Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lunch With a Side of Railroad Atmosphere

It's been years since my husband and I took our young daughters for cooked-to-order burgers and shakes with a side of railroad atmosphere, at the original Fritz's Railroad Restaurant in Kansas City, Kan. Trains have continously run near the ceiling here since 1954 and, in 1990, a second location opened at Kansas City, Mo.'s Crown Center Shops (pictured above).

We placed our order by a phone at our table as the girls put on cardboard engineer hats. Our waitress brought beverages and then the 'Skat Kat' delivered our food. From the train track overhead, a mechanical arm gently placed our order on the table and then moved on to the next booth. My chocolate shake was divine and fries got kudos too. We also heard the chili was outstanding.

Apparently, the shakes and chili still deserve outstanding marks and this place can get packed, particularly around lunchtime, and especially at Crown Center. But trains running overhead and food delivered by a mechanical arm remain two great reasons to check out Fritz's Railroad Restaurant - at either location.

If you love trains and diner food, this is a place you shouldn't miss.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Gingerbread Bites - Thanks, James Beard

In 1980, when I constantly baked bread of all kinds, I received a copy of Beard on Bread that promptly became dog-eared.

Today, with an upcoming party that requires finger food and a jar of molasses that was crying to be used, I revisited James Beard's gingerbread recipe - and then made a few changes. I know, I know, that's almost sacrilegious, but as much as I love to play in the kitchen making changes was a foregone conclusion. Here are my:

Gingerbread Bites
Makes 24 mini cupcakes
+ a few large ones

1 cup dark molasses
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup oatmeal, ground fine
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup walnuts, ground

miniature muffin pans for 24
24 miniature muffin papers
(also, large muffin pan and papers for extra batter)

Icing recipe, below
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grind oatmeal to a fine 'flour' in food processor, and set aside. Grind walnuts; set aside.
Stir together molasses, butter, and boiling water until butter melts and ingredients combine. Add ginger, salt, and baking powder. Stir in oatmeal flour and combine thoroughly, then stir in flour and walnuts.
Place small muffin papers in pans and fill each paper 3/4s full; fill larger muffin papers/tin as needed. Bake 20 minutes until springy when touched (VOE - two potholders work better than one to remove them; something about how little 'border metal' there is around each muffin hole). Cool completely and top the center of each cupcake with 1 teaspoon dollop of icing. Keep refrigerated.
VOE - it takes longer to fill mini-cupcake papers than regular
VOE - large cupcakes require 30 minutes baking time
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons Neufchatel cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon molasses
Cream together butter, cream cheese and confectioner's sugar. Stir in molasses.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Food & Wine at Seghesio Family Vineyards

No tour of Seghesio Family Vineyards, in the Sonoma Valley, would be complete without a visit to the tasting room where a weathered piece of wood under glass forms a sort of 'centerpiece' for the table. "When we created this tasting room, we incorporated Angela's pasta board into this table, to preserve it," says Rachael Ann Passalacqua Seghesio, the company's matriarch, as she affectionately pats the board used by her mother-in-law, Angela. Rachel Ann then leads us to our wine and food pairing while regaling us with more family history and recipes.

The 400-acre family-run winery began in 1895, and the Seghesio name adorned five wine bottle labels by 1983. Today, half of all Seghesio vines grow zinfandel grapes, and the winery's 80-percent Sonoma zinfandel has been ranked among the nation's top 100 wines.

The family built their first wine tasting room - including Angela's pasta board - in 1997, and added a private tasting room 10 years later. Private food and wine pairings have become so popular that they are available every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with walk-ins welcome. For $25 ($15 for wine club members) visitors enjoy a meal that uses many organic and local ingredients, and changes every month. And, with enthusiastic family members available to answer questions, this food and wine pairing is a delightful wine country experience.