Kansas City pit-masters are a bit like wizards: with dashes of sauce and wisps of wood-smoke, they summon barbecue aficionados from across the world. But tourists aren't the only ones who hunger for their savory-sweet brisket, ribs, and burnt ends??locals do, too. Bethanie Schemel, owner of KC Barbecue Tours, gives both locals and travelers insider's access to the rich history??and deep flavor??of the city's smoked-meat scene through bus-guided food tours.
On these tours, groups visit famed barbecue hot-spots. They also make stops at beneath-the-radar barbecue joints. "We do have a couple smaller places on our tour that we tend to keep a secret because they are the hidden gems that not a lot of people know about," owner Bethanie Schemel told KCTV 5 News. Food isn't the only reason for booking a spot on one of KC Barbecue Tours' expeditions?participants also get a peek at behind-the-scenes preparation techniques, and can ask pit-masters for tips on what type of wood chips to use or how to build a xylophone from leftover rib bones.
Hands dig into the springtime earth, heaving up tufts of Missouri dirt cooled by the nearby waters of historic Jowler Creek. The year is 2004 and Colleen and Jason Gerke are trying their hands at winemaking, planting 250 norton grapevines in the ground near their home. Today, the 7-acre plot of land houses more than 3,000 vines, protected by insect-consuming chickens, rodent-hunting hawks and owls, and weed-noshing sheep who graze at carefully managed intervals. The sustainable vineyard sprouts grapes used to concoct nine award-winning wines?from dry to sweet?which are crafted with solar-powered devices. Jowler Creek Vineyard and Winery regularly hosts tours for up to 30 people, where patrons spend approximately 90 minutes observing the crash-diet techniques grapes undergo before squeezing into Jowler Creek's trademark baby blue sealed bottles.
The stresses of the city seem light years away for guests who retreat to Screamin' Oaks Farm, a working farm with goats, pigs, peacocks, chickens, cows, geese, quail, donkeys, and hound dogs. Visitors meet the farm's fleet of white and black goats, whose milk is sold onsite and also made into creamy chèvre goat cheese and homemade ice cream. Farmhands foster introductions to creatures large and small, letting guests milk the goats themselves and pet the furry mane of a young donkey. Turtles idle along in their own dedicated habitat as peacocks stalk the grounds, opening and expanding their turquoise plumage when a mate is nearby or when they want to take up two seats on tractor rides.
It?s hard to make new friends in a park; but, thanks to KC Crew, friendships have been blossoming all over Roanoke Park, Parade Park, and Penn Valley Park. The secret to their success is rec leagues, in which players compete in kickball, flag football, soccer, softball, and sand volleyball, a beachy sport far preferable to speed eating shells. The organization provides umpires, a game schedule, and a $100 credit at eight local bars awarded to the winning team each week. And after the sun goes down, the organization offers more in-depth studies of the area nightlife through bar crawls, themed to celebrate holidays such as St. Patrick?s Day or simulate a zombie apocalypse.
At Wine Barn, what began as a small grape-growing and hobby winemaking operation quickly grew into a larger family business. In 2007, the Wine Barn facilities were constructed, and soon a winery and tasting room sprang up, giving birth to their first vintage. Since then, Wine Barn's estate has produced a wide variety of wines to satisfy both the new and experienced wine drinker alike. The family welcomes visitors to peruse a suite of more than 20 wines, sip samples in the tasting room, or simply look out across the landscape's tranquil ponds and vineyards.
Pedal Hopper turns bar hopping into a workout. Aboard the company's European-style party bikes, up to 16 people?10 of whom are pedaling?cruise between nightlife spots, making brief stops at three of their favorite watering holes. A professional driver steers the bike for the gang as they cruise along, reaching top speeds of 8 mph. For added safety, the vehicle is also extremely well-lit, outfitted with headlights, taillights, LED lights, and a glittering disco ball in accordance with state law.