A Jazz Age Night in KCMO

A Jazz Age Night in KCMO

In the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City, Missouri, is located the Green Lady Lounge.  In a town like Kansas City, well-known for its jazz-steeped history, the Green Lady, a reference to female ghosts of lore?, carries that torch with pride. Past the unassuming door lies a low-lit, red adorned room that beckons with a long bar, two live jazz band areas on two levels.  Gold framed mirrors and oil paintings as well as velvet-covered lamp shades embellish the place.  We had to jockey for a table but after some cool negotiations, we found a cozy spot right up front where we could see the band as well as the swarms of people ordering drinks, rubbing shoulders and swaying to the music.

Photo Credit:  Chelsea C. Marshall. On our way to the Green Lady Lounge

About every two hours, the bands switch out so for me, the chance to hear a variety of jazz sounds was the real treat. The later band was better.  The people watching got better too, the later we stayed, until it came to that point where it didn’t.  You know what I mean? It’s best to show up at the Green Lady after 11 p.m. but you can catch the live music beginning every day — yes, every day, beginning at 3 p.m.  No cover and most of the mixed drinks are $10 or more.

We elected to have our cocktails before showing up at the Green Lady and we found, based on C2’s recent experience now living in the area, that Tom’s Town Distillery Co. is a great place to start your night. Tom’s Town Distilling Co. draws its name and inspiration from the country’s most polarizing and corrupt political boss, Tom Pendergast. Pendergast had roots in the liquor business as a saloon keeper and as the founder of a wholesale liquor company.

Several in our party tried The Angry Goat which uses Tom’s Bourbon, Lillet Rose, strawberry habanero syrup and lime.  The bartender tops the drink with a slice of jalapeno which I would avoid based on the gasps and hiccups from those who imbibed.  Be sure to select some small plates to go along with the strong drinks.  We picked mixed nuts, fried sriracha pickled green beans, tempura style,  and farm to market warm ciabatta served with olives, olive oil and balsamic.  Luckily, we were seated in the back lounge of  the speakeasy. It was a busy Saturday summer night and rocking loud up front near the entrance.  It felt like we were back in the roaring 20’s.

We didn’t plan for a tour but if we did, it looks fun.  Tours last approximately one hour and include an in-depth look at the distillation process of their spirits (gin, vodka and bourbon), a brief overview of Kansas City during Boss Tom’s rule, and a tasting of each of their award-winning spirits. Tours are $10 per person, and are offered Tuesday through Saturday.

So, cheers, to a jazzy Saturday night in the Paris on the Plains.

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Happy Spring from the Red Dirt Girl.

Fried Bologna Sandwich

Fried Bologna Sandwich

After reading a Rick Bragg short story in Southern Living magazine in which he describes in salivating detail the assembly and devouring of fresh garden tomato sandwiches, my memory returned to lazy summer days eating fried bologna sandwiches with my brothers.  My mother worked as a county social worker so when we were home alone on summer vacation, she left lunches up to us to prepare.

Sandwiches were our specialty including:  tuna melts, peanut butter and jelly, and margarine, brown sugar and cinnamon — all slathered on soft Wonder white classic bread.  Later, mom learned about the importance of fiber and switched us to whole wheat.

One of my favorite combos in those days was a fried bologna sandwich with mustard and catsup (my mom always spelled it catsup, not ketchup). We didn’t toast the bread, it was better soft so it could absorb the grease.  We took pre-sliced bologna, usually Oscar Meyer (those ads even got to our frugal Mom), melted margarine (no real butter existed in our home in those days) in a frying pan, placed the bologna slices carefully in the grease to fry gently on both sides.  We made tiny slits on the edges of the bologna with a knife so it would lay flat in the pan and not curl.  I liked my bologna very crispy (SPAM too but that is for another blog).  We put one or two slices of fried bologna between slices of bread, spread liberally with mustard and catsup, and enjoy.  I liked mine with a side of baked beans or fruit cocktail (always wanted the single cherry in the can) if we had any in the pantry and always a dill pickle spear.  It is not a prize sandwich without a pickle on the plate.

bologna
Delicious, yes?

I don’t eat bologna sandwiches anymore in fact I don’t remember the last time I ate one.  Most likely, I last consumed one in my youth or maybe in desperation during my college days when I lived off bad dorm food and free happy hour tacos.

I doubt if I made a fried bologna sandwich today it would taste as good as I remember.  Like in Rick’s experience, when he described his tomato sandwiches to kids today, they say “yuck”.  They would rather slather avocado on multi-grain toast, top it with flaxseed and microgreens and call it a meal or go by Starbucks and order a latte with a tomato basil panini.  We couldn’t even purchase avocados in Kansas in those days, they were not part of the produce section, neither was kale, flax seeds or microgreens. And we made our own coffee, on the stove, in a percolator.  What the hell is a panini?

Back in the day, bologna was so cheap, lasted forever in the fridge, and filled the bottomless pit of my brothers’ tummies with salty, fatty, cured meat parts. The catsup added sweetness and mustard that spicy, tart compliment. It was all we had at the time. Which explains why we learned to love bologna sandwiches

If you want to read more by Rick Bragg, check out some of his stories and books at Rick Bragg Southern Stories

Red Dirt Girl Goes to Antwerp

Red Dirt Girl Goes to Antwerp

On holiday recently, while based in Amsterdam, we took a day trip by high-speed train, via the Thalys route, to Antwerp, Belgium.  It’s a little over a 100 miles distance between the two cities.  We purchased 8 tickets in advance of leaving the states to be sure we had seats on the train during the busy Christmas season.  We were a group of 8 which required we have advanced reservations to nearly all of our activities including dining out. Yes, you must plan ahead.

The best cities in the world are founded with a myth, and Antwerp is no exception. The legend has it that, to cross the river Scheldt, you first had to pay a toll to a fearsome giant Statue of Brabo — Antigoon by name – or risk invoking his wrath and losing your hand. Of course a hero was needed, and he arrived in the form of a Roman soldier named Silvius Brabo. Brabo slayed the giant, cut off its hand, and tossed it into the River Scheldt. And given that the Dutch for ‘hand thrown’ is ‘hand werpen’, a city’s name was born. The story has led to a white hand becoming a symbol to be found on many a crest in the city.

The day trip worked out well as we departed on time from Amsterdam Centraal a couple of days past Christmas, around 8:30 a.m., and arrived in a little over an hour at the venerable Antwerp Station. We had the whole day ahead of us to explore the city.  But first, we took time to admire the architectural wonder of the Antwerp train station itself. The Antwerp Central Station, also known as Middenstatie (Middle station), was first used in 1905. The structure is made from a steel platform covering and a stone station building in an eclectic style. In 2009, the American magazine Newsweek chose the Antwerp Central Station as the fourth most beautiful train station in the world.

cathedral
Our Lady’s Cathedral

After arriving and getting our bearings, we walked toward the central plaza of the city but first stopped off for a visit to the artist’s Ruben’s home who painted around the same time as Rembrandt.  The house contains many of his masterpieces along with artwork from artists that he trained in his studio also located here.  Ruben favored religious figures, some landscapes, a few self portraits, as well as hunting scenes and animals.  Lots of grays, blues and greens — too dark for my taste.  You could still smell the oil paint in the house or at least I imagined I smelled it — the paint was so thick on the paintings and so many oil paintings in such a small space.  Many famous artists passed within these old walls over the years.  If walls could talk, eh?

ruben
Ruben’s Home

Afterwards, we devoured Belgium waffles from a local street vendor (if you could only smell the warm waffles, sweet chocolate and winter air) and then, partially sated, we traveled on toward the popular plaza area where the Christmas market is located at the base of Our Lady’s Cathedral of Antwerp.  The north church spire towers into the blue sky above us and we put on our sunglasses for the first time since arriving in the Netherlands.  We welcomed the sun.  Inside the cathedral, the spiritual space is impressive with its grizzly crypt, artwork by Rubin and other baroque masterpieces and architecture.

waffles
Waffles!

Outside the cathedral there are ample chocolate, diamonds and lace shops surrounding us on all sides just enough to satisfy the tourist shopper in all of us.  Needing a break, we found an old tavern, squeezed up a narrow, spiraling staircase to a small second floor overhang to sample some of the famous Belgium beers with the locals.  Our favorite was De Koninck bolleke.  We even found the local brewery later in the afternoon, took an interactive, quirky tour and sampled even more of their beer offerings.  The tour ended with purchases from their gift shop for friends back home.

antwerp
Let’s go home, Brr

The day was so full of festivities for locals as well as tourists.  The trains and sidewalks were packed with families enjoying a day off, eating and drinking samples from the Christmas market stalls and enjoying carnival rides.  Many in our gang, bravely went up on an old Ferris wheel to get a better view of Antwerp even in the cold and windy, late afternoon winter weather.  I tried the famous Belgium fries with curry catsup and mayo dipping sauce and found them top-notch especially eating them from the classic paper cone.

old bar
Antwerp Tavern

After walking miles on cobblestones exploring the city, we headed back to the station for the last train back to Amsterdam.  Sore feet and tired legs but a great day exploring a little bit of Flanders with my sweet family.

beer
De Koninck Blond Beer

 

 

 

Red Dirt Girl Goes to Amsterdam

Red Dirt Girl Goes to Amsterdam

We arrived at the Schiphol Airport at two on a cold afternoon, Christmas Eve Day,  after traveling for at least twelve hours before arriving at our final destination –  a modern, light and festively appointed international hub for both air and train travel in the Netherlands. We were officially on holiday with our family including our three daughters, our new son-in-law, our daughter’s partner, and a long-standing family friend making us a party of eight.  We were a mixed bag but all comfortably over the age of twenty-one and ready for some debauchery in the Venice of the North.

all together

Having never been to Venice, I don’t know how Amsterdam compares but I found this city more akin to New Orleans than any other metropolis in the states.  Although, Amsterdam built its city on the water, New Orleans strives, unsuccessfully to keep the water out. Both cities embrace all comers and offer up the arts in all forms.

canal rides

First, the canal houses with gabled facades line the waterways providing you, through unshuttered windows, an intimate peek into the daily lives of the Dutch.  Amsterdamers evidently like living a curtain-less existence, thereby showing the world they have nothing to hide. Take a leisurely stroll down any street and you are sure to notice one startling similarity: a persistent lack of curtains, and hence personal privacy.

bikes

Second observation is that bike riders rule in Amsterdam.  Pedestrians are measly targets for sadistic riders either on scooter, bicycle or tram.  Watch the f— out for them, all the time. Seriously or better yet, rent a bike and join them at their own game.  They ride in the wind, the rain, the dark and the snow. We saw them do it with our own eyes as we dashed out of their way. There are nearly 900,000 bikes in the city, four times the number of cars.  This city even has a huge bike parking area in the center of the city.  I have no idea how the owners even find their solitary bike in the vast sea of spokes and fenders.

melina

Check out the city art scene.  Our pick was the Van Gogh Museum.  We felt like we knew Vincent and his family after spending several hours learning about his life, his short but prolific painting period of only ten years, and how the demands he made of his self, his  mental illness all become too much. Vincent felt he had failed as both an artist and a human being. It didn’t help that he sipped on turpentine and was known to eat paint.  Vincent shot himself in the chest, which I found an odd attempt, and he died of his wounds in 1890 at the age of only 37.  Sadly, his art work got better, the more he struggled with mental illness as you could see from the progression of his first great piece, “The Potato Eaters”, to the “Bedroom” and “Sunflowers”.

with jessica

We did take a peek at the infamous red light district one evening after dining at a nearby Indian restaurant, Ashoka. Highly recommend the restaurant for the friendly service, accommodating chef, and fine cuisine but based on my stance on feminism, should I applaud or be appalled by the legalization of prostitution? The women are running their own businesses, so they are entrepreneurs, of a sort. I think they have union. But, on the other hand, they are promoting a trade that is degrading to women and perpetuating a culture in which women are treated as objects.

We drank a fair amount of beer along with other types of spirits during our stay.  The local beer is found at Brouwerig’ Tij a brewery under a windmill to boot.  So crowded but the beer soothed sore feet and we loved their logo. Yes, we bought the souvenir shirt.

2brouwerijhetij_SidebarLogo-150x150

We also bought Delft dishes (how can you resist the blue and white patterns?), some cool prints from Gallery Varekamp, featuring scenes from around Amsterdam to remind us of our journey, along with packages of stroopwaffles, two thin waffles stuck together with caramel, and salty Dutch liquorice.

Beyond what I have already shared, it was the simple moments that I will remember best.

  • Tram rides and getting lost and found again
  • The issue of no ice, at all, in our Air BnB — why?
  • Watching Dutch cooking shows on television – they seem to love to cook outside in the snow on an open fire
  • Skip-Bo, lots of Skip-Bo
  • Daily postings to social media
  • Sunrise at 8:30 a.m., sunset at 4:30 p.m.
  • Learning about Banksy, the street artist
  • Listening to the sing-song sounds of the Dutch language
  • Family meals together. Ok, just being together.
  • Our daily uniform of parka, hat, gloves and boots
  • Opening simple stocking stuffers on Christmas morning
  • Walking, lots of walking
  • Having Melina join us from Germany for a couple of days – miss you!
  • Christmas Markets — as many as we could find in a week!
  • Ferris Wheel rides
  • Grocery shopping
  • That time all of us in the our group went right, but one went straight…

 

 

 

My mother-in-law’s tuna salad

My mother-in-law’s tuna salad

RM’s mother is lionized in his family for her tuna salad recipe.  Whenever we visit her home in Topeka over these many years, the meal on the first night of our stay was always tuna salad with a side of applesauce.  The meal is flawless for guests arriving from a long road trip, like the eight hours the drive takes for us from the Fort, because she could make it ahead, prepare the quantity needed for the number of her guests (it scales up and down easily), chill it in the refrigerator and then just wait for her guests to finally arrive.

This trip from the Fort to Topeka varies for us dependent on age of the travelers, construction, distractions, speed, start time, road conditions, amount of liquid consumed and other delays on the open road.  My mother-in-law never really knew when we would show up in her driveway but she was always ready with tuna salad.

The tuna salad works also for arriving road warriors because after being cramped in a car all day nobody is very hungry especially due to the quantity of sugary and salty car snacks purchased and consumed along the way and just general inertia.  A light protein salad just works for us Kansans born with mayonnaise in our veins.  Plus it is a tradition.  There is nothing spicy in this dish either so you don’t have to worry about acid reflux in the middle of the night just look out for the second-hand smoke from Grandpa’s cigar.

So on our recent return trip from Topeka after visiting Dave’s parents, RM was reminiscing about the tuna salad and he was missing it.  His parents have downsized now and are living in an apartment.  Dave’s mother doesn’t cook anymore. It’s been a while since he tasted her tuna salad.

So, today, as RM was feeling down from allergies and the last heat wave of 2017, I whipped us up a batch of tuna salad for lunch.  I even mixed and served it in the same metal bowl his Mom always used when preparing this salad.  Somehow that bowl makes it taste better.  I think it’s because it gets super cold in the refrigerator before serving.


So, here is the recipe so that it might live on in your family’s recipe box too.   If you don’t like tuna just substitute chicken, salmon or ham.


Sally’s Tuna Salad for 4

  • 1 can of top grade tuna drained and flaked — I use Merinos
  • Small 7 ounce package of pasta — I like the La Moderna small shell pasta boiled and drained
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs diced
  • 1 rib of celery diced with the celery leaves
  • handful of basil and chives chopped – Sally used dried but I like fresh from the garden
  • 2 T brown mustard – Sally used yellow
  • 1/4 cup of Hellman’s mayonnaise or to taste
  • 2 T sweet relish
  • lots of salt and pepper – the right amount of salt makes the dish
  • a squeeze of lemon (this is my addition)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl,  mix by hand with spoon, taste for seasoning, and then chill it thoroughly  in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (the day before is better).

Serve with fresh tomatoes, apple sauce and crackers. Iced coffee compliments it well. Hope you like it as much as RM remembers.

Urban Walks in NYC

Urban Walks in NYC

When RM and I visit a city, we like to walk the streets, feel the pavement under our feet, and begin to understand what makes this unique urban space tick.  When we walk, there is time to appreciate the architecture, to observe the river, to revel in the nooks and crannies and hidden sight lines. A peek-a-boo into the city soul.

hello chelsea
Our tour guide, C1

The traffic stops and starts, sidewalk cafes beckon us over as we look for the past in the shuttered windows and trellised ledges.  The smell of spices and exhaust fumes mix along with the potent piles of rubbish oozing the remains of the day. We wince and turn away but continue our journey across Midtown streets in the light rain.  51st to 49th to catch a risqué Broadway musical or down to lower Manhattan to pose with the Fearless Girl facing down the Wall Street Bull, stepping carefully around and over obstacles, avoiding the flagpole banner-bearing pied pipers.

trash
City trash, everywhere

A good wander unveils many truths and unexpected gems of discovery some painful to observe like the crack zombies stumbling beside us on our way to Red Rooster brunch or the morning after remnants from a night too hard on Times Square. Getting lost is part and parcel to the urban walking experience.  Getting found again with someone you love is like renewing your vows all over again.

Nowhere is walking more surreally varied and trance-inducing than in New York City. We boomerang from Harlem to Greenpoint to Lower Manhattan to the Upper East Side and back down again to the Brooklyn Bridge. We cross the East River by ferry to Smorgasburg, an open-air food mecca held every Saturday in an empty lot on the Williamsburg waterfront.  It is like a summer rock festival for foodies both alluring and sweaty.  We balance small plates on a rock ledge abandoned from a Domino sugar refinery while sipping fresh coconut water directly out of it’s cracked, greenish hull.  The whole place smells like Marrakesh, I imagine. We trek on through the heat to the cool insides of the Artists and Fleas to find a treasure or two.

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RM & I on the Brooklyn Bridge

We shuffle slowly through the Guggenheim, spiraling down beside masterpieces by Klee and Pollack inspired to try a sketch or two.  We look up at the Freedom Tower and down into the reflecting pools and worry when will it happen again, and where, and how many. We rest in Central Park until the algal bloom drives us up and out for gasps of fresher air and back to our pod for the night.

Reinvigorated in the morning after a good night’s sleep, clean socks, and a NY bagel, we complete one of the most popular walks in NYC.  We cross over the Brooklyn Bridge on foot, feed our pizza pie-hole at the popular Juliana’s, located next to the more famous Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, and then journey back over in the moonlight with a throng of tourists snapping selfies from every angle while strolling the crowded boardwalk straddling this proud American architectural feat. Back to the pod by Metro this time, too tired for another trek uptown by foot.

C1 joins us on our walking itinerary as she is living in the Big Apple this summer and is excited to see all that NYC offers in two short months.  We took the Metro when prudent but enjoyed strolls along High Line Park one late afternoon before the summer heat wave necessitated a call for Uber. Too hot to walk even to the nearest Metro station.

Whether seeing the city on foot, by subway, taxi or ferry, the important part is to experience travel with the ones you love, even if it is only you. So, find yourself a path to follow and learn to walk again. You’ve waited too long. Happy Independence Day, sweet travelers.

red rooster
My niece joins us for bruch at the Red Rooster