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Kansas City

Kansas City/ Musings

Current Obsessions: March

March 3, 2020
skillshare kansas city ballet nespresso susanna kearsley

Currently Reading: The Winter Sea

I recently discovered Susanna Kearsley’s books, and I’ve been moving through them at record speed since. As with the rest of her books I’ve read so far, I couldn’t put The Winter Sea down. A beautiful story flipping between modern-day and early 18th-century Scotland, it transported me across oceans and back in time (and quickly boosted Scotland to the top of my travel bucket list). I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a good love story, but this one didn’t feel cheesy at all, and the writing itself paints a stunning portrait of the story and setting.

Currently Creating: If Walls Could Talk newsletter

Ok, so this one is slightly cheating (but if you don’t promote your own projects, who’s going to, right?). If you hadn’t guessed by the above recommendation, I’m a bit of a history nerd. Since I don’t have school anymore, I needed an excuse to dive into centuries past — so voilà, a new project. Essentially, If Walls Could Talk blends my wanderlust, obsession with Pinterest, and inner history nerd. Each week(ish), I dig into the history behind a cool place or building and post the story on social media and via newsletter. (Hint, hint: Follow @javajournalist on Instagram and Twitter and sign up for the newsletter here).

Currently Watching: the Kansas City ballet

As a kid, I was obsessed with the cartoon movie The Swan Princess. Until recently, I wasn’t aware that this was actually based on the classic Tchaikovsky ballet Swan Lake — or for a more likely reference, the movie Black Swan. Anyway, I recently saw the Kansas City Ballet‘s performance of Swan Lake, and it was incredible. Though this particular show is over, I highly recommend checking out the KC Ballet if you’re in the area — I make it a point to see nearly all their shows, and they’re always amazing. It kind of makes me wish I hadn’t quit ballet in third grade …

Currently Sipping: Nespresso espresso

This one should be more like: item I can’t survive without. At one point, I spent a rather mortifying amount of money on lattes (which also speaks to my coffee addiction, but that’s another story). I’ve since upgraded my home espresso machine to the Nespresso Evoluo, which creates a surprisingly delicious espresso for a home maker. It’s also ridiculously easy — pop a pod in, press start, and you have espresso in a few seconds — which suits my lazy self perfectly. Mine came with a milk frother, so I can even make my own lattes at home. Not exactly the gorgeous latte art of the pros, but it saves me a fortune in coffeeshop runs.

Currently Learning: Creative Transformation with Skillshare

If you want to learn a new skill, chances are Skillshare has a class on it. I recently signed up for a monthlong free trial (kind of cheating, I know) and tried to cram as many classes in as I could. All the ones I tried were interesting, but I especially enjoyed Mari Andrew’s “Creative Transformation: 9 Exercises to Draw, Write, and Discover Your Future.” Sounds a bit woo-woo, but I promise it’s not. Even if you’re not trying to launch a creative career, the lessons were enlightening and inspiring, sparking the type of introspection that I think everyone needs.

Javaholic/ Kansas City/ Wanderings

Coffeeshop Love: Messenger Coffee Co.

February 25, 2020
messenger coffee kansas city

If you’re in the Kansas City area and haven’t been living under a rock, chances are you’ve heard of Messenger Coffee. Honestly, I’m a little late to the party here (this one has been lingering on my coffeeshop list for a while), but seeing as how it’s in my neighborhood and I go there fairly frequently, I couldn’t pass up mentioning it here. Messenger has become something of a KC darling and gotten a lot of hype in the last few years, and for good reason. Though the roasting company was established in 2013 and supplies many local coffeeshops, they opened their flagship roasting facility and café in 2017 in the Crossroads district. As such, they’re first and foremost a roaster, focusing on farm-direct beans roasted right here in KC (in other words, they know their coffee). That said, the café has become a hotspot in its own right.

messenger coffee kansas cityIf hip and sleek is your coffeeshop jam, then Messenger has you covered. Their Crossroads café is hyper-cool and modern — think clean white palette, chic minimalist furniture, soaring ceilings, and lots of light. The décor is unfailingly hip. As an added bonus, there’s an open kitchen with views into the bakery and coffee roasting areas (so you know both your croissant and your java are fresh and homemade). And unlike many coffeeshops, there’s plenty of space and seating here, in the bustling first floor area or upstairs in one of the more studious enclaves. There’s even a much-Instagrammed rooftop patio with amazing views of the downtown KC skyline. The only downside to this is that it sometimes gets a bit loud — it’s never not been busy when I’m there — though there’s enough room that you can usually find a private corner.

messenger coffee kansas city

messenger coffee kansas city

messenger coffee kansas city

For all the hype about Messenger, the baristas know their stuff. The coffee is always delicious, and they’re particularly on-point in the latte art game (even when it comes to my almond milk lattes). I have photographic proof — I’ve never received a less-than-gorgeous latte, and they taste as good as they look. And thanks to Ibis bakery, the menu is worth drooling over as well. The amazing baked goods are all made in-house (in fact, you can see them coming out of the oven in the open kitchen), and the menu is actually fairly extensive, which isn’t a given for coffeeshops. Good luck choosing between the range of carefully handcrafted breads, both classic and creative pastries, and a hot menu of toasts, tartines, eggs, and other breakfast yummies. Sacrilegious though it is, I’ve yet to test the pastries — though they always look incredible — but I can vouch for a decadent chocolate truffle. Considering Ibis’s rising fame, it’s probably safe to say the food is awesome.

messenger coffee kansas city

messenger coffee kansas city ibis bakery

All in all, I have to admit that smaller, slightly shabby cafes are more my style, but there’s no denying that Messenger Coffee is a cool spot, and definitely worth a visit. You know you’ll get a great cup of coffee (and likely a killer bite to eat as well), and really, it’s worth going just to check out the space. You’ll feel cooler just stepping into the café.

messenger coffee kansas city

Kansas City/ Wanderings

5 Things To Do in KC When It’s Freezing

February 14, 2020
kansas city to do winter cold

We’re getting to that point of the year when the snow and chilliness has ceased being charming and magical and started to be … well, just cold. Or is that just me? After single-digit temps and negative wind chills this week, I’m officially ready for spring. But in true Kansas City fashion, the weather will probably flip-flop between balmy and frigid until May, so I’m gearing up for weathering more wintery days. Luckily, Kansas City has some excellent foul-weather friends — I rounded up my top five picks for passing the chilly days. Bring on the winter weather (I’m kidding, please give us spring).

Wander the Nelson-Atkins Museum

You’ve probably gotten the memo by now that I’m a tad bit obsessed with the Nelson. But hey, it’s justified. And when you’re itching to get out of the house but it’s frigid outside, wandering the grand halls of the museum is a perfect option. Whether you’re into Asian artifacts, classic medieval paintings, or a slice of ancient Greek life, there’s a little something here for everyone. And when you’ve exhausted your wandering, there’s the lovely Rozzelle Court restaurant or cozy Quay Coffee for an extra bit of yummy fuel.

Visit the Kansas City Aquarium

If you can’t actually take a trip to the beach, why not at least pretend you’re somewhere exotic? With everything from vibrant tropical fish to sharks to a starfish petting tank, the Kansas City aquarium is a great way to transport yourself to the sea (even better when it’s decidedly less than tropical outside). And trust me, it’s not just for the kids. The aquarium is surprisingly impressive and entertaining for ocean-lovers of all ages. Wander through and pretend you’re on a snorkeling expedition — you may not get a fruity cocktail in a coconut at the end, but I promise you’ll have a good time anyway.

Enjoy a Cozy Brunch

I’m not sure if the brunch craze has quite hit KC the way it has NYC and Philly, but it’s getting there. In any case, what could be better on a bone-chilling winter day than a cozy cup of coffee and fluffy pancakes (or whatever yummy treat floats your boat)? Plenty of restaurants in KC could satisfy this craving, but I highly recommend Blue Bird Bistro or Our Daily Nada (or both — go wild). It might be due to a snow day mother-daughter brunch in high school, but I’ll always associate Blue Bird with snowy days. The Westside eatery is part rustic, part hip and thoroughly charming, with scrumptious organic, locally sourced food. If you’re a bookworm, Our Daily Nada serves up homemade bites and creative drinks to enjoy as you peruse a carefully curated selection of books in a warm brick-walled River Market spot. The best part of winter is cozying up inside, right?

Explore Crown Center, Union Station, and the Link

When it’s freezing out, you want to minimize your outside time. Luckily, with the Link — a glass walkway — you can walk all the way from Union Station to Crown Center without ever setting foot outside. On top of that, Union Station and Crown Center are both definitely worth visiting in their own right (and offer plenty of warm inside fun). Built in 1914, Union Station is worth visiting simply for the Art Deco grandeur of the old train station, but it also offers Science City (again, not just for the kids!), a planetarium, a movie theatre, restaurants, and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (enough said). Then make your way over to Crown Center for shopping, theatres, and more yummy eateries (did I mention there are multiple candy shops there also?). You can have a full day of wandering without risking frostbite.

Go Ice Skating at the Crown Center Ice Terrace

Ok, so this one doesn’t exactly keep you out of the cold. It’s undeniably festive, though, and a not-to-be-missed winter activity. When you’re finished perusing Crown Center, stop by the ice rink out front, rent a pair of skates, and spend a while gliding away. There’s always music playing, and when it starts to get too chilly, you can grab a cup of hot chocolate at the snack bar to warm up.

Kansas City/ Wanderings

Wandering Recap: A Night at the Museum

February 6, 2020
nelson-atkins museum party arty egypt kansas city ballet

It’s probably the history nerd in me, but I’ve always been fascinated by ancient Egypt. The storied history, the incredible achievements, the mysticism — something about it captivates me. Unsurprisingly, Egypt is high on my travel bucket list. I haven’t made it there yet, so haunting the Egyptian exhibits at museums in my second best option. Given this Egyptian obsession, it’s probably not surprising that when I heard the theme for this year’s Party Arty was the current Queen Nefertari exhibit, I knew I had to go. I’m not an especially big party person, but I am a big museum person, and well, I mentioned the Egypt obsession, right? The Queen Nefertari exhibit in of itself is worth visiting (if you’re in the Kansas City area, definitely check it out), with an astonishing array of artifacts and information on Egyptian tombs. But I digress — we were talking about a party. Party Arty is an annual gala hosted by the Nelson-Atkins Museum for its Young Friends of the Museum, and it’s a go-all-out sort of deal. This year, the theme followed the Queen Nefertari special exhibit, so it was an Egyptian extravaganza. I happen to be a Young Friend of the Museum (and clearly an ancient Egypt nerd), so I obviously couldn’t pass this up. A party might not exactly be wandering, per se, but it was definitely an experience — and great people-watching — so I’m calling this a wandering recap of sorts.

First of all, and most importantly, as I noted before, anything goes at Party Arty. People were decked out in everything from ball gowns to full pharaoh costumes to gold lamé dress suits. Think lots of gold and glitter, fancy headdresses, ankh and eye of Horus accoutrements, even an Anubis head. Add to that the Quixotic dancers weaving through the crowds in their slinky gold outfits, and it was quite a scene. As with all wanderings, people-watching is a must, and this definitely didn’t disappoint. It was an eclectic, artsy set, and simply observing was enough entertainment in of itself.

Now, to set the scene. The Bloch building lobby (the new-ish modern addition to the museum) became an energetic dance area full of club-like beats and moody colored lights, a DJ spinning tunes throughout the night. Set against the stately columns and Art Deco grandeur of the museum itself, the entire scene was somehow a bit surreal. In the main hall of the museum, exotic Egyptian music from a live band echoed in the grand columned hall. Throughout the night, Kansas City Ballet II (the junior ballet troupe) put on performances in the hall. With heavy drum beats, trippy lights, and dancers in foamy white gowns, the spectacle was all a bit like a (very graceful) sacrificial dance, which added even more exotic gravitas to the scene. (If you’ve ever been in the main hall of the museum, you’ll understand how this created quite a dramatic setting — if not, visit the museum immediately).

And of course, we mustn’t forget the refreshments. In keeping with the Egyptian theme, the museum’s Rozzelle Court restaurant served gyros and little Egyptian date cookies (a 1000-year-old recipe, we were told). The open bars also had themed drinks going, courtesy of Tom’s Town distillery — slightly wicked ones, to my taste, but then I’m a booze wimp.

All in all, it was a night to remember. Perhaps a bit different from a true trip to Egypt — we’ll keep that on the bucket list — but the Nelson certainly knows how to throw a party. I’m not sure what the Nelson Party Arty theme is for next year, but it’s safe to say that will be quite the affair as well (I would highly recommend going if you can). In the meantime, the Nelson museum is consistently on my list of top-recommended things to do in Kansas City, so if you’re in the area, don’t miss it. The Queen Nefertari exhibit is showing until March 29, 2020 and is definitely worth a visit, especially if you’re an Egyptophile like me (yes, I made that up). As always, happy wandering!

Javaholic/ Kansas City

Coffeeshop Love: Quay Coffee

January 25, 2020
Coffee Kansas City Quay

When it comes to coffeeshops, quaint and a bit quirky is my sweet spot. Hip, sleek and modern is all very nice, but give me a funky hole-in-the-wall any day. Though it’s gaining a name as one of the mainstay local coffee sources in KC — hardly a hole-in-the-wall — Quay Coffee somehow manages to be both hip and homey. Named for the River Quay, the former name of the River Market, Quay (pronounced “key”) is a cozy, brick-walled spot in the heart of the eclectic River Market district. (If you’re strolling through the Nelson-Atkins Museum and in need of a caffeine fix, they also opened a location in the museum, but I highly recommend visiting the original.) Small but with plenty of seating, the place is always bustling with people working or chatting over a cuppa. In short, it’s a friendly, festive spot. It seems like sometimes it’s difficult to find beautiful latte art and a smile (thus the snobby barista trope), but Quay truly manages to do both. They definitely know their coffee, but I’ve never been greeted by anything less than genuine cheer and friendly banter.

Coffee Kansas City Quay Coffee Kansas City Quay

But of course, the main draw: the coffee is good. Very good. Quay puts fastidious attention into choosing top-notch direct trade roasters, and the coffee never disappoints. With housemade syrups in scrumptious flavors like Old Overholt Caramel and Spice Brown Sugar, inventive seasonal drinks, and fresh local baked goods, the menu is classic but never boring.

Coffee Kansas City Quay

River Market in of itself is worth exploring, and my go-to is fueling myself with a good caffeine dose from Quay as I do my wandering. Then again, it’s worth making a trip there just for the coffee and warm atmosphere. Bring a book, some work, or a friend and settle in with a delicious latte — you won’t want to leave.

Coffee Kansas City Quay

Kansas City/ Wanderings

Where to Shop Local in Kansas City for Holiday Gifts

December 13, 2019
Shop local Kansas City holiday gifts

It’s that time of year — the manic dash to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Frenzied shoppers, mile-long to-do lists, packed stores … it’s the most wonderful time of the year! Ok, actually, it is my favorite time of year, and I have to admit I even love crazy holiday shopping (though my wallet doesn’t as much). But I always get stressed out trying to find that “just right” gift for each person (what can I say — I’m a perfectionist) and part of that is that so much out there is so generic. When I’m looking for a gift, I want something unique and special. Luckily, the local and craft market is booming these days, and there are an increasing number of sources to find decidedly un-basic gifts. I’ll admit it: I’m a craft market addict. In case you’re still on the prowl for gifts, I rounded up a selection of the best spots to shop local in Kansas City (some also have online stores, if you’re not in the KC area). With local and handmade items, these are the perfect places to find outside-the-box gifts for that special someone (and maybe a treat for yourself as well).

Made in Kansas City

Made in KC is essentially the Mecca of local KC goods. They now have several locations across the city, each a marketplace stuffed with local foods, clothes, accessories, and more. Each item comes from a local maker or small company, and with a variety of different makers in one market, there’s a little something there for everyone. From jewelry and clothes to candles, plants, and liquor, you can find nearly everything here. The Plaza location even has a coffeeshop, beer on tap, and an ice cream counter inside, so you can sip or munch as you shop!

A Very Cherry Holiday Pop-up

605 E. 31st St, KCMO

If you’re looking for a unique gift, Cherry Pit Collective has you covered. Cherry Pit Collective, a communal workspace for women artists, makers, and creatives in KC’s Tower East district, is getting merry this year with a special holiday pop-up shop at the nearby Objects space. Check it out weekends through December 23rd for one-of-a-kind handmade jewelry, ceramics, fine art, vintage goods, and more, plus pop-up eats like Swoon Cookies and Dead Beet Tacos (hey, shopping requires fuel!).

Local Artisan Holiday Pop-up

4419 W. 119th St, Leawood, KS

Pleasant as they are, the suburbs aren’t exactly known for their unique, non-chain shopping (hey, I can say this — I grew up right in this neighborhood). That said, Leawood is getting a little extra local flair this holiday season with an artisan pop-up in the Town Center Crossing shopping center. Stop by on weekends until Christmas for fine art, jewelry, and more from a selection of local makers. If you have a creative or art lover on your list, this is the perfect stop. And don’t forget to treat yourself as well: yummies from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, and Midnight Espresso Coffee Liqueurs are available as you shop!

Strawberry Swing Maker Marketplace

Strawberry Swing leads the pack when it comes to craft fairs — each season they host a pop-up extravaganza of handmade, local, and vintage goods in a spot around Kansas City. These fairs are perfect for gift-shopping (or, ahem, treating yourself), but they only happen a few times a year. Never fear — the Internet is here. In case you missed the holiday craft fair, Strawberry Swing now has an online marketplace to shop many of its creative goodies. Clothing, jewelry, home and bath goods — you name it, they likely have it. It’s not exactly the same experience as visiting a cute little shop, I know, but it is local, handmade, and a plethora of unique gift possibilities.

CollectiveEX

519 E. 18th St., KCMO

Kansas City’s artists and makers have another home base in CollectiveEX, a workshop and store for local artisans to create and sell their work. You’ll find a host of locally made items here, from clothes and accessories to fine art. For a little extra shopping fuel, stop by Thee Outpost, the latest coffee creation from Thou Mayest’s Bo Nelson, also located inside CollectiveEX.

Westside Storey

1701 Summit St., KCMO

Venture into the eclectic Westside neighborhood for this funky little shop housed in an old 1920s dry goods building. With over 20 local artisans and makers, plus vintage goods, you never know what you’ll find in here. Cheeky enamel pin? Check. Classy handmade candle? Check. Vintage sword? Check. On top of that, Westside is its own little adventure in of itself, so it’s well worth making an afternoon of this one. Stop by the cheerful Bluebird Bistro for a scrumptious organic brunch, grab coffee at the charming Goat Hill Coffee & Soda, and wander around the wonderfully bizarre medley of houses in the area after you do your shopping.

Food/ Travel

The Macaron Quest, Part II: Paris

November 13, 2019

I promised a part II to the macaron quest, didn’t I? Well, here you are. I recently wandered over to the Mecca of macarons — Paris — and of course I had to test as many as possible to get a true scientific sampling of the macaron measure. Ok, in truth I went a little macaron crazy (can you blame me?). Macarons can be found in every corner boulangerie and candy shop in Paris, so I chose eight spots — mostly well-known patisseries — to see what a true French macaron tastes like and how KC’s offerings stack up.

Before I get into the nitty gritty (sugary) details, let’s summarize the overall Paris macaron scene. First of all, crazy flavors are definitely not traditional. The bigger-name (and more touristy) brands are starting to do all sorts of funky flavor combinations, but in general the classic macaron flavors (and the ones you’ll find almost everywhere) are vanilla, coffee, pistachio, chocolate, raspberry, and lemon. Second, as I mentioned, almost every boulangerie/patisserie has at least a few macarons. For the most part, I went for places that are pretty well-known and easy to find. (Most of these places have multiple locations around Paris; for those that have only one location, I included the address below.) The most well-known macaron purveyors in Paris are probably Ladurée and Pierre Hermé, which of course I had to visit. So without further ado, let the macaron quest: Paris begin!

Pierre Hermé

Talk about a smorgasbord of flavors! I spent a good amount of time here just staring, saucer-eyed, trying to decide which to choose. Pierre Hermé is an iconic patisserie, especially for macarons, so it’s hardly a surprise that the offerings were overwhelming and the place packed. I ended up with the Barbade (chocolate, vanilla, and tonka bean) and hazelnut praline flavors — see what I mean about funky flavors? Though definitely not traditional, the flavors here were unusual and delicious (hazelnut praline was my favorite). The macaron itself was very delicate, though almost too moist, not lightly crispy as I would have hoped. Still, there’s definitely a reason this place is famous.

Ladurée

Fairytale mint green shop, rows of delicate jewel-toned sweets, a cozy tearoom — what’s not to love? Ladurée is possibly the most hyped of all the macaron wizards (in fact, there are several in the US now as well). Despite this, I have to admit I think Ladurée lives up to its reputation. The hordes of tourists are a bit of a turnoff (for me, at least), but if you avoid the Champs-Elysées shop, this is less of an issue. I made multiple stops here, in fact, testing the caramel fleur de sel, pistachio, and chocolate hazelnut flavors. With a strong flavor, smooth and delicate cookie, and slightly chewy inside, these macarons are just as scrumptious as they’re proclaimed to be. On top of that, they nicely bridge traditional and inventive — there are a few maverick flavors, but nothing so outlandish that you forget you’re eating a classic macaron.

Stohrer

With a history stretching all the way back to 1730, this family-owned patisserie definitely knows its sweets (in fact, they claim to be the oldest patisserie in Paris). Unlike some of the other big-name shops on this list, Stohrer veers more toward the classic, with traditional flavors like vanilla and chocolate (I tried the coffee one). While not as inventive as Pierre Hermé, the texture of Stohrer’s macarons definitely takes the cake (er, cookie). Lightly crispy on the outside, slightly chewy on the inside, and perfectly delicate, it was an ideal macaron creation. The flavor was simple and delicious — not knock-your-socks-off scrumptious. If you’re looking for a classic and tasty macaron, Stohrer is the spot for you.

Jean-Paul Hévin

Famed chocolatier Jean-Paul Hévin falls into the same school as Pierre Hermé — ah, the flavor kaleidoscope! That said, the flavor offerings were as good as (if not better than) PH, which is saying something. Though not exactly traditional, I have to admit I loved the flavors here. I tested Pistachin’ (chocolate/pistachio), Normandy (chocolate/salted caramel), and Crème Brûlée, all of which were delicious. My only complaint is that there was almost too much filling — a lot going on in general, with all the flavor combos. Definitely not a purist’s macaron, but still one to remember.

Gwen Choc Boulangerie

5 rue du Temple

For an unintentional macaron testing (I stopped into this Marais boulangerie for a croissant), Gwen Choc held up against the competition. The hazelnut praline macaron was a little crunchier, with more filling than many offerings, but it was still delicate, and the chocolate/hazelnut taste was delicious. This isn’t one of the famed macaron purveyors you’ll hear whenever someone says “macaron,” but if you’re in the Marais, it’s definitely worth a stop (the almond croissants are excellent also).

Le Valentin Teahouse

35 Galerie Vivienne

Tucked into one of Paris’s nineteenth-century covered shopping arcades, this little teahouse was a welcome respite on a drizzly day. With a mouthwatering selection of pastries and confections, I had to use great self-control to get only a macaron. I chose one of my favorites, salted caramel. The macaron was nicely delicate and melt-in-your-mouth, though I couldn’t really taste a specific flavor. Overall, a good texture, and definitely tasty, but nothing to knock your socks off.

Eric Kayser

The US has burger and coffee chains — France has boulangerie chains. Go figure. You can find an Eric Kayser on almost every corner in Paris. When it comes to chains, though, this one is actually pretty reliable. The flavors of my bourbon vanilla and pistachio macarons were very good — you could actually taste the vanilla and pistachio — though the cookie was a little too crunchy (ie, makes a sound when you bite into it) and not super delicate. They certainly aren’t known for their macarons, but for a sampling of a more generic, mass-produced macaron, they’re not a bad option.

Maison Landemaine

Another decent chain option, Maison Landemaine can be found all around Paris. I had a whole sampling here, because they only came in a box set of four (whoops). The flavors were traditional — chocolate, vanilla, raspberry, and caramel — and tasty, nicely crispy and with authentic flavor, but they weren’t necessarily anything to write home about (even though I sort of am).

In the end, any of these will satisfy a macaron craving in Paris, though some are more worthy of a macaron quest than others. But the big question: how does KC’s macaron scene measure up? I’m certainly no expert, but I’d say pretty well. They aren’t as ubiquitous in KC as in Paris, but those who love them seem to know how to do them well. KC may not exactly play by all the rules of traditional macaron flavors, but then, neither do all the Parisian macaron makers! Good news, then: you don’t have to fly across the pond to find a tasty macaron (though I’d highly recommend it anyway).

And the final word on the Paris macaron quest (according to me, anyway):

Best flavors: Pierre Hermé, Jean-Paul Hévin

Best texture: Stohrer, Ladurée

Best overall: Ladurée

Anyone else craving a sweet treat now? Check out these KC macaron artists to satisfy your sweet tooth! Bon appétit!

Javaholic/ Kansas City/ Wanderings

Coffeeshop Love: PT’s Coffee

October 27, 2019
PTs Coffee Kansas City coffeeshop

Well hello there! Yes, I know I’ve been a little AWOL around here — but all in the name of research! (sort of) I’ve been off doing some wandering (grand old Paris, in fact), so you better believe there will be plenty of fresh content coming soon! In the meantime, I thought I’d pop back with a little coffee recommendation closer to home (my hood, actually) to tide you over: PT’s Coffee in Kansas City. Stay tuned!

PT’s Coffee Roasters

310 Southwest Blvd., Kansas City, MO

Full confession: I have a type. A coffeeshop type, that is. (What, do normal people mean something else by that?) Well, two types actually — urban hipster and lovably shabby hole-in-the-wall. PT’s Coffee conveniently bridges the two criteria.

Tucked into an old brick building in Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts district, the KC outpost of Topeka-based grassroots roasters PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. definitely qualifies as urban and hole-in-the-wall. (Complete with my favorite urban reno hallmark: brick walls and an exposed tin ceiling.) Inside, though, the space is open, airy, and both funky and minimalist. The artsy Crossroads spirit definitely edges in with a young hipster clientele and local art lining the walls, while the open space and minimalist furniture add an retro urban vibe. My favorite touches, though, are the reclaimed wood tables — mod-looking pieces made from over 100 wood pallets that carried coffee to PT’s roasting facility — and the giant marquee “coffee” sign. Very retro, admirably resourceful, and of course, entirely appropriate for true javaholics. Even better: they just opened a brand new location at 1310 Baltimore St. More modern than the funky Crossroads spot, the new outpost is equally charming (and, of course, delicious).

PT’s Coffee Crossroads Kansas City coffeeshop

PT’s is one of those cafes that manages to be bustling without being chaotic. Every time I’ve been in there (yes, the tally is rapidly adding up), it’s been busy enough that finding a table can be a bit of a challenge. It’s a comfortable background din, though, a happy medium fit for chatting with friends or studying (both of which there are always people doing). The last time I was there, a friend and I sat at the bar lining the front windows, providing a perfect view onto the (always colorful) street traffic of downtown Crossroads. Luckily, PT’s doesn’t fall short on this point either — from students to funky artists to the occasional … eccentric urban character, there are all sorts of caffeination-seekers at the cafe. After all, people-watching is a crucial part of the true coffeeshop experience.

Last but most definitely not least: the menu. Obviously, the coffee hits the mark, or I wouldn’t have added it to my regular haunts list. Every time I go there, I plan on trying something new, but I’m afraid I’ve become rather addicted to one particular drink: the lavender-caramel latte. The idea of applying to coffee a scent usually found in soap and soothing eye pillows might seem a bit odd, but trust me on this one: the lavender-caramel syrup is to die for. PT’s makes its own delectable syrups (honey vanilla and lavender caramel are the current options), which I would 100% recommend. On top of that, their latte art game is top-notch (hey, sometimes it’s ok to judge a book by its cover). If you’re feeling peckish, they also have a tasty selection of sandwiches and pastries, as well as smoothies and various teas.

Bottom line: if you’re ever in downtown Kansas City, definitely stop by PT’s Coffee for a java pick-me-up and a good dose of eclectic KC charm.

Javaholic/ Kansas City/ Wanderings

Coffeeshop Love: Nomads Coffee & Cocktails

September 20, 2019
nomads coffee kansas city

In my mind, anything that mentions travel, exploration, and/or wandering (obviously) is immediately worth an investigation. A tribute to explorers — literary and literal — worldwide, Nomads Coffee in Kansas City exactly fits that bill. It would be easy to walk straight past it, nestled in a subtle brick shopfront on eclectic 39th Street. It certainly isn’t the most colorful or eye-catching spot on the street. But that would be your loss. This charming café has become my go-to coffeeshop work spot, and it’s safe to say I’m a little obsessed.

Nomads Kansas City Coffee Bar interior

To fully capture the atmosphere of Nomads Coffee, it’s really best to imagine yourself as a slightly disaffected nineteenth-century writer or a gruff world traveler (or at least following in the footsteps of one). The entire café is a bit dim, with dark wood floors and furniture and deep blue walls. Sophisticated, in an ever-so-slightly gloomy way. Take a spot at the dark-wood bar, curl up in a cushy armchair, or pick an intimate café table and get settled in. My spot of choice is at the bar along the front windows, with a perfect view out onto the goings-on of quirky 39th Street.

Nomads Kansas City Coffee bar interior

To complete the travel theme, shelves throughout the café are stocked with books with a global explorer bent (think Jack London, vintage travel memoirs, old issues of National Geographic). The walls are lined with photos of Alaskan dog races, mountain explorations, maps, suitably gruff explorers, and people and places around the globe.

Nomads Kansas City Coffee Interior

Nomads Kansas City Coffee Bar photo wall

It’s the type of place where you might expect to come across a grumpy older Hemingway ordering a cocktail or a grizzled old explorer recounting tales of his latest expedition into the jungle or Arabian deserts (though in reality the clientele is more on the young and hip side, thanks to students from the nearby KU Med Center and the vibrant culture of 39th Street).

All that said, in reality the café isn’t at all gloomy. Despite the somber (if charming) aura, the staff and customers are always friendly, and the café is usually bustling, classic and peppy oldies tunes playing in the background. (Just absorb the old-world vibes and be glad no one there actually acts like a grumpy old mountain man).

Nomads Kansas City Coffee Cocktails

No literary or global enclave would be complete without drinks, of course! The coffee menu here is classic — none of that foufy frappuccino business — but the lattes are delicious. Plus, there’s also a full cocktail/beer/wine menu (this is an extra plus in my book because it means they’re open late, unlike many coffee shops). If you’re feeling peaky, they have a tasty selection of pastries and cookies, plus quiche, classic and hearty sandwiches, and breakfast burritos. Café fare, but the type you actually want to eat.

Full disclosure: I only tested the ham and cheese croissant, but it was scrumptious — buttery and perfectly flaky, with a subtle spike of Dijon mustard inside — and the rest of the menu looks quite tasty. The quiche is definitely next on my list!

So the next time you’re around 39th Street, wander over to Nomads Coffee for a coffee or cocktail — who knows, maybe you’ll actually run into that rugged world explorer I keep expecting to see.

 

Kansas City/ Wanderings

Kansas City Mural Madness

September 12, 2019
Kansas City murals street art Mural

When you think of city street art, Kansas City may not immediately spring to mind. But it turns out KC is a veritable canvas of murals. A mural tour has been on my bucket list for a while, but it was only recently that my friend Emily (shoutout to my always-game wandering buddy!) and I found a free — and not 100-degree — day to do it. And we had to do it right, obviously — full mural madness. Electric scooters required.

Actually, Kansas City has way more murals than I expected, and we didn’t nearly make it to all of them. However, I think we made the rounds pretty well, and the results were pretty darn cool in any case. Follow along with us!

Generally, maps are a no-no for legit wandering. However, Kansas City is a spread-out city, and I love a good list, so I had a detailed list and corresponding map for our mural tour. Obviously, you can follow whatever path you want to see any (or all) of these. Our escapade started in River Market, then went down to East Crossroads, plus a few extra in the Crossroads, Brookside, and even Independence. And, of course, we stumbled across at least a few unexpected gems. As with any wander, the best discoveries are always the ones you find by accident.

*A full list of the Kansas City murals we visited, with addresses, will be at the end of this post.

River Market

Our first stop was the kooky and colorful Betty Rae’s Ice Cream mural. This was by far the hardest to get pictures of, as there was the usual crazy line of people bursting out of Betty Rae’s. That said, the vibrant, cartoonish ice cream drippings are definitely worth a look. And hey, you can always stop for a cone while you’re at it!

After that, we headed on to the Lewis & Clark mural around the corner at River Market Antiques. As far as I know, this is one of the older murals in KC, and it doesn’t have the graffiti vibe of a lot of spots on our list — it’s more like a classic painting. It fits in perfectly with the storied brick buildings of River Market, a little slice of Missouri history.

Kansas City murals street art River Market Lewis Clark

East Crossroads

At this point, we hit the scooters — mostly, in truth, to get to our chosen coffee spot before closing time. A separate Coffeeshop Love post will be coming on that, but suffice it to say, we made it, and the coffee at Thou Mayest’s newest home, Thee Outpost, is not to be missed (also shoutout to the friendly barista who didn’t even give us an evil eye for coming in two minutes before closing). If you haven’t given the electric scooters many cities now have a try, do it — now. I’m not sure I’d use them for a regular commute, but they’re a fun and speedy way to get around, and worth it for the nostalgia trip back to fifth grade alone (I suddenly wish I hadn’t sold my electric scooter…)

East Crossroads might just be the Mecca of murals in KC. The grittier sister of the Crossroads Arts District around 19th and Main, this neighborhood has true street art — and it’s everywhere. We hit a few preplanned spots (I’ll list the addresses), but my best advice is to go to about 18th and Oak and start wandering. From Art Alley (a long passage covered street to roof in graffiti and murals) to a Kansas City Royals wall, there’s a splash of paint around almost every corner. Just be sure you don’t miss the vibrant Production Wall, in the Made in KC lot, and eclectic Art Alley, between 17th and 18th around Locust and Cherry Streets. Meander around east of Oak Street from about 17th to 19th, and you never know what you’ll stumble across.

 

Crossroads and Beyond

Fully caffeinated and a little high on art, we headed west to the Crossroads. Just past the Kansas City Star building, the lovely rainbow of the “Love You Like A Summer Night” mural hides behind Messenger Coffee (also a good stop if you’re not already java-ed out). Then on to Main Street, to Tom’s Town Distillery and Gallup Maps for a little Art Deco and antique flair, respectively.

We couldn’t pass by the Strong Women Empower mural, of course (cheesy selfies are a must). For those who know the area, this spot, across from Up Down bar, used to house the Kansas City I’m So In Love mural. Never fear — that classic has been relocated. We hit it next, incorporated into the Imagine That art at Imagine That (a lovely tribute to this arts organization for developmentally disabled adults). Along the way, we stumbled across the KC skyline splashed across the Spira Care building, another beautiful surprise. You see why I wander?

Full disclosure: I cheated a bit on the Damn Fine and Love the Square murals —  I had already visited and snapped pics of those, so I included them for good measure. Maybe a little outside the downtown mural tour track, but they were too good to not throw into the mix!

Obviously, this was a whirlwind tour! To do the art full justice, you’ll really have to go take a look yourself. And while you’re at it, you’ll probably discover even more we didn’t hit. Check out SpraySeeMo and @grafittikc for more Kansas City mural moments (plus more detailed info).

**If you want to follow our tour, here’s a list of the murals we visited and their locations. I included the artist when I could find it. Most titles, however, are just my own descriptions.**

Betty Rae’s (412 Delaware St.) @jtdaniels_art

Lewis & Clark (115 W 5th St.)

Production Wall/Made in KC lot (18th & Locust St.)

Art Alley (between 17th & 18th, near Locust & Cherry Sts.)

Rainbow Faces (1822 Cherry St.) @rifrafgiraffe

Ten Hundred (19th & Cherry St.) @tenhun

Until the Rave Summons (around 17th & Locust St.)

Retro Noir (501 E. 17th St.) @sikestyle & @lucidflows

Revilo Octopus Panda (500 E. 18th St.) *This building is unfortunately now partially collapsed*

Vulpes Bastille Fox (1737 Locust St.) @sabertooththomas

Sebastian Coolidge Woman (1608 Locust St.) @sebastiancoolidge

Tropical Starry Night (17th & Oak) @pyramidguy

Pyramid Girl (446 E. 17th) @tylercoey

I Love You Like a Summer Night (1624 Grand Blvd) @abbyyemm

Tom’s Town (17th & Main St.)

Gallup Maps (1733 Main St)

Strong Women Empower (1919 Baltimore)

Spira Care KC skyline (1916 Grand Blvd) @rifrafgiraffe & @amiayars

Imagine That (200 E 20th St)

Independence Love the Square

Damn Fine (Brookside)