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bluestem the cookbook

In the age of internet, iPhones and information at your fingertips, many of us will type a few words into a search engine and quickly get an overabundance of recipes from sources far and wide. I will admit I use my fair share of online cooking information, but there’s something very comforting about sitting down with a hardbound, well-thought-out, beautifully photographed cookbook and letting it lead you down the road less traveled.

That’s how it felt reading slowly through my new bluestem cookbook – studying ingredients, learning the history of a dish, hungering over the photos and getting a little peek into the world of a home-grown wonder.  If you have not dined at Bluestem in Kansas City’s Westport, then pick up the phone now and make a reservation. Find a reason to go if you need an excuse, but the food is really the only reason you need.

cookbooks and menu

My new cookbooks and wine dinner menu

When I learned James Beard nominated Chef Colby Garrelts and his wife/pastry chef Megan were developing a cookbook, I knew I had to have it. But I didn’t know just how fantastic it would be. With the help of another homespun eating luminary, Bonjwing Lee, the pages come alive and the heart and soul of one of KC’s best restaurants is laid before you.

Hot langoustines

Langoustines from Autumn Menu, Credit: bluestem website; Bonjwing Lee photographer

The book not only tells the wonderful story of the Garrelts’ journey leading up to and beyond the opening of bluestem, but it brings in many others who help daily in creating the top-notch food and atmosphere bluestem is known for. Like mini feature stories, pages intermittently introduce you to the local farmers and suppliers for the restaurant.

Earlier this month, I attended a special 5-course wine dinner the restaurant did for the cookbook’s release. It was a rare opportunity to taste the perfectly prepared dish before all the trial and error of your home kitchen (at least that’s pretty common in my kitchen). I can tell you the Butternut Squash Risotto is divine! I love to make risotto, but nothing I’ve prepared has ever tasted that good.

Divided by seasons, every recipe has a note from either Colby or Megan explaining the inspiration, the cooking method or simply their love of the dish. And the photography is outstanding. Bonjwing captures the food at its finest and more importantly the affection the Garrelts have for their craft.  Vegetables look alive, the texture of a pasta dish can almost be felt, you can nearly smell the aroma of a pan of freshly steamed mussels as the broth is poured out.

Bell peppers

Credit: bluestem website; Bonjwing Lee

I’ve already started a list of some recipes I want to try. Of course my favorite bluestem masterpieces are at the top, the dishes I HAVE to eat when I dine there:  beef tartare and foie gras au torchon.  But my tastebuds and culinary dexterity are venturing in new directions with recipes like Jonah Crab Salad, Onion Soup with Bourbon and Oxtail, and Sarsaparilla Marshmallows. They just look and sounds irresistible.

I can’t wait to get in the kitchen and take a stab at creating anything even comparable to the cuisine at bluestem. But first, I want to take in every thrill my new cookbook has to offer. So I’m gonna sit here a while longer, with its weight in my lap, the soft cloth-like cover in my hands and read some more stories about our little gem of Westport and dream that maybe one day I can bring others the joy that I experience when dining at bluestem.

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