I had been roaming the foggy market for just a few minutes, eyeing up dollar packages of strawberries(!) and round, shiny apples. I knew I wanted something more than fruit for breakfast but wasn’t sure what I would find hidden in the walls of the mysterious market.
A man stopped me as I walked by to offer samples of his baked goods. A cinnamon roll he had removed half the sugar from but that still tasted amazing, Italian bread that tasted the way Italian bread SHOULD taste. A cranberry and almond scone if you like coffee in the morning. I was drawn to a spinach and feta turnover. The filling was creamy and melted in my mouth. I had found my breakfast.
When I went inside I was torn with how many turnovers to purchase (I did need to feed my husband, too) but landed on one, with a side of regular and chocolate croissants. As I left the shop I informed the man of my purchases.
“You sold me!”
“I didn’t sell you, the product did!”
His response really stuck with me. Rarely do I actually try to sell you anything through the blog, but in a way I’m always trying to sell you on getting yourself in the kitchen and cooking a delicious meal or treat. But it doesn’t always have to be about what I say, the food itself should be enough to get you excited. This is what I was thinking about as I took my pastries back to the apartment and enjoyed the quietest breakfast in recent memory.
That was one of my mornings from my trip to Kansas City for ChoppedCon this past weekend. My favorite way to travel is to dive in and feel like I live there. Everyone has their favorite restaurants and leisure activities in their hometowns, and chances are they’re not the tourist hotspots that anyone would come there for. Heck, we lived in the Twin Cities for nine months and never once shopped at the Mall of America, but have made numberous trips north to do just that while living in La Crosse.
When Jeron and I were planning our trip to Kansas City I knew I wanted to feel like a local, so the first place I looked was Airbnb. I will admit I was a little nervous about staying in someone else’s apartment, but Abbey and Wade couldn’t have been nicer (and they don’t even live there). The apartment itself was adorable and ideally located in the River Market District. It offered us the perfect opportunity to come and go on foot, but we also had a parking space all our own to keep from having to find a paid or time restricted spot around town. I definitely recommend staying here if you’re headed to Kansas City!
So how else can you travel like a local? Go off the beaten path and walk around a little. If you know anyone in town ask for their recommendations on where to eat and what to do. Don’t be afraid to try something new or walk just a little farther – you never know when you’ll discover a hidden gem. I also meticulously scrutinize Google maps before heading out of town so I have a general idea of how to get around and what’s nearby.
If you’d like to experience Kansas City like a local, let me share some of my favorite spots with you…
I visited Market 3 on Friday morning to grab a juice to take to the conference (only to find out once I got there that juice was provided!). I had been burned before at a previous conference (that shall remain nameless) with no option other than coffee. Not even water. It almost felt like a survival situation, and I wasn’t going to start my day that way again. Their breakfast sandwiches looked good, but I knew there would be breakfast at the conference so I passed. When I met up with Jeron later we were looking for a quick bite before a social engagement, and again Market 3 was right on the way. We each had the veggie burger, which was topped with pesto and veggies on a soft ciabatta roll with a pickle on the side. The front of the restaurant is an open air sandwich shop while the back offers odds and ends that you might not realize you need until you stop in to pick up a six pack of beer. The older gentleman working there was happy to serve us despite it seeming that they might be closing up shop for the night.
On Thursday night we enjoyed drinks, jazz, and a hummus plate the size of my head (that I swear I tried to share but I might have hoarded??) at Green Lady Lounge. It was pretty quiet in there, being a weeknight, and I think our group doubled the number of patrons in the bar. Unfortunately there was only one bartender working so it was kind of difficult to get a drink, but I had to hand it to her as she was doing pretty good job anyways. I ordered an old fashioned because I’m boring, but it was delicious. If I had found time to eat more for dinner I definitely would have tried a negroni or a moscow mule.
Blue Bird Bistro is a laid back farm to table restaurant located in a cozy residential neighborhood. While I wouldn’t recommend it for those in a hurry, it’s perfect for lingering over a lazy brunch and making friends with the locals. It took quite a while for us to get noticed by the hostess, who leisurely found us a table with a smile on her face. Our waitress instantly felt like an old friend (hi Emmie!) and we probably kept her at our table for far too long chatting about food and our trip. Jeron and I couldn’t resist the catfish sandwich. Usually catfish is thin and a little greasy, but what arrived at our table was a thick, perfectly cooked piece of fish. I enjoyed mine with chunky mashed potatoes while he had a fresh salad with vegan ranch.
Glace Artisan Ice Cream is one of the most delicious and inventive ice cream shops I’ve ever been to. It’s nearly impossible to choose a flavor (remember my adaptation of their goat cheese and honey ice cream?), but luckily they’ll let you taste them all before committing, so at least you’ll know what they all taste like. I landed on salted pretzel and Indonesian cinnamon (both amazing) and Jeron chose the lemon sorbet. I dream of the day I’m hungry enough to actually order one of their awesome looking sundaes.
For dinner on Saturday night we found our way to El Patron. The website had led me to believe it would be a little fancier than it was (which is really just to say good for them on a great website) but it was a warm night and we ended up dining on the rooftop patio. We munched on chips and queso and ordered a mojito and a margarita while we waited for our giant plates of fish tacos to arrive. This was the only time all weekend that I felt like I overate, but it was hard to leave any behind when it was so good.
The City Market is a beautifully diverse place to visit on the weekend. They host a city wide garage sale where people show up with truly interesting wares as well as handmade goods. There is also a traditional farmer’s market as well as an insanely inexpensive produce market (including the $1 packages of strawberries). In the surrounding buildings you’ll find various restaurants, a coffee shop, and street musicians lurking in corners like they’re just warming up. It was here that I found Bloom Baking Co where I couldn’t resist the spinach and feta turnover as well as a chocolate croissant for myself and a plain croissant for Jeron.
We visited the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema more than once on our trip. This is a really unique theater where you can see a movie and eat a delicious dinner at the same time. They have these little cards that you write your order on and the waitress will check on you every now and then during the movie and bring you whatever you want. The theater also has a strict no talking/no cell phone policy. Like don’t even pull that phone out or you’re going to be asked to leave. I was a little nervous that I wasn’t going to be able to keep my mouth shut, but I did it!
I really wanted to do something active on our trip (mostly so I would be hungrier for more foooood) and Cliff Drive was the perfect spot. Cliff Drive is a scenic stretch of road in north Kansas City that closes its gates on the weekend to allow walkers, cyclists, and long boarders the opportunity to enjoy it without the risk of being run over. The leaves were falling, the sun was shining, and we found an almost secret set of stairs that led us straight up to a bird’s eye view of the area.
The whole reason I went to Kansas City in the first place was to attend ChoppedCon, an amazing day of learning and networking for food bloggers. I actually hate the word ‘networking’ because to me it implies unsavory, selfish motives. My goal, and what I really feel happened, was that I was able to meet a ton of other bloggers (some who I had interacted with online or in person and others I had not), have tons of fun getting to know them, and build lasting business relationships that are more like personal relationships.
The conference was put on by Marly from Namely Marly. I met Marly last fall and when I found out she was putting on a conference I wanted to go just to support her because she’s the best. Then I saw the amazing speakers she had lined up (the teams behind Pinch of Yum and Minimalist Baker, Ali from Gimme Some Oven, Christina at Dessert for Two, Bev from Bev Cooks, Kristin from Dine and Dish, Kathryn from Cookie + Kate, and more!) and found out it was in Kansas City (within driving distance of my home and one of my new favorite places to visit). I knew I had to be there.
The conference itself was held Friday in the beautiful River Market Event Space. I was pleased to find chairs seated around pretty tables instead of cold, uncomfortable rows. Still, it’s hard for this busy mama of three to sit still for eight hours. If you saw me arching my back and looking like I was about to stretch out on the table, you weren’t doing a bad job with your presentation, my body was just missing being busy.
I won’t go into detail on all the speakers and info (because I paid for that ticket! If you want it you have to come) but let me tell you that the collective talent in that room was just astounding. I have so much respect for absolutely everyone there and can’t say enough how much I gained from talking to people both on and off the stage.
At one point Bev’s husband brought THE BABIES and I swear it was like Oprah brought out cars for everyone. I tried to keep my distance and be polite but it was basically a paparazzi moment. It’s their own fault for being so freakin’ adorable. This is actually Liz from The Lemon Bowl holding Natalie.
One of many things this conference did right was the food. There was so much of it! I’ve been to other conferences where you might as well bring lunch in your purse because you’re otherwise guaranteed to starve, but this was not the case. Breakfast was a chocolate croissant (omgggg) amongst tons of other impressive pastries. Lunch was provided by the conference and catered by Chipotle. I think there was a collective cheer when we found that out. It was such a great idea because everyone got exactly what they wanted and it suited so many different dietary needs. They even had sofritas, a shredded, slightly spicy tofu that I am pleased to say is pretty good! Now if we could just get a Chipotle in La Crosse? Please?? Chipotle reads my blog right? Riiiight?? At the afternoon break they brought out a coffee and Italian soda bar sponsored by Torani with bowls of snack mix and trays of brownies, cookies and macaroons. The after party even included black bean sliders, tuna tartare, and hummus. We were a bunch of happy little foodies.
There was one final after-after party because we were all just having such a great time getting to know each other. I was able to bring Jeron to this party and it was really fun to merge my blogging world with my “real” world. Jeron hasn’t ever gotten to experience that part of my life in such a real way and we both had a lot of fun.
Well, you made it to the end! And that was intense. You get a gold star and a virtual cookie. If you’re hungry for more Kansas City (I know I am), be sure to check out my post from my first trip there. Then check back soon, I swear I’ll be back with a recipe to get you in the kitchen.