Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Dan's Longbranch Steakhouse

Tonight's entertainment: ZZ Not.

When Shaw told me the Wednesday night specials at Dan's Longbranch Steakhouse are $5 for a pound of wings with fries and $2 domestics, I thought that sounded like it was worth checking out. Cheap wings and cheap beers are a good combination. But I got really excited when I took a look at the restaurant's website and saw that Longbranch has a pinball machine. Cheap wings and cheap beers plus pinball is a combination that's unbeatable.

I didn't even care that the machine was a pinball version of Big Buck Hunter. I'm not really big into hunting, but with pinball becoming increasingly scarce, I'll play whatever table I can find -- even if bludgeoning your prey with a heavy silver ball does seem a little severe to me.

While Shaw and I were fine with the domestic special, we had our friend Dan along with us, and since he's something of a beer nut he decided to rock some Boulevard's Bob's '47 instead. Shaw grabbed the three of us a bowl of peanuts, and we ordered our wings. Decently sized, our pound came out to nine wings total, but taste-wise I didn't catch a lot of heat off them. Not the best I've ever had, yet far from the worst.

We also each got burgers -- the chili cheeseburger for Shaw, the blue cheese burger for me, and Dan felt obligated to try Dan's Barnyard Burger. When the chili cheeseburger and the blue cheese burger arrived, I thought they looked a little skimpy on toppings. However, there was actually just enough of the good stuff on them to complement Longbranch's excellent patties, which may have otherwise been overwhelmed. The blue cheese burger came with some habanero sauce that gave it a nice bit of zip, too.

As for Dan's Barnyard Burger, topping overload is clearly the point. I think you know what you're getting into when you order a burger with a fried egg, three slices of cheese and three strips of bacon.

After we finished our burgers and settled up, we went in search of the pinball machine and wandered over to The Branch, the bar that's connected to Dan's Longbranch Steakhouse. A cover band was playing, and it was much more hopping over there than on the restaurant side. Although the pinball machine turned out to be Pirates of the Caribbean rather than Big Buck Hunter, alas, it wasn't switched on. Still, we decided to hang out for a couple more beers.

Didn't catch the band's name -- the website says Samantha Fish plays every Wednesday but she must've had this week off, as I'm fairly certain none of these three guys were Samantha Fish. In the six or seven songs we heard, they did ZZ Top's “Sharp Dressed Man,” “La Grange” and “Tush,” as well as Lynyrd Skynyrd's “Free Bird.”

The Branch was pretty busy for a Wednesday, and it looked there were a lot of regulars. In fact, I'm not sure anybody there realized it was a weeknight. I bet the Saturday night karaoke jam there is insane.
9095 Metcalf Avenue | Overland Park, KS 66212Dans Longbranch Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 22, 2010

Boogie vs. the Whatafarm

Meet Boogie the Chubby Asian. He conquered the Whatafarm over the weekend, and even used our diagram to order it. Check out the video of his adventure below.

After watching this, I can feel the initial pangs of a Whatafarm crave coming on. It's been about a year since my last one. Medically speaking, eating more than one Whatafarm within a given 12-month period is not advisable.

Best line of the video: "And also -- vegetables." Congrats on your Whatafarm domination, Boogie! We salute you.

Apparently, you don't even need the diagram to order a Whatafarm at certain Whataburgers, as Boogie notes on his YouTube page that "some locations actually know it by name." I would love to see that transaction.

KC people -- is Winstead's our best bet for creating a monster like this in our city?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lunch Blog Goes to Fat City: Days 4 & 5

The biggest perk of guesting at Fat City last week? While talking to the Jack in the Box PR department, I scored an invitation to preview night, and you know I couldn't miss that.

It took Kelly and I like an hour to get there, though -- somehow we hit three construction zones, plus a wreck had the highway backed up. But the important thing is I got to have a couple of Jack in the Box tacos.

Here are the rest of my posts from the week.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Lunch Blog Goes to Fat City: Day 1

I'm filling in for The Pitch's food blogger Jonathan Bender while he's on vacation this week. Check out my posts from Fat City today:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Arrowhead Stadium Sandwich Roundup

Your source for all things Chiefs.*
*Assuming all you want to know about are the sandwiches.

McHugh was given some last-minute tickets to the Kansas City Chiefs season opener on Monday, and invited Shaw and I to join him. Despite the rain, I couldn’t have asked for a better first Arrowhead game experience. Whoever had the brilliant idea to book Train to play at halftime and secure victory by boring the San Diego Chargers into submission deserves a raise. That was diabolical.

Plus, making their Arrowhead debut tonight were some new concessions that we absolutely had to try. Here’s what we had, along with an evaluation of each item’s value, keeping in mind that everything at Arrowhead costs twice as much as it should -- $7.75 Miller Lites, anyone?

Bratwurst Burger from The Burger Box by Blanc
It’s a bratwurst patty, topped with jalapenos and melty cheddar on a pretzel bun. Taking nearly everything good about tailgating and fancying it up, this was easily the winner out of tonight’s selections. We paid $9. Is it worth $4.50? Considering Blanc’s usual prices, $9 seems about right.

Red & Gold Short Rib Melt from Tailgaters Grill
By themselves, the pulled short ribs on this sandwich were tender and tasty. However, they got lost in a cheese overload with all that white American and Havarti, not to mention the two thick slices of Parmesan-crusted toast. We paid $11. Is it worth $5.50? More like $3. This sandwich is an intriguing idea, but ultimately comes off as just a glorified grilled cheese.

KC Burnt Ends Cheesesteak from Blaze Burgers & Fries
There was a clear difference between the sandwich pictured and the sandwich we got, but knowing that’s just the rule with food photography, I kept thinking the next bite would be where I found some peppers and onions. Alas, it turned out what we’d been given was simply a burnt end sandwich with cheese -- although McHugh got one from a different Blaze Burgers stand that he said was loaded with toppings. We paid $8.50. Is it worth $4.25? Even without the fixings, it was a passable foodservice barbecue sandwich. But I still want that cheesesteak in the picture.

It was very cool to check out the newly renovated Arrowhead. While I’m not a big sports fan aside from college basketball, I love people-watching and tailgating. I’d only been here one other time, for U2 on the Zoo TV tour in 1992.

The Sugarcubes opened that show, and I actually got to meet Bjork. During the set by the other opening act, The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, she was watching from out in the audience so I wandered over to introduce myself. I’m sure Bjork would remember. Just ask her about that ultrasuave, short teenager in Kansas City who smelled faintly of Viaka vodka.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Otto’s Original Burger & Malt at Czar Bar

Domo arigato, Mr. Malt-Otto.

Going on nigh over a week, the take-out menu for Otto’s Original Burger & Malt at Czar Bar had been staring me down at my office’s lunch table. As I sat there munching on my salad and reading about all that goodness, I felt like an 1840s prospector being teased with visions of California and gold in every riverbed. By the time Friday arrived, I’d had enough -- my wagon was packed and ready to roll out to tastier, maltier pastures.

Forging the trail with coworkers Justin, Nick and Nathan, we got to Otto’s and discovered an excellent lunch special -- a Royale Burger plus fries and a malt for $8, available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The malt of the day was banana espresso, and that’s what I got. While I’d never thought of combining banana and espresso, it was fantastic.

The lunch special gives you the option of upgrading your Royale to any of Otto’s specialty burgers for $1.50 or $2 extra, depending on the complexity of the adjustment. I upgraded mine to the Astro, which comes topped with spicy mix, sweet chili sauce, jack cheese and sautéed onions.

The Astro was solid, but I’ve got to question myself on why I continue to experiment with sautéed onions. They’re not a team player in burger ensembles. As jarring as if Jim Carrey got a role on "The Wire" and couldn’t resist mugging it up. Just do your job, onions. You’ve got the potential to do some good work if you’d just reel it back and resist the urge to overtake the rest of the cast.

Other leading burger contenders for me included:

  • The Ottobahn -- spicy mix, cheddar, jack, cream cheese, bacon and a scrambled egg
  • The Lou Diamond -- barbecue sauce, cheddar, bacon and an onion ring
Otto’s also serves four varieties of stuffed burgers that sound pretty awesome, available for $6 ala carte or a $2 upcharge with the lunch special. I especially like the sound of the Chris Walkin -- it’s stuffed with provolone, green onion and roasted red peppers, and topped with Italian sausage, provolone, marinara and spinach.

As we savored the last of our malts, co-owner Ruth Cosgrove Miller stopped by the table to ask how we were enjoying our meal. She’s Otto’s wife, too, and told us a little bit about Otto’s history.

Otto Miller started out making malts here in Kansas City and developed a strong following before being drawn to Los Angeles, where he met Ruthie. Later, they brought their magic to Las Vegas.

It seems in every place he settled, Otto’s malts drew a devoted fan base. During his time in Vegas, Otto’s Malt Shop was given the honor of “Best Place to Take a Date When You Really Want to Get Laid” by Las Vegas CityLife in 2006.

Eventually, Otto and Ruth decided to return to KC. The two of them were responsible for launching Hamburger Mary’s, and just last month opened up Otto’s Original Burger & Malt at Czar Bar.

After having a malt here, I’m extremely glad Otto struck gold out west, and brought his riches back to KC.
1531 Grand | Kansas City, MO 64108Otto's Burger and Malt in Czar Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 16, 2010

Jasper’s Ristorante Presents “An Heirloom Tomato Experience”

Attack of the Heirloom Tomatoes!

Jasper’s Ristorante hosts an ongoing series of events called Experiences, where Jasper Mirabile, Jr. comes up with a theme and bases a menu around it. This month was “An Heirloom Tomato Experience” featuring Kurlbaum’s Heirloom Tomatoes, a local farm that grows just about every kind of tomato except Killer. Needless to say, Lunch Blog was very excited to be invited.

Arriving shortly before 7 p.m., I checked in and was immediately handed a Bloody Mary -- I firmly believe that any experience that begins with somebody handing you a Bloody Mary can’t be too bad. Then I was led to the restaurant’s screened-in back porch, where the Experience would be happening.

Part of the fun of Chef Jasper’s Experiences is that throughout the evening he gives cooking demonstrations and provides background on dishes, as well as goes off on the occasional tangent. Tonight, along with a couple of people from Kurlbaum’s, Chef Jasper schooled us on the history of heirloom tomatoes.

Here’s some Heirloom Tomatoes 101: Heirloom tomatoes are goofy-looking tomatoes grown with seeds that have been cultivated for generations. They come in a ton of varieties and all kinds of tomato flavors, from sweet to smoky to spicy. For instance, the tart undertone of my Bloody Mary was courtesy of Arkansas Traveler tomatoes.

So we learned about heirloom tomatoes. And then as Chef Jasper prepared a batch of fresh mozzarella, I also learned that I’ve apparently been pronouncing “mozzarella” wrong for my entire life.

The first dish served was tomato bisque garnished with Shatto Milk Company's Winstead cheese, and it really showed off what’s possible with a top-notch tomato. The bisque was soon followed by a Caprese-style salad made with Aunt Ruby’s Green Tomatoes and a slice of Chef Jasper’s mozzarella. However, instead of basil, the salad had a mint pesto that gave it a refreshing zing.

Next was a light but velvety risotto made with Brandywine and Red Zebra tomatoes, after which came Chicken Frederico topped with a sauce that included Cuor di Bue and Pineapple tomatoes. The chicken just about fell off the bone, and was accompanied by artichoke potatoes and a super-fennely sausage.

There were also breads and crackers on the table from Meadowlark Acres. Between the risotto and the chicken, I had a slice of focaccia that was loaded up with tomatoes and caramelized onions. I could’ve almost made a meal off of that alone.

Each course was delicious, but it was dessert that truly ruled -- Jasper Jr.’s Heirloom Tomato & Ricotta Tart with Sweet Basil Cream Gelato. The tart had a flaky, buttery crust, with a body of creamy ricotta that contrasted against the subtle acidity and firmer texture of the heirloom tomato varieties on top.

The sweet basil cream on the vanilla gelato was ridiculously awesome, too. Fresh and intense. One of the people seated nearby was at a neighboring table catching up with a friend when dessert was served, and I was pretty tempted to swipe her plate.

After five courses and some excellent conversation with my fellow diners, it looked like we’d reached the conclusion of the Experience, but not before we were given a final drink of Peachello. Kind of like the Bloody Mary earlier, I now firmly believe you can’t go wrong with any experience that ends with somebody bringing you Peachello.

Thanks again to Chef Jasper for the invitation.

The theme for the September Experience is Wisconsin Cheese, and it will be held on September 9, 2010. Other upcoming Experiences are:

  • Applecello & Local Apples on October 18, 2010
  • All About Polenta & Risotto on November 8, 2010
Seating at all Experiences is limited, and the cost is $45 (tax and gratuity extra). For more info, check out jasperskc.com.

Here's another recap of "An Heirloom Tomato Experience" from 

What You're Missing KC!, plus the recipe for Peachello.
1201 W. 103rd Street | Kansas City, MO 64114Jasper's on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Culinary Center of Kansas City’s Staff Lunch + Blue Bell Ice Cream Tasting

The Blue Bell doth toll for us.

Your Lunch Bloggers were invited by Blue Bell Ice Cream to join them at The Culinary Center of Kansas City for Staff Lunch and an ice cream tasting last week.

Held every Tuesday, Staff Lunch is when The Culinary Center opens its doors to the public, and the chefs there make whatever they’re in the mood for. And since by “ice cream tasting,” what Blue Bell really meant was “five full scoops of ice cream,” it’s a good thing that today The Culinary Center’s chefs felt like making a salad.

Fine. It was a monster Cobb salad with lots of avocado, hard-boiled egg and barbecue chicken, plus chili-lime ranch dressing.

Fine. There was also a big hunk of super-tasty jalapeno cornbread with honey butter.

It was still a salad, and it was mighty delicious.

After that, it was ice cream time. Here’s what we got to try.

  • Homemade Vanilla: Considering this is neither chocolate nor are there chunks in it, I truly don’t understand how it’s Blue Bell’s #1 selling flavor. Still, as vanilla goes, not bad.
  • Southern Blackberry Cobbler: My favorite part of pie is the crust. This flavor of ice cream has pieces of pie crust in it. Good stuff.
  • Strawberry Cheesecake: When it comes to cheesecake, I think I prefer actual cheesecake.
  • Mocha Almond Fudge: Chocolate plus coffee, and thus easily my favorite. Very rich.
  • Caramel Kettle Crunch: Vanilla with a ribbon of caramel sauce and crunchy caramel-coated popcorn. Because we all have to have dreams, apparently Blue Bell has been trying to figure out how to successfully infuse popcorn with ice cream for a while now -- mission accomplished. This is just the right amount of sweet, and if you get a bite with one of the bigger pieces of popcorn in it, you are a winner.

Staff Lunch also includes dessert, and today’s was a chipotle brownie served alongside a couple of scoops of Caramel Kettle Crunch and garnished with popcorn. We saw some of them going out to diners in the main room, but thankfully for those of us attending the tasting, after five scoops of ice cream The Culinary Center had the foresight to box up our brownies to go. Blue Bell sent all the attendees home with a half-gallon of Caramel Kettle Crunch, too. (Available in grocery stores for $6.29.)

To keep it cold, the ice cream was packed with dry ice. Don’t think for even a second that as soon as I got home I didn’t put that dry ice in the sink and try to give my kitchen an awesome rock show fog. Because I did.

Like a sucker, I split the brownie with my wife later that night. The plating in the picture is mine own -- the ones served to lunchers at The Culinary Center looked much fancier.

It was a pretty phenomenal brownie, sweet and a little spicy. Totally crave-worthy -- one week later, and I’m in serious need of another chipotle brownie fix.

In the meantime, I’ve got a spoon and a half-gallon of Caramel Kettle Crunch. Now all I need is a cable movie marathon. I’m hoping for Rocky.

Staff Lunch at The Culinary Center of Kansas City is on Tuesdays from 11:30 a.m. until either the food runs out or 1:30 p.m. It’s $12 and the menu varies week to week.

Big thanks to Blue Bell Ice Cream for the invitation.

The Culinary Center of Kansas City:
7920 Santa Fe Drive | Overland Park, KS 66204

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

QuikTrip's Cheeseburger Rollers

What we’d give to spend a day at the Roller Grill Laboratory.

Back in February when Shaw and I gave our take on QT’s Buffalo Chicken Bites, I predicted that the next QT rolling food would be stickburgers.

Ladies and gents, announcing QuikTrip’s latest -- Cheeseburger Rollers (2 for $2, or $1.19 each).

Soon as we saw them, we couldn’t wait to give them a try -- especially once we noticed all the grease the Cheeseburger Rollers were caking onto the grill. That’s how you know a burger is good.

We each put a Cheeseburger Roller on a bun and started loading them up with condiments. Ketchup, mustard and onions from a packet for me.

Flecked with cheese inside, Cheeseburger Rollers taste like a cross between a hamburger and brown-and-serve breakfast sausages. They’re “burgery.” Like if you’d never had a burger before and someone was to describe a burger to you, this is how you might think a burger would taste.

Hot dog buns aren't really the ideal Cheeseburger Rollers handling device, either -- too bready. While a hot dog has the snap of its casing to pronounce itself from the bun, the Cheeseburger Roller just gets lost in there.

Cheeseburger Rollers are a valiant effort, if not a thoroughly successful one in our opinion. Still, we here at Lunch Blog admire QuikTrip’s tenacity, and would like to offer up these suggestions for QT’s next rolling creation:

  • Tso Kebabs
  • Gyrollers (or perhaps, Shawarma Fingers)
  • Chicken Fried Steak Dipsticks with Gravy
  • Philly Cheesesteak Rollninis
  • Barbecue Logs
  • Meatball Oblongers
Also, there’s got to be a way to adapt Cheesy Blasters to the roller grill. And how has QuikTrip not yet brought back Frankenfurters? Or am I the only person that remembers those? Frankenfurters were hollow hot dogs filled with chili that you could get at the grocery store, and I think the last time I saw them was in the ‘80s.

What would you like to see added to the QT Roller Grill Wonderland?

Update 7/29/20: Who remembers Frankenfurters? Chimpotle does -- and he remembered they were actually called Frank 'N Stuff, too. Here's a commercial.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tower Tavern

Nerdery for the win.

We chose Tower Tavern for Guys’ Night the other week for two reasons. Number one, we wanted to play in the Tuesday night trivia game. Number two, the menu features a dish called “Pork Wings,” and you know that’s something we’d have to try.

Even though the game doesn’t start until 8 p.m., we arrived a little bit before Happy Hour ended at 7 so we could take advantage of the $5 appetizers special. We got an order of buffalo wings and the Tower Sliders, on the latter opting for the Deluxe version, which runs $1 more. Since the special doesn’t include Pork Wings, we decided to wait until later for those.

The dollar extra for the Deluxe Tower Sliders was well spent -- they’re excellent. You get three of them, and each one easily has 3 oz. of flavor tucked in the 2 oz. patty, but it’s the garlicky cream cheese and bacon that really make them. They come with some fantastic fries that have just the right crispy-potato ratio, too. As for the wings, they were good, albeit nothing out of the ordinary.

Shortly before the game started, the host stopped by our table to ask what our team name was going to be, and for lack of any better options we went with Fred. During the first round, we stuck mostly to the category of Three Word Band Names. We almost got stumped on who did “Desperately Wanting,” on account of Better Than Ezra being one of the world’s most forgettable bands ever.

We also got to pick up some extra points when a team of three guys at the bar called Jake, the Fatman & Cynthia were unable to answer their question from the Games category, and challenged us with it. The question was: What does LARP stand for?

Come on, if anybody in there was going to know what LARPing was, it was us -- it’s Live Action Role Playing. Perhaps our nerdery isn’t as outwardly apparent as I thought.

It became surprising all the more that Jake, et al. didn’t know that answer, when between rounds I overheard them talking Doctor Who. Took nearly all my self-restraint not to join in and make that my second Time Lord-related conversation of the day. (I’ve been listening to Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist podcast lately, and it’s empowered me to let my inner geek flag fly much more proudly.)

Before the next round started, we ordered a meatball sub ($7.50). While the meatballs themselves were tasty, overall I found it undersauced and o-cheesed, served on a roll that was too soft for this kind of sandwich. Side-wise, we got the house-made potato chips, and they were good, if not nearly as good as the fries we’d had with the Deluxe Tower Sliders.

At long last we ordered the aforementioned Pork Wings ($9), too. They’re pork shanks that are braised and flash-fried, and tossed in a bourbon-cider barbecue sauce. Pretty delicious. An order of these plus an order of buffalo wings would be about the best thing you could pair with the $2.50 Budweiser and Bud Light Tallboys that are the Tuesday night beer special.

During the second round of trivia, which included a Beatles category that I was especially excited about, we were able to build on our lead. In the category of The Afterlife, one of our opponents was given the question: Who was the jackal-headed god of the Egyptians who advocated the practice of mummifying bodies?

They missed it, and the question went out to the house. Conferring with my teammates, I guessed Mumm-Ra, but that’s actually the archenemy of the Thundercats, not to mention total dork city. Luckily, Shaw knew the right answer was Anubis, which really is just about as dorky.

Before the Final Jeopardy-style ending round, there was a speed challenge that we won by naming five characters from The Lord of the Rings the fastest. Truthfully, I’m a little ashamed of this. Sure, I dig Doctor Who, but Tolkien geeks are a whole other level of nerd that I don’t care much to associate myself with.

Our last question of the night came from the category Capitals, which meant Shaw was going to have to field it singlehandedly, because Dorsett had to leave early and I don’t know real stuff. The question was: Name one of the two state capitals that border another state. Thankfully, none of the other teams got the answer either, and we won the big game.

Now if the category had been something like Space Capitals with a question along the lines of, “Name the home planet of the Time Lords” -- that, I would’ve been all over.

This marked the first time I’ve ever been on a victorious bar trivia team -- and frankly, I was due for a win. Considering we made it happen while eating Pork Wings, I think that makes for a nice little piece of poetic justice.

Happy Hour at Tower Tavern lasts from 4 to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, with select appetizers for $5. Trivia goes down every Tuesday at 8 p.m. It’s free to play, and the prize is bragging rights, which along with $9 will get you an order of Pork Wings.
401 E. 31st Street | Kansas City, MO 64108Tower Tavern on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Test Kitchen's Ultimate Cocktail Party

Per the Test Kitchen Pledge, “Let us indulge.”

The Test Kitchen is a totally cool concept. It’s an underground supper club where prestigious Kansas City chefs prepare fancy meals for a select number of guests at secret locations.

Ever since learning about The Test Kitchen, I’ve wanted to attend one of these events. However, as befitting something with this air of surreptitious exclusivity, the recommended donations are usually kind of steep and that’s kept me from entering the lottery for seats.

So when I got the invitation for The Test Kitchen’s Ultimate Cocktail Party and saw that this time around the recommended donation was a more doable $40, I wasn’t going to miss out. Shaw and I put our names in the lottery, and a couple of days later I was way excited to get the email telling us we were go.

Here’s how all that works. First, you sign up at The Test Kitchen’s website to get on the mailing list for upcoming events, announced via save the date emails. Shortly after the save the date emails go out, they’re followed by invitations that include more detailed info about the chef and menu, plus the amount of the recommended donation. If you want to attend, you reply to the invitation and are entered into the lottery. Those lucky people that score seats are notified by email and once they’re paid up, only then are they told the whereabouts of the big night.

The Ultimate Cocktail Party was held at The Terrace on Grand on Tuesday, May 25, and when we arrived a couple of minutes after 7 p.m., the doorman told us the underground supper club was actually meeting on the roof. We took the elevator up and were greeted by The Test Kitchen's Founder [REDACTED], and then promptly got in line for drinks.

Tonight’s cocktails were being prepared by Manifesto’s Ryan Maybee, and he was offering two selections. We started with the Word on the Street, made with Hendrick’s Gin, St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur, Thatcher’s Organic Cucumber and fresh lemon juice. I am solidly against cucumbers except for when they are pickles -- although unsurprisingly it turns out I don’t mind cucumbers when they’re soaked in booze, either.

As good as the Word on the Street was, I preferred the Equinox. It was made with Reposado Tequila, Aperol, strawberry-sage syrup, fresh lime juice and a splash of ginger beer. The kick of the ginger beer is really what did it for me -- more drinks should have ginger beer in them.

While we were enjoying our cocktails, I saw somebody I knew in the line for drinks, which by that point had grown crazy long. Walking over to say hello, I tripped and spilled a couple of drops -- a few thirsty people watched that happen, and registered understandable looks of horror. I deserved every nasty glare.

Meanwhile, Chef Howard Hanna of the Kansas City River Club was serving up small bites. Among them were some rather delicious deviled quail eggs with caviar. I’d never had quail eggs before, and to me they were much eggier than the chicken variety. Following our trip to Benton’s Prime Steakhouse, this marked the second time I’ve had caviar, and I still have no concept of what it tastes like.

There was also a creamy and awesome chicken liver pate. On our second trip through the line, there was hardly any left. I’m not ashamed to say that with some encouragement from one of the servers, I used a slice of grilled bread to scoop up as much of the pate from the bowl as I could.

No shocker, our favorite small bite was the one that was fried -- arancini stuffed with pork confit, taleggio and sage. Shaw looked at the menu and seemed a little confused. “Wait,” he said. “So these aren’t just called pork balls?”

He next asked me how many arancini I thought I could eat. I replied I was confident I could do a dozen with ease, before topping out around 15. Shaw gave me a questioning stare of disappointment and declared, “Really? Because I’m pretty sure I could eat 40.”

Rounding out the small bites were grilled asparagus with Umbrian black summer truffles, heirloom radishes and baby turnips with ramp aioli, Shatto cheese curds and capicola.

As the sun began to set, The Test Kitchen's Founder called together all the Test Kitchen Disciples (that’s people who have previously attended a Test Kitchen event) to lead the rest of us Newbies in The Test Kitchen Pledge. With 60 people in attendance tonight, whereas most events have hosted closer to 20, this was the largest number of people to take The Test Kitchen Pledge and be initiated at one time. Then we were given our pledge pins. I can't imagine this is all that different from Skull & Bones.

Later on while The Test Kitchen's Founder was making the rounds, [REDACTED] stopped to chat with us, and Shaw and I got to learn more about the inspiration for the club. Mostly my major goal during our conversation with the Founder was not to make an idiot out of myself and say something dumb like, “So how about those pork balls?”

After one more Equinox, it was time to scoot. We thoroughly dug the Ultimate Cocktail Party, and I’m going to have to set aside some scratch to splurge on an upcoming Test Kitchen event.

Until then, Chef Hanna, can you please make the Shaw vs. 40 Arancini Challenge happen?