February 17, 2012
Foodies, Kansas City
Best Italian Restaurant In Kansas City, Italian Restaurant, Jasper Mirabile, Jasper's Kansas City, Jaspers, Kansas City, KC
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.
February 9, 2012
Foodies, Kansas City
Aaron Confessori, Food Truck, Italian Restaurant, Kansas City, Richard Wiles, The Boot, Westport, Westport Cafe, Westport Street Fare
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.
December 7, 2011
closing, Jardines, Kansas City, Owed money, Tips
Some local blogs have criticized my coverage of the closing of Jardines Kansas City. I will make no apologies about standing on the side of the servers and against this owner. I try not to take sides in situations like that. I do not speak out against owners of restaurants. You will not find me critical of another local owner on this blog. I have been asked to intervene in the past and refused. This particular case was so egregious that I felt it necessary to provide a forum for the affected servers’ stories to be told.
If there were any doubts that this owner was fully in the wrong, I think they have all been resolved. It is no longer just the employees of the restaurant who are seeking to receive the tips that patrons left for them. Tips that the patrons would have been outraged to know were not being relinquished to the employees. Tonight, I have just received word that the situation was far worse. Last month, tour Jazz artist and major draw Dave Stephens played at Jardines. A substantial cover charge was taken at the door and collected by the club. Mr Stephens was cut a check by the owner, but it turns out she has stopped payment on the check according to this post on Mr Stephen’s facebook page:
There are two sides to this story. One side has an owner claiming that her entire staff was stealing from her and therefore she fired them all. She refuses to go on the record to say this, but has instead leaked it to local media sources. The other side is being quite reserved in their public accusations and simply asking for the tips that are owed them. I think this recent development should weigh heavily on which side you believe.
If you missed my original post on this topic, please read The Jardines Story
August 22, 2011
About the blog, Kansas City, Managers, Servers
David Hayden, david haydon, Hospitality Formula, Hospitality Formula Consulting, Hospitality Formula Publishing, Kansas City, Server, The Hospitality Formula Network, tips for improving your tips, tips for tips, tips2, tips2: tips for improving your tips, tips4tips, tipsfortips, Waiter
- You should be over here right now
Recently I have noticed a small spike in subscribers to this blog. That is great. I appreciate you choosing to subscribe. I hope to reward you with outstanding content that will make you glad you did. The problem is that this is not where I am doing that anymore. In December, I transformed this humble blog into The Hospitality Formula Network. The network consists of five specific blogs that each focus on a different facet of the hospitality industry. There is a blog for restaurant servers, restaurant managers, restaurant guests, and even one filled with restaurant humor. You can learn more about The Hospitality Formula Network here or just visit the home page for previews of the content available on each of the sites.
So I am not going to ask you to take the time to click a link without giving you some reason to do so. Here are three reasons why I think The Hospitality Formula Network is worth visiting or revisiting if you haven’t in a while.
Weekly Skills Focus: For the last 6 weeks, I have been laying out what I believe are the fundamental keys to improving sales, tips, and creating return guests. We are currently on week 6 of an 8 week series. I have dug back through the archives and am spotlighting on key post each week. I am adding further explanation on the server blog, but doing much more on the manager blog. Each lesson at The Manager’s Office is also accompanied with key teaching point to make this your pre-shift meeting topic of the week. In addition, I am including a “lesson plan” as such to explain how to teach the topic throughout the week to increase understanding and server buy-in. I fully believe that restaurants that follow this plan for all eight weeks will see a dramatic improvement in revenues, morale, and guest happiness.
In-Depth Knowledge: When I started this blog, I felt it necessary to cover the big picture issues first. This lead to a lot of posts that introduced philosophies that create the paradigm by which I analyze the restaurant industry. This is where topics like the 10 Rules of Serving and my Leadership vs Management series for managers came from. Now I am able to simply reference and link back to those posts when discussing more situational topics. This blog provided a great deal of background information, the current posts deal more with the real world applications of it.
The Writing is Better: If I am going to be honest with you, I cringe when reading some of the early posts on this blog. I never claimed to be a great writer. I have found though that writing like most other skills is something you get better with the more you practice. 300+ posts and over 250,000 words later, I think my writing has improved a bit. I have a stronger voice and feel more confident writing in it. I address a number of topics now that I was scared to when I started this blog. The transition was most apparent to me when shortly after starting the network I began a final round of rewrites and edits on my book. The blogs and the book both benefited greatly from the efforts that began trying to peck together posts for this blog.
Speaking of which, did I mention that I released a book? My first book Tips²: Tips For Improving Your Tips was released just two months ago. I truly believe it is the finest book available on the topic of the skills servers need to make exceptional tips. I do not say that because I wrote it, I say that because I have spent some time looking into other books available on the topic. I did not write the book to make a quick buck. I did not slam some information together and print it up on a Xerox machine. I did not release an eBook and hope to sell a few copies. I spent two and a half years writing, testing, editing, rewriting, copy editing, designing and publishing. I am not looking to sell a few copies while I am working a desk job. This is not just another product I can sell my consulting clients.
This book is my manifesto on serving. After 16 years in the business and countless misguided server training programs, I distilled the information that has allowed me to be a successful professional server into a simple format that servers can benefit from immediately. I founded Hospitality Formula Publishing to help provide this information directly to the hospitality industry. I have two more books in developement and am on the lookout for other strong voices within the industry that I can help be heard. This is not a way to market myself. This is my attempt to fundamentally change the way that servers are trained.
I take seriously the fact that I am not just some consultant who wrote a book. In less than five hours I will be tying on an apron to start another week serving at The Majestic Restaurant in Kansas City. I have to say it is a bit odd at times living the double life of author and server. Over the last two months I have received a bit of publicity. I have been featured on/in KSHB, KCTV, KCUR, The Pitch, The Kansas City Star, The Employee Lounge, and Tony’s Kansas City. This leads to the inevitable, “Hey aren’t you that guy who wrote a book?” If you ever really want to increase the pressure of serving, try to be the server who wrote a book on serving. There are no more off nights. You are expected to bring the show to every table every night. I refuse to be a hypocrite about the things I write about. I know they work because I do them.
So thank you for visiting this site. I hope you enjoyed the post, now get over to The Hospitality Formula Network and let’s change this industry together.