Kansas Travel Blog

Chronicling changes to KansasTravel.org and Keith's exploration & photographing Kansas restaurants, attractions, museums, festivals and art. Contact him.
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St. Columbkille Catholic Church near Blaine, Kansas
Saturday - June 8, 2013: We left at 10AM Saturday morning and the first stop was about 90 minutes later in Alma, Kansas. The town is best known for Alma Cheese, but I wanted to revisit Alma Bakery and Sweet Shoppe, which had moved since the first time we first shopped there.

The old location was cooler (in an old bank, with storage in the vault), but this location is more spacious and (I assume) more efficient. I had a bierock, which is a German pastry baked with a savory beef, onion, and cabbage filling. It sounds a lot like a pastie, but the flavor and texture are quite different. This one was black peppery and good, though I am not as big a bierock fan as many Kansans. Linda got some cookies. I confess to having a couple of them over the weekend, but most of them made it home.

We drove on to Junction City for lunch at Korean Garden, my favorite Korean restaurant in town (I've been to three others). Junction City is on the edge of Fort Riley (home of the Big Red One) and has a large Korean population. Linda had Jogi-Gui (grilled whole yellow corbina fish) & soybean stew. I had nakji bokim (stir fried octopus). With both enjoyed our meals.

We stayed in town, touring the Geary County Historical Museum. The displays and organization were far better than most local historical museums and I particularly liked the room devoted to cameras and photos of the community.

Linda collects postcards and purchased several at the museum gift shop. One had a photo of a Buffalo Soldier Memorial on the other side of town and we visited that memorial on the way to Milford Lake and the Milford Nature Center.

The nature center is located below the Milford Lake Dam and next to a fish hatchery. The hatchery was less interesting than most. The nutrient rich water coming out of the lake is so cloudy that we couldn't see the fish in any of the giant tanks except for one tank which had gold fish which are maintained as forage species for use throughout Wildlife and Parks’ hatchery system.

The nature center is large with many live animal, fish & reptile displays, as well as an area devoted to taxidermy specimens of fish, birds and mammals.

It was time to head back east. We drove to Wamego and checked into Victory Inn Bed and Breakfast. We had a much larger suite than we needed, but the single rooms have a bathroom down the hall and both of the suites were the same price. We had a large rooms with two sitting areas, a separate sun room as long as the suite, and a large bathroom with double Jacuzzi.

We changed for dinner and then drove to the main event of the trip, Feast of the Fields at a farm near Wabaunsee. It was a four course meal prepared by Chef Ken Baker of Pachamama's in Lawrence, paired with wines from France, Spain and Kansas. The dinner was limited to 70 people and was intended to be in the middle of a corn field, but rain was forecast and it was moved into a 140 year old stone barn. That was a good thing - there was heavy rain by the end of the meal.

The food was good, but not as special as I expected. The best tasting dish was lamb which had slow roasted for 20 hours, but it had been cooked in Lawrence and was barely warm when served. I might do the event again someday, with a different chef who might better adapt to the conditions. I did enjoy the table conversation. Although I think one couple I slightly know was there, we sat with and got to know two couples we had never met before. I hope I didn't bore them too much with my talking about Kansas travel. 

 

Alma Bakery and Sweet Shoppe - Alma, Kansas Alma Bakery and Sweet Shoppe
 

Korean Garden - Junction City, Kansas
Jogi-Gui & nakji bokim
 

Geary County Historical Museum - Junction City, Kansas Geary County Historical Museum
 

Milford Nature Center - Milford Lake, Kansas Milford Nature Center
 

Victory Inn Bed and Breakfast - Wamego, Kansas Victory Inn Bed and Breakfast
 

Feast of the Fields - Wabaubsee, Kansas Feast of the Fields

Sunday - June 9, 2013: We had a lazy start Sunday morning, starting with breakfast at the B&B. It was good and huge, but nothing special. Fresh fruit, blueberry muffins, bacon, pancakes and scrambled eggs.

We drove west, past the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church and the site of the previous night's Feast of the Fields, then down to Pillsbury Crossing. It is one of my favorite spots in the region. The county road crosses Deep Creek where a broad rock shelf provides a shallow ford. It it a popular place for young people from Manhattan to party and there is a lovely 4' waterfall next to the crossing. While I took the photo to the right, we were parked in the river above the falls, where other vehicles were parked. Yes, you park in the river.

Then on into Manhattan to revisit the Sunset Zoo. Linda had never been to it before. It is a large attractive zoo on a hillside, though LInda did point out that there are long walks between exhibits without much to see. There have been several additions since the last time I was there.

We drove north of town to have lunch at Little Grill, a Caribbean Restaurant near the Tuttle Creek Dam. I liked the place a lot. JoJo, our server, was fun. The food was good, but not outstanding. I had jerk pork chops and red bean & rice, while Linda had catfish.

It was time for driving, now, to the northeast corner of the state, though we did make several stops including a handsome country church, St. Columbkille Catholic Church, somewhere near Blaine, Kansas, and the Davis Memorial in Hiawatha.

We finally made it to White Cloud, a town of 176 people on the Missouri River, a couple of miles from the Nebraska State Line. This is probably the only time I will ever be there, but I wanted to photograph the small monument to the pig that Inspired the Piggy Bank and visit Four State Lookout, that was one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Geography.

I can't believe it actually looks out over 4 states. Missouri and Nebraska are just a mile or two away, but Iowa is over 50 miles away.

On our way home, we stopped for supper at Luigi's Italian Restaurant in Leavenworth. It is an attractive restaurant in an historic building that has some of the brick exposed and grave vines to make it look Italian. They were swamped with several large parties on an night that is usually slow, so it was noisy and the food & service was slow. But the staff was doing all they could and the food was very good. Linda said the lamb in her Viva Italia (lamb chops & mussels in a red wine sauce with onions, tomatoes, garlic, basil and feta cheese on linguini) was as good as she had ever had. 
 

 

Deep Creek Waterfall at Pillsbury Crossing
Deep Creek Waterfall

red panda - Sunset Zoo in Manhattan, Kansas
red panda (Ailurus fulgens)

jerk pork chops at Little Grill
jerk pork chops

St. Columbkille Catholic Church St. Columbkille Catholic Church

Four-State Lookout - White Cloud, Kansas Four State Lookout

Luigi's Italian Restaurant - Leavenworth, Kansas Luigi's Italian Restaurant

Wednesday - June 12, 2013: The Wednesday special at Jon Russell's BBQ in Overland Park is 6 whole wings & house made potato chips for $8.95. The wings are spicy from a dry rub and slightly crispy on the outside. I recommend them.

The chips have good texture, but could use some seasoning.

 

Jon Russell's BBQ - Overland Park, Kansas Jon Russell's BBQ wings
Friday - June 14, 2013: I attend the Campbell Awards banquet in Lawrence this evening to take photos for one of our sister web sites. THe University of Kansas is hosting the Campbell Conference (an academic science fiction event) this weekend at the Oread Hotel in Lawrence. The picture at right shows international best selling author Kevin J. Anderson receiving the first ever Lifeboat to the Stars Award from SFWA Grand Master James Gunn last night.

 

Kevin J. Anderson and James Gunn - science fiction authors Kevin J. Anderson and James Gunn
Saturday - June 15, 2013: We saw a private screening of the satirical independent film, Destination: Planet Negro at the University of Kansas Oldfather Studios where it was filmed. The building originally housed Centron Films which produced hundreds of of educational and industrial films. This was only the third screening of the 90 minute filming and included a chance to examine some of the movie props, including the 9 foot robot named Strom. 

The movie begins in the 1930s and the first half hour is a camp homage to movies like Forbidden Planet or Destination Moon. The remainder of the movie stays funny, but addresses serious contemporary issues.

 

Destination: Planet Negro - University of Kansas The Director & Producer of Destination: Planet Negro introduce the screening
Monday - June 17, 2013: I've recently heard some good things about Conroy's Public House in Overland Park. The Cowboy Signature short rib burger and fish & chips were good, but the blacked chicken pasta was only so-so. The desserts are all made in house. The apple crumble & mango tart were huge and delicious.

We will be trying this Irish pub again soon.

 

apple crumble and mango tart at Conroy's Public House apple crumble & mango tart
Tuesday - June 25, 2013: Today's Lenexa Chamber of Commerce AM Live was at Art Institutes International - Kansas City, which is opened in Lenexa about 5 years ago. The food was all prepared by Carter Holton, who is an instructor at the school and pastry chef for Le Fou Frog.

Two women swooned when they learned that Carter had twice competed in Food Network Challenges and was winner of the Star Wars Cake Challenge.

 

Art Institutes International - Lenexa, Kansas Breakfast spread at Art Institutes International
Thursday - June 27, 2013: I revisited and updated the review of Austin's Bar & Grill in Olathe. The Thursday lunch special is a large steak sandwich with Swiss cheese and sautéed mushroom & onions, served with fries for only $6.99. This a great lunch for a hearty eater.

We met Alex and Frankie for supper at Smokin' Guns BBQ in North Kansas City, Missouri last night. Alex is a TripAdvisor Destination Expert for Sedona, Monument Valley and Arizona. He also spends time in northern Michigan every year and we have encountered each other on several forums. It was fun getting to know them, and particularly fun since we have a trip to Arizona and Monument Valley coming up in a few weeks.

It was also a chance to check out Smokin' Guns new building. It is much larger and I am sure that the kitchen must be much more efficient. They have also switched to table service instead of ordering at a counter. But I'm afraid they have lost most of their ambiance.

The food didn't impress me as much as I remember, but it has been over a year since the last time I dined at Smokiness Guns. I had a $14.95 Combo Platter with 3 short ribs, pulled pork and beef brisket with corn and onion rings. I didn't dislike the food, but it wasn't a treat. The pulled pork and onion rings were the best of the bunch.

I was surprised that the restaurant let Frankie bring her well behaved little dogs into the dining room.

 

Austin's Bar and Grill - Olathe, Kansas $6.99 steak sandwich

Alex and Frankie Alex, Frankie and
M & M (the dogs)

Smokin' Guns - North Kansas City, Missouri Smokin' Guns

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