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Warrensburg, MO, United States
Love your life or change it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Movin' on Up

Critique No. 13
Fiesta Azteca
705 E. Melody Ln (Near 291 N and 50 HWY)Lees Summit, MO 64063

7 Days a week 11AM-10PM

Cuisine: Authentic Mexican
Website: http://fiestaaztecakc.com/
Phone: 816-524-1290
Max. Occupancy: 150

Average Price: $9
As you may know, Lee's Summit has it's share of Mexican restaurants and restaurants that sell "Mexican food".  Well, on December 11, 2010- Fiesta Azteca opened it’s doors.  Bringing with it, Owner Andres Orozco's family recipes and a following.  You see, they had already been WOWING the city of Raytown for 7 years with their traditional offerings and one of a kind specialties.  The new space is bigger, and believe me- from the crowd that was in there when I visited- They Needed the room!

I went in for lunch one afternoon with my sister.  Like usual I didn't draw any attention to the fact that I was going to be critiquing the place-  nonetheless, the hostess was very warm and inviting. 

We were seated and my taste buds began to dance!  I could smell the aroma of grilled meats and veggies from some Fajitas.  I knew then what I would try. I looked over the menu that was PACKED FULL of Combination plates (39 to be exact). BTW, they have a huge burrito that goes by the name of El Azteca- this thing is over six pounds of delicious Mexican flavor. If you can eat it all, your real name might be Adam Richman (MAN VS. FOOD).  I couldn't resist the fajitas though.  I chose the Fajita salad.   We were served chips and salsa, as well as some of the queso blanco that my sister ordered.  It was all Very good, and very fresh.  The chips were crisp- not greasy and flimsy as you might find if they didn't fry the tortilla long enough or at the right temperature.

I was reading on their menu that they are well known for their margaritas. They are about as big as a fish bowl, and they only use premium ingredients.  Maybe when it's not 12:15pm, I'll go back and order one....to share with a small village.

AH HA!! The feast arrives.

I liked this plate on many levels.  I liked the colors, the smells, the presentation.  It was inviting me to eat, so I did! I could taste the grilled char of the chicken.  The crispness of the onions and peppers was a nice contrast against the creamy guacamole and sour cream.  The salsa had a great smooth consistency, and a nice citrus note from the cilantro was the cherry on top (so to speak).

When I spoke with Andres after we ate, I could feel his energy and passion for the place.  You could tell that he really loves his work.  I would love to tell you there was some hidden flaw in this place- but if there was one, I haven't tasted it yet.  I've been back a few more times and everything I've eaten has been delicious. 
Remember that when you drive up to a place and it LOOKS like the other restaurants you've seen- Go ahead and try it, you might find something very special inside.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

Please visit this locally owned business and see if you agree!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Not Too Far From the Tree Pt. 1

Critique No. 12
The Fig Tree Cafe & Bakery
817 NE Rice Rd.
Lees Summit, MO 64086

Mon-Tues 6:30AM to 2:30PM
Wed-Fri 6:30AM to 8PM
Saturday & Sunday 7AM to 3PM

Cuisine: Local/Regional Specialties/Mediterranean/ Bakery

Max. Occupancy: 100

Here we are with another referral from a friend of mine.  Let's see how this place stacks up.  In Lee's Summit you have choices when you want to eat out for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  There's a little bit of everything.  Though it is a town that has the corporate eateries, I am happy that there are several home grown places!  If you're driving down 291 Highway, you'll find this hidden little spot at the corner of a strip mall in between a gas station and a hair salon.  When you walk in to The Fig Tree, you get a feeling of calm and relaxation.  The dark wood and brightly painted walls makes for a very whimsical atmosphere.

I visited the cafe on a Monday- right around closing time.  The waitress (which happened to be the manager) was very nice, she brought me my tea and I began to look over the menu. 

After opening the first page- I was astonished that this local restaurant had more things on it's menu than IHOP!  52 options (including the "kids menu") And then there was the Bakery options (not listed on the menu, I guess you have to ask?)
With my focus these days being on getting a meal that has good protein and fairly low calories- I went with the "This, That and the Other" option.  You get a half order of any soup, salad or sandwich.  You can pick 2 or 3.  I chose the Chicken Club Salad w/ Spicy Garlic Dressing and a cup of the Lentil Soup. 

A few minutes later- This is what I got!

The first thing that hit me was the color and scent of this soup.  The smell of Curry filled the air, and I got excited.  After snapping my little picture here, I turned to the soup, stirred it around and noticed that the lentils were very broken down (DING). But, it smelled really good. So, I took a spoonful and tasted... I tasted what I can only describe as lifeless, under seasoned broth with the slightest trace of curry, onion and nothing else (not even lentils (DING, DING)  I ate one more spoonful then gave up on the "soup" (DING, DING, DING!)

Salad, SAVE ME! 
I got knee deep into this salad, and I really liked it.  I was happy to see they were using Turkey bacon (a good option for people trying to cut some calories), good black olives (not the shriveled up black discs you usually see), and a dressing that had a lot of flavor!  The chicken was also seasoned well.  Now, I eat quite a bit of salad- so I've got some grounds for comparison and over all- I was happy with this one.  The only criticism I have for it was the croutons. On the menu it says the salad had "house made brioche croutons".  As you can see in the picture- this looked more like a slice of wheat bread that they toasted dry and had nothing on it.

Okay.  I left this encounter with a clear picture of how this blog entry would go- But I wanted to give them another shot because there is so much more to try.  Stay tuned for Part 2 of this review- coming soon!

Monday, December 13, 2010


Critique No. 11
Downtown Deli
19 SE 3rd St
Lees Summit, MO 64063-2322

Mon-Fri 6AM to 2PM
Saturday 9AM to 3PM
Closed Sundays

Cuisine: Mixed Fare (Mexican, Italian, American, Buffet)

Max. Occupancy: 35

Back in action, on the cold streets of Lee's Summit looking for a good meal.  I went to a place that changed several times in this year alone.  It was called Mrs. Kitty Benedetti's for several years, then Burrito Bandito for a few weeks, and now it's The Downtown Deli.  I went inside and it looked similar, just kinda Rearranged.  There was a couple and then two other people eating separately in this little joint that has 22 seats.
 I got to look at the menu, it was all over the place.  Everything from Stuffed Shells, Meatloaf, French Toast and Corned Beef Sandwiches.  There is a catering menu, breakfast menu and lunch specials menu.  I saw a Pork Pot Pie on there- and it was really cold out- so I thought I'd try something warming and hearty. It came with a salad bar as the side.  The lady behind the counter told me to help myself to the salad and she'd get started on my pot pie. 
Okay- I am going to say the following words with the full understanding that this place has one month under it's belt and that they're still working out the kinks. 
The salad bar wasn't the good.  A huge bowl with only half a plate's worth of lettuce and big chunks of red onions.  There was fine shredded cheddar/jack cheese, pepperoni, olives, pepperoncini, tomatoes, and beats in individual cups  Also some croutons and sunflower seeds and crackers on the side of the bar.  There was ranch, blue cheese, french and 1000 island.  I got what I could out of it- and took a few bites, it wasn't good.  I wanted to like it- because I go into these restaurants like a cheerleader for the small business owner.  But I'm sorry- it wasn't good.  Also there were no napkins on the table- they were only in the middle of this buffet bar. 
Then, My lunch came out- and It wasn't exactly a pot pie, as much as pork, potatoes and carrots with gravy and uncooked biscuit dough scrambled together.  You can see for yourself.
There is a tragedy in all of this- BECAUSE- the filling of this pot pie was really good! The pork was tender and well seasoned, the potatoes and carrots were succulent and delicious, and the gravy had an awesome undertone of black pepper and thyme.  Its just that her attempt to "make it work" with a store bought biscuit as the crust was a FAIL.  It was 99% uncooked dough.  If it was me in that kitchen- I'd have said "86 the pot pie, we're out of crust" or I would have gone to the customer and said "it's going to be a few more minutes on your dish" and let that biscuit cook!
I asked a few of the other patrons how their food was, just to get a consensus on some other menu items.  One guy had the Meatloaf plate with mashed potatoes and green beans.  He'd eaten all of the meatloaf but just a bite or two of the sides.  He said that the portion was just too big for him to finish.  He said he'd come back for the casual atmosphere and the big portion for little price. 
Another patron said she has been coming in several times a week for the spaghetti and (MUCH TO MY SHOCK AND AW) the salad bar.  They also have ALL YOU CAN EAT TACO BAR on TUESDAY NIGHTS and will deliver if you live downtown LS. 
I have to say that I was utterly disappointed in the food I paid to eat at this place, but when you talk to the lady that runs the place- you don't get the same feeling.  She is very passionate about cooking from scratch, using real ingredients, organic eggs and veggies and trying to make good food that people will come back for. "I intend to be here for a long time" she said.  But as they say, The road to restaurant disaster is paved with good intentions. 
Overall Rating: 1 out of 5
Please visit this locally owned business and see if you agree!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Caprese Puff Pastry Pizza

Recipe No. 6
Caprese Puff Pastry Pizza

Serving Size for this Recipe: 6-8 people
Average Cost: $9 to $11

This is a fun little dish to throw in the mix for your weekly menu!  Taking the classic caprese salad recipe and using a soft buttery puff pastry to tie it all together.  This is So super simple but so super good.  You're gonna need a few things:

1 pkg of puff pastry
2-3 Roma tomatoes
1 lb. of fresh mozzarella cheese- BelGioioso is a good one that you can find at most grocers.
1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp of good extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Lay out the puff pastry on a sheet pan, dock the pastry with a fork and cook as instructed on package.  Making these small holes will keep that pastry from puffing up (like a pizza crust!)
In a small bowl- whisk together the vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. 
Once it's cooked- let it cool for 10 minutes, then add the sliced tomato, torn basil leaves, thin slices of the mozzarella, and (whisk it together one more time) and drizzle over the balsamic dressing.  Add some kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper and eat it!

Remember to K.I.S. in the kitchen!
Keep It Simple.

I hope you have a great day, foodies!

Tortilla Soup (Sopa de la Calabaza y Pollo)

Recipe No. 5
Tortilla Soup (Sopa de la Calabaza y Pollo)
Serving Size for this Recipe: 6-8 people
Average Cost: Under $10.00
Cook time:  45-50 minutes

My pursuit of food glory has been derailed for several months now, for this- I apologize!
I have been so consumed by work; I've just not had the time to do this.  UNTIL NOW!!

I have a delicious and soul warming soup for you to make to keep you warm this fall and winter! Here's the line up:
1 zucchini
2 yellow squash
1 large white onion
2 Anaheim peppers
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 bunch of cilantro

Chicken breasts (boneless/skinless)
Masa rue (1/4 cup of cornmeal and water to combine- this will thicken the soup)

1tbsp garlic powder
1tbsp chili powder
2 tsp chipotle powder
1 tbsp Mexican oregano
salt to taste

3 tbsp Olive Oil

2 quarts of Organic (or homemade if you have time) Chicken Stock
2 cups of milk
1/4 cup of lime juice

This is really easy.  Put medium high heat on your dutch oven or large pot, and add olive oil.  Once the pot is hot- add the chicken breasts and cook to a nice golden char on each side.  (if the chicken is slightly rare on the inside- that is okay, it will finish cooking in the soup!) Don't over cook the chicken!  5 minutes should be enough.  Once cooked- remove the chicken and set it aside to rest.  Next, rough chop all veggies, but MINCE the garlic.  Add onions- and cook for 5 minutes.  Add all spices- and 2 good pinches of salt.  Cook this mixture for another 5 minutes.  Add the lime juice, cook till incorporated.  Add the minced garlic, and the zucchini and squash- cook for 5 minutes.  Pour in the chicken stock and raise to High heat (bring to a boil).

Once boiling (this shouldn't take long)  lower heat to simmer and let it sit for 10 minutes. 
(You can cut the chicken into small strips during this simmering time) Once it is done boiling and starts to simmer with small bubbles, add the bunch of cilantro (just chop it off at the stems) stir in the cilantro leaves, then take out your submersion blender (stick blender, hand blender) and blend the soup until no large pieces of veggies remain.  Then, whisk in the masa rue and the milk (continue whisking until the masa is thoroughly incorporated to avoid lumps!)  Check the seasoning- it may need some more salt.  Bring the soup slowly back up to a boil.  Then add the chicken, and reduce heat.  Let it simmer for 20 minutes- and you're done! 

A hearty and savory soup like this can really make you feel all cozy inside when it's cold outdoors- so try it out, I hope you like it!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

In These Challenging Times~We Lost Another One~

Not too long ago, I did a review on a new Italian restaurant here in Lee's Summit. When I found Napoli's it was a young business that showed promise and potential.  I even went as far as giving them the rehearsal dinner booking for my sister's wedding!  As I drove down Sycamore St. the other day, I noticed that something had changed- The once young, blooming, Italian restaurant I'd visited just one month prior- was GONE....??? Questions circled in my head- "are they getting a new sign?" "are they closed for renovations?" But no, much to my disappointment- the space was completely empty- stripped of all signs that they had ever been there except for the decal on the window bearing their name.  I was totally confused because I had spoken to Labi (former owner) several times about how business was going and he never hinted at their business closing! 

I called their Sedalia, MO location and found out that it was the only location out of 3 that was still open. 
This was sad news, but I must not mourn too long.  The previous business at the location, had also been an Italian restaurant.  Maybe Lee's Summit would rather go to Fazoli's.  Who knows...

I pour my glass of vino on the ground in your memory Napoli's.  It was nice while it lasted.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

New Kid on Campus

Critique No. 10
Next Door Pizza & Pub
3385 SW Fascination Dr.
Lee's Summit, MO 64081
Hrs: Sun-Thur 11am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11am-11pm

Cuisine: Italian/American, Buffet, Pizzeria

Maximum Occupancy: 95 plus the Patio

Bam! I'm back.  Sorry for the time in between posts- you know...life.  Well I am bringing back a story about my trip to a new face near the Metropolitan Community College-Longview Campus.  The place is Next Door Pizza & Pub. I was told by a dear friend that I must try the pizzeria, and I must try it NOW! 

This is what went down.  As you drive up to the New Longview community in Lee's Summit you first notice the colorful buildings and of course the college. Take a left at the stop light and you will drive right past Fascination Drive. On the corner you'll see NDP and ask yourself, where am I suppose to park? Keep driving, the majority of the parking is in back.  There was a nice patio area on the side for good weather days.  I walked in the back door and was greeted by a the owner Patrick Cuezze.  For lunch there are two choices- order off the menu or you can hit up the buffet.  I always try to get a variety of offerings from a new place, so I went with the menu (since it was a pizza only buffet). I didn't have a chance to try one of their 10 ON TAP or 30 BOTTLED BEERS, but- apparently they are just as much into their micro brews as they are their pizza! The waitress was nice and engaging,she took my drink order and I glanced over the menu and looked around the restaurant.  As I looked up I saw this beautiful sight hanging above the door.
If you can't read that (go see an eye Dr.)
It says "We Proudly Serve Mendolia's Italian Sausage, We only serve the Best!"

This made me exceedingly happy, because A: Mendolia's is the best sausage in the world (bias??) and B: Mendolia's is a Kansas City classic.  I love seeing local businesses support each other!!!  I have grown up eating mendolia's my whole life, and when I saw on the menu the sausage grinder- I knew that was it.  It was served with hand cut, double cooked fries.  The waitress told me to substitute for the Puerto Fries (same fries, just covered with bacon, queso and jalapenos) I went for it- I like to take the recommendations, I also got 2 squares of thier thin crust pepperoni pizza to try out their namesake.   So my order was in, I'm sitting there, trying to get a vibe on this place.  It's kinda quirky with the sports stuff, and all the doors hanging from the walls, ceilings and everywhere else you looked. Patrick later told me that the doors were all designed and painted by community members, organizations and groups.  
(You can design a door too! Just call and talk to Patrick about it.)
I didn't care for the music that was playing, just pop radio garbage (that's a big deal for me as a diner.  I like to feel relaxed when I eat, and the music was making me annoyed)  I put all that aside when I saw this set in front of me.

Lets start with the pizza.  This was a paper thin, cracker crust.  I mean just crispy and good, not dry. but crispy.  Great flavor from the sauce, nice melting cheese (they use only GRANDE mozzarella), and Rosa Grande Pepperoni- (which was very small in diameter- about the size of a nickel).  Now the pepperoni threw me off a little, because when they cook up, they tend to cup up so a little pool of grease forms inside.  Patrick says that's fine with him.  I prefer the pepperoni to be a little bigger around, but lets move on.  The Grinder:  Right off the bat, I noticed that it was not cut down the side like a hot dog bun.  This was a hollowed out piece of Italian bread with the sausage cut up and put inside with the sauce and cheese, then capped off with what I would call a "bread cork".  It was a sesame toasted flavor that hit me first, then more bread, and i realized my first bite was all bread and sauce.  So....eh, idk about that.  Next bite, tender, perfectly cooked Italian sausage, cheese, and sauce with the crusty bread and the Ah! and the Oo! it was good. I set that down for a second to dig into the puerto fries.  This was like HALT!! PEPPER ATTACK MEETS MUSHY POTATO!!  It was explained to me that the fries that day hadn't been double cooked. So they didn't develop a nice crunchy exterior, instead, they were mush with all that cheese just adding to the mush.  The jalapeno and Fresno Chiles that were on the dish- in my opinion- way too much heat for a side dish to have.  I stopped there with the fries.  Finishing the pizza and sandwich, I felt somewhat sad that I just paid $3.00 extra to "puerto" my fries.  There were a lot of things I liked but some pretty big misses as well for this trip to NDP.  I did enjoy talking with Patrick and his wife after my meal, just finding out about them and their place. Some bonuses I found were: They have gluten free options for those in need of them, and on Monday's Kids eat free (see website for details), and they give great discounts for students!  Patrick says they have the best pizza in town, But wouldn't you say that if you were the owner?  For them only being opened for 4 months, and never being in the restaurant biz before, I'd say they have a great future ahead of them.  Class dismissed.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Please visit this locally owned business and see if you agree!