Why Jasper’s Still Belongs On The Kansas City Foodie Map| Jasper Mirabile

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Jasper Mirabile

Chef Jasper Mirabile Making Table Side Mozzarella

Last week, I wrote about The Boot, Kansas City’s newest Italian Restaurant.  I mentioned in that post that The Boot is “not your father’s Italian Restaurant.”  That is a very loaded phrase in a town where not much has changed on the menus at many of the premier Italian restaurants since I was ordering off of the kid’s menu.  Which is not to say that these are not great restaurants, but there is a very fine line between “traditional” and “predictable.”  What impressed me about The Boot was that they weren’t trying to be traditional.  What impresses me about Chef Jasper Mirabile is that he makes traditional anything but predictable.

If you are even remotely related to foodie events in town, you are familiar with Chef Jasper.  He is involved in nearly every group in town advocating sustainable, local, or slow food.  You may also know him from his radio show, television appearances, books, or cooking demonstrations.  Having myself been called “Kansas City’s Savviest Self-Promoting Server” by no less an authority than Charles Ferruzza, I can appreciate these efforts.  Chef Jasper Mirabile might have been our first local celebrity chef.  This is not always a compliment in my mind if you know my opinion on celebrity chefs.

So last night when I walked into Jasper’s, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.  By all appearances Jasper’s is a traditional Italian restaurant.  Not with the clichéd red and white checked table cloths, but with the distinct feeling of Italy.  From the paintings on the wall to the wine cellar on display, I never expected such a warm atmosphere inside having driven by the building many times.  The servers still wear traditional uniforms.  The restaurant was clean.  The dining room was not over crowded with tables.  The layout created a pleasant mixture of privacy and romance.

The menu at Jasper’s was traditional, but pre-dates many of the American-Italian standards that now are considered traditional.  I didn’t see a lasagna dish, although my girlfriend swears it was there.  I saw Berkshire pork and veal.  I would have happily agreed to any of the appetizers.  We had a lobster bisque that I would put against any soup I have ever tasted.  When you go, you have to order the tableside mozzarella.  Chef Jasper came over to the table and turned cheese curds into mozzarella right before our eyes.  Then he turned that into a delicious caprese salad that proved that he is hording ever ripe tomato in the city for himself.  He explains the entire process and the local origins of many of the ingredients.  He does all of this with his trademark passion and energy.  I imagine he has done this presentation thousands of times, but he does this with the excitement of a child having his parents watch him pop his first wheelie. 

My girlfriend has the Chicken Saltimbocca.  I was nervous to try this dish after serving it at too many Italian chain restaurants.  Now I know what they were shooting for.  The prosciutto worked wonderfully with the light sauce.  This was not a strange variation of a picatta sauce, this sauce tasted like it was scientifically engineered to make prosciutto taste even better (which I didn’t think was possible).  I had the Pork Osso Bucco.  This Berkshire pork shank was slow simmered to the point that it fell right off the bone.  The server delivered a steak knife with it, but I could have eaten it with a spoon.  In fact, I will attribute any grammatical errors in this post to the fact that I am anticipating my leftovers for lunch after I finish writing.

There will be leftovers from Jaspers and there should be.  You have to save room for a cannoli.  Going to Jasper’s and not having a cannoli is like going to the Trevi Fountain and not tossing in a coin.  This wasn’t something I was looking forward to because I had sworn off cannolis after eating far too many of the sugar stuffed treats.  Jasper’s cannolis were difference.  You taste the ricotta and the cinnamon.  The emphasis is on flavor and not gluttony.  These were so tasty that I had the second cannoli for breakfast this morning with my coffee.

I suppose that something should be said about the service at Jaspers since that is the focus of this blog.  Our server Anthony worked the room like he owned the place.  He joked with his tables, smiled at everyone who passed, and was spot on across the board.  The service was impeccable without being stuffy.  In a restaurant built on the core concepts of hospitality, Anthony personified them all.  It is tough to be a server in a restaurant with a dynamic owner on the floor that the guests came to see.  He worked the floor like an honorary Mirabile, and after this visit that is about the highest praise I can give.

I could write all day about the subtle nuances that make Jasper’s special.  It is not easy to impress me with service and hospitality.  I found myself taking notes on things I saw at Jaspers.  The food was incredible and the service was perfect.  There is something great about Jasper’s.  It is a sense of pride that you see in everyone working there.  It is a passion to do things the right way everytime.  That is the tradition that I wish more Italian restaurants would aspire to uphold.  It is tough to put your finger on what makes this restaurant so special, but it is something you owe to yourself to experience.  Do yourself a favor and make a reservation at Jasper’s, just save room for a cannoli.

The Boot- Kansas City’s Newest Restaurant Is A Hit

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The Boot Westport Kansas City

Being in the restaurant industry leads you through a series of phases when you eat out.  When you first start out, you are constantly trying to learn from watching others.  This leads to critiquing the server constantly when you have a bit more experience.  Eventually, you realize that you have become incredibly annoying to the others at the table and stop doing this.  You learn to dismiss any missteps and become an incredibly understanding guest.  After 16 years in the business, I have reached a phase where I value one thing above all else in restaurants: consistency.

That why I have been eagerly anticipating the newest restaurant from Aaron Confessori and Richard Wiles.  The pair started Westport Café & Bar less than two years ago.  It has been one of my favorite restaurants since my first visit.  They have a modern approach to French cuisine that provides the flavors of Escoffier without the gluttony.  The freshness is apparent in every dish.  Even my most critical service industry and foodie friends are always open to this suggestion to end our deliberations of where to go for dinner.

In the last few months they opened a second concept.  Westport Street Fare is a welcome addition to the Kansas City food truck scene.  Offering tortas, burritos, tacos, and quesadillas in Westport is a solid business model.  In addition, they offer an amazing ramen noodles dish as a special most evenings.  They could have easily justified lowering their standards and made a fortune feeding drunken patrons of the local bars.  Instead they created in the back of a truck the best Mexican inspired food to be found between Ixtapa and Frida’s.  My sole complaint about Westport Street Fare is that it is only open Thursday-Saturday and has been temporarily closed to help open the new restaurant.  When they reopen for St. Patrick ’s Day, you can count on me being out front for a spicy pork torta and some house made ramen noodles.

This leads me to their newest venture.  Rumors have been circulating for months about the pair launching their third restaurant in under two years.  I have been eagerly anticipating this restaurant.  In all fairness, it was probably my incessant questioning that landed me an invite to the pre-opening trial run of The Boot last night.  The waiting was worth it and my anticipation was warranted.  The Boot is not your Father’s Italian restaurant.  There was no lasagna or fettuccine alfredo on the menu.  Instead it was a menu that would be more reflective of a modern Italian restaurant.  Interesting cuts of different meats prepared with the exceptional execution that has made their other restaurants shine.  With all entrees priced under $20, I was also pleasantly surprised at the value.

I would highly recommend the duck and the short ribs.  Both were outstanding dishes and prepared to absolute perfection.  I have never had duck that was as lean and as flavorful while remaining incredibly tender.  The short rib was tender and paired with the polenta it created a meal that found the perfect combination of filling without requiring a nap afterwards.  No one will find these portions overwhelming.  They are not meant to be split.  They are satisfying while allowing you the ability to indulge in some interesting starters.  The restaurant offers a variety of sausages and meatballs to begin your meal.  While I have never counted myself as a fan of either, I thought The Boot did both very well.

The only criticism I have ever encountered or had myself about Westport Café & Bar is that the service can be spotty.  I gather that this criticism has been heard and addressed by Aaron and Richard.  I have not encountered any service issues in my last several visits to Westport Café.  I was also impressed by the staff they have assembled for The Boot.  Looking around the room made it clear that they have gathered some of the top talent in Kansas City.  Sitting with three friends in the industry, we could almost list the resume of some of the servers.  This is a good sign for any restaurant. 

I have never aspired to be a food critic.  That would mean eating at too many bad restaurants.  I eat where I enjoy the food and know that it will be executed well.  If a restaurant does not impress me, I will not return.  If it does, I will return frequently with friends and recommend it often.  Even before The Boot, I ate at Aaron and Richard’s restaurants at least once a week.  I have a feeling it will be more often now.  The food is outstanding and the execution of the dishes is consistently exceptional.

Introducing Foodie Knowledge

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Foodie Knowledge is the home of all food and dining related posts on The Hospitality Formula Network.  All of my previous foodie related posts are now found on this site.  Additionally, it is the place for discussions of restaurant etiquette for servers and patrons.  This is the place for foodies and the issues that impact them.  Today you can visit to find a great article on servers touching guests including a link to an piece I was quoted in yesterday.

Here are some of the articles you can find on http://www.foodieknowledge.com

 

Proteins

Foodie Friday: Beef Made Easy (Part One)

Foodie Friday: Beef Made Easy (Part Two)

Foodie Friday: Beef Made Easy (Part Three)

Foodie Friday: Salmon Basics

Foodie Fridays: Salmon Species

Foodie Friday: Types of Crab

Fun Crab Facts and Jokes

Dr Strange Salmon

Lobster Facts and Trivia

The Stumpers

Prosciutto, Pancetta, and Serrano

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Foodie Issues

Five Great Food Stories

Foodie Friday: Health and Environmental Issues of Salmon

Pasta Name Origins

Foodie Friday: Fact or Fiction

How Wild Fish Is Caught

Seafood During Pregnancy

Ranch Dressing and Why We Love It

Tipping On To Go Orders

The Great Debate (Introduction)

Food Allergies: A Responsible Approach

Fruit Flies

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Cooking

Understanding French Sauces (Part One)

Understanding French Sauces (Part Two)

Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar

Regional Barbeque Styles

Searches Answered

Chef Nicolette: An Introduction

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Drinks

Cherry Limeade Recipe

Introducing: The Designated Drinker

Espresso Drinks

Designated Drinker: Harry’s Bar Bellini

Wine Apps for your Phone

Designated Drinker: Egg Nog

Thank You Mister Robinson

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Photo by Chris Cummins Kansascity.com

(Note: I wrote this piece last week upon hearing this untimely news.)

I never worked for Paul Robinson.  To the best of my knowledge I never even waited on him.  When I read today that he passed away on Monday it probably should not have affected me the way it did.  Honestly, I am not sure that I have any right to be writing this post.  Mr Robinson had a greater impact on thousands of lives than he had on mine.  Still I can’t help but feel sadness at the loss of a man who was a restaurant legend in the truest sense of the word.

I grew up with the legend of Gilbert/Robinson.  Two restaurateurs that changed the face of the industry and ran nearly every great dining spot in town.  At one point “GR” ran nearly all of the restaurants in Kansas City’s main dining district, The Country Club Plaza, as well as concessions for the airport and both stadiums.  It boggles my mind to think of a single company controlling such a large number of the city’s outlets.

Read the full post at The Manager’s Office

Recommended Reading 11/22

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Recommended Reading

I recently had my first real Christmas experience of the season.  I was driving to work and got stuck behind someone who obviously had no idea how to drive outside of the suburbs.  Parking was incredibly tough to find.  Once I was parked, a group of shoppers asked for directions to a jewelry store.  Then as I approached work I heard the familiar sounds of one of our local panhandlers poorly playing the only Christmas song she knows.  In the words of the song we will all be sick of soon, “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”

Not so fast though.  We still have Thanksgiving to look forward to.  This week I wanted to bring you some stories that will make your turkey day more enjoyable or at least provide interesting conversation starters.  We all know you are tired of having the same conversations over football every year.  Here are a few topics that might delay the turkey nap a little longer.

We all know the drill of getting overly full on Thanksgiving.  CBS News published a great article on how to keep from blowing your diet on Thanksgiving.  They also have a great article on avoiding allergic reactions amongst your guests.  This is always good information to have because a memorable Thanksgiving is not worth sending someone to the emergency room.  For all other things Thanksgiving, Yahoo has you covered.

Pretty soon calories are going to be much more at the forefront of table conversation.  Starting next year restaurants with over 20 units will have to start disclosing calorie counts on their menus.  This should make for some very interesting conversations at tables.  MSNBC has already started talking to operators about how they will handle the transition.  It is time for us all to be planning ahead on this one.

One of the ways people will react is to start cooking at home.  My favorite source for delicious healthy recipes is Sit. Stay. Cook. I think she sums up the philosophy of the website well on the opening page. “It’s easy to make food taste great when you fry in oil, wrap it in bacon, or slather it in heavy cream. Try making healthy food taste delicious. That’s a real skill.”  Her recipes are ambitious, but her posts walk you through them in an easy to follow manner that will allow you to pull it off.

All this talk of turkey day may be a little outdated.  Some people avoid turkey on Thanksgiving.  My girlfriend informed me that I would not be one of them this year.  For those of you looking for something a little different, seafood is always an option. To find out what fish to seek out and what to avoid, there is no better source than Seafood Watch.  This is my first stop for all questions seafood.

Finally, lets get back to the real meaning of the holiday.  Thanksgiving is about being thankful for what we have and giving back to others.  Last week I read a great story about a chain called Raising Cane’s that really integrates this into their business model.  The son of Beppo from Buca di Beppo fame has a new concept in Las Vegas.  They have made giving back an integral part of their marketing strategy and should be seen as an example for other companies to follow.

One thing that most of us can be grateful this year is having a job.  I will count Native Napkin over at Sorry, Not My Table as one of those.  For those of you who cannot be grateful for employment, he has some very humorous tips on finding a new job.  This post is potentially not safe for work.  It is still well worth a read.

Thanksgiving only comes once a year.  I hope you all are able to take the day off to enjoy with family and friends.  I will be wrapping up an early dinner to enjoy my favorite part of living in Kansas City.  Just a few blocks from where I live the Plaza Lighting Ceremony will occur.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the coolest Thanksgiving Day tradition in the country, here is a video of last year’s ceremony.  My restaurant is right in the middle on those lights and I will be enjoying the official start to the most lucrative time of the year.

Food Allergies: A Responsible Approach

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None of these are a good way to end a meal.

I have one hard and fast rule when it comes to waiting tables.  No one dies on my watch.  I have had several guests leave the restaurant in an ambulance, but none of them have died.  It is a simple thing, but it helps me sleep better at night.  I may not be changing the world with this rule, but I cannot imagine the guilt of breaking it.

This is why I am particularly careful about food allergies.  Knowledge of food allergies is the most basic tool  a server has to prevent guests from facing life-threatening reactions in their restaurants.  This is too often treated lightly.  I once heard a surgeon say that the only minor surgery is the one someone else is having.  The same can be said of food allergies.  While it may not seem important to every guest, the difference between a peanut and a tree nut can be the difference between an enjoyable meal and a trip to the emergency room for some of your guests.

Read the full post at Foodie Knowledge

Chef Nicolette: An Introduction

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Chef Nicolette at her CIA graduation

A few years ago I had the opportunity to work with a very talented and passionate pantry cook named Nicolette.  She left not long after I started to attend culinary school.  I advised against it.  She has since graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and become an accomplished pastry chef.  I asked her to answer a few questions about school and what she gained from the experience as what I hope is a prelude to future posts.

Read the full post at Foodie Knowledge

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