was rich and tender and in stark contrast to the vinegar-y broccoli gremolata. Another wonderful surprise about this dish was the lily bulb puree. This was a point in the meal where it was extremely helpful to have chefs Garrelts at our table. I learned that lily bulb was actually a fancy name for onion. So basically, it was like a potato puree, only with onions. And it tasted awesome.

Pigs & Pinot - Pork Terrine with Mushroom salad and pickled cherry

The fourth course was our first from Chef Beardy Gillespie, and it was actually a Top Chef challenge winner from last season’s Pigs and Pinot challenge. What was it? It’s difficult to tell from the picture, so let me help: it was a pork terrine with a pickled cherry and a mushroom salad (not like a green salad, but like a chicken salad…it’s that gray stuff on top of the pork terrine slice). I really liked this dish. It wasn’t amazingly appetizing to look at (although it was extremely cleanly plated), but it tasted salty and sweet and balanced. Yum.

Strip Loin with Gorgonzola Bread Pudding & Vidalia Compote

Our next dish, from Chef Eric Barkley, had my favorite side item of the night. Served with a wagyu Kansas City (they called it New York…I refuse to do so) strip loin topped with a vidalia onion compote was a completely EPIC gorgonzola bread pudding with bacon. (Okay, so the dish was technically centered around the strip loin, but not for me.) So much awesomeness here. If I described it more, you might become insanely jealous and hunt me down.

Colorado Lamb Loin with Sweet Bread Fricassee

The final savory dish was from Chef Beardy and was quite an experience. Now, I’ve had lamb loin before at Perilla in New York. I have not, however, had lamb loin with sweetbread (most mis-named food EVER) fricassee, lemony greens and potato cream. I wasn’t too hip on eating the thymus and pancreas of an animal, but I figured I had to give it a shot. Really weird. The lamb was pretty good too and the pomegranate brown butter that it was served with was quite tasty.

I didn’t actually photograph the 7th bonus course, which was prepared by the Herndon Career Center from Raytown. The dessert plate was a myriad of deliciousness — a Meyer lemon verbena sponge cake, chocolate two ways, homemade orange “pop rocks” and some nitro ice cream in a macadamia nut cone. The cone was the best part, but considering that it was concepted and prepared by high schoolers, I was really impressed.

After the meal, the chefs came out and answered some questions and told stories of their culinary background and their experiences on the show. I’d heard some of Eli’s stories from the Top Chef event from last month, but it was really fun to hear some of Beardy’s stories, since he was my favorite from last season.

Me, Alli and the Chefs

I can’t thank my friend Eric enough for inviting me and Alli to attend this event. It was such a great experience to each such delicious food. I know that The National is working on another Top Chef-inspired event in September. Be sure to follow me on Twitter and I’ll be sure that you know about the event if you’re interested. If you love food and you love Top Chef, you really shouldn’t miss these special events.

I know that I’m glad I didn’t miss this one.

Donut Day

Donuts in the Case

Once every 3 years or so, my family has this ridiculously excessive tradition. We wake up early on a Saturday and have a donut tasting.

And it is exactly as awesome as it sounds.

However, this is an amazingly un-local thing. The local-est place that we go is Lamar’s, but we also tried Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Donuts this year. After my devotion

Then, there’s this.

Meesha is organizing a meetup at John’s Space Age Donuts in downtown Overland Park on May 19, the same day that the new Dunkin’ Donuts opens up just down the street. I’ve got some friends who freaked out when Dunkin’ Donuts came to town. After my donut day, I can categorically say that Dunkin’ Donuts is very MEH and they certainly can’t hold a candle to Lamar’s. I’m going to try and make it to John’s on May 19 and give them a try.

It seems like they’re the awesomest. What are your KC suggestions for my family’s next excessive donut day?