26 July 2011

A Moveable Feast


Several years ago I heard of a program called Outstanding in the Field. The project of chef and artist Jim Denevan, this program hosts a farm-to-table dinner at farms throughout the country featuring local chefs in each place. I thought this sounded like a fantastic idea the first time I heard of it. But this year it got even more fantastic when our CSA farm - Fair Share Farm in Kearney, MO - got to host the event.

I jumped at the chance to join in and snagged 2 of the 150 tickets available, which quickly sold out. The chef for the evening was the famed Jonathan Justus of Justus Drugstore, which I know from previous experience to be absolutely superb. And his OITF dinner did not disappoint.

The evening started with hors d'ouvres and drinks and mingling around the farm. In typical Justus Drugstore fashion, the simplest of foods so expertly prepared were such a pleasant surprise. The server offered me a seemingly boring watermelon chunk topped with a foamy blueberry, but boring it was not. Watermelon + blueberry + black walnut + lemon = something else altogether.

"sweet pea," the Fair Share Farm van

Rebecca demo-ing the tractor.

After mingling, Jim Denevan gave a big welcome to all the guests and introduced farmers Tom and Rebecca, who then told a little bit of their story and shared about their farm before leading us all on a brief but informative farm tour which featured a perfectly quiet demonstration of their electric tractor, the illustrious 1948 Allis Chalmers "G."

The tradition of the plates.

After the tour we all filed back over to the long table that seemed to stretch to infinity and - on our way, picked up our plates. Guests were invited to bring their own plates to the event, the eclectic result of which adds to the charm of the whole evening. (Although I think I won the prize for The Most Boring / Least Charming Plates with my scratched up old white plates from Target).

"Spinach Cherry Limeade" spinach, cherry limeade, black pepper pecans, cherry basil rose sorbet, beets

The first of seven incredible courses commenced. Everything was served family style so the whole meal felt warm and friendly. My dinner date that evening was my sister-in-law and we enjoyed the company of some other members of the FSF CSA who were, for the course of this meal, our food-sharing "family." We marveled at the duck egg fettucini, the carrot gnocchi, the grilled romaine, the corn pastry. Outstanding, indeed.

I was so impressed with how smoothly the evening was run, how charming and beautiful the array was, how sharp the servers were, rattling off not only the intricacies of each dish, but the provenance of each ingredient as well. 15+ local farms contributed their local produce and products to the meal. Even the wine was local and extra local at that - from Fence Stile Vineyards right next door to Kearney in Excelsior Springs.

We lucked out with a less-than-scorching day on Sunday and to avoid the heat of the day, the dinner began an hour late. As best I could tell, no one melted over the course of the evening, although I can't say the same for the Shatto butter on the table. By the time the sun set, we were still holding out for the last two courses and finishing off our outstanding dinner by candlelight. Even in the dark, the food was divine.

25 July 2011

Our Fifteen Minutes

Sergio and I were in the paper on Sunday in the Star Magazine's Love Story column! Thanks to writer Deborah Shouse for capturing our story.

Frida Kahlo brought them together
 Emily Akins and Sergio Moreno met when they worked together on a college assignment. They married and today work together at Hallmark Cards.
Keith Myers
Emily Akins and Sergio Moreno met when they worked together on a college assignment. They married and today work together at Hallmark Cards.

Sergio Moreno was excited about the professor’s assignment: to list two artists and circle your favorite. The professor would choose one for each student to write about.

“I grew up in Mexico City,” Sergio says. “I had visited Frida Kahlo’s home and wanted to write about her.”

It was the fall of 1998, and 20-year-old Sergio was attending Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Okla. He was upset when he was assigned his second choice, Diego Rivera.

“Why?” he asked the professor.

“Emily Akins already chose Frida. But the two of you can work together.”

Sergio had never met Emily, who was then a sophomore. But he agreed to work with her.

They began to study Frida together.

“Sergio stood out,” Emily says. “He was very polite and interesting, and we had similar interests.”

“I thought Emily was cute, and I was attracted by her family orientation,” Sergio says. “Her interests in music and art were different from everyone else’s.”

They became friends and often went out to eat together. After more than a year of friendship, Sergio asked Emily to be his girlfriend.

“I was reluctant,” Emily says. “I really liked him, but I wanted to focus on friends and school.”

But Sergio was so appealing, she began dating him. Both graduated in 2001. While Sergio stayed in Oklahoma, Emily moved to Kansas City, and they began a long-distance relationship. Six months into their separation, they decided they wanted to be together.

“I was ready to propose, but Emily hated jewelry,” Sergio says. “I knew she wouldn’t like a ring.”

Finally, he came up with a plan, based on Emily’s love of the English language. When Emily was visiting Oklahoma, Sergio invited Emily, her family and his sister out for dinner. During the meal, he got down on one knee and pulled out a ring box. Inside, was a tiny photo of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary, which he had purchased for Emily.

They were married on Jan. 1, 2003. Sergio moved to Kansas City, and today they work right next to each other as editorial directors at Hallmark Cards.

They like movies, theater and music. They enjoy cooking together and cherish their family meal time. They also cherish their time with their baby daughter, Julia.

“We’re having fun getting to know each other as parents,” Emily says. “Sergio is sensitive and warmhearted. He’s clever and makes me laugh. Plus, his fathering touches my heart.”

“Emily is a very sophisticated yet down-to-earth woman,” Sergio says. “I have always felt attracted to her, physically and intellectually. She inspires me and balances me.”

Deborah Shouse is a freelance writer. Suggest a Love Story couple by writing to lovestory@kcstar.com.

23 July 2011

Ten Months

New talents include: crawling (finally!), clapping (she came up with that one all by herself), and saying "Hi," which we've determined is her first word since she uses it in context and accompanies it with a funny little wave. Cutest thing ever. She has four teeth now and the fifth one just broke through; and there's a gap between her two front teeth. Also the cutest thing ever.

Time for just one picture before she rolled over ...

...and crawled off to read her book.

Little Miss Curious - she has an interest in everything (and doesn't mind that her onesie was printed upside down).

17 July 2011

Sunset Beach, NC

It turns out that the beach is actually a great place to vacation. Who knew!? I didn't. I was a skeptical beach goer, put off by the thought of all that sand. But I trusted my brother whose idea it was that our big family vacation take us to the North Carolina coast and who said I would enjoy it. Turns out he was right.

third from the right

Thanks to his know-how, we knew what to do in order to do the beach right - get a waterfront house on the beach, stay at the less populated end of the island, stay for a week, and bring boogie boards and Bocce Ball. We also totally geeked out on this trip bringing several pieces of regional fiction, guides to the Carolina coast plant life and animals, a shell guide, etc. It was so interesting and fun.

Bocce Ball

Beach Baby

Julia did so well and seemed to really enjoy the beach, the sand, the water ... the cousins. She had a great time watching and playing. And I think the fresh ocean breezes were good for her development because she started crawling (finally!) on this trip and clapping, too.

playing Bocce Ball behind the beach house

awesome beach sunglasses

We saw a big crab and little ones while we were there, I saw a family playing Bocce Ball dressed as pirates, we saw students building huge, precise sand pyramids using levels and proper tools, we visited the famed Kindred Spirit mailbox, we saw an incredible lightning show over the ocean. We ate seafood and hushpuppies and pimiento cheese, we played in tidal pools, we checked on the tide chart and followed the waves ... And in the meantime, we picked out names for our own beach houses - "The Old Man and the Sí" (my dad), "Peace and Quiet" (my aunt), "Squid Pro Quo" (me).

the Kindred Spirits mailbox - I left a note in the notebook

And Minli, inspired by the double meaning in Hollis' name for his beach house ("Ocean Waves"), wrote a poem ...
High Tide
The ocean waves hi.
The ocean waves bye.
The ocean says go away,
before I wash you bye bye.

Minli, the ocean, and her poem