Story by Dave Eckert | Intro photo courtesy of Mixx
This is a great time of year. Everything’s still green. It’s not unbearably hot. And the fresh fruits and produce are coming into their own. These are indeed “salad days.” Join me as I look at some of the tastiest and most creative salads around the metro.
I’ll start with Craig Adcock, owner of Table Ocho and Jude’s Rum Cakes. Adcock is a big fan of salads, especially those featuring the produce of Crum’s Heirloom Tomatoes. “Simple is always best. I like to combine Deb and Jim Crum’s bibb and frisee lettuce and gently toss them in our vinaigrette along with some supporting components – blood orange slices, Northern Missouri pecans, craisins, thinly-shaved 28-month parmesan cheese, and paper-thin-sliced red onions. Crack some pepper over the salad, and it’s time to eat!” Adcock exclaimed. “When making a salad, the ingredients should be fresh. Deb and Jim grow the best heirloom veggies. We are so happy to share their offerings with our guests at our dinners and as a weekly CSA.”
To experience Crum’s Heirlooms and Table Ocho for yourself, visit tableocho.com, but be advised, these intimate eight seat dinners sell out quickly.
Photo courtesy of Bamboo Penny’s
At Bamboo Penny’s in Leawood’s Park Place, you will find a Thai Summer Salad, consisting of fresh shredded mango, green papaya, carrot, crisp cucumber, red onion, cilantro and green onions tossed with a toasted coconut lime dressing finished with fresh roasted peanuts. Owner Penny Mufuka says freshness is the key. “We wanted to put together a spring/summer offering that is loaded with a punch of Thai flavors while offering a healthy option, as opposed to a heavier rice or noodle dish,” Mufaka noted. Mufaka says customer response has been great. “Good reception. Even during the winter months, salads tend to be a guest favorite. You can add protein options like chicken and shrimp, alter spice levels, etc. We make our salads to be full of flavor, great value, and the protein choices are a pleasant surprise for guests.”
Photo courtesy of KC Thai, Photo courtesy of Waldo Thai
Across the state line in the Waldo neighborhood, I traveled to the excellent Waldo Thai restaurant. Executive Chef and Co-Owner Pam Liberda creates amazing and delicious and authentic dishes across the board, but one of her favorite items is the Khoa Tod Nam Sod, a crispy seasoned rice salad with cured pork sausage, scallion, red onion, cilantro, peanut, dried chili, and lettuce. It’s a salad so popular with guests that it’s been on the menu from day one. “You can eat it as lettuce wrap if you like, but for me, I like to pick out all the crispy rice first, then eat the rest with the lettuce. It has the perfect combination of textures and flavors, which is why I think it’s so popular,” Liberda told me.
Jo Marie Scaglia, the owner of two Mixx restaurants and a third eatery called Caffetteria, calls herself the “salad queen,” and rightfully so. On a busy summer day, Scaglia says her three restaurants will serve some 3,000 meals, all made from scratch with healthy ingredients. That’s impressive, but even more so is the fact that 75-percent of those meals are salads. “We have nine or ten salads on the menu at any time, all handmade with fresh ingredients and delicious homemade dressings. I’m obsessed with salads and with freshness, and I’m a compulsive tinkerer. I just keep adding more ingredients and more layers. For example, our new seasonal salads have a dozen or more ingredients!” Scaglia exclaimed.
I tried three of Scaglia’s creations: a Santa Fe chicken, a new seasonal salad, and an awesome beet salad. It’s impossible fo me to pick a favorite, but this much I can say – I’m headed to Caffetteria soon, and a farm-fresh, hand-crafted salad will definitely be on my table!
Photo courtesy of Mixx, Photo courtesy of Acre
At Acre, a new restaurant that’s turning heads and pleasing palates in Parkville, Chef-Owner Andrew Longres focuses on local, regional, and seasonal menus. That includes his delicious heirloom beet salad with marinated cucumbers, strawberries, pickled green strawberries, whipped yogurt, and smoked black pepper. “Although our salads change seasonally, this one is a best seller year-round. I love the splashy, rich color on the plate, but flavor-wise, guests also get to enjoy the deep, sweet earthiness of the beets paired with the tang of pickled strawberries and yogurt,” Longres said.
Finally, a salad from a longtime favorite restaurant of mine – Affare. There, Chef-Co-Owner Martin Heuser showcases modern German cuisine, which, in the case of his Geräucherter Spinat Salat, a smoked spinach salad with walnut vinaigrette, apples, walnuts, red onions, and Green Dirt Farm nettle fresh sheep’s milk cheese, means smoke. “Smoke is one of Kansas City’s defining flavor profiles. Most often, you think of smoked meat, but my smoked spinach salad has long been one of our best sellers. The tendrils of wood smoke permeate the greens, adding a whiff of campfire flavor. Then the apples, walnuts, and locally sourced nettle cheese combine to create a unique tableside experience reminiscent of the great outdoors,” Heuser noted.
And there you have it-enough delicious salad choices to last all summer. Cheers!