What We Ate

Coming from what has become one of the epicurean centers of the world you might think I wouldn’t be too excited about the food in Kansas. Oh, but you would be wrong. I love food. When people ask me what I like to eat, I say food. My son and I have a rule that we have to try everything once; if we don’t like it, we don’t eat it. So far I don’t eat raw carrots, Kalamata olives, and green peppers (and even those are growing on me). I have no allergies except for an immediate crash from sugar without the exciting rush. Planning meals and cooking something delicious give me such great pleasure I get almost giddy. I love food.

That meant I was really excited to visit the Kansas State Fair. I already knew I was going to be in for a treat or ten because Joanna had listed off a few of the items I would be sampling, along with the warning that she and her dad try to make guests sick with the quantity of food they try. Ha! I told them I eat so much rich food because of The Local Tourist my job is training for the fair!

With this in mind we tried to make good choices on our way to Kansas. She packed a healthy lunch for day one, I ordered chicken fajitas for dinner that night, and we even had a salad at Cracker Barrel, the home of all things gravy-fied on day two. However, once we were settled in all bets were off. Here’s a rundown of what we ate (or most of it, anyway). You’ll either be very hungry at the end or decide that fruits and vegetables are it from here on out.

Bogey’s. Mushroom & swiss burger, curly fries, onion rings. Bite of chocolate banana shake. This place specializes in creating any flavor combination you can think of for shakes. I chose to skip that this time, but promised to return.

IHOP. Seems that servers here had the State Fair flu. I think we saw two. An IHOP is an IHOP is an IHOP, but instead of getting what they’re known for I ordered an egg white omelet with spinach, tomato and mushroom and a side of fruit. Score one for my arteries.

The Airport Steakhouse. The Hutchinson Airport has a steakhouse that’s so good pilots will fly in just for dinner. Bonus: my Kansas City Strip, which came with a soup or salad and a loaded baked potato was less than $20. After my experience serving in Chicago chophouses this was like hitting a gold mine.

Kansas State Fair Here’s where we really did some damage.

  • Pronto Pup. A chicken corn dog, served best with Granny’s Mustard. The woman at the counter told me it only had 214 calories. Not sure I believe her, but I’d like to.
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  • Bierock. Meat & cabbage filled pastry. Originated in Eastern Europe and finished up in my stomach. Yumm.
  • Roast beef on bread. We didn’t get the gravy. We should have.
  • Fried dill pickles with ranch dressing. Good, but after having them at Wiener & Still Champion I’m spoiled.
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  • Beer battered cheese curds, also with ranch dressing. Fried cheese? You cannot go wrong with that, in my opinion.
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  • BBQ Chicken, white meat, with fries. In my only good choice of the day I didn’t eat the skin. Unfortunately, the breast was so dry it stuck in my throat and the fries were wimpy.
  • Turtle Funnel Cake. Funnel cake. With drizzled chocolate. And caramel. And pecans. Notice there’s no picture?

We’re up to Sunday now. Doug made delicious egg cups served with bacon and mandarin oranges. While they went to Wichita I stayed in and had some quiet time. Just me and my laptop. Ahhhh. Lunch was the rest of my strip from the Airport Steakhouse, crusty French bread, brie, and fresh fruit from Smith’s Market. Dinner? Kansas barbecue from Hog Wild Pit Bar-B-Q. Hot links, beef brisket and pulled pork served with mashed potatoes, corn, and Texas toast are surely the way to any girl’s heart (attack).

Monday was my favorite day of the entire trip. We visited The Farm. I’d been hearing about this place of bounty and memories since we first planned this trip and I was excited to see it. What I didn’t realize, although in retrospect I should have, was that we would be served a feast by Joanna’s family.

Our lunch was fresh corn on the cob, fresh green beans, homemade au gratin potatoes, some of the sweetest watermelon and cantaloupe I’ve ever had, green tea, and the tenderest and most flavorful cut of beef I can remember tasting, and that’s after all those years in chophouses, lest you forget. The steak was a flat iron cut. While it’s still not widely known it’s gaining favor for its leanness and its tenderness. I’d first heard of it when I was working at Kinzie Chophouse eight years ago and it was introduced as their signature cut. It’s good there, but I can honestly say I’ve never had a steak served from the land where it was raised.

For dessert we had store-bought cheesecake. The only reason I bring that up is because our hostess was, believe it or not, especially after the feast she’d provided, apologizing that she hadn’t made it from scratch!

Our final notable meal of the trip was at an Amish restaurant just outside of Hutch. This was a place for down home cooking that Cracker Barrel only hopes to evoke. Chicken-fried chicken, chicken-fried steak, homemade chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes, and pie pie pie. We ended up with strawberry rhubarb, peach cobbler, and chocolate and peanut butter. I had to get that last one because after a second stop at Bogey’s so I could finally get one of their famous shakes I was sorely disappointed by the lack of peanut butter in my chocolate peanut butter. Let’s just say the pie made up for it.

While in Kansas I didn’t have any molecular gastronomy nor did I hear any arguments about whether or not foie gras was humane. What I did have was honest food served by people who love the land and the animals that provided each meal. And that is definitely worth getting excited about.

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