Friday, February 13, 2009

Renaissance Dining at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

It's been 75 years since the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art opened in Kansas City, Mo. Internationally recognized for its inventory of more than 33,500 art pieces, including renowned collections of Chinese and photographic art, the museum also offers another treasure - the truly lovely Rozzelle Court Restaurant.

When I moved to this area during the '70s, the court was more of a courtyard garden set amidst 15th century Italian architecture and sun-drenched openness. But all that changed, in 1981, with the addition of a ceiling full of skylights, and a restaurant that has become a museum centerpiece.

Self-service dining keeps prices affordable but there's no shortage of seasonal gourmet fare, from Greek Chicken Wheat Wrap with Grilled Chicken Breast, Provolone, Lettuce, Tomato, Cucumbers, Kalamata Olives and Honey Dijon; to Nelson Chicken Salad with Fresh Fruit and Candied Pecans; and Roasted Turkey with Turkey Gravy, Buttered Pasta, Squash and Roasted Red Peppers and Fresh Baked Roll. And you'll have a tough time choosing dessert, from biscotti to Mississippi Mud Bars and Nelson Key Lime Pie.

But perhaps the best part about eating here is the atmosphere. It's not often you'll find yourself dining in the U.S., in a 15th century Italian courtyard.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tapas at Santa Fe Plaza

Afternoon sunshine streamed into the tiny restaurant, illuminating white adobe walls, a white antique ceiling and well-worn brick floors. Canelones arrived piping hot, full of lump crab and scallops, and served in a rich, seductive manchego cheese sauce. But we weren't dining in a top flight Italian restaurant. Instead, we sat at small, linen-draped tables in the quaint Santa Fe restaurant space christened La Boca.

Since August 2006 owner, James Campbell Caruso, has created Spanish tapas and Mediterranean food in his restaurant just off the renowned Plaza, and gained a loyal local following And no wonder - Caruso's exburant enthusiasm for his food and his restaurant are infectious. Add on the fact that Zagat restaurant guide editors named La Boca 'one of the area's most notable' and there's good reason to make a reservation before you dine here.

Tapas lovers will find loads of choices, from tuna carpaccio with olives and blood oranges to fried egg with chorizo and potatoes; bruschetta with crimini mushrooms, egg, truffle oil and reggiano; and Gambas al Alcaparra - which combines grilled shrimp with capers, honey, sherry and lemon. Entrees range from sesame crusted salmon to grilled lamb chops and Angus rib eye.

Just be sure you don't over-order the tapas. You'll be amazed how much food fills a single plate.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Perfect Egg Salad

How do you make a perfect egg salad? For me, the simpler the better. I'm not one for adding sweet pickle relish, onions, bacon, or other 'large' ingredients. Using the right seasoning, tho', can make a big difference in, not only the flavor, but the need for salt and pepper. Here's what I use to make:

Perfect Egg Salad
Makes filling for 3-4 sandwiches

6 large brown, organic eggs (or any large eggs)
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise (+ one tablespoon)
1 large stalk of celery, diced in 1/4" pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons dried dill weed

On a Midwestern winter day with a near-record-breaking temperature of 68 degrees, beautiful blue skies and open windows, egg salad sandwiches made a great dinner last evening. I started with six large, brown, organic eggs.

Next, place them in a 1 1/2 quart saucepan, add a generous shake of salt, just cover them with water and add a cover. Bring the water to a boil and then turn to simmer for 25 minutes (VOE-white eggs may be ready in as little as 20 minutes).

Drain the pan thoroughly and rinse/cool eggs under cold water, for 5 minutes or more, until each egg cracks easily against the side of your sink or bowl, and the shell can be removed without the egg white tearing away. As eggs cool, chop one large celery stalk into 1/4-inch pieces. (VOE - as you can see, one of my eggs didn't cooperate during shelling.)

Place eggs in a large bowl, cut into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces and then stir in celery pieces.

Add 1/4 cup mayo and stir together thoroughly, adding 1 more tablespoon to taste, if desired. Add dill weed and stir together again. Chill 15-20 minutes before serving.

For added flavor serve your salad on an onion bun, as we did, or perhaps a great rye or pumpernickel bread, with a few lettuce leaves and some fresh vegies on the side.
Now, tell me about your favorite egg salad...

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Road to Taos

It's been 27 years since I first saw the Rio Grande River coursing through the center of New Mexico, on its way from Colorado's San Juan Mountains. With my car windows open and the radio turned off, I occasionally heard rushing water and glimpsed the glistening river as it catapulted through the ancient stream bed and I sped along interstate 25 towards Taos.

When I drove the 'road to Taos' with my best friend, during our first travel adventure together, the river rolled along to our left as the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo mountains rose majestically beyond our passenger window. Brilliant sun cast sparkles across the Rio Grande and crisp spring air filled the car.

I returned with my family several years later, and we drove through a flat, sage-brush topped landscape on our way to the Rio Grande Gorge - a seemingly bottomless rock cavern in the midst of high desert, and waded, elsewhere, in the shallows. Then, last October, as my husband and I traveled from Santa Fe to Taos, the rushing river greeted us again, a permanent fixture in an ever-changing landscape.