The swirling circles made by perfectly formed sushi rolls aren’t complete unless they’re accented by the bright spheres of tobiko. These candy-colored beads are part of what make the platters at Kansas City sushi restaurants so aesthetically appealing. But what are they?The eye-catching embellishments are actually the roe of the Japanese flying fish, a sleek and swift dynamo that earns its name by breaking the water’s surface and soaring over the ocean for up to 200 meters before plunging back down. Although these acrobatics are striking, the flying fish’s vibrant roe are what draws in diners. Their natural flaming-orange pigment creates a stunning contrast against dark strips of nori and white rice. However, because they absorb color and flavor well, artful chefs often infuse roe with various ingredients to alter their appearance, creating tobiko that range from squid-ink black to wasabi-inspired neon green.Aside from their beauty, the tiny eggs pop pleasantly on the tongue once bitten, and their texture—not to mention their brine and umami flavors—are difficult to imitate. This doesn’t mean that restaurants don’t try for cheaper substitutes; masago, roe from the unremarkable capelin, is often dyed orange and swapped for tobiko, but the lack of crunch should distinguish it from tobiko.However, many restaurants in Kansas City, including Sakura and Drunken Fish, insist upon the real thing, garnishing their sushi rolls with the beautiful roe. But the roe is a delicacy in its own right, and has no issue taking center stage, whether cradled in a sliced cucumber or piled on a bed of sushi rice.Photo: Christmas Maki by Quinn Dombrowski under CC BY-SA 2.0Read More
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OK, so there’s no such thing as a “Kansas City pizza.” But this is indisputably a good thing, as it frees a KC pie to take on any number of forms: wood-fired, Neapolitan, New York style, you name it. With such wondrous diversity, there’s bound to be a pizza to accommodate every situation in your life. Here’s a guide to navigating your many, many options. For conquering a case of the Mondays: Extra Virgin After a back-breaking day back at work, Extra Virgin offers you an elegant, upscale space to relax and enjoy a wood-fired slice. Every Monday, a creative and unique handcrafted pizza is on special. Better yet, corkage fees are waived on Mondays if you bring your own bottle of wine. Who said Mondays had to be boring? For when the party can’t stop, won’t stop: Santora’s PizzaIt’s well past midnight, you’re hungry, and it seems like nobody’s open. Except for Santora’s, of course. Open until 4 a.m., Santora’s satiates late-night cravings with signature pizzas that include the Lasagna Pie, a creation that layers italian sausage, hamburger, and a ricotta herb blend atop housemade sauce. For when you feel like getting weird: GrindersNew York–style pizzas forged from a wide—and often baffling—series of ingredients are what you’ll find at Grinders. Smoked salmon, tandoori chicken, and tater tots are just a few of your options, but it gets even weirder from there. You can also order standard slices to go, which is helpful when you need a quick meal between appointments. For the day you and gluten part paths: Waldo Pizza Waldo Pizza is beloved for its delicious custom pies, but it really stands out by providing an alternative for gluten-averse eaters. Its signature gluten-free crust is made with tapioca, eggs, soy milk, and rice flour, then topped with a special blend of mozzarella and provolone. For when payday looks so very far away: Topp’d You won’t find a single microwave or freezer inside Topp’d, a relatively new entry to the Kansas City pizza scene. That’s because freshness means everything to owner Chad Talbott, who ensures that every ingredient on Topp’d’s baked-to-order pies is prepared that very day. Still, Talbott keeps his prices low, with a single-topping pizza going for only $5.99. For when you crave the thrill of the hunt: Prairie Fire OvenA wood-fired oven on wheels, the Prairie Fire Oven alerts eaters to its presence with aromatic wafts of rosemary and garlic. And, you know, Facebook. But should you find the food truck on the Kansas City streets, you’ll be treated to creative, Neapolitan-influenced pizzas that bake over a blend of oak and cherry wood before your very eyes. Since you were able to find the truck in the wild, it’s only natural that you’d order the Sas-Squash, a hearty pie that pairs roasted butternut squash with caramelized onions and a basil pesto sauce.Read More
The most well-known Kansas City restaurants are Kansas City BBQ restaurants. Kansas City barbecue is loosely defined by super-slow-smoked meats, fragrant wood, and thick, sweet, molasses-based sauces. Kansas City can also lay claim to a barbecue delicacy that’s taking the entire country by storm: burnt ends, a much sought-after scrap.One Man’s Scraps…In the formative days of Kansas City barbecue, pitmasters would trim off and set aside brisket’s overcooked ends after smoking the meat. Full of fat and given a crisp char, these pieces were hardly ever served; most were saved for the chef or given away in restaurants as scrap meat. It was food writer Calvin Trillin’s (perhaps tongue-in-cheek) rhapsody that many say ignited the city’s love for this throwaway meat:"I dream of those burned edges. Sometimes, when I'm in some awful, overpriced restaurant in some strange town, trying to choke down some three-dollar hamburger that tastes like a burned sponge, a blank look comes over me: I have just realized that at that very moment, someone in Kansas City is being given those burned edges free."The Anatomy of a BrisketTo understand where burnt ends come from, it’s important to understand the brisket. The brisket is made up of two parts, the flat and the point, with a layer of fat between them. The flat is leaner and therefore cooks faster, while the point is marbled with streaks of fat and connective tissue that, under low and slow heat, give it a succulent, melt-in-your-mouth texture and taste. So, ironically, the traits that made chefs toss brisket’s point meat are the same ones that make it an irresistibly delicious part of Kansas City barbecue today.How They’re MadeTo cook burnt ends the way they were originally made, simply trim the point ends after smoking the brisket, cube them, and serve them under a swathe of smoky-sweet barbecue sauce. Other chefs season and further cook the point end after smoking to ensure the fat renders properly. Still others smoke and chop up the flat and point together and refer to it as burnt ends, although this mixture can sometimes end up with too-dry sections of meat.How They’re ServedA traditional burnt-ends platter includes the ends piled atop a slice or two of white bread, covered in sauce, and served alongside southern-style baked beans. However, chefs have been known to use the ends as you might use bacon: as a savory, filling garnish in sandwiches, baked beans, gumbo, mac and cheese, and more.Where to Get SomePlenty of places to eat in Kansas City serve up amazing burnt ends. Here are just a few:Arthur Bryant’s: Trillin wrote his homage to burnt ends about this KC institution; today, the kitchen makes burnt-end sandwiches using both the flat and the point.Gates Bar-B-Q: Gates uses just the point to make craveable, fatty burnt-end sandwiches.LC’s Bar-B-Q: Diners at LC’s dig into the classic iteration: white bread, barbecue sauce, and baked beans.Rye: Though not a barbecue joint, Rye makes burnt ends from the whole brisket before serving it atop sourdough and with a sidecar of pickled celery.Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue: This KC-area chain breaks the mold by crafting burnt ends from ham and pork in addition to the traditional beef variety.Read More