“Kansas City here I come” — Wilber Harrison’s song topped the charts for two weeks in May, 1959, and it rang in my ear as I landed in Kansas City last week. The purpose: sales training for a Danish robot manufacturer, Kassow Robots.
In 1802, a year before Lewis and Clark came through, French fur traders came to this area at the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas rivers. Later, in 1821, a settlement was established and named Westport. That area remains today south of downtown Kansas City and is called Westport Plaza.
Kansas City (named after the Kansa Indians) grew to became a major river port and in 1853, became a city.
In the 1930s, KC was a significant center for jazz. Remember the lyrics: “Standing on the corner of Twelfth Street and Vine”?
Then KC became a meat-packing center and barbecue joints popped-up all over town.
Today the metropolitan area has a population of well over two million and is a sports and barbecue hub.
Founded in 1905, this suburb south of Kansas City, Kansas, is where the Santa Fe, California, and Oregon Trail passed through. Old town remains on Santa Fe Drive, and the original clock tower still dominates the area.
Just down the block is the Clock Tower Bakery and Café. They are famous for all things baked — especially breads. The café also serves a variety of boutique sandwiches, and the chicken salad is superb.
Just east of Overland Park is Prairie Village and home of the renown French restaurant, Café Provence. Now in its 20th year, the Quillec family’s restaurant has been listed consistently as one of the top 100 restaurants in America.
It’s a classic French bistro just like you would find in France. Décor is dominated by fashion model pictures. The toilettes have antique French commodes, but there are no white table clothes.
Reservations are essential because seating is limited. So, Melanie, one of the family, seated me at their small bar. I was grateful because we could chat, and I did learn a lot about the café.
I perused the menu and the wine list in detail. It’s consistent with what you would see in French-speaking regions of Europe. I started with a nice Cotes du Rhone, and tried to develop a strategy. Wines from this region are made primarily from the Grenache varietal and are moderately dry with hints of blackberry. Perfect!
After much consternation, I wanted to try their award-winning onion soup, but instead decided to go all in with the la terrine du foie gras. That’s a duck liver terrine, and it was spectacular. Served with peach chutney and a chunk of zucchini bread — all nicely presented on a balsamic reduction. That’s as good as it gets, and Melanie even made it better by digging into her reserve stash for a glass of a wonderful Sauterne. What a sensory delight!
What to do next? So, I inquired with Melanie on the most popular dishes. Surprisingly, the veal scaloppini (won’t bore you with the long French name) and Amish chicken breast top the list. Other Le Terroir entrees include duck breast, pork persa and filet mignon.
The Rivieres et Ocean offers three choices: salmon, halibut and sole de douvres meunière. All looked tempting; however, having had sole meunière at Hotel d’Angleterre in Geneva a couple years ago, I had to compare. Served with haricot verts and al dente Yukon gold potatoes, this large slab of delicate fish was seared to a golden, crusty brown, but the center was moist and flaky. The meunière sauce was spot-on and paired wonderfully with the fish. Chef Phillip Quillec has raised this French classic to another level. With Melanie coming up with a glass of white Burgundy from her reserve stash, it was elegant, French perfection.
Café Provence is one of the best restaurants I’ve visited in quite some time but consider going in the fall. The heat index was 108 on this day!
Loren Shaum is an automation engineering consultant, retired pilot, author, home gardener and sometimes chef. He and Gayle reside in Syracuse. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally Appeared Here