Monday, May 5, 2014

Farmer's Kitchen & Concord Grill

Farmer's Kitchen
4660 Yeager Rd.
Hillsboro, Mo.
On Facebook

Concord Grill
11427 Concord Village Ave.
Affton, Mo.
On the Interwebs
On Facebook

Previous review

Yeah, this one's a little different, especially since I didn't even get to go to Concord Grill this weekend. But there's a story here, bear with me.
Saturday was to be a busy day. I had been personally invited to attend a gathering at Valley View Glade held by the Missouri Department of Conservation. The reason? My enviable wit, my lady-killer charm, my tenacious journalistic style? No, it was because property records for the area indicated I might own some glade or former glade land.
A glade is an area of very shallow soil. In Jefferson County they are classified as dolomite (a type of rock) glades, because of the large number of exposed and protruding outcroppings. In other areas, such as the Ozarks, these areas frequent hillsides and are also known as barrens, or bald knobs. Vegetation does grow there, just not very tall. Glades depend on wildfires to eliminate intrusive tree species, such as red cedar, and to rejuvenate the birth and growth of the hundreds of indigenous plants.
I have hiked a few of these protected areas in the county, and also discovered that there is a glade area on the unoccupied acreage below my house. My five acres used to be part of that larger land mass, but was split off to expedite the sale of the house. The land, very shallow soil, very hilly and rocky, full of crags and ravines is pretty much agriculturally and commercially useless. Sparse, stunted hardwoods, shallow soil, short, spindly grasses.
I wanted to attend so I got myself put on the list.
I got a late start though.
I stopped off in Hillsboro for a quick breakfast at:
The Place:

The Farmers Kitchen.
I've eaten breakfast there a half dozen or so times recently, I've grown to like it fine. Closer to home than Huddle House, my previous weekend breakfast favorite.
It's just off the main drag near Queens, the local supermarket.
I haven't given the place a formal review yet, for reasons that are a little complicated, but I do go there and have thoroughly enjoyed the food and service. Well, most of the time.
The place just recently opened under new ownership, they're still finding their stride, so I can't be too critical.
The Food:
That being said though, I always get the same, non-complicated thing. Basically the same breakfast I used to get at HH.
Two eggs, over medium, bacon, hash browns and a waffle.
What it usually looks like.
I must say, even at this last visit, they make a waffle that is far superior to HH, Waffle House, Denny's or IHOP. Farmer's Kitchen doesn't sweeten theirs so much.
If I were not already running late, I would have sent this day's plate back. The eggs were fine, the bacon was crispy, the waffle melted the big pile of butter beautifully. However, the hash browns were swimming in grease. They even lost their shape, appearing to be globs of greasy shredded potato than firm, crispy ribbons. I was really, really disappointed. I knew they could make hash browns, I've had them several times without complaint.
Against my better judgment, I ate most of them anyhow, choosing to absorb myself in my book rather than
obsess about it. I would pay for this bad decision later.
I didn't stay long, the service was kind of spotty and the book wasn't very good, so I thought I'd better try to get out of there before I missed the seminar altogether.
The service was indeed spotty, but I knew why. The ladies that waited on my table were new to me. Previously I'd always been tended to by a young, very pregnant lady. She's quite good, so I assumed on this morning that she must be about to pop and these were fill-in's or newbies. This is a rather new place, so I excused that.
I paid up and jumped into my car. I knew the way to the glade, I'd been there several times.
Well, sort of. Actually I knew the way to both big preserved glades just outside of Hillsboro. Naturally I went to the wrong one first, I was having that kind of day. Valley View is managed by the Dept of Conservation, the other, Victoria, by the Nature Conservancy.
Valley View Glade
They look a lot alike but they are several miles apart. As soon as I realized my mistake, which was not soon at all, I turned around and sped (at a safe, legal speed) to the other one, I was now twenty minutes late to a two hour event.
There were several cars in the lot, something that doesn't happen often. Most of my hikes had been solitary, as if I had the 220+ acres to myself. I knew that I was in the right place this time by the number of cars and trucks. I couldn't see or hear anyone, but I knew the trail only went in two directions. I could see about a half mile down one direction, nothing, they must have gone the other way, along the tree line, toward the creek
It's all down hill from the parking lot. About halfway a big, colorful, probably poisonous insect jumped on me. I pulled and twisted at my polo shirt to rid myself of the toxic beastie. Then I noticed how big a hurry I had been getting out of the house. My shirt was on inside out. No wonder the people in the restaurant had stared at me like a hobo.
I looked around, could see no one. I could hear them in the distance though. So I immodestly flipped my shirt right side out and checked the pit area for deodorant traces. All good.
Professional Conservationists.
I continued down the hill about a quarter mile or so and came up on the small group of fifteen or so. Jennifer and Justin from the conservation department were already in deep with the flora and fauna details, I hadn't missed much. I'd studied up on that back during my hiking days. Low, colorful flowering grasses dotted the almost barren landscape. I even spotted some Fremont's Leather Leaf, about ready to bloom. This particular species of the small plant only grows in glades, and only around Jefferson county. It's not a brilliant or beautiful plant, even with its small, subtle lavender blooms. I just always thought it was cool that the things only existed here.
They soon started discussing management, burning, tree clearing, which nature used to take care of all by herself. Nowadays of course, if a wildfire starts up anywhere near houses, we throw legions of firefighters at the perfectly natural and ultimately environmentally necessary event.
By NOT allowing the burn off,  small trees can actually grow and create a canopy, which prevents indigenous plants from growing. Deer, turkey and probably Sasquatches and whatever else lurks in these barren environs thrive on those small buds, grasses and seeds. Some of the plants will not even sprout in the modest shade created by a single scraggly cedar.
I knew this as well to, but I enjoyed being around other folks that cared. Justin pointed to a small, thick
100 years old?
shrub, about ten feet tall and half that big around. It looked spindly and  puny. They said what it was, but I didn't write it down. I said I had researched the flora and fauna, not memorized it.
Anyway that puny, sickly looking tree, in Justin's estimation, was probably over a hundred years old. Things do grow in the hot, dry, thin-soiled glades, just not very quickly.
Jennifer said that we also would be discussing the woodland areas around the glade. So we walked downhill another quarter mile or so. My tummy started making noises. A bloaty, uncomfortable feeling came over me. The greasy potatoes were demanding their due.
There are no restroom facilities in the glades, unless you count nature itself.  It's one thing if you are alone, quite another when you are in a group. I had not planned well. The second half of the talk I was too biologically distracted to participate or pay attention much. As soon as one of the conservationists mentioned heading back, I took the lead.
All up hill.
On a loose and muddy path.
I reached the parking lot first and drove away as quickly as I could.
For most of the rest of the day that pile of greasy potatoes haunted me. I got home before noon and just 'relaxed' for a while.
I even tried to take a nap. I was almost asleep when my work phone chirped.
Oh yeah, on-call.
When my phone chirps on a weeknight or weekend on my turn in the on-call schedule, it's never just a friendly greeting.
I checked the cryptic, robot generated messages, another message came in, then another, then another. . .  Not good.
Our system, one of those who's job it is to monitor other systems, was spitting out a litany of complaints.
I'll not bore you with the technical details, other than to say the internal network was acting up. Our systems, and there are hundreds of them, all talk to one another. A diagram of the network paths would less resemble a road map than a huge bowl of spaghetti. When one of the several systems that keeps track of how to reach the other systems throws a fit, communication stalls, users panic, guys like me say b-bye to the rest of the day.
It was only 1:30 P.M. but I knew that I would not be going out for dinner as planned.
I told Angel as much, she was okay with that, her day was quite busy taking care of the fifteen dogs she'd taken in boarding and training. She's used to this, I've always been on an on-call schedule. She knows that an plan-killing IT event can and will occur at all hours, most of them unpleasant. We would either have take out or make something ourselves.
This was very, very disappointing this time since I'd planned all week to return to:
The Place:
Concord Grill.
We were just there a month back, on the day I upgraded cars. We thoroughly enjoyed it and I said as much
in that week's review. The owner, Deb, even contacted me saying some very nice things about the review.
On the restaurant's web page she had a note that she's always looking to expand her arsenal of burgers. I dutifully submitted a suggestion. In her note to me she'd said that they were going to work on mine and would let me know when it would be available. She contacted me again earlier this week, they were going to offer it as a Saturday special.
That is why we had planned to go back on this day.
I had recommended a Shrimp Alfredo Burger.
Don't gag, think about it.
Basically surf and turf, grilled shrimp on a beautifully cooked burger, with a thick, creamy, buttery cheese sauce topping. What's not to love?
But no, I couldn't go. I explained as much in a short note to Deb. I felt really bad, but such is the life of an on-call IT guy. IT administration has many rules, methods and guiding principles, the most commonly cited one is of course, Murphy's law. If a thing can go wrong, it will, especially, according to one of the many corollaries, at the most inopportune time.
It would have been good, probably outstanding. Concord Grill makes the best thick burgers in my broad reviewing area, by a long shot.
A while later, while I was watching the systems and waiting for the all-clear call from the network guys, Angel announced "Comfort food, we need comfort food!"
I knew exactly what she meant.
Back in olden days, in the 'salad days' (Which , ironically rarely, if ever, included a salad) we prepared and ate mostly heavy, starchy midwestern food. Meat, potatoes, bread, etc. Lots of potatoes.
Not anymore. We don't even keep potatoes in the house now. I love potatoes, really, really love potatoes, but for the past year I only have one or two servings per week, if that many, usually on Saturday, when we eat out. My main food problem has always been the starches. When the doctor showed me a chart and wagged his finger at me last year, I knew what I needed to do.
But this was Saturday night.
Angel made a list and headed out to Queens. We were pretty low on several things anyhow.
That evening I peeled four or five spuds then chopped them up into 1/4 inch, roughly, cubes. She heated up the oil, something else we don't have much of in our pantry anymore. I then sliced and diced part of an onion. Then I had to talk on the phone for a while to the tired and frantic network guys.
We used to make this meal a lot.
Fried potatoes, scrambled eggs, biscuits, bacon, maybe some ham, and definitely a big, thick, steamy pile of sausage gravy.
I knew the potatoes would be better than those that I'd had that morning, Angel knows what she's doing.
It worked, it all came together beautifully. The gravy, which out of newly acquired habit, I applied sparingly, going for the taste, not the quantity. The eggs were fluffy, the biscuits, canned, since neither of us makes biscuits from scratch often enough to be very good at it, were golden brown. The bacon was crispy and plentiful. We couldn't eat it all, but we knew that. This stuff reheats just fine on Sunday morning.
The morning's meal was unfortunate. I know Farmer's Kitchen can do better than this. I'm counting on it. I will be back, probably in the next weekend or two. Out of a half dozen breakfasts there I've enjoyed them all just fine except for this one. I'll cut them some slack, this one time. I like that they are locally owned and so close to home. I want them to succeed. I know they can.
Concord Grill will be fine as well. I am truly disappointed that I was unable to go there this weekend. I had my review mostly, mentally, already written, the photos already framed.
Home cooked comfort food is always a sure-fire hit. That's exactly why we can't have it very often. This stuff is all wrong nutritionally speaking, unless you are able to routinely burn off thousands of heavy calories per day. For some of us though, it's now a rare and precious treat.
I'm on call next weekend too, so, who knows.

Concord Grill on Urbanspoon

Farmer's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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