Sunday, October 11, 2015

Special places: Kansas City

D won't admit it but among his other hobbies, he loves botanical gardens, museums, long walks with the dog and so we had a few weekends full of these new enjoyments!

First, we visited the Overland Park Botanic Gardens.  For $3, you can stroll the grounds, hike wooded trails or meander well-groomed gardens, walk your dog, and enjoy a treat in the cafe.  We loved it.  Certainly not as extensive as the Denver gardens, but with great fall colors and late-summer blooms.  We plan to return in a few weeks when the mums (so many mums!) are blooming.  Imagine these colors, intensified in real life:

Not for snacking!

One of the last days of summery weather!

Ahh, now that looks like the fall!

Last weekend, after the Botanic Gardens, we crossed the wide Missouri for the Weston Applefest...a festival, which we both noted, had few apples and many many people.  Regardless, we had a great lunch at the Tin Kitchen where I ate the Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich with 24H slaw.  It's the best pulled pork I've ever had.  Afterwards we stumbled on a Polish pottery shop just around the corner from the restaurant.  I always associated that pottery style with homemakers and SAHMs and military spouses but I found for once that the pattern absolutely suited my taste.  The price tag, not so much, so we left empty handed.  D says we can buy Polish pottery once we visit Poland and not a minute sooner, but I can get Weston pottery in Weston if I want.  I see his point...sigh.

Later in the weekend, we took our first-ever trip to Ikea.  Based on the number of cars in the parking lots we both dreaded a crowded tangle of shoppers inside, but instead we moved freely from store corner to corner and floor to floor thanks to the well-planned layout.  Everything there is about efficiency, isn't it?!  I imagine we'll use an Ikea design and storage aesthetic when we build our tiny accessory dwelling unit one day. While fun to look at and imagine the possibilities (storage!  bunk beds!  everything with umlauts!) it just doesn't suit our style these days, and we aren't exactly looking to over-stuff our small home any further. 

Last night we dined with friends at Tin Kitchen (yes, again!) where I ordered the same pulled-pork sandwich.  Afterwards we sauntered around the corner to the Weston Irish Festival, held annually on the grounds of O'Malley's, a great pub, brewery and restaurant with an interesting history of bootlegging, prohibition, and architecture.  This brewery, established in 1842 by German immigrants, eventually contrived itself as an Irish-style pub and remains a Weston landmark, with several levels of underground caverns creating an intimacy in the lively and rowdy bar setting.  D and friends sipped on cream ale and an adult version of root beer, and we sat in the grass listening to some great Irish bands in the cool of an autumn evening in western Missouri.  I can't drink much alcohol these days - absolutely never during the week and maybe once a year.  I just can't seem to function the next day even with a small serving of alcohol.  A decade ago this was definitely not the case and I remember fondly that late-night liquid carb-loading rarely hampered the next day's events!  Polish pottery and now alcohol intolerance...oy my youth how it dwindles... :)

On Friday we went to Joe's Kansas City BBQ (formerly Oklahoma Joe's) because it's supposed to be the best barbecue in the region, if not the country.  The gas-station-cum-restaurant's been featured in many of those Food network show-off clip shows and I think the President (or many presidents!) have eaten there too.  I'm not much for pork ribs, but D pronounced them "amazing" and I agree, the tender meat slipped right off the bone without the usual tooth-snaggling fight.  Sadly, my pulled pork and brisket plate was barely warm to the taste, salty, and the pulled pork a tad mealy while the brisket was overly fatty.  Other disappointments include the bland "spicy slaw" and the highly-praised fries which were far too salty for my taste.  Sure, it's BBQ and not haute-cuisine, and I fully admit I prefer Carolina-style over KC-style blends, but I can't see why this place earns such high marks for other than the ribs.  

Next time I'll skip Joe's for Jack Stack (KC) or Rudy's (TX).  Still, it's a must to eat at such a renowned establishment at least once while we live here, and our friends who agree with a tepid review suggest we try Q39 or Gates next once we've lost our salty, greasy barbecue bloat.  

Sauce-covered and sated we next visited the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, a place we've been before.  It feels like an old friend each time we return.  There were some new works of art on the lawn (which we previously skipped due to inclement weather) where we disoriented ourselves in a glass labyrinth meant to evoke man's discombobulated journey in these modern times, and enjoyed the cornucopia-like heads:
I bring horns and fruit
I bring just fruit

I would like us to sign up for art classes, but D's not so keen...he likes to paint fences and walls and our deck, and not so much the representations of them.  This visit, his favorite exhibit was the knights and armor on the far side of a cloistered abbey, and I liked the outdoor sculpture garden.  I really enjoy seeing squirrels and birds and people interact with the art in a natural, relaxed setting.

Earlier in the weekend I ran a local 10K and I placed 2nd overall for the women, but I had a mind-numbing race.  I can't get over this hamstring tendinitis so every step I take is a footfall of frustration.  My lungs and heart feel good but due to pain I can't push myself as I'd like.   I am not one who expects running to be pain-free of course but this is different, and it's been around about 18 months, and I don't like it.  Unfortunately at this time I can't stomach the idea of taking a hiatus even though rationally it's the wisest thing to do.  I think my brain would suffer such a break in routine.  

After reading this over I notice that I've eaten far too much barbecue recently and so I'm sure I'll be running again later today to sweat off the stupor.

Here's another snapshot from the Overland Park Botanic Gardens...aren't the colors really something?