After a recent binge of eating Indian cuisine, including several pleasant meals at Overland Park’sTouch of Asia, I found myself craving — truly, madly, deeply — such uniquely American dishes as ice cream sandwiches, cheeseburgers and Little Debbie snack cakes. Totally ignoring my doctor’s orders (“Go on a diet!”), I made a journey to Stroud’s (1015 E. 85th Street) one Sunday afternoon. I arrived at 3 p.m., during the lull before the dinner rush, and got a table within minutes.
There’s a reason this place remains such a Kansas City classic. No one cares about the worn floors, the vinyl tablecloths, the plastic cups or the fast and furious pace. Fried chicken, chicken fried steak and chops might have seemed ordinary decades ago, but in this setting they’re extraordinary: the swoon-inducing chicken soup, with its thick, doughy noodles and fat chunks of meat; the beautiful, tender, juicy fried chicken, served hot, golden and so crispy that it almost crackles when you pick a piece off the plate; cinnamon rolls that aren’t rolls but fluffy biscuits glazed with cinnamon and sugar.
I felt guilty waddling out of the place, probably five pounds heavier than when I walked in.
So perhaps it’s no coincidence that I recently had a conversation with Jason Street, the 31-year-old executive chef at Menorah Medical Center, who has inspired me to at least think about exercising.
Street has been exercising a lot these days, getting in shape for the 400-mile bicycle ride he’s taking this fall, riding from Montreal, Canada, to Portland, Maine. As one of 1,500 cyclists participating in the Canada U.S. AIDS Vaccine Ride, Street personally will raise $3,400 for the world’s three leading AIDS research teams: the Aaron Diamond Research Center, Emory Vaccine Center and the UCLA AIDS Institute.
“I’m trying to squeeze in time to ride at least twenty miles a week,” says Street, who oversees food preparation for patients, hospital administrators and the visiting public at Menorah. “I’m in better shape now than I was ten years ago.
“I like the idea that by riding my bike, I can make a difference in the world,” adds Street, who owns a Raleigh 50 road bike.
Street says he’s less worried about his physical strength for the five-day bike ride than the bigger task of raising money. He has planned two fundraisers where he’ll cook his favorite cuisine — Italian — for donors. The first dinner is scheduled for Sunday, June 10, at the Culinary Center of Kansas City (7917 Foster, Overland Park). For $55 a person, Street will prepare a feast that includes a Tuscan tomato and bread salad; smoked-tomato orzo with crimini mushrooms, asparagus and pan-seared sea scallops; osso buco with roasted baby vegetables; lemon-basil sorbet; and poached pears with red wine sauce and Asiago.
All the proceeds go to the Canada U.S. AIDS Vaccine Ride. For reservations, call the culinary center at 913-341-4455. Can’t make the dinner? Street is collecting donations and can be reached at 913-906-9356.
I’m thinking of going to the dinner myself, as long as I don’t have to ride a bike to get there.