Published January 10th, 2019 at 6:00 AM
Laura Comer is proud to work in a city with “really strong women chefs.”
Early in her career, she worked with Debbie Gold at 40 Sardines and Megan Garrelts at Bluestem. Today, Comer is the executive chef of the Dining Experience at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
The Dining Experience (1601 Broadway), routinely offers a three-course, prix-fixe menu for $37. But during the 2019 Kansas City Restaurant Week – which kicks off Friday and runs through Jan. 20 — a special three-course menu is $33.
A record-breaking 200 restaurants have signed on to take part in the 10th annual city-wide charity event featuring $15 lunch and $33 dinner options. Ten percent of the proceeds goes to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City, Kansas City Regional Destination Development Foundation and the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.
The Dining Experience – which opens for dinner at 5 p.m. before most performances — will open at 5 p.m. on the nights that performances are being held during restaurant week. During restaurant week, “diners who aren’t attending a show can also take advantage of later seating times.”
“People are surprised to learn that we have a restaurant,” Comer, who will participate for a third time, said. “They say, ‘Oh! You can eat at the Kauffman Center?’”
Diners can sample one of three starters from the regular menu: brown butter cauliflower soup with an apple funnel cake and chive oil; pomegranate orange salad with candied pistachios, red onion, Manchego and vanilla-pomegranate vinaigrette; or a roasted carrot salad with dried cherries, wheat berries, chickpeas and honey-lime yogurt.
Comer’s personal favorite? The roasted carrot salad, a St. Luke’s-approved, heart-healthy option.
Circle B Ranch’s Missouri-raised heritage pork loin with apple compote, spoon bread and green beans and sticky toffee pudding with vanilla bean ice cream complete the special menu.
After many years of quietly working behind the scenes, Laura Favela is moving into the spotlight as executive chef at the newly opened Silo Modern Farmhouse (17501 W. 87th St. Parkway, located near the Lenexa Public Market).
Favela was previously the executive sous chef for Aramark’s Crafts & Drafts in Kauffman Stadium and fed tens of thousands of people at the Super Bowl and World Series. Her Silo menu is “different in scale but still the same,” focusing on fresh, seasonal ingredients, hand-made pastas, breads baked in-house and scratch desserts, like the Harvest Spice Cake.
And, with Favela at the helm, no one is likely to leave hungry.
Uber-hearty offerings include a jumbo turkey leg confit – although gargantuan might be a more accurate description — served over a three-grain risotto, Brussels sprouts hash and a sherry-bacon gastrique, or the Mongolian pork duo, which pairs a hefty Duroc pork chop with braised pork belly over Yukon whipped potatoes, braised cabbage and spicy hot mustard.
Favela was born in Mexico. She counts her grandmother, who lived in the United States while she was growing up, as one of her earliest culinary influences. She feels an obligation to represent her grandmother and immigrants in kitchens across the city now that she’s in a highly visible leadership position.
“As a female and Hispanic, I have a lot of battles. Most of [them], I win,” she said.
Scan the dessert menu at Pierpont’s in Union Station and Katherine “Kat” Keeling’s amaretto chocolate mousse with crunchy potato spirals offers a sweet-and-salty siren call.
When Keeling shared the mousse with Chef de Cuisine Brian Livingston, he said it reminded him of a Wendy’s Frosty. She ran with it: “Have you ever dipped fries in a milkshake?” she asked.
Keeling graduated from Shawnee Mission School District’s acclaimed Broadmoor Bistro program. She went on to study at The Art Institutes International Lenexa campus.
She credits her time working with noted pastry chefs Megan Garrelts at Rye and Jessica Armstrong of Novel, as well as Sherri Church, a Hen House bakery manager, for preparing her to take the reins as pastry chef. Both Rye and Novel are participating in the annual event.
Restaurant week diners can choose chocolate pots de crème with vanilla bean marshmallow (because everybody loves chocolate, and many diners are surprised to learn marshmallows can be made by hand) or a mixed berry bread pudding with creme anglaise (always on the Pierpont’s menu in some form).
During the crush of restaurant week, it’s important to offer menu items that represent a restaurant’s regular offerings, but also ones that can be prepped in advance and assembled quickly.
“People go crazy for Restaurant Week,” Keeling said. “It’s hard work for us, but it’s about good food, really fast, at a good price, for a great cause.”
Jill Silva is a James Beard award-winning food editor and freelance writer. You can follow her at @jillsilvafood.
This story has been updated with the restaurant week hours for The Dining Experience at Kauffman Center following an update to the Kansas City Restaurant Week site.