Posts tagged ‘salads’

Happy Gillis Cafe and Hangout

Ever heard of the Happy Soupeater? That would be Todd Schulte, who delivers gourmet soups around the metro on the weekends. During the week he is at the stove of the Happy Gillis Cafe and Hangout, a funky little spot in Columbus Park. It used to be a sundries shop and the sign still hangs from the building. It attracts a diverse clientele, those wearing suits and ties as well as those in painter’s pants or ratty jeans. Many get a sandwich to-go, others  grab a seat at one of the vintage tables and chairs, still others juggle a sandwich on their laps while sitting on a bright orange velour sofa in the living room-like area.

Breakfast and lunch are served, both with a fairly limited but creative menu.  One would think soups would dominate, but there are only one or two daily soups offerings. A few salads are also available, but the sandwiches are the focal point at lunch, deservedly so. Todd uses only fresh, high quality ingredients to ensure the most flavorful combinations. No deli turkey here, only fresh roasted slices of “real” turkey. I had what was obviously a seasonal selection–asparagus and fresh ricotta with arugula pesto and pistachios on crusty ciabatta. Wow. Tasty and pretty to look at. And I felt healthy eating it. My friend had a tuna and white bean sandwich, which sounded better than it was. Nothing wrong with it, just a bit bland. As was the arugula and Israeli couscous salad. It had all the right things going on–apricot, olives, feta, but the dressing didn’t have much flavor. A friend sitting at the next table said her egg salad sandwich  was as good as it gets. I can’t wait to go back to try the curried chicken salad which, fortunately, is usually on the menu.

While not all offerings are successful, Happy Gillis is the kind of place you go back to again and again anyway. If you make a wrong choice one time, you can be comforted in knowing that next time you’ll have something you love.  The friendly staff truly want you to enjoy your experience and odds are you will.


June 10, 2010 at 7:21 pm 2 comments


I loved the outdoor patio at the old Succotash in River Market, and I enjoyed the food, but I thought the interior of the restaurant left much to be desired.

So I was delighted to walk in the door of Succotash‘s new location at 26th and Holmes, and feast on an open, uncluttered, and cheerful new space.  Nothing fancy, certainly not pretty, but all the chairs match. And based on just one experience at this new venue, the service is vastly improved as well.

I was also happy to find that my favorite spinach salad in town is back. Taken off the menu years ago, owner Beth Barden decided to revive it, and it was as good as I remembered. Fresh spinach, wilted by a warm mustard vinaigrette resplendent with thick chunks of bacon. Add pear, walnuts and blue cheese, and it’s a full meal.

Their version of a Cobb salad, with a fried egg on top and succotash mixed in, is another favorite. Sandwiches are also plentiful, with interesting combinations and ingredients. And of course at breakfast, there are some great egg dishes to be devoured.

If you save room for dessert, you’ll be richly rewarded. The room-long counter is dotted with cupcakes, cakes and breakfast pastries.

Once a liquor license is secured, Succotash will be open for dinner as well as breakfast and lunch. I will look forward to it.

March 7, 2010 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment


Dean & DeLuca recently added a hot sandwich bar, complete with outstanding reubens, panini, hamburgers, and among the best sweet potato fries you are likely to find. A good friend, whose food sense I trust completely, told me I had to try those fries. Unfortunately, she was right, and I devoured the whole basket. They are served with a cajun mayo, and though I’m a ketchup girl, this was an unusually tasty dipping sauce.

I went back a couple of weeks later to try the Reuben and truffle fries. Though the sandwich was stacked high with thick slices of corned beef and cheese, and perfectly grilled, it lacked a certain something. Perhaps there was almost too much meat in proportion to the cheese and sauerkraut.

However, the fries were outrageously good. Instead of using truffle oil to make the fries, these are sprinkled with truffle salt (on sale at Dean & DeLuca of course, for a mere $26 a jar) after frying. Wow.

Dean & Deluca on Urbanspoon

January 10, 2010 at 8:00 pm 1 comment

Make Your Own Salad Dressing

Making your own salad dressing is so easy to do. And it’s much healthier and cheaper than buying an artificial flavor-laden version in the grocery store.

I keep old jars — from mustards, mangoes, salsas, olives — anything of a decent size with a sturdy lid. I put all of the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake them up–no need to whisk or use a blender, which reduces time and dish-washing.Homemade Salad Dressing

For a simple vinaigrette, start with some chopped shallots and a bit of mustard (depending on the type of salad, Dijon or honey mustard). Add white, red, balsamic or sherry vinegar to the jar, again matching it up with the salad you are making. The vinegar offers the best opportunity to experiment and provide some variety. Next add olive oil (I prefer extra-virgin), a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper. The traditional ratio of oil to vinegar is 3 to 1. I find that it can be 2 to 1 and still get properly emulsified, so find a mix that is right for you and your palate. Shake vigorously and you’ve got a tasty salad dressing. To give it even more flavor, consider adding minced herbs, preferably fresh. In the summer, I take advantage of the  basil, mint and oregano in our garden. Cilantro and thyme are good year-round choices.

Finally, think about adding a little cheese to the equation. Crumbling bleu cheese into the jar and shaking it up will make a terrific cobb salad dressing.

Once you get started, you’ll discover that the options are endless and that it’s easy to say good-bye to the “SODIUM LACTATE, MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE, PHOSPHORIC ACID, XANTHAN GUM, ARTIFICIAL COLOR, POLYSORBATE 60, SPICES, DRIED PARSLEY, LEMON JUICE CONCENTRATE, NATURAL FLAVOR, VITAMIN E, LACTIC ACID, NATAMYCIN ” in the store-bought stuff.

December 16, 2009 at 6:00 pm 2 comments

Oak 63 Bistro

My lunch at Oak 63 had a rather inauspicious beginning. I had heard how great the Reuben sandwich and French fries were, and I wanted to give them a try.  There was no Reuben to be found on the menu (at least the day I was in), and French fries were only available to those ordering a hamburger. I’m not a huge meat eater, and can only handle a hamburger every so often. I preferred to order the salmon BLT, so I had to forgo the fries, but my dining companion managed to talk the server into letting us at least sample a few. Literally. The three fries she brought were excellent, and I would have been very happy to eat an entire plateful.

I enjoyed the salmon BLT.  There was nothing extraordinary about it, but it was well executed and came with a broccoli slaw that nicely complemented the sandwich. In fact, that would seem to be the hallmark of the lunch menu. The selections may be simple, and not very exciting, but you can count on everything coming out of the kitchen being good.

We had a blueberry strawberry cobbler for dessert. They didn’t have any ice cream, instead offering cream, but the dish didn’t need embellishment. The fruit filling was nicely sweetened, and the cake-like topping was light and very satisfying.

Oak 63 on Urbanspoon

December 3, 2009 at 8:15 am 2 comments


Food 008I’m not usually a fan of chain restaurants, but Houston’s feels different to me. Perhaps that’s because the food and service are consistently good. My only objection is that the prices are ridiculously high. When Houston’s first opened on the Plaza years ago, the grilled chicken salad was $7.50 and so enormous I often split it with my dining partner, or took some home to eat the next day. I went yesterday and that same salad was $13 and about half the size.  I always thought the ribs were expensive at $15, but now they are outrageously priced at $26!  But surprisingly, people still pack the place. We don’t go as often, but we still go, because I enjoy that salad, my kids love the ribs and fries, and my husband thinks the veggie burger is one of the best in town. (But don’t mistake these ribs for Kansas City’s finest–that honor goes to our homegrown BBQ joints.)

Hard to believe the recession hasn’t forced Houston’s to lower its prices. Maybe it still will.

Houston’s on the Plaza

(816) 561-8542

Houston's on Urbanspoon

August 18, 2009 at 6:24 pm Leave a comment

Salad Days

I love salads, making and eating them. With the abundant fresh produce available at farmers’ markets, summer is the perfect time for common and uncommon savory creations. Here are some of my favorites.

1.Beet salad. Start with roasted beets, preferably of different hues for a more spectacular presentation. Add mixed greens, goat or blue cheese, and walnuts. For a contemporary twist, substitute shelled pistachios for the walnuts. A sherry or balsamic vinaigrette will complete the dish. (In a glass jar, combine 2 TB Dijon mustard, 1 TB chopped shallots, ½ cup balsamic or sherry vinegar and 1/2 cup olive oil, and shake vigorously. I prefer more acidity than oil in my dressings, so keep that in mind if you like a more traditional taste.)

2.Mexican Cobb. Combine chopped chicken, avocado, black beans, corn, feta cheese, tomatoes, tortilla chips, and cilantro and toss with a lime dressing. (Whisk together ½ cup lime juice, 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 TB honey mustard, 2 TB honey, 4 TB canola oil, salt and pepper). For variety, substitute grilled shrimp or steak.

3. Grilled Asparagus. Starting with a plate of arugula, sprinkle with goat cheese, olives and cooked couscous. Top with asparagus and drizzle with black olive vinaigrette. (In a blender, mix ½ cup of Kalmata or Nicoise olives, 1 TB Dijon mustard, 1 TB honey, 1 TB chile powder, ½ cup sherry or red wine vinegar, and 3/4 cup olive oil). A Bobby Flay original.

4. Caesar. Toss whole leaves of romaine with a touch of olive oil and grill for about 2 minutes until slightly wilted and a bit charred. Arrange on an oblong platter and drizzle with your favorite Caesar salad dressing. Blanket with freshly baked croutons, lots of shaved Parmesan and cracked pepper. To make a complete meal, include grilled chicken or salmon.

5. Chinese Chicken. Chop nappa cabbage and romaine lettuce in a serving bowl. Add wasabi peas, tortilla strips, grated carrots, pea pods, scallions, cilantro and grilled chicken strips. Make your life a bit simpler by using a bottle of Jade’s Sichuan Peanut sauce, available at Better Cheddar. Add lime juice to taste, and you’ll have an easy facsimile of Houston’s.

6. Caprese. Nothing shouts summer like a tomato and mozzarella salad topped with basil leaves and olive oil. Though not a traditional ingredient, I recommend a splash of balsamic vinegar as well. Find the freshest cheese available, that’s milky and creamy.

June 17, 2009 at 2:34 pm Leave a comment

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