I’m excited to share the cover for Expedition of Thirst: Exploring Breweries, Wineries, and Distilleries across the Heart of Kansas and Missouri. Any guesses on where this photo was taken? Hint: It was shot in Missouri.
Published by University Press of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, and due out in October 2017, my fourth book is a regional travel guide. Expedition of Thirst maps routes that crisscross eastern Kansas and western Missouri. In summer and fall 2016, I made many trips and stops at most of the 150 breweries, wineries, and distilleries in the book. Yes, the research was tough as I sipped and sampled beer, wine, and spirits.
In the book, I introduce the men and women behind the craft. You’ll meet interesting characters and gain a sense of place in each locale. During my travels, I explore varied landscape from the Flint Hills of Kansas to the plains of Missouri and Ozarks. Between reading the travel entries and expedition notes, you will find some insight into the history, culture, and geography of the territory I traveled. A wide range of color photographs also bring these people and places to life.
I look forward to retracing my routes in fall 2017 and spring 2018 with the book in hand. Hope you will too. Meanwhile, I hope you will pre-order a copy now. I’ll sign copies and ship them direct to you, beginning in October once the book is available.
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As part of the Missouri Valley Speaker Series, I will present a talk about my most recent book. Stockyards Brewing will also serve beer at a reception before the talk.
About the talk: To the delight of local beer aficionados, Kansas City has seen a proliferation of new breweries in recent years, building on a history that dates to the 1850s. In a discussion of his new book Kansas City Beer: A History of Brewing in the Heartland, author Pete Dulin explores how factors such as advancements in transportation and technology, European migration, and industry competition fostered early growth in the local brewing industry. And how the rise of major breweries of the post-Prohibition era – including Muehlebach, and more recently Boulevard Brewing – led to a modern wave of craft brewers that continues today.
Above image: The former Heim Brewing bottling warehouse and plant located in the East Bottoms.
I visited Fair Share Farm in Kearney, Missouri, in late March. There, I met with long-time friends and farmers Tom Ruggieri and Rebecca Graff. They grow crops for their community-supported agriculture (CSA) members and canned fermented foods like kim chi and sauerkraut. The trip’s purpose was to research and gather information for a story in the June issue of Feast magazine. The story focuses on farming techniques that enrich the land and preserve the environment. This audiovisual journal provides a behind-the-scenes look at some of the farm’s operations not covered in the print story. (Image above provided courtesy of Fair Share Farm.)
Through audiovisual journal entries like this one, I will share a peek into my work as a writer. In this case, it is literally in the field. I plan to use similar journal entries to explore and expand different forms of storytelling. Please look, listen, and leave a comment about what you like and what could be improved.
Hopefully, you will enjoy this visit to Fair Share Farm. I enjoyed tromping through the fields and discussing the role of small-scale farmers like Tom and Rebecca. As the sun set, we settled down in their home for a truly farm-to-table dinner with ample conversation, wine and beer. But that’s a story for another day.
The chicken pen. Guess which one rules the roost?
Tom and Rebecca cover starter plants before cool evening weather sets in. The passive solar energy greenhouse design uses natural heat to help the growth of seedlings into starter plants.
The high tunnel is used to extend the growing season and produce a wide range of crops. At times between plantings, the chickens are rotated to the high tunnel and let loose to feed on insects, seeds and plant matter, till the ground through their pecking, and leave manure as fertilizer for the soil. This integrated system of biological farming (rather than chemical-based farming) improves the health of the soil. It also helps to sequester tens of thousand of carbon dioxide through consumption by cover crops, such as oats and field peas, instead of being released into the atmosphere.
Below, the high tunnel with full beds of lettuces, greens, herbs and other crops.
The second annual Females on Fire event at Jax Fish House brought together a collection of talented female chefs and restaurant industry professionals for a five-course dinner with amuse bouche and drink pairings.
Held on October 11, 2016, this year’s featured chefs include Julian owner and chef Celina Tio, Bluestem pastry assistant Elise Landry, Krokstrom Klubb & Market chef Katee McLean, chef Kelly Conwell with Stock Hill Kansas City Steakhouse, Novel pastry chef Jessica Armstrong, and chef de cuisine Theresia Ota and executive chef Sheila Lucero from Jax Fish House. Drinks were prepared or selected by Clare Gillette with Pinnacle Imports, sommelier Jennifer Daugherty, Jax Fish House assistant general manager and cicerone Margaret Adams, cicerone and BackNapkin marketing director Erica Schulte, Restless Spirits Distilling co-owner Benay Shannon and Ça Va sommelier Caitlin Corcoran.
Also held annually at Jax Fish House in Denver, the Females on Fire event creates a showcase for the female talent in an industry where the top talent is predominantly white and male.
Rather than interpret the meaning of Females on Fire from my perspective, I invited several of the women involved in this event to share their thoughts on its significance and value.
Chef de cuisine Theresia Ota, Jax Fish House What does participation in the Females on Fire dinner mean to you as a professional in the restaurant industry? Bringing Females on Fire to Kansas City was one of the first thoughts that crossed my mind when I got hired at Jax Kansas City. My boss and mentor Chef Sheila Lucero was hosting these events in Colorado when I was a brand-new cook. I always aspired to be invited to attend, and now I get to host them! It’s a thrill and an honor.
What do you think Females on Fire signifies or communicates to the public in attendance? The Kansas City restaurant community is super talented, welcoming and supportive. I hope Females on Fire showcases all of those qualities.
Favorite aspect of the event?
I love getting to work with these women. We all manage kitchens. We all have a somewhat similar experience making our bones in this industry. I view Females on Fire as a celebration of making it, and achieving the goal of becoming a titled chef. I want more women to be involved and experience camaraderie; that we can all achieve and be successful.
Pastry assistant Elise Landry, Bluestem In my career so far, I’ve worked a handful of events with a similar layout as Females on Fire with a group of chefs coming together and each having a course and a pairing. However, I’ve never worked a dinner where I’ve gotten my own course! I see it as a huge step in my career, and it means a lot that those I’ve always seen (and continue to see) as mentors are starting to become my peers.
I think the Females on Fire dinner represents a shift in the once male-dominated industry. More and more I see kitchens with an equal number of men and women. This dinner was a way to showcase (some of) the female talent in KC (because there is a lot!) to the public. The dinner sold out, so I think it’s safe to say we are a force to be reckoned with!
Erica Schulte, Certified Cicerone General Manager, The Rockhill Grille Marketing Director, Back Napkin Restaurant Group I participated for the second year in the Females on Fire dinner. It’s an honor for sure! There are a ton of women in KC constantly raising the game in the industry so it’s a huge compliment to get asked. It’s such good networking as well as an easy way to build new friendships.
I hope that the attendees see it as collaboration as well as an experience they look forward to every year. Local women coming together to present something collectively shows respect and passion. It’s such a fun and laid-back event. Hopefully they see it as a chance to be introduced to new food or spirits/beer/wine that they didn’t know about. Educating is always a big thing for me and putting it into such a fun dinner is a blast.
My favorite aspect is that it’s just plain fun. Preparing for it has never felt like work, because it’s something I love. The experience both years has been memorable. At the end of the day, that’s more important than anything – creating the experience they won’t forget.
Chef Celina Tio, owner of Julian and The Belfry What does participation in the Females on Fire dinner mean to you as a professional in the restaurant industry?
We’re all so busy. It’s awesome when we get to cook and share best practices with other great chefs.
What do you think Females on Fire signifies or communicates to the public in attendance? I think that it show exactly that – community. We all work hard to do great things but when you can support one another, that is extra special. I know people aren’t going to dine with me every day of the week. I like to be able to suggest other great places throughout the city. When we come together and work together, we show everyone that teamwork is key.
Favorite aspect of the event?
Finally meeting some people whose places I haven’t yet been because of my schedule.
Sommelier Jennifer Daugherty As a woman in industry, dinners like this are really exciting because I’m used to being one of the few women in the building. In fine dining, the standard still seems to be put a cute girl at the door and that’s it. In the last decade, I haven’t worked with more than four other female servers at a time. To spend an evening with knowledgeable women at the top of their game was invigorating.
I’m excited to have been part of the event to show the public we are out there. It may take poolingfrom different restaurants to fill a room, but that’s another story. Despite my pin, I often have guests who don’t seem to believe I’m a sommelier. The chef I was paired with, Katee, has people assume she must be front of house when she says she owns a restaurant. People automatically assume chefs are men and women work in diners and call you “hon” as they serve you pie. I sometimes have people googling food info at my tables because they don’t think I know what I’m talking about.
My favorite aspect was listening to how collaborative everyone was. We tried each other’s courses or pairing and discussed in thoughtful detail how we felt about it. We immediately started spit balling off each other about future adventures we’d like to make happen.
Chef Kelly Conwell of Stock Hill prepared an amuse bouche of Fanny Bay Oyster with apple, cucumber, ginger, and Champagne mignonette. Restless Spirits distiller/co-owner Benay Shannon paired the course with a cocktail of Builder’s Gin, lavender and lemon.
Chef Jessica Armstrong of Novel created a crab eclair with caviar. Clare Gillette selected Champagne Extra Brut NV Pierre Gerbais from France for the pairing.
Chef Katee McLean of Krokstrom Klubb made smoked scallops served with roasted and pickled cauliflower, celery, and sour cream. Sommelier Jennifer Daugherty opted to serve Sancerre, Chaumeau Balland 2014 from France.
Chef Celina Tio of Julian accented tai snapper crudo with raspberry, wakame, and yuzu. She paired the course with Jolly Pumpkin’s O Saison beer.
Chefs Sheila Lucero and Theresia Ota of Jax Fish House composed a dish of abalone with hand-folded rice noodle, cha shu, scallion, black vinegar, and dulse. Erica Schulte’s beer cocktail featured J. Rieger gin, Blossom of Peace plum sake, Hitachino wit beer, and ginger.
Chef Elise Landry of Bluestem prepared brown butter tart with roasted plums, buttermilk ice cream, and thyme. Caitlin Corcoran of Ça Va served Champagne Demi-Sec NV Premier Cru, A Margaine, from France.
While researching Kansas City Beer, I came across some interesting facts and trivia about Kansas City’s breweries, including the maker of Rochester Beer.
In 1897, Kansas City-based J.D. Iler Brewing Company, also known as Rochester Brewing Company, sent a shipment of its Rochester beer to Yorkshire, England, customers on demand for “holiday entertainments.” Previously, a group of Brits toured numerous breweries and sampled beers across the U.S. They were referred to Joe Iler’s brewery in Kansas City. The touring Brits preferred the superior quality of light Rochester beer to heavier English ales, porters, and stouts of the era. They had Rochester beer shipped across the Atlantic to drink it with guests at holiday parties.
Also, J.D. Iler Brewing Company promoted its Rochester Beer through unusual advertising. It sponsored a set of color lithographs depicting exotic scenes from around the world for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. The name of the brewery and beer were both displayed on the artwork created by Harper’s magazine illustrator Charles Graham.
To learn more about this Kansas City brewery and others, pick up a copy of Kansas City Beer.
Westbound immigrants, pioneers and entrepreneurs alike arrived in Kansas City with a thirst for progress and beer. Breweries both small and mighty seized opportunity in a climate of ceaseless social change and fierce regional competition. Muehlebach Brewing Company commanded the market, operating in Kansas City for more than eighty years. Built in 1902, the iconic brick warehouse of Imperial Brewing still stands today. Prohibition made times tough for brewers and citizens in the Paris of the Plains, but political “Boss” Tom Pendergast kept the taps running. In 1989, Boulevard Brewing kicked off the local craft beer renaissance, and a bevy of breweries soon formed a flourishing community. Food and beer writer Pete Dulin explores Kansas City’s hop-infused history and more than sixty breweries from the frontier era to the twenty-first century.
This book was fascinating to research because it involved finding “facts” in several ways. I studied old city records from the mid-1800s and dug through publications and marketing brochures of yesteryear. I contacted historical societies and reviewed digitized copies of books on Google. For any brewery that existed prior to 1989 when Boulevard began, research involved sifting through print and online sources. No one from the late 1800s to early 1900s before Prohibition was alive to interview!
For more contemporary breweries, such as Boulevard Brewing which was founded in 1989, I was able to interview key people including founder John McDonald and others. I reached out via social media to track down people that once worked at former breweries and brewpubs in the 1990s. Again, I perused online articles, websites, and other resources as well as reading book and print material. Perhaps the most fun part was interviewing the modern generation of Kansas City brewers from the 1990s to present, knowing that their stories fit in the sequence of history I was assembling as a book.
In the introduction to Kansas City Beer, I link the history of the city with its brewery history. The latter is innately tied to the former. During the process of writing and after completing the manuscript, I felt keenly aware that I was recalling, defining, and recording history from past and present. In a short span of time, my book will seem like ancient history. Even now, I find myself observing and thinking about current events, whether it is brewing or politics or social change, through the lens of history to provide a long-term perspective.
I’m pleased with the final result of Kansas City Beer. It’s easy to read with short profiles of nearly 70 breweries from roughly the 1850s to 2016. Much has happened in the history of Kansas City and its breweries.
Before arriving at Pome on the Range Orchard and Winery in Williamsburg, Kansas, the drive from Kansas City involves reaching escape velocity along the twisting construction zone lanes of I-35 South. Past the suburb of Olathe and outlying towns of Gardner and Edgerton, uninterrupted prairie stretches out lean and flat.
By early June, hot dry winds blow across green and golden fields bleached by the sun. Purple prairie clover and white clover blankets ditches and subtly sloping hills. Highway patrol cars in the median shine like beetles and bask like turtles in sunlight, waiting to bolt like jackrabbits and strike like rattlesnakes.
The Sioux word “Kansas” has been interpreted to mean “people of the south wind.” After an hour’s drive, I take exit 176, rumble along Idaho Road, pull into the gravel drive of Pome on the Range Orchard and Winery, and find a Kansan before me. Owner Mike Gerhardt, dressed in a faded beige shirt and navy shorts, stands next to a tractor and chats with another man. They both exhibit the copper-red tan of farmers and ranchers, men at home in the sun and soil.
Inside the tasting room, I introduce myself and explain that I’m researching regional wineries, breweries, and distilleries for a forthcoming travel guidebook, Expedition of Thirst. Gerhardt, looking gruff at first behind a blond, thick bristle brush mustache, leans back against a counter. He answers questions about the orchard and winery that he owns and operates with his wife Donnie. Later, I learn that Kelly, a tall young woman with blue eyes that works at the shop, is also a fourth-grade teacher.
Gerhardt reels off details about apple varieties that make the best cider and fruit wines. He doesn’t grow grapes or use them to make wine. Instead, he blends fermented apple juice with juice concentrate from blackberries, raspberries, blackcurrant, and other fruits to produce his wines. At 2,000 gallons, the small-batch winery is only part of the orchard’s business operation. The shop and tasting room also sells locally-grown fruits and vegetables and preserves, honey, and other goods produced in the region.
During the course of our talk, Gerhardt talks about customers that unknowingly use fruit as a device to access memories of childhood. A customer might ask for a certain variety of peaches or Black Diamond watermelon, convinced that the specific variety of fruit is the best ever. Gerhardt locks eyes with me and slowly shakes his head. No, he says, there are other peaches or watermelon that taste much better. When the supermarket or a farmers market stand carries “peaches and cream” sweet corn, customers snap it up by the dozen. Actually, Gerhardt points out, that corn is most likely Ambrosia or another variety. It is only called and marketed as peaches and cream because that’s the name the public has associated with sweet corn.
People often latch onto the idea of fruit from a farm, a specific variety in particular, not because it is truly the best, but instead the fruit reminds them of a childhood memory. Gerhardt shares a personal story of growing up on a farm, where the house had no air-conditioning. During summers, the family ate evening meals on a wooden table in the south part of the yard under a shade tree. It was too hot to eat in the house. After dinner, the family dined on cold sliced watermelon. Gerhardt doesn’t recall the taste of that watermelon but it prompts the memory of his youth and family meals.
Buying peaches, watermelon, sweet corn, or other farm-grown foods becomes a device for tapping into memories and a prop for sharing stories around the kitchen table. Most of us do not live, or haven’t lived, a rural agrarian lifestyle. These trips to the farm or supermarket to buy “farm fresh” produce helps us access an idealized nostalgia of childhood, even if the memory is imperfect. Or, the trip inspires a feeling of something pure and authentic although we didn’t experience farm life firsthand growing up. None of this commentary is meant to suggest that visiting and buying at the farmers market or direct from the farmer isn’t worth your while.The best best is to venture to the source. Talk with the farmer, rancher, winemaker, brewer, and baker to learn, taste, and touch the food, wine, and farm-produced goods. Before recollection, there must be the collection of experience.
Expedition of Thirst: Exploring Wineries, Breweries, and Distilleries in Central Kansas and Missouri (University Press of Kansas) will be published in fall of 2017. This series of posts documents stories and observations of the people and places I encounter during my research and travels that won’t necessarily be included in the travel guidebook, due to its size and format.
Over the weekend I discovered Hearth Bread Company, owned and operated by pastry chef and baker Dylan Low in Weston, Missouri. I was in Weston to research Green Dirt Farm’s new Creamery for a story in Northland Lifestyle’s July issue. The bakery (17985 N. Missouri 45, Weston, Missouri, 816.805.4206) opened in 2015 and is located just around the corner from the Creamery.
I didn’t spend much time in the bakery. The golden loaves of German sourdough rye that Low pulled out of the oven looked hearty and smelled like an invitation to stay at the bakery forever. They were destined for sale at the Creamery. By late afternoon, Low was sold out of his daily allotment of loaves at his shop except for two multigrain loaves that were purchased by others soon after I arrived. The best time to buy Low’s rustic sourdough, golden raisin and cinnamon, and other breads is early in the morning. Be prepared to vie for a spot in line behind the locals in Weston that gather to buy fresh-baked bread.
I look forward to a return trip when I can learn more about Low, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa before returning to his hometown to start Hearth. He mills much of his own organic flour. While in his early twenties, Low’s approach to the fundamentals of baking’s tried-and-true methods seemed timeless.
I can finally reveal the cover to my next book, Kansas City Beer: A History of Brewing in the Heartland. The book will be published by American Palate, an imprint of The History Press and Arcadia Publishing. The publisher will release the book in October 2016.
In the coming months, I will share more back story and notes on the research and writing process behind the book. For example, the black-and-white photograph above, courtesy of the Jackson County Historical Society Archives, depicts workers at Ferdinand Heim Brewing Company. In 1887, Ferdinand Heim, Sr. of St. Louis purchased a sugar refinery and acreage in the East Bottoms and built a new brewery on the northeast corner of Guinotte Street at Agnes. Today, Local Pig butcher shop and the Pigwich food truck are located near that intersection on the former brewery grounds.
This is my first book that delves into the history of breweries and Kansas City from the 1850s to present. I’m excited for the book to be released. It comprehensively covers historic and contemporary breweries with bits of history from Kansas City and regional and national events.
The photograph of Kansas City on the book cover was shot by Roy Inman. Roy is a fine local photographer known for shooting the iconic shot of the KC Royals World Series rally at Union Station. I’m thankful to feature his photography that depicts downtown Kansas City’s skyline in such dynamic fashion.
If you have questions about Kansas City Beer or the city’s brewery history, drop me a line.
I wanted to make a Moroccan-inspired turmeric chicken dish for three reasons. First, I wanted to turn on the oven this morning to heat the room. Second, today I needed to use four chicken thighs. Third, I craved bright flavors and colors to offset white snow, gray clouds, and the monotone-colored dishes I have made in recent days.
With the skill of an amateur masseuse, I rubbed the chicken thighs and skin with a blend of kosher salt, black pepper, crushed white cardamom, yellow mustard seed, brown mustard seed, and turmeric. The primary hassle with using turmeric is that it stains everything a golden yellow unless you wipe off surfaces and wash dishes and utensils after using the spice. It’s supposed to be good for health so I guess that’s worth the hassle.
Next, I put the thighs in a greased dish, covered them with foil, and roasted them along with sliced onion and fresh-squeezed clementine juice at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes. In order to brown the skin, I removed the foil and roasted the chicken for another 20 minutes. The skin wasn’t getting as brown and crispy as I wanted. I took the tender chicken out of the oven and set it aside. I removed the seasoned skins whole and laid them flat in an iron skillet. The skillet went back into the oven until I had golden brown, crispy chicken skins.
To round out the dish, I made Israeli cous cous by toasting the uncooked grains in a sauce pan with olive oil. After adding hot water and some pieces of cooked onion that was stained with turmeric yellow from roasting, the cous cous steamed for about 12 minutes. Meanwhile, I made a gastrique by combining white vinegar and raw honey in a small pot with fresh clementine juice. I added a few stalks of lemongrass for good measure. I heated the mixture, let the lemongrass steep for a few minutes, removed the stalks, and sucked on their sweet-tart lemony flavor. The gastrique reduced until it was syrupy.
I needed some ingredients to make a light salad that would accompany the chicken and cous cous. I walked in the snow across the street to the City Market and entered the Al-Habashi mart. The store owner and I exchanged greetings. I filled small white paper bags with slivered almonds, dates, and golden raisins. I strolled over to the bulk spice section and filled plastic bags with bay leaves, cloves, and ground cumin to restock my pantry. After paying, I walked further along the covered stretch of the market, bought a pair of pomegranates for a buck and a cluster of parsley for two quarters. I trudged back home.
The salad was a blend of finely chopped parsley, chopped dates, golden raisins and pomegranate kernels. I added bits of turmeric onion for a savory flavor. I wanted to use fresh mint instead of parsley but didn’t feel like heading to the Asian markets. The City Market vegetable vendors only had parsley on display so I worked with what I had.
Before assembling the dish, I toasted some almond slivers in a saute pan. After removing the almonds, I sauteed segments of clementine with a dab of clementine-lemongrass-honey gastrique until they were lightly browned and blistered. I fussed with arranged the chicken, cous cous, crisp skin, salad and other items for far too long in order to photograph the final composition. I wish I had fancier dishware to plate dishes like this for photographic purposes, but I use what few dishes and plates I have.
As I had hoped, the turmeric and other spices imbued the chicken with just enough flavor but didn’t overpower it. Keeping the meat on the bone helped to retain its juices and therefore flavor. The cous cous was a nutty complement to the tangy citrus of the pomegranate-based salad and the sweet-tart balance of the blistered clementines and gastrique.
The entire meal turned out to me a fuss to make, style, and photograph, but it was well worth the effort to eat. The final assembly proved colorful and hopefully looks appetizing.