#133 - Coopers Hawk Winery & Restaurant, Kansas City, MO

I've been really lucky that I've been to so many conference basketball tournaments. I started way back just a few years out of undergrad. They are always super fun, regardless of how either the Terps or the Cowboys are doing. Riding in the RV down to Greensboro, a weekend in Atlanta, seeing the Terps win the tourney.  The list goes on and on with lots of fantastic memories. As a matter of fact, my first week of week on the job at OSU 8 years ago was the week of the Big 12 tourney. And I got to witness my very first Bedlam, a huge overtime win by the Cowboys.

With Becky & Erin... first game as a Cowboy, first Bedlam win!
This year's Big 12 tourney is in Kansas City. A lot of Big 12 fans don't like that it's here, since Missouri left the conference and there's now no state-represented team. But honestly, I would be shocked if it moved from here. KC has spent so much money on the Sprint Center and the Power & Light district, they're going to do everything they can to keep it here. Besides, its the most central location. Dallas is fun, but there's really nothing near to the American Airlines Center. OKC is okay, but then it's not really a trip for me... and besides, neither of those cities have anything even remotely close to this

Power & Light District, across from the Sprint Center
I usually stay at or close to the team hotel. Last year I was about 1/2 mile away. But I failed on getting my hotel room in time, and ended up at Country Club Plaza. Its about 4 miles away. Since I was using points it was okay, because cabs each way was still about 1/4 the price of a hotel night closer. The Plaza is a high end area, with lots of shopping and dining. I went running thru past 2 days and discovered some beautiful homes and a lot of hills. My calves are not very happy with me.

Since the Cowboys lost Thursday night, I had the whole day to do a whole bunch of nothing. And I did it quite well. Once I got hungry I looked for a restaurant.com place, but there was nothing in walking distance and I didn't want to drive anywhere. I had seen Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant when I did a little research on the area, and its a block from my hotel. So that's where I headed. 

You walk up a flight of stairs to enter, and the first thing you see is bottles and bottles of wine. They've got a tasting station and little shop. I loved this place instantly. There's a bar area behind the shop, but I wanted to sit upstairs in the restaurant to get the full experience. There's lots of windows letting in tons of natural light  There's seating for I would guess about 150, separated into different dining areas. I got a table near the window. There's not much of a view except a parking garage, but I still enjoyed it.

I learned that they make over 50 wines, so of course I had to try some. I couldn't decide between red or white, and my server told me they offer free tasting, so he brought me a sauvignon blanc and a malbec. I love that the tasting are free. That way if you don't like it, you're not stuck. More restaurants should do that.

Both wines were really delicious. The sauv was a little sweeter than I like, so I went with the malbec.  It was very smooth, and not as tart as you sometimes get with a malbec. The server offered pretzel bread. Of course I cant turn that down

Oh my... the salt was baked into the bread. And I might be crazy, but I feel like the salt almost deepens the flavor of the bread. The bread was served warm, which was perfect for the softened butter. I forced myself to only eat 1/4 of it, but I really wanted to devour the whole thing.

I really like that they don't just have a regular menu. They also offer lunch-sized entrées and "Life Balance" choices, items under 600 calories. Just like the free tasting, more restaurants need to do this.

I decided to start with the Life Balance roasted beets with whipped goat cheese

Arugula, candied walnuts, balsamic glaze, extra virgin olive oil
Whipped goat cheese is outstanding.  It absolutely melted in my mouth, and I really wish there was a lot more of it on the plate.  My mom made beets when I was as kid, but I honestly can't remember the last time I had them.  These beets were delicious, and made me want to start eating them again.  Even though they were roasted, in this dish they were served cold.  I'm not a fan of walnuts, but these were candied.  Makes a big difference.  I scooped up every piece.  My server said that they just added this dish to the menu, and I told him it definitely needs to stay.

For the entrée, I decided on the spaghetti & meatballs.  I know that sounds kind of weird, to get something so boring in a restaurant with such a great variety.  But my server said he really liked it, and the meatballs were homemade.  Sold.

This was excellent.  And a really good-sized portion, even though it was the lunch size.  The sauce was excellent and tasted homemade.  It was rich and very well seasoned.  The meatballs were a touch overcooked--or maybe a little overmixed--but still delicious and lots of flavor.  And the whole dish was super hot.  I about scorched my tongue with the first bite.  But it was worth it.  Oh, and the whipped ricotta.  Man, it was so creamy and good.  I tasted a bite of cheese by itself, and the rest I mixed into the sauce.  It made the sauce just that much richer.  I would say the only way they could improve this dish would be to make their own pasta.

As I was finishing my meal my server brought 2 more wine tastes that he wanted me to try.  One was a rhubarb wine, and the other was a port wine.  I've never tasted rhubarb in anything.  But I really like it in wine.  It's a little sweet, but very light and refreshing.  The port wine was way too sweet.  I couldn't even finish it. 

I thought about getting a chocolate covered strawberry for dessert.  But then thought better of it because I was full.  On my way out I stopped and browsed the shop, and saw a dessert case.  And saw a dark chocolate cheesecake lollipop.  And couldn't resist.

It didn't survive intact in the bag on the walk back to the hotel, but that's okay.  It was excellent.  The cheesecake was very light.  Almost like it was whipped.  That seems to be a theme here, and it works.  And just one lollipop was a perfect amount of dessert. 

They've got quite a few locations, but none really near to where I ever go.  I'm kind of surprised there's not one in Dallas or Houston, because it would do really well in either location.  But I did see that they're opening one in Ashburn, VA.  So that might have to be a road trip next time I'm home.  Because I have to go back here.  No question.