June 19, 2011

Leaving Town OR a Toast -- under barbecue ribs -- to KC

Facing South and the Kansas City skyline.

PHOTO NOTE: My photos aren't too crisp because I've not had a chance to purchase a real camera. There's only so much my iPhone camera can capture. But on my last afternoon in KC, I called my friend Sue -- we'll been good friends since college -- and we met at Lattéland at Briarcliff Village for tea. It wasn't a good-bye tea, but a quick break and it soothed the soul. Atop this plateau, the shopping center has the best views of the city. There's a good Argentinian restaurant there but the two times we dined there they sat us in tall wooden booths in the center without any view of the great skyline. Anyway, I hadn't noticed this statue before and I thought it graced the view of my town.

The problem with slowly chronicling our family adventures is that my prolific and writing machine of a husband has already written posts on this topic for days, weeks, months. I am positive I could find Joe's blog posts from before 2009 foreshadowing this move.

So forgive me if this is old news.... but we've left our comfortable home and dear friends and family in Kansas City, Missouri, to venture out to Charlotte, N.C. Officially in the South where they say 'y'all' --  even though I'd been told that's just a Texas thing -- by a former Texas resident. May I just state that getting further away from all things Texas is not a bad thing. I still slip and call Penn State's home College Station instead of State College. I still automatically yell "You drive too fast" when I see any Texas license plate. I cringe when I hear talk of Texas barbecue. And I hear them Carolinas have that mustard-based stuff. Blasphemy.

We're finding Charlotte to be a place where people are most friendly and downright helpful, like the mother showing me her favorite -- and rarely stocked -- ice cream dessert for children in the freezer section of Trader Joe's -- Hold the Cone mini ice cream cones. But I'm getting ahead of myself, because this post is about the place we left behind. We've got to dig up the past before delving into the future or something like that, right?

I clipped coupons out of a new paper in a new city I feel I don't yet know. I found my old coupon organizer and realized all my coupons haphazardly clipped had expired in 2009. Under the RESTAURANTS headings, I became nostalgic for my old city and our old haunts. I found a pass for the Truman Library that I never got a chance to visit in Independence. Though we did finally take our favorite babysitters to Tropicana in Independence last week for frozen fruity pops. (If you go to their Southwest Boulevard location take your Spanish-speaking friends as the menu board isn't in English. If not, it makes ordering more adventurous. Some of their pops have chili as an ingredient.)

I long to know exotic popsicle and ice cream purveyors in our new town. Does Charlotte have a chocolateur like Christopher Elbow? (Whose ice cream is also svelte and creamy and divine.) Is there an Italian restaurant where movie stars get visits from the chef? I gawked at Paul Rudd at Jasper's one night. I wonder if Charlotte's own Brooklyn Decker eats pasta? Joe with his SI connections should be able to find out Brooklyn's fave spots. Not that I'm stalking. And I could just ask her myself on Twitter.

I miss the zoo (didn't get a chance to see the Polar Bear exhibit), and the Nelson-Atkins and their kids art classes and our fave lion statue so majestically greeting us on each and every visit, and Loose Park's duck pond, and just walking around the Country Club Plaza or English Landing Park in Parkville. I miss a zillion other things that made raising children in KC easier. It was comfortable. It was our home, until last week.

I'm missing my town where when I think of restaurants, I don't think of menu specialties as much as I think of people. Like Kevin Ryan who owns Governor Stumpy's in Brookside, who always made us feel as welcomed as if we were Norm from Cheers. Michael Garazzo who invented chicken spedini and remembers that his downtown spot is where Joe proposed to me 13 years and 7 months ago. Or the American, where Joe and the girls took me for Mother's Day brunch and we got to view the kitchen after the meal (I never thought I'd say I enjoyed a stinging nettle soup) and talk with chef Debbie Gold.

Then there's the barbecue. The "Hello, may I help you?" more of a command than an actual greeting at Gates. The cheesy corn, beef brisket and flattened chicken at Jack Stack. The burnt ends at Arthur Bryants, where the sides are sparse but the barbecue is for real with three types of sauces. I'd mix the original and rich & spicy sauces together for sheer dipping delight. I've learned that it's not real barbecue unless it's on a slice of Texas Toast. (See, Texas keeps butting into everything.)

I used to always admonish Joe for mentioning "too many" restaurants in his annual Thanksgiving column in the Kansas City Star. I've fallen for that same culinary blunder. I miss that local flair.  I grew up in Kansas and I have memories of my father firing up the grill every Sunday for lunch (my parents called the noonday meal dinner.) It was always steak or maybe hamburgers. Red meat. Grrrrrr, meal of hearty Midwesterners. KC would put just about anything on the grill. The 'Arm of Zeus' (beef loin) we marinated in Allegro. We'd opt for chicken almost exclusively unless it was time for barbecue and we'd venture for brisket and ribs, with a few veggies jazzed up with cheese (cheesy corn) or mustard seed (cole slaw) and a dessert before the sun went down on the Heartland. That was our quintessential KC meal. The meal made perfect with friends, who we've asked to visit us on the East Coast. A chance for us to grill and reminisce.

I must find out quickly if they grill here in the South. .... to be continued

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