Thursday, May 29, 2008

Au Naturel

The yeasty aroma of freshly baked artisanal bread, and exposed brick, surround me inside Fervere Bakery in Kansas City, Missouri's revitalized Westside neighborhood. Racks of rustic loaves flank the wall, and customers dip samples into herbed olive oil.

Owner, Fred Spompinato, has spent the last 7 1/2 years creating his over-sized, crunchy-crusted loaves using organic milled Kansas flour and a brick-limestone oven with a centuries-old French tradition. The only mechanized equipment that he and his two co-bakers use is a large mixer. Other tools of their trade include Belgian linen used in proofing and large wooden paddles that heft risen dough into the oven. While most of the world sleeps, they're hard at work creating incomparable loaves for appreciative customers who drive as much as half an hour to purchase and enjoy them.

Because Spompinato decided he would not be consumed by his business he only sells bread on Thursdays through Saturdays – until they run out. So you'll have to visit Kansas City to try Pain Complet, Ciabatta and Cheese Slipper, or Olive-Rosemary, Polenta and Grain Travel Breads. Fervere Bread is worth the trip.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Iced Elegance

Sunshine lovers might be surprised to learn there's plenty of sun beyond the coasts or the Southwest. While Seattle and Boston only see sun 164 days per year, Denver enjoys sunshine 245 days annually, and Kansas City enjoys at least a few rays 216 days per year.

After a massive ice storm, brilliant sun sometimes creates a sparkling fairytale world in the Kansas City area. We're infamous for the ice that arrives at least once each winter season - the result of weather fronts that collide at the country's mid-section in harsh yet beautiful ways. Our bushes and rooftops glisten with iced elegance as roads become impassable skating rinks and decades-old trees groan beneath the weight of frozen water. One late October ice storm toppled dozens of trees still laden with fall leaves and disrupted power for several weeks.

But when the ice comes and then sunshine arrives, neighborhoods become true winter wonderlands for a few hours and photo frames.