A couple of notes to help you appreciate this story from my point of view.
- I used to live in New York City for awhile. I learned to appreciate food and chefs there.
- I now live in a suburb of Kansas City. Nice, but the food options are not the same. The contrast between KC and NYC was a part of what made me want to become a better cook.
- One of my favorite bloggers is PIGTRIP.NET . He is a terrific writer, and is a must read for any fan of 'QUE and lives in the northeast. I especially like to read about his trips through New York City looking for the great BBQ.
- PIGTRIP highly recommends a joint called RUB, and he has written several reviews and stories of his trips there.
MRS. MY YEAR ON THE GRILL is aware of my love for Bar-B-que, as well as my desire to become a better cook. She told me about a month ago that she had a surprise for me, and I was to keep the evening of July 1st open. So, on the night, I got in the car, and she drove to a beautiful location... Chef RENEE KELLY's AT CAENEN CASTLE. It is advertised as, "A private event venue serving flawless fresh cuisine". It is one of those places we have driven by a hundred times, and wondered what the inside looked like!
At this point, as she drove into the parking lot, I was handed the advertising brochure for the evening...
July 1, 2009 Wed.
Grilling Challenge Dinner with Paul Kirk
6 - 8 pm
Join Chef Renee Kelly and Chef Paul Kirk for a grilling competition, informative class and irresistible camaraderie as they compete for the people's choice award. Through 4 rounds of cooking, mystery baskets will be unveiled. Witness the classic timeless wisdom of the BBQ Barron vs. The Nuevo French Griller. You be the judge!
The setting was wonderful, the back patio of the castle. We arrived early enough to tour the restored castle. There was a couple planning their wedding reception being given the grand tour, and the MRS and I tagged along. Getting a brief history and more details about what this amazing venue could offer. Not enough could be said about this wonderful gem in my own back yard.
We made a brief stop at the bar, and I was pleased to find they kept Killian's Irish Red as one of their premium beers (my favorite). Certainly a precursor to come of an evening tailor made for me!
I am ashamed to tell you that the name Paul Kirk did not really ring a bell. And to be honest, Kansas City is filled with BBQ experts, most self proclaimed glorified rub or sauce salesmen. But, as soon as I saw him, I recognised him from one of my favorite cookbooks...Paul kirk's Championship Barbecue! THIS WAS GOING TO BE GREAT! For those of you not in the know, Here's the scoop on Paul... (cut and pasted from his website) ..."Paul Kirk, a.k.a. Barbecue Guru, Ambassador of Barbecue, Order of the Magic Mop, Certified Master Barbecue Judge, Kansas City Barbecue Society Board of Directors, Inductee into the KCBS Barbecue Hall of Flame and 1990 Chef of the Year-Greater Kansas City ACF Chapter. All these titles are honors that have been earned and bestowed by colleagues." Additionally, Paul gave us additional details on his resume. Partnered in a NYC restaurant, RUB (see, told you the details I gathered from pigtrip.net would pay off). In his career, he has cooked for Presidents, the entire Congress, Julia Child and now for ME (plus about a dozen new friends). Paul is old school BBQ champion. In my quest to be better, Paul is exactly what I want to spend an evening with!
Once I figured out who was sharing their expertise with us, it dawned on me how small the crowd was. The cost of the evening was about $80 a person. Not cheap, but certainly not outrageously priced. We were greeted by the chefs and their incredibly efficient and friendly servers with a sangria. My glass was never more than half empty before the pitcher arrived to refill (and I did try).
While we relaxed on the patio with our drinks, we got a brief introduction from the chefs. Chef Renee Kelly is a local girl, classically trained in French Cuisine. She spent a year in medical school, before finding her passion. Then cook (he informed us that he was a cook, not really a chef) Paul Kirk gave us his resume. He is not a braggart, and basically just told us that he has been cooking for 50 plus years. Fortunately, the audience was peppered with people in the know who asked the right questions to get more of his background. I was especially interested in his stories about cooking for Julia Child's charity. Thanks to PIGTRIP.NET, I was able to ask a couple of relevant questions that brought out his personality. I asked of his opinion of Justin Timberlake (Justin is partnered in a less flatteringly reviewed restaurant in NYC), and got a feel for the difficulties of opening a TRUE BBQ joint in Manhattan (20 plus story smokestack among them).
After about 20 minutes, we got to the cooking. Two disappointing parts of the evening should be addressed...First, my fault, MRS. MYYEARONTHE GRILL and I selected the worst seats in the house. In the shade, but in the back. Sometimes it was a bit difficult to hear everything and to follow the recipes. In the future, I would suggest the the tables should be brought closer to the action. There really were only about a dozen of us, simple enough to have only 3 or 4 tables, all front row. As I said, this gripe was all my fault. BUT, the only portion of the evening I would suggest for improvement would be a handout with the menu and recipes. The evening was advertised as a class. A couple handouts would have helped the memories. But, they didn't, so you will have to rely on my memory.
We started with a cold gazpacho soup. Grilled tomatoes, peppers, onions and lots of other stuff. It was served in a drinking glass and was excellent! It was a little too spicy for my wife, but I loved it. If I had the recipe, I would certainly make it for guests on a hot summer night. Going to have to start experimenting to get this one right. This was followed by a simple bacon wrapped bunching of three asparagus stalks, served with a blue cheese garnish. Simple, but FABULOUS. Next up was some grilled greens. At this point, I was enjoying the sangria and the company at my table that I missed some of the recipes and instructions, but the greens were great!
NOW, we got to the grilling! The chef/cookS both made the same items. A Skirt steak and Salmon. I won't go through the recipes, methods or names of the dishes, as I am sure I would mess them up or leave something out. Same basic main dishes, each prepared by the chefs in their own way. After dishing them up buffet style, we enjoyed and got a chance to vote on our favorites! For me, it was a wash, as I loved Chef Renee's steak, but really could not get enoough of Paul's salmon. The evening was capped with a little ice cream and grilled peaches. It was a fabulous evening, and a bargain at twice the price. A big thank you to Renee and Paul for making this evening special. The website for Renee Kelly's advertises several different specialty evenings. I am sure I will not be a stranger. Anyone local to the Kansas City area should check this unique opportunities the venue and chef offer.
I now am faced with a problem. I found out the night was a summer series of events, all featuring Paul Kirk as instructor/cook. Unfortunatly, I missed the first night of the series. But equally unfortunatly, here is the advertising for the next and final night of the series...
July 18, 2009 Sat.
Grills Gone Wild!
5:30 – 8:30 pm
Ladies get ready to rub down some meat, stoke coals, and smoke wood! This class will offer the basic BBQ 101, concoct your own rub and experiment with playful sides. At the next BBQ, you will be able to show the men a few tips and tricks of your own. Bring your grilling tools, apron, and of course some sass to add to the sauce!
$45 per student
OH NO...A hands on cooking lesson, and the only way I am invited is in drag! What to do, what to do.