Down on the Farm
Recently, I loaded the car with a cast of family members, including two eager little pipers. Just before Christmas, we headed north to The Shatto Milk Company. Shatto had recently launched a private hayride and bonfire experience on its farm, and I was invited to take an early turn.
We were greeted by none other than the OG Barbara Shatto—a third-generation descendent of Minnie Porter and George Winstead, who in the late 1800s began farming the land that is now home to Shatto Milk. Barbara is an infectiously joyful woman with a sense of grit that I recognized from my own small-town upbringing and proximity to farming. She’s enthusiastic about the farm and proud of its premium products and the fine people who bring each into existence. Upon arrival, those same great people had Shatto hot-chocolate milk freshly poured and ready for our adventure.
As if cast for a Hallmark holiday movie, we were bundled in winter layers and ready for our tractor-pulled hayride to the bonfire site about a mile away. Barbara accompanied, and we chatted about everything from the special diet for Shatto’s approximately 500 dairy cows, the nearby wind turbines, and even Shatto’s signature branding, of which I’m a longtime fan. Besides the milk purveyed in their attractive and cold-retaining glass bottles, Shatto uses its milk in a variety of other products—some of which you may not be as familiar with. There’s, of course, the full range of milks ranging from skim to whole cream. And tucked within the milk category are my nephews’ favorites: the flavored milks, with unique varieties including banana, cookies and cream, cotton candy, and root beer. They also create seasonal additions, including eggnog and pumpkin spice. And what better use for milk than ice cream? (Check out the caramel sea-salt flavor.) And, have ice cream—will make ice cream sandwiches! Shatto has four individually packaged “sammiches,” from sugar cookie with strawberry ice cream to good ol’ chocolate chip cookie with vanilla. Items I haven’t yet tried are the Shatto cheese curds and artisan cheeses. I am, however, a proud frequent user of their butter, from unsalted to the delicious honey butter. They even make bar soaps in an array of scents, such as lavender and green tea.
After a enlightening hayride conversation about everything Shatto, Barb dropped us off at our already-blazing bonfire. We were set with absolutely everything we’d need to roast hot dogs and (obviously) smash together s’mores. With Barb and the tractor gone, it was just us and the vast winter sky, full of stars. I pulled out my phone and cued up Christmas tunes, taking requests for everyone’s favorites. My brother-in-law, César González, kept the fire roaring, sister Courtney kept a careful eye on 3-year-old Sebastian, César II was practicing the fine art of achieving a perfect and thoroughly toasted plump marshmallow, and I organized an assembly line of flawlessly portioned graham cracker and chocolate pieces ready for sandwiching.
I cannot recall the last time I experienced a campfire, but there is something youthfully transportive about the ancient ritual. I imagine everyone has early memories of its warmth, pops, and crackles, and its woodsy aroma, whose unexpected notes drift past your nose even days later. Growing up in the country, my sisters and I have many such fond memories.
On our ride back to the farm proper, Barbara and I talked about Shatto’s campfire plans. While originally an idea for families and friends to create memories around the winter holidays, Shatto plans to continue the already-popular experience across the year. Though it was certainly a fun pre-Christmas venture, it made me think—when isn’t a good time for a campfire? Whether it’s the cool springtime air that’s full of promise, the carefree camp memories of summers past, or the rustling leaves and farm harvests of fall—it dawned on me that no season has a monopoly on the magic of campfires. Their charm is enduring as it is timeless. Now may be just the time for your reacquaintance.
Overheard: “I’ve never seen a grown man hug a sad, three-ring binder so affectionately.”
Seated immediately next to the whirling conductor, I listened in blissful wonder. I was at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art to hear the Kansas City Chorale at their annual Winter Song performance. The Chorale, now celebrating its 40th year, performs a diverse repertoire of contemporary and traditional choral music with high-caliber artistry across the calendar year. Under the leadership of artistic director and conductor Charles Bruffy, the choir has achieved international recognition and praise. Charles’s twelve GRAMMY nominations and three wins more than amply justify the acclaim.
While hardly an acoustics expert, I am something of an aesthete. So, sitting inside the museum’s dramatic Rozelle Court—designed in the style of a 15th-century Italian courtyard—felt just right to me. The soaring, vaulted ceilings are anchored by both the four-ton, 220 A.D. marble basin fountain that traces its history to the emperor Hadrian’s villa outside Rome, and somehow—by the weight of time and history, our infinitesimal place in it all. Immersed in history and bathed in soothing angelic sound, I closed my eyes and thought this is surely what heaven must feel like.
The concert is a succinct one-hour program of reimagined holiday classics and avid Chorale followers’ favorites. One such lesser-known beloved is Jerusalem, which is performed by sopranos gradually rotating around the lower level of the courtyard’s two-story surrounding arcade, literally wrapping the audience in this rhythmic, tear-inducing Celtic hymn.
Following the concert, I was delighted to be invited by the Winter Song event chairs to a dinner celebrating the season, the Chorale, its most generous benefactors, and of course, Charles, at the Kansas City Country Club. Honorary Chair Jonathan Kemper remarked during his opening toast that the real honor was being part of the audience that evening. Agreed. While dining on our surf and turf, one of my table mates, Scott Ashcraft, observed that the Winter Song concert is, for him, the social equivalent of that first candle on the advent wreath being lit: an authoritative indicator that “the holidays” had officially commenced. What an apt analogy. Despite all the holiday hustle and bustle—or perhaps because of it—this protected time of peace and reflection remains the perfect reprieve from whatever one may need a reprieve. For these reasons, and more, I never ever miss this cherished annual event.
Spotted: Nancy Lee & Jonathan Kemper, Robin & Scott Boswell, Graham Boswell, Marny & John Sherman, Bernie & Scott Ashcraft, Scott Francis, Susan Gordon, Jackie & John Middlekamp, Ursula Terrasi & Jim Miller, Anita & Gary Robb, Nancy & Michael Thiessen, Terry Anderson & Michael Henry, Melinda Beal, Chris Beal, Jim Blair, Dan DeLeon & Jerry Katlin, Lauren DeLeon, Amy Embry, Michael Fields, Trudy Gabriel, Dan Nilsen, Carolyn Arnold, Sean Gallagher, Mary Leonida, Patricia Miller, Carmen Sabates, Katie Van Luchene & Jerry Foulds
Hot Gossip: Who was banned from the bar because he claimed to be one of the owners?
Dim Sum… and Then Some
Getting an early start on the Chinese New Year celebrations, a pal of mine organized a full and proper dim sum feast with friends. Having long been a bucket list item of mine, I leapt at the opportunity to join. We gathered on a Saturday afternoon at Bo Lings on the Country Club Plaza and settled in.
A bit of background: Dim sum is a traditional Chinese meal, typically enjoyed as brunch or lunch on a weekend. The meal is comprised of small plates (think Spanish tapas) of dumplings, rolls, and small bites, usually accompanied by tea and shared among family and friends. The literal translation of dim sum is “the point of the heart,” and these traditional dishes, tea, and personal connections are the heart of the unique Cantonese dim sum experience that Bo Lings has formally carried on since 1987—building upon the dining style that the owners’ family pioneered in bringing to the Midwest.
Dumplings (steamed or baked) are often the star of the show at dim sum, and we sampled several handmade varieties, including ones filled with pan-fried pork and shrimp with chives. We also feasted on chicken spring rolls, crispy shrimp balls, fried turnip cakes (this one was not for me, but if you love turnips…), pork buns, fried shrimp and corn cakes, barbecue pork puff pastries (top pick), sticky rice with Chinese sausage, stir-fried noodles, and tree ear mushrooms and cabbages (which I was not expecting to like, but it far exceeded my expectations). We sipped on tea throughout (both herbal and gossip), as well as a few cocktails. I’m certain that the latter two aren’t part of “traditional” dim sum, but you know I’m anything but traditional. And for what it’s worth, the lemon drop pomegranate martini hit the spot. Cheers!
Dim sum is available at the Bo Lings Plaza and Overland Park locations from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. I’ve been told that ABC Café in Overland Park is also well-known for its authentic dim sum offering.
After leaving the restaurant, and while on something of a Chinese theme, we popped over to the just-reinstalled Chinese warrior statues that guard the north end of the Sister Cities International Bridge—the pedestrian walkway spanning Brush Creek. The two statues are bronze replicas of those belonging to the famous army of life-size terra-cotta soldiers, discovered in 1974, near the 210 B.C. tomb of the first Chinese emperor. The statues were a gift from one of Kansas City’s sister cities, Xi’an, China. Thanks to KC Parks & Recreation, they’re back from a recent trip to the bronze upkeep spa, where after a loving dose of wax, the two soldiers don’t look a day over 2,000.
Overheard: “Her makeup looks like bubblegum spread on with a spatula. It’s bubblicious!”
The already-dazzling baroque Midland Theatre was sparkling a little more brightly for Glitterati—the 18th annual iteration of Night Out with MOCSA. MOCSA (Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault) exists to improve the lives of those impacted by sexual abuse and assault and to prevent sexual violence in our community. Heal—and prevent.
Sexual violence is something that occurs in cities like ours every single day—affecting one in four women and one in six men. The impacts can be devastating, not only for victims, but also for their friends and loved ones. Too often, it happens within a family or a close circle of friends, with most sexual violence being committed by someone the victim knows. Without support and help, the trauma of sexual violence can stay with victims for a lifetime. MOCSA offers support, healing, and hope when these violations transpire. They help victims become survivors.
After gathering with friends beforehand, I caravanned with my table of compatriots, in all our glittering finery, to The Midland. The VIP hour had us perched on the theatre’s upper level with its bar and spectacular view. We were then treated to a delicious dinner downstairs prepared by Brancato’s. My dear friend Denise Delcore (honorary cochair with Matt Michaelis) delivered a moving and passionate overview of MOCSA’s intense and difficult purpose. “The reason I am so committed to MOCSA is that I believe you heal the world by healing your own community.” Her words were so moving, in fact, that she had every person at my table raising their paddles to support this organization’s efforts. Remarks and auction fundraising were followed by more lighthearted and carefree dancing on the stage, guided by DJ LEO Night US. Sometimes it feels good to just cut loose.
Hot Gossip: Whose flashy holiday party invitations were so shiny and cool that many disappeared forever into the USPS abyss?