A Weekend in OKC
* This blog post is sponsored by Visit OKC.
At least once a year, my husband and I go on one big vacation, which we look forward to for the months leading up to it. But for us, one trip is not enough, so we try to sneak in a few of small getaways throughout the year. A small getaway is just that—one that isn’t too complicated and is within a 6-hour drive of Kansas City. Since our city is right in the middle of the map, we have quite a few options and have been to some really great places. But since we’re always up for a new adventure, when Visit OKC invited us for a visit, we were all in!
From our house, Oklahoma City is only a 4.5-hour drive, on one highway, with many options for stopping along the way, so already this was a win for us. We left on a Friday afternoon and were in OKC by dinner time. We checked into Bradford House, and I was in love from the second we pulled into the parking lot. From the outside, this bright white boutique hotel has major southern vibes, with a wrap around porch and bright green front door. As soon as you walk through the door, you’re invited into a cozy lobby with a host of beautiful prints, patterns, and textures. From the entrance, you can see a variety of sitting areas, a bar, and the entrance to the hotel’s restaurant (more on that later). The check in process was smooth, and we were off to our room to drop our bags. On our way to our room, we passed through the hotel’s courtyard, with more seating and a variety of yard games for guests, all situated within beautiful greenery and floral displays. Our room was, no surprise, an absolute dream. More patterns and textures, and walls full of vibrant local artwork. Honestly, I could have spent an entire weekend cozied up at the hotel, but we had things to do and places to see.
After the quick stop at our hotel, we took a short Uber ride over to the Oklahoma River and Regatta Park for a sunset Cocktail Cruise. This 1.5-hour cruise down the Oklahoma River showed us all the best city views, including the OKC skyline, the Wheeler Ferris Wheel, and the many bridges with their ornate detail. And yes, there is a bar where you can grab beer, wine, and other cocktails to enjoy while you cruise. This was the absolutely perfect way to see the city and kick off our weekend of fun.
On Saturday morning, we started with brunch and the Bradford House restaurant. The space is absolutely adorable, with bright colors and fun artwork. Every last detail was perfection, even down to the table reservation cards. And when I say everything was perfect, that includes the food. When we saw the Sourdough Donut Holes that included a Fruity Pebble glaze, we knew we needed an order to share. We rounded out the spread with their one-of-a-kind Avocado Toast and ultra-unique Poblano and Corn Benedict. We savored almost every single bite and had to roll ourselves out of the restaurant to move on with our day.
After brunch, it was time to explore in the sunshine. We made the short drive over to Scissortail Park for their Saturday farmer’s market. The Park is absolutely beautiful and is home to some of the best walking trails, outdoor activities, and events in the city. Every Saturday, they host a farmer’s market with local produce, flowers, vendors, food trucks, and more. As lovers of all things local in our own city, we appreciated meeting so many of their local makers and shakers in such a fun environment.
Being that it was a Saturday in June, we were ready for some AC, so we made the quick drive over to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art to check out their collection and new exhibits. Growing up as a curator’s daughter, I am always up for a museum visit, and the OKC MOA was a great addition to my list. The museum is three stories of amazing modern art and fun exhibits, including their current curation of sports photography, called “The Perfect Shot,” which featured not just the art, but activities and a themed Spotify playlist that you could add to your phone for the ultimate immersive experience. We both loved the entire museum and saw a few upcoming exhibits that have us planning our return visit.
Post-museum, we were ready for more exploring and a little late afternoon snack. We explored several of the local OKC areas, including Midtown and the Plaza District. We spent a lot of time in the Plaza District, shopping and touring the Plaza Walls, and we stopped at Mexican Radio for a snack and a cocktail. The frozen Dole Whip cocktail with its Fruity Pebble salt rim was out of this world!
After our day of exploring, we decided to take a break at the hotel before our evening of fun. We rested up, cleaned up, dressed up, and headed down to the Paseo Arts District for the night. The Paseo is the stunning home to over 20 galleries and more than 80 vibrant artists all within walking distance of each other. There are shops and restaurants, all within 2 walkable blocks. We started with dinner at Picasso’s Café, which hosts an eclectic menu with tons of variety and flavor. From drinks to desserts, we took every recommendation from our server and were not disappointed once. After dinner, we made the quick walk to Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park to finish the night with their production of Jane Austen’s Emma. Neither of us had ever done anything like this, and it was such a fun and immersive way to experience this classic love story.
On Sunday morning, I started my day with a walk around Scissortail Park. I truly fell in love with it the day before and couldn’t wait to go back to explore. Our next visit, we will definitely take our son, because the park is home to playgrounds, a splash pad, and a boathouse where you can rent kayaks and paddleboats. But for this trip, I enjoyed the peace, quiet, and solitude. After my walk, I drove over to Wheeze the Juice for a smoothie and wound up buying half the menu. This super fun and 80s/90s nostalgic spot has smoothies, juices, bowls, and snacks, all made fresh in house. I was completely blown away by everything I ordered.
Before checking out of the Bradford House, we made a stop at their bakery counter for lattes and treats for the road. But before we made our way back to KC, we stopped for brunch at the legendary Big Truck Tacos. As Food Network super fans, we cannot ever pass an opportunity to try a highly featured restaurant. Starting as a single food truck, Big Truck has grown into the empire it is today, which includes a brick and mortar that serves 3 meals a day. We sampled a few of their breakfast tacos, and they definitely live up to all the hype.
After a weekend full of fun, we hit the road with full hearts and full bellies. We loved everything about our visit, and we agree that it’s the perfect getaway for all types of trips. Girl’s trip, family style, or in this case a lil romance, anything goes in OKC.
I hope you’ll plan a trip there soon and tell me everything you do, because you know I’ll be back!
My Jazzercise Adventure
* This blog post is sponsored by Jazzercise.
If we’ve been friends for a while, you know my fitness story well. Growing up, I would not have described myself as athletic. Sure, I played sports—even at the collegiate level—but for me, it was always more of a social event. In my senior year of college, I started running, which grew into a deep love affair that has lasted almost twenty years. When I got sick in 2007, I wasn’t able to workout, and I missed it more than I could have anticipated. So when I got the green light to start exercising, I never looked back.
Over the last 14 years, I have tried a lot of different types of workouts, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that fitness can be FUN! Too often people think of it as something negative or a punishment to your body. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and no matter how you like to move your body there is a place for you. You just have to try! So when Jazzercise reached out and invited me to take a class, I said, “YES,” just to give it a try.
With over 50 years of in-studio and virtual workouts, Jazzercise has become a household name. I remember my mom taking classes when I was little, and the brand name evokes visions of sweatbands, leotards, and legwarmers. (And honestly, even 30 years later, had that been the case in today’s Jazzercise workout, this 80s baby would have been really happy about it.) But with a quick glance at their website, I knew they had evolved over the years.
Jazzercise is still the original dance party workout, with many of their classes rooted in a dance-centric foundation. However, they now offer over 10 different class formats, which include things like Pilates, yoga, kickboxing, and strength training. For my first class, I chose to try Strength60, a 60-minute strength training class that works every muscle group. Squats, bicep curls, pushups, planks, the works, using a combination of body weight and dumbbells. The class is set to high energy music, with a motivating instructor to match.
Once I had my class booked, it was time to go! Admittedly, even after visiting dozens of fitness studios and being the “newbie” at each, I still get intimidated to visit a new place, especially when I’ve never done the workout. But as soon as I walked in the door at the Jazzercise Lenexa Fitness Center, I was greeted by the owner, the instructor, and several members, so I knew I was in a good place. With a few quick computer entries, a tour of the studio, and a rundown of what to expect, I was ready to sweat.
The music started, the instructor got us pumped up and warmed up, and that 60 minutes flew by so quickly. The format of the class is designed for every fitness level, and even as a regular gym goer, I felt challenged throughout. As I looked around, I took note of the diversity of the members, but they all had one thing in common—a big smile.
After the workout, the owner and instructor were quick to approach me for feedback, and a stream of members quickly followed to do the same. It struck me how many of them said they had been coming for 5, 10, even 15 years! They all invited me back and gave me the scoop on their favorite class formats, which was very helpful and so very sweet.
I would love for you to give Jazzercise a try too and let me know what you think. With this link, my friends can get 2 weeks for $50, which includes both in-studio and On Demand workouts. Fitness is very personal, and not every workout is one size fits all. But one thing I do know is that in this class, you WILL have fun!
If you’ve been to Jazzercise, post a comment below to share your experience. And if you have a favorite class, tell us that too, because I’m ready to book my next workout.
When Chad and I were first married, I cooked all the time. Dinner every night, breakfast on the weekends, the works. But when we relocated to Kansas City, we started our eating adventure through our new city, and I stopped cooking as much. Dinners, yes, and every once in a while, a special breakfast. Recently, in planning our Christmas breakfast, I asked my husband if he had any requests, and he reminded me of one of our throwback favorites: Breakfast Pizza. This is the easiest breakfast, and it’s always a hit, so I was in. I picked up the ingredients, had so much fun making it, and even our toddler loved it. Today I’m sharing the recipe with you, just in time for New Year’s Eve, because (and I tell you from experience) it makes a fabulous morning after breakfast.
1 8oz can crescent rolls
1c frozen shredded hash browns, thawed
1c shredded cheddar cheese
8oz egg substitute
2tbsp grated parmesan
Preheat oven to 375.
Spray 12-inch pizza pan with cooking spray.
Separate dough into triangles and press together on pan to form a single round crust.
Crimp edges of dough to form a rim.
Cook sausage until brown, stirring to crumble. Drain any grease.
Top dough with sausage, potatoes, and cheese.
Whisk together milk, salt, pepper, and egg substitute.
Pour mixture over sausage mixture.
Sprinkle with parmesan.
Bake at 375 for 25 minutes, or until crust is browned.
Cool, cut into slices, and Enjoy!
How to Survive a Road Trip with a Toddler: 5 Tips to Make it Through and Make it Fun!
* This blog post is sponsored by Sinclair Oil Corporation.
When people heard that we were going to make the twelve-hour drive to San Antonio from Kansas City, and back again (yes, your math is correct, 24 hours in a car) with a 4-year-old, they thought we were crazy. And honestly, I kind of thought we were too. But when we booked this trip, we knew that we wanted to drive so that we could make stops along the way to see friends and family that we had not been able to see over the past few years. And with a lot of planning and coordination, I’m happy to say that not only did we survive, but we actually had a lot of fun along the way. In partnership with Sinclair Oil Corporation, I want to share my top five tips for surviving a road trip with a toddler.
1. Plan Your Stops. Of course, if there are people and places you are wanting to see along your route, make sure you schedule those well in advance. But more than that, this is an opportunity to add in a bit of fun for your family. Littles need to exert energy, so stopping to stretch is a necessity. (For this mama too.) In your planning, research rest stops, parks, restaurants, historic sights, or anything else that may be of interest for your family. For this trip through Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, we chose to stop at Sinclair stations along our route. For background, Sinclair Oil was founded in 1916, and every station looks a little different and unique offerings. However, you are always able to find gas, snacks, drinks, and service options if you need them. But most importantly for this trip, a lot of stations have their signature Dino the Brontosaurus statue, and we chose to try to find as many as we could along the way. Our adventure brought us to the oldest Sinclair station in Oklahoma (located in Perry), a frequent motorcycle hang in Kansas, and a tiny station off the main drag in my college town of Norman, Oklahoma. This was such a fun (and relatively cost-free) addition to our trip, and our toddler is now even more dino obsessed.
2. Pack Early. Approximately two weeks before our trip, I made a list of everything we needed to bring on our trip. And then a week before, I started collecting everything in one spot. Let me be clear, there was nothing organized about this initial collection, but it was all in one spot. This allowed for every time I thought of something, I could just throw it on the pile to be packed. When it comes time to formally pack, you can edit the pile, but at least you’re not running all over your house (or all over town) to collect things.
3. Stock Up On Snacks. Road trip or not, on any given day, I get asked for a snack no less than 900 times, so I was already multiplying that times bored toddler, and my mind cannot do that complicated math. Over the couple of weeks leading up to our trip, I started adding additional snacks to my shopping cart and storing them in a specials place. It’s a similar concept as above, but this way, I could ensure that we had plenty of easy, healthy snacks, and prevent unnecessary stops or spending on our route.
4. Activity Bags. This was overwhelmingly the VIP of our entire trip. Leading up to our trip, in addition to the snack collection, I also started acquiring small activities. These were things that we already had, or they were cheap purchases from Amazon or Dollar Tree: magnets, window clings, sticker books, cars, and more. From there, I also purchased a few packs of gift bags. From there, I made 12 activity bags. Each bag had and activity, a snack, and a piece of candy. Every two hours, I introduced a new bag to prevent boredom and to create excitement. This also ensured that we had activities at our destination without having to pack a bunch of toys. Our son still talks about these, and his new favorite word is “activity.”
5. Take a Tray. I cannot stress how helpful it was to have a tray! For the activities, for the snacks, for meals on the go, for everything. We have had this tray for years, and once again, it saved the day (week).
I hope you found these tips helpful, and I would love any of your additions in the comments. I promise that a road trip with a toddler is doable, and it can actually be fun!
Kansas City Fashion Week, Spring 2021
For the third year in a row, I was given the honor of covering Kansas City Fashion Week as part of their media team.
Kansas City Fashion Week features local, national, and international designers, in two full weeks of premier runway shows. Additionally, they give opportunities to stylists, make-up artists, models, and photographers to showcase their work in a creative format.
Both years that I’ve attended, KCFW shows were hosted in the Grand Hall at Union Station, which is the perfect setting! But like with everything else, 2020 and 2021 had to look a little bit different, due to the spikes of COVID cases. KCFW worked with local venue, White Iron Ridge, on a modified plan for Kansas City Fashion Week and took things virtual. Initially, you might think, “How?” But I assure you, the experience was still very immersive, and you felt like you were right in the front row, while staying healthy and safe.
This year, I had the opportunity to attend two of the live filming sessions, getting a sneak preview before they aired virtually. It was such an incredible experience to see everything that goes on behind the scenes of a runway show. After everything was ready for prime time, I watched two of the shows from the comfort of my home and pajamas, which was really an ideal situation, if I’m honest.
We all know by now that I love fashion—the clothing, the accessories, the hair and makeup, everything. So when I was given this opportunity, I was pumped! But more than anything, I love to look at runway styles and use them as inspiration for everyday looks. In this post, I’m breaking down the Top Ten Trends that were on repeat on the KCFW runway, as well as how you can incorporate them into your closet.
1. Pastel Tones. Um okay, twist my arm. This girl loves her mint, lavender, rose, and all sorbet tints in between. This year’s runway showed the versatility of these colors and how you can wear them in each season. I love to wear these as everyday basics, as well as standout pieces.
2. Folk-Inspired. When I was in middle school, I had a major moment obsessing over 70s style. And while I still rock my turquoise on the daily, I did trade in the bell bottoms for boyfriend jeans along the way. However, folk style is back in a big way. My favorite way to wear this trend is with bold prints like paisley, and always with my gladiator sandals.
3. Fringe. From tops, to skirts, to the accessories, fringe was everywhere! I don’t have a ton in my wardrobe. Yet. But I love fringe details on a handbag or on a statement skirt.
4. Bridgerton Vibes. So apparently, it’s not just the love scenes that leave a lasting impression after this Netflix binge. The fashion inspiration was everywhere! Initially this one seems like a challenge to wear to your next happy hour. But it’s easy to incorporate with hints of lace, or collars, or even fun hair clips and headbands.
5. Rocker Chic. The hardcore rocker looks were back on the runway for another season. The leather, the dark colors, and the smokey makeup to match. My preferred way to wear is a cool leather jacket, but I also love my Doc Martens, and adding both of these to an otherwise feminine look.
6. Patchwork. With everyone embracing new hobbies during quarantine, those newly found quilting skills found themselves on the runway. Patchwork prints were in dresses, coats, pants, everything. I love this take on a patchwork dress, and anything with this many colors provides endless versatility.
7. Dramatic Details. The drama is in the details. More specifically the sleeves. The bigger, the bolder, the more detailed, the better. Puff sleeves aren’t going anywhere, and they are only getting more interesting.
8. Sequins. YES! I love the joy and whimsy that come with sequins, so I was delighted to see them on the runway. You can wear them from head to toe for a bold take, or just a pop of a handbag will do. But sequins are here in a big way!
9. Blue. This was the color of the season! Pops of blue, Blue jeans, Blue makeup, Blue everywhere. The easiest way to embrace the blues is with a killer jean jacket. The most versatile piece in my closet, and always in style.
10. The Roaring 20s. Last but certainly not least, the people are ready to ditch their casual wear. As we emerge from the last year at home, embrace the sentiment of “anything goes.” Dress up, try something new, be bold, be different. If we’re learned anything over the last year, it’s that time should not be taken for granted, and don’t wait for tomorrow, because nothing is promised.
For more information on this season, you can visit the Kansas City Fashion Week website, or you can check out any of the designers (list below for reference).
Annette Sunshine Designs
Friday – April 30, 2021
De’LaTail Custom Creations
House of Colby
Romee The Brand
Thursday – April 29th, 2021
Fashion By Ayala
I can’t wait to see how you incorporate these trends!
How to Have the Sweetest Day in Kansas City: Your Guide to A 10-Stop Dessert Crawl
A few things we’ve already established:
I love birthdays.
I love to eat.
I love sweets.
You may remember that, back in January, my husband and I celebrated his birthday by visiting nine different BBQ restaurants in one day. And if not, you can read all about it in this post. So it was only fair that when my birthday hit the calendar, we celebrate with the most appropriate version for my personal palate: A Dessert Crawl.
The concept seems pretty straightforward, but it must be said, the planning of this adventure proved much harder than one would expect. In your visions of eating your way through the city, one cookie crumb at a time, here’s something you don’t consider–Dessert is everywhere. Literally everywhere. Every restaurant has a dessert menu. Coffee shops have cookies (and more). There are more bakeries than can be counted. And let’s not even start with the ghost kitchens and hidden menus. The list grows by the second, and it’s enough to overwhelm even the largest sweet tooth. So where to start?
When I sat down to coordinate a game plan, there were several directions I could have taken in my approach. And after several scratched up pieces of paper, I landed on the strategy of Dessert Categories. I started by making a list of Dessert Categories: cupcake, cookie, cake, ice cream, etc. That alone has so many options and variations, but I landed on a solid list of ten core dessert categories.
Once I had my categories, I plugged in my KC favorites (It was MY birthday, after all…), the most recommended by friends, and the most well known or highest regarded. This exercise was similar to picking a favorite child, because I’ve never had a bad dessert in our city, and so many of our hometown heroes offer delicious choices in several categories. But you gotta start somewhere, and there’s only so much your stomach can handle. (To which I say, “Hold my beer!”)
Once I had the categories, and the list of places, I had to create our route. As I’ve mentioned before, I am not the most directionally gifted individual, so I anticipated this would be another challenge. (I promise I actually have fun planning these things, regardless of how many times I use the word “challenge.”) However, the Kansas City Dessert Infrastructure Division (that’s definitely a thing) has done an exceptional job of situating so many places in close proximity, which really helped a girl out.
The categories, the places, the route, done. Let’s go!
Here is a recap of our adventure, and keep scrolling for some ideas and recommendations for a Dessert Crawl of your very own. Because you’re totally doing it. Right? As a reminder: Only order one of each item and share. Otherwise, those final stops might be pretty painful or nonexistent.
Stop 1: Fairway Creamery (Fairway, KS)
What To Get: Donut
Stop 2: Dolce Bakery (Prairie Village, KS)
What To Get: Cake
Stop 3: Andres Confiserie Suisse (KCMO, South Plaza)
What To Get: Chocolate
Stop 4: Heirloom Bakery & Hearth (KCMO, Brookside)
What To Get: Cookie
Stop 5: McLain’s Bakery (KCMO, Brookside)
What To Get: Cupcake
Stop 6: Ashleigh’s Bake Shop (KCMO, Westport)
What To Get: Pie
Stop 7: Bloom Baking Co. (KCMO, River Market)
What To Get: Macaron
Stop 8: Betty Rae’s Ice Cream (KCMO, River Market)
What To Get: Ice Cream
Stop 9: Best Regards Bakery & Cafe (Overland Park, KS)
What To Get: Brownie
Stop 10: Sweet Thang & Cafe (Olathe, KS)
What To Get: Milkshake
I’m really pleased with our plan, and I would definitely recommend this approach. But I have so many other ideas for future versions. (Yes, of course I’m doing this again.) Here are a few:
- Pick one of the categories, and make that your theme for the crawl. Examples: Cupcake Crawl, Cookie Crawl, Ice Cream Crawl. Eating from one category at multiple spots throughout the city.
- Kansas City Signatures: This will require a little more research and planning, but it’s high on my radar. Design your adventure around desserts that are KC faves. Examples: McClain’s Cupcookies, Creative Culture Milkshakes, Tannin Fudge Stuffed Peanut Butter Cookies. The best type of sightseeing.
- Stick to one area of town. Like I said, EVERYONE has dessert. So pick a spot of the city that’s walkable, and make dessert stops along the way. Examples: Country Club Plaza, Brookside, Downtown Overland Park.
- Group Favorites: Go with a group, and each person in the group picks their favorite dessert place, and you design the crawl around checking off those super sweet boxes.
There are so many possibilities, and I’m really going to enjoy adding to the list and trying them all!
Kansas City BBQ Crawl: How to Visit 9 Local BBQ Spots in One Day
Something we need to get out of the way right up front–I love birthdays. I love to celebrate and make people feel special on their day. Especially the people that I love and are closest to me. If you think about it, it’s the only day in an entire year that belongs to YOU, so it should be celebrated. And I’m a little extra, so I tend to go overboard. Over the past few years, I have shifted my celebrations from things to experiences, so our birthday celebrations have turned into vacations and staycations, with a lot of doing, eating, and exploring. (Emphasis on the eating.). This year, as I looked for a fun way to celebrate my husband’s birthday right here in Kansas City, it hit me: BBQ Crawl. Let’s explore the best BBQ dishes in our city in a single day. But an idea is only that…how do I actually pull this off? With careful research, planning, and coordination, I was able to pull off a very successful crawl with a lot of fun. So let’s get down to business…
First things first, you gotta do some research. I started with a little crowdsourcing–asking friends, adding a question box on my Instagram Stories, looking at websites, all the while gathering the most popular suggestions for restaurants and dishes.
Second, finalize your list. Combine like suggestions, eliminate anything you won’t enjoy, sprinkle in some new-to-you spots, and make sure you add anything you personally can’t miss.
Third, plan your route. Personally this was the most challenging for me, and I reworked it several times. There are so many strategies you could use, and candidly, I’m not the most directionally gifted, so I spent a lot of time looking at maps. Ultimately, we wound up having the perfect route, so should you choose to follow it, the hard work is already done.
And finally, free your schedule for an entire day, get a full tank of gas, put on your comfortable clothes, grab your Tums, and get in the car. It’s time to eat and explore!
Here is the route we took and what we got at each restaurant. I cannot recommend our experience enough, and I hope you’ll try it too. Pro Tip: Only order one of each item and share. Otherwise, those final stops might be pretty painful or nonexistent.
Stop 1: Woodyard BBQ
What to get: Burnt End Chili and Honey Cornbread Muffin
Stop 2: Jones BBQ
What to get: Sausage Link from the vending machine
Stop 3: Slap’s BBQ
What to get: Ribs and Baked Potato Casserole
Stop 4: BB’s Lawnside BBQ
What to get: Bar-B-Q Sundae and Deep Fried Bread Pudding
Stop 5: Q39 South
What to get: Best Wings on the Planet and Macaroni & Cheese
Stop 6: Jack Stack Overland Park
What to get: Burnt Ends and Cheesy Corn Bake
Stop 7: Plowboys BBQ
What to get: BBQ Nachos and Cheesy Potatoes
Stop 8: Blind Box BBQ Shawnee
What to get: BBQ Wontons and Bourbon Baked Beans
Stop 9: Joe’s Kansas City BBQ Olathe
What to get: The Z-Man or Portobello Z-Man and French Fries
Let me know if you try it and what you thought. And more importantly, let me know if there’s anything we missed. After all, I’m always down for a Round Two.
Five Trader Joe’s Meals with Only Three Ingredients!
While I am primarily a meal prepper, I am one of convenience. I’m always looking for simple, yet flavorful recipes that will appeal to the entire family. Trader Joe’s is known for their convenience items and convenience meals, but I love to switch it up a bit and combine items for an elevated take on convenience. Here are my top five favorite combinations using only three TJ’s ingredients each.
Chicken Caesar Wrap:
- Caesar Salad Kit
- Grilled Chicken Strips
Kung Pao Tempura Cauliflower Stir Fry Bowl:
- Cauliflower Rice
- Cauliflower Tempura
- Stir Fry Vegetables
- Cauliflower Gnocchi
- Kale, Cashew, and Basil Pesto
- Grilled Chicken Strips
Mandarin Chicken Stir Fry Bowl:
- Mandarin Chicken
- Vegetable Fried Rice
- Cauliflower Pizza Crust
- Pizza Sauce
- Pizza Cheese
What are some of your favorite items from Trader Joe’s? I’m always looking for new finds!
Kansas City Restaurant Week 2021
Chad and I moved to Kansas City in the absolute deadest of Winter 2011. Not an exaggeration, I think there was a significant amount of snow on the ground for the first six months that we lived in KC. Ah memories of my car getting stuck in the snow and having to walk uphill in heels to get home, of warm clothes being packed in boxes and having to dig through them every morning, of moving into our home as snowflakes fell from the sky. What a joy.
However, a warm spot in an otherwise very cold time was moving to KC right before Kansas City Restaurant Week. From the start of us making KC our home, we have continued to explore the city through our stomachs, and KCRW was the start to our adventure.
We look forward to Restaurant Week every year, and I can honestly say it’s my favorite event in the city. With the uncertainty of our current environment, I was concerned that it may not happen this year, or what it may (or may not) look like if they moved forward. The event, the restaurants, and the agencies that benefit from its execution rely on KCRW as a kickoff to the new year, and without it, they would face an additional blow in an already challenging time. But to our collective delight, KCRW moved forward, and we did some serious celebrating.
This year, Restaurant Week was from January 8th through the 17th. There were over 100 participating restaurants, each offering multicourse menus designed specifically for the week. One goal for KCRW is for the event to be inclusive for our community. The menus range from $15 to $45, and include several restaurants that are typically a much higher price point. This allows KC residents to dine at spots they may not otherwise be able to afford.
Since this year looks very different, and everyone has a different level of comfort when it comes to restaurant dining, many of the participating restaurants added carryout and delivery options to meet customers where they feel most comfortable.
And in addition to supporting our local restaurants in a year when they need it more than ever, a portion of each KCRW order goes to local nonprofit agencies, so it continues to give back to the community.
Every year, I use KCRW as an opportunity to try restaurants that I’ve never visited before and have been wanting to try. The goal is always to dine at four different restaurants–two for lunch and two for dinner. These restaurant reservations fill up FAST, so as soon as I see the KCRW announcement, I start grabbing reservations. It never fails that there’s a blizzard, or a cancelled babysitter, or a winter illness that forces us to cancel one or more of our plans, but we always have the best of intentions.
This year, the stars aligned just right, and I was able to visit four new-to-me restaurants for the ultimate KCRW experience. Here’s my recap:
Restaurant #1: Ya Ya’s Euro Bistro
Chad and I kicked off KCRW 2021 with a lunch date at Ya Ya’s. This is not a new restaurant by any stretch, but surprisingly, neither of us have been. Their lunch menu looked fantastic, so it was our first stop. Every meal at Ya Ya’s comes with their complementary housemade baba ganoush and fresh-baked bread, which was such a fun (and welcomed) surprise. My top recommendation for Restaurant Week is to dine with someone else, and ensure that they are down to share. Obviously my husband doesn’t have a choice in the matter (what’s mine is yours…), so we decided to share our menu choices. We started with the Gnocchi and the Greek Salad, which were both fantastic. For our entrees, we selected the Cauliflower Steak and the Bistro Burger. We loved both, but that cauliflower was outstanding. Our server was a doll, and our overall experience was great!
Restaurant #2: Va Bene Italian Eatery
Va Bene just opened in Corinth Square at the beginning of January, but I’ve been stalking its progress on social media for months. I love Italian food, so this has been on my list. When I saw that they were participating in Restaurant Week, this was an instant booking. Chad and I were able to score a babysitter, so we turned our reservation into a date night. Immediately upon entry, I fell in love with the restaurant’s atmosphere and décor. The entire staff was so friendly, and our server was wonderful. The restaurant offers an impressive wine list and a selection of signature cocktails. A run at “Dry January” kept us focused on the food, but we’ll be back for those drinks. We agreed to share some dishes again, since this is the optimal way to experience KCRW. We started with the Viva Caesar and the Mushroom Arancini. Both were fabulous, but I’m still thinking about that arancini. For the entrees, we selected the Linguini Cacio e Pepe and the Italian Roast, and we were so happy with our selections. And for dessert, we shared the housemade Tiramisu, which was one of the best I’ve had anywhere.
Restaurant #3: Stock Hill
Stock Hill is another restaurant that has been on my list for a few years. But with a higher price point and a special occasion atmosphere, we haven’t had the opportunity to visit. When I saw it on the list for KCRW, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to visit. Chad and I were able to sneak away for a quick lunch date on a very snowy Friday, which wound up being a great day to visit. With its floor to ceiling windows that face the Plaza, it was a beautiful setting to watch the snow as we dined. The dining room is beautiful, and I feel in love with their super swanky cocktail lounge. We started with their signature SH Salad, which was one of the best salads I’ve tasted. For our entrees, we got the V Burger and the Salmon Spätzle Pesto. Their entire entrée selection looked so good, and it was hard to make a decision. In that scenario, we always ask the server to choose. After all, if they love it, you know it’s good. The salmon was the recommendation of our server, and he was spot on! The pesto was delicious, and we’ve been talking about it ever since. We’re excited to get back to hang in their lounge and enjoy a libation.
Restaurant #4: The Savoy At 21C Museum Hotel
I cannot even tell you how long The Savoy has been on my list. From the gram-worthy photos, to the award winning chef, to the legendary menu items, this restaurant sounded like a dream. I knew it would be a stretch to get two date nights, but I booked a reservation knowing that I could likely snag a gal pal to join me. And as luck would have it, one of my best girls was available and excited to join me. And better yet, down to share! I was in love with the dining room as soon as I walked in the door. Dark, and moody, and super cool. Our server was so kind, and so patient as we continued to talk instead of look at our menus. When we were finally ready to order, we really went for it. The chef sent out an amuse-bouche, which was a caramel popcorn creation of some sort that only intensified my excitement for our meal. We started with the Anson Mills Bluecorn Hushpuppies and the Brown Butter Ravioli. Both were so wonderful, but I still have dreams about those hushpuppies. For our entrees, we chose the Grilled Yellowtail Rockfish and the Mushroom Tortiglioni. Additionally, with your entrée, you could choose from a list of side dishes, which was a unique take on the KCRW menus that I had not seen in the past. We chose the Thane Palmberg’s Potatoes and the Fried Brussels Sprouts. The ingredients were so fresh and flavorful, and I could not get enough of anything. But most importantly, we did make room for dessert. They had several options, which was literal torture for this sweet-toothed gal. But we landed on the Semi Frozen Yuzu Lemon Bar and the Chocolate PB&J Sorbet Sundae. Look, I will absolutely never lie to you about desserts, so believe me when I tell you, that sundae was one of the best things I have ever tasted in my life. We capped off our visit by taking some fun pictures before rolling out the door. Our night met every expectation I’ve held for this restaurant, plus a whole lot more.
Although Kansas City Restaurant Week has come to a close, I would recommend signing up for their newsletter and following them on social media to stay up to date on their events and communications throughout the year. And save the date on your calendar for 2022. I know I am!