This story first ran on The Hale Center for Journalism’s Flatland.* The holidays bring us together around tables of all shapes and sizes. While the kids may think this time of year is about presents, the grown-ups know that it is really about what goes in your glass or on your plate. We reached out to the folks usually responsible for filling your bellies with holiday cheer to find out which foods they’d consider to be merry and bright and which they’d ship to the North Pole. Here are the excerpts from our email conversations.
Owner, Indios Carbonsitos
One-word holiday wish: Love
What’s your favorite holiday food? Tamales (pictured above) are a Mexican tradition in our home since I can remember. We make them for sale for our business, but there is something special about the entire family getting together to hang out and make them in many different ways, be it pork in chile rojo, rajas, or our house specialty strawberry-pecan tamales. Yes, sweet tamales are a thing.
What food should be banished from the holiday table? Fruit cake. I never had one that I would ever think, ‘I need to have more.’ Maybe instead get a rum cake from Jude’s Rum Cakes. Now those are something special.
Where do you like to eat or drink during the holidays in KC and what are you ordering? Julian (6227 Brookside Plaza) with Chef Celina Tio — anything she makes, especially spur-of-the-moment creations.
Kate Meinke and Scott Meinke
Co-owners, Heirloom Bakery and Hearth
Holiday wish: Comfort & Joy
What’s your favorite holiday food? Scott Meinke: My favorite holiday food is the Grasshopper Pie my mom always made for Christmas. It’s a chocolate Oreo crust with a creme de menthe marshmallow filling. I love the chocolate and mint combination, and this pie has always been one of my favorites. I literally could eat the entire pie in one sitting.
Kate Meinke: It’s my mom’s homemade chocolate fudge. She only makes it for Christmas. It’s so velvety and decadent, it makes me want to skip dinner and just eat a plateful of the stuff. I’m also a sucker for the store-bought, pink and red peppermint ice cream.
What food should be banished from the holiday table? We both agree on this one: eggnog. Words cannot describe how much we loathe eggnog. Not even copious amounts of liquor can cure eggnog.
Where do you like to eat or drink during the holidays in KC and what are you ordering? So many good options in KC, it’s hard to choose. We especially like The Rieger (Hotel Grill & Exchange) around the holidays. It’s such a cozy environment, and the cocktails are awesome. We recently had a goat ragu that brought warmth to the heart and soul. And for dessert they had several seasonal ice creams — the peppermint can’t be missed. Scott would also order (Boulevard Brewing Company’s) Nutcracker Ale anywhere and immediately get in the holiday spirit.
Founder, Kansas City Bier Co.
Holiday wish: Redemption
What’s your favorite holiday food? My brother-in-law’s smoked beef tenderloin. Why? When you combine my favorite meat (steak) with my favorite cooking method (smoking), the result is extraordinarily delicious.
What food should be banished from the holiday table? Any canned vegetable that has been overcooked into a mushy tasteless state of emptiness.
Where do you like to eat or drink during the holidays in KC and what are you ordering? Coach’s Bar & Grill (414 W 103rd Street) in Kansas City, Missouri, where I will order a bacon cheeseburger accompanied by a KC Bier Co. Dunkel. Prost.
What’s your favorite holiday food? Our family’s favorite holiday food is ravioli (ravs) that we make from scratch before Christmas. Our stuffing is a family recipe passed down from the Amigoni family: Italian sausage, ground beef, spinach, rice, lots of fennel, parmesan cheese and lots of yumminess.
What food should be banished from the holiday table? The food I would banish is the green bean casserole and the weird onions on top. Onions from a can — it’s hard to understand that really.
Where do you like to eat or drink during the holidays in KC and what are you ordering? We have loved to eat at JJ’s (900 West 48th Street, Suite 110) for years, and it is our favorite place to go for the holidays since Michael and I met there years ago. Our favorite bite is the Paco shrimp. The wine list is great, and our wines are on the list now.
Owner, Westport Café & Bar
Holiday wish: Memories
What’s your favorite holiday food? It has to be the relish plate or antipasto. Ours has evolved over the years, and it is a true snapshot to our heritage and culture. As a child, the dish consisted of pitted black olives, pickled okra, small sweet pickles and hot cherry peppers all beautifully arranged in an antique crystal dish by my grandmother Fern, who hosted Thanksgiving and Christmas for my entire childhood.
As we got older and our palates developed (and the urge to put black olives on all 10 fingers subsided), the relish plate shifted to a more Italian experience. The pepperoni, provolone and pickled okra are always center stage and a right of passage to any new quest. The canned olives have morphed into all sizes and colors thanks to the Whole Foods olive bar and the sweet little pickles have turned into sour gherkins or cornichons. Our newest additions are, as usual, from the women in our life. My niece Isabelle is a prosciutto-eating machine, and her mother, my brother’s wife Dewi, hails from Jakarta, Indonesia. She loves face-melting hot sauce, and so do I.
What food should be banished from the holiday table? Nothing. It’s a time to enjoy what you like, to come together and enjoy each other. Everyone has different traditions and nostalgias. Last month we made a roasted pork shoulder instead of turkey. We have crab legs every year. The holiday table has no room for critics or rules. If someone makes you a feast, you better eat it or make your own.
Where do you like to eat or drink during the holidays in KC and what are you ordering? If I was in KC for the holidays with my family, we would definitely go see Jake at Bella Napoli (6229 Brookside Boulevard). Stinkiest cheese in town.
*The Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT serves as a center for local multimedia journalism. The center houses Flatland, a digital news umbrella that encourages collaboration about NPR, PBS and regional news outlets to produce stories on local issues and ensure the continued creation of quality local journalism in an ever-changing media landscape.