Tag Archives: dinner

Old School Social Media

August 22, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Today, social media is brimming with food photos. But a pre-digital form of social media has been sharing favorite dishes since the 19th century. It’s probably the only “published” book containing your grandmother’s beloved gingerbread recipe. It’s the church cookbook—a repository of traditional American wisdom, which often comes complete with six variations of the same recipe (for example: lime gelatin salad with pineapple, walnuts, cottage cheese, and maraschino cherries or mandarin oranges).

Long before the invention of the computer, religious and social groups created cookbooks, often as a fundraising tool to pay for upgrades and maintenance on buildings. The first charity cookbook is believed to have been printed in 1864 as a way to subsidize medical costs for Union soldiers. The idea took the country by storm, especially with religious groups. When a church needed to replace the steeple or build an addition, the minister came to the ladies’ auxiliaries, which created cookbooks. Morris Press Cookbooks in Kearney is one of many companies that was created solely for the printing of cookbooks. They have not only printed hundreds of thousands of cookbooks for churches and social groups, but also specialty cookbooks for singer Donny Osmond, Chiquita bananas, Heinz, and others.

Brian Moffatt of Omaha has collected these cookbooks for several years, mostly church cookbooks. He finds them at estate sales and some thrift stores, and his collection includes books from local churches of nearly every denomination.

“Estate sales are huge,” Moffatt says. “I just like to look at all these and see the way people used to cook.”

Estate sales are huge because many of the people who collected—and contributed to—these community cookbooks are dying. Today’s generation shares recipes and photos of dishes on modern social media, often Pinterest.

Moffatt’s collection at one time extended to hundreds of books, which he recently whittled down to the ones he enjoys the most, such as a cookbook produced by the ladies of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church. The charm of this book, for him, is that it features several recipes from an old neighbor, Caren Guillaume.

“The older ones have some odd information in them,” Moffatt says. “A lot of them use lard, and sometimes you run across an ingredient that you just can’t find anymore.”

Other ingredients are vastly different from today’s definition. Gelatin, for example, is today often thought of as a fruit-flavored ingredient packed in school lunches and used in molded salads. Originally, however, gelatin (which was also spelled gelatine) was a jelly obtained by boiling meat on the bone until the collagen coagulated.

There are still church cookbooks being sold, but not nearly as many. While researching for this article, Omaha Magazine reached out to several area churches; none had produced a cookbook in the last five years.

Read on for several classic church cookbook recipes culled from Moffatt’s collection.”

Excerpted from Brian Moffatt’s Collection

Local Church Cookbook Recipes

Delmonico Potatoes

Submitted by Mrs. Carl Swanson for 50th Anniversary Cookbook, printed by Trinity Lutheran Church in 1965.

Dice two potatoes, boiled until just tender. Make 2 cups rich cream sauce seasoned with salt, pepper, and celery salt. Arrange a layer of potatoes in a buttered casserole, pour on half the sauce and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Add another layer of potatoes, the rest of the sauce, and about 1/4 cup more Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with paprika and top generously with buttered bread crumbs. Bake at 400 degrees until sauce bubbles and crumbs are brown.

Party Snack Weenies

Submitted by Mrs. Carl Swanson for 50th Anniversary Cookbook, printed by Trinity Lutheran Church in 1965.

6-ounce jar of yellow mustard

10 ounces currant (or grape) jelly

1/2 package whole weenies, cut up, or 1 package of small (cocktail) weenies.

Heat and serve in chafing dish.

Cherry Fluff Salad

Submitted by Karen Hauranek for My Favorite Recipes, printed by St. Mark Baptist Church in 1984.

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

1 large carton (8 ounces) whipped topping

1 can (21 ounces) cherry pie filling

1 large can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained

1 cup miniature marshmallows

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Beat sweetened condensed milk and whipped topping with mixer. Fold in remaining ingredients. Refrigerate. Salad is ready to serve in 30 minutes.

Dill Dip*

Submitted by Joyce Stranglen for From Thy Bounty, printed by St. Bernadette Catholic Church. No publication date noted.

1 1/3 cups sour cream

1 1/3 cups mayonnaise

2 tablespoons parsley

2 tablespoons minced onion

2 teaspoons dill weed

2 teaspoons Beau Monde seasoning

Mix all ingredients together several hours before serving.

*Editor’s note: Three variations of this recipe (from three different women) appear in From Thy Bounty. Mary Olson’s dip omits the parsley; Connie Gauthier’s recipe omits the onion and parsley.

Kahlua Cake

Submitted by Shirley Mackie for A Potpourri of Culinary Masterpieces, printed by Presbyterian Church of the Master in 1983.

4 eggs

1 package (15 ounces) devil’s food cake mix

1 small package (3 ounces) instant chocolate pudding mix

1 pint sour cream

3/4 cup oil*

3/4 cup Kahlua liqueur

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup chopped nutmeats

Glaze:

2 tablespoons cocoa

3 tablespoons Kahlua liqueur

1 teaspoon water

1 tablespoon oil*

1 tablespoon corn syrup

1 cup powdered sugar

Beat eggs. Beat in cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, oil*, and liqueur. Stir in chocolate chips and nutmeats. Mix well. Bake in greased bundt pan at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until cake tests done.

For the glaze: In a small saucepan, combine cocoa, Kahlua, water, oil*, and corn syrup. Cook and stir over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat; immediately beat in powdered sugar. Drizzle over cake.

*Editor’s note: the recipe does not specify what is meant by oil; vegetable oil or canola oil is the likely ingredient.

Joan’s Nutritious Cookies

Submitted by Peg Russell for A Potpourri of Culinary Masterpieces, printed by Presbyterian Church of the Master in 1983.

1 cup shortening—“vegetable shortening and margarine makes it good.”

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

1/4 cup wheat germ

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 1/4 cup quick oatmeal

dash each of cinnamon and nutmeg

3/4 cup raisins, plumped

nuts, if you want them

Mix shortening and sugars. Add sifted flour, salt, soda, and vanilla. Blend in oatmeal and other spices (blending in raisins and nuts last). Make into balls, then flatten a little. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Makes about three dozen.

Coconut Fruit Salad

Submitted by Caren Guillaume for Heartwarmers, printed by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. James Churches in 1994.

1 No. 2 can (2 1/2 cups) pineapple tidbits

1 11-ounce can (1 1/3 cups) mandarin oranges, drained

1 cup mini marshmallows

1 cup Thompson seedless grapes

1 can (3 1/2 ounces) flaked coconut

2 cups sour cream

1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine the first five ingredients. Stir in sour cream and salt. Chill overnight. Serves eight.

Broccoli-Rice Casserole

Submitted by Barbara Kelley for Through These Red Doors, printed by All Saints Episcopal Church in 2003.

1 package (10 ounces) frozen, chopped broccoli, thawed

1 cup cooked rice

4 ounces American cheese sauce

1 onion, chopped

4 stalks celery, chopped

butter*

1 can cream of chicken soup

Sauté onion and celery in butter. Add cream of chicken soup. Mix remaining ingredients together and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

*Editor’s note: The recipe does not specify an amount of butter. Two tablespoons should work.

Scripture Cake

Submitted by Martha Dus for Kountze Kitchens, printed by Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church in 1983. The name of the cake refers to noted Bible verses featuring ingredients.

1/2 cup butter (Judges 5:25)

2 cups flour (I Kings 4:22)

1/2 teaspoon salt (Leviticus 2:13)

1 cup figs (I Samuel 30:12)

1 1/2 cups sugar (Jeremiah 6:20)

2 teaspoons baking powder (Luke 13:21)

1/2 cup water (Genesis 24:11)

1 cup raisins (1 Samuel 30:12)

3 eggs (Isaiah 10:14)

1/2 teaspoon of each: cinnamon, mace, cloves (I Kings 10:10)

1 tablespoon honey (Proverbs 24:13)

1/2 cup almonds (Genesis 43:11)

Blend butter, sugar, spices, and salt. Beat egg yolks and add to mixture. Sift in baking powder and flour, then add water and honey. Put fruit and nuts through food chopper and flour well. Add and beat. (Follow Solomon’s advice in the first clause of Proverbs 23:14—“Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”) Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Bake for one hour at 375 degrees.

Refrigerator Shake Pickles

Submitted by Ruth Hickman for Kountze Kitchens, printed by Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church in 1983.

2 quarts sliced cucumbers

2 cups sugar

2 cups vinegar

1/4 cup pickling salt

3/4 teaspoon celery seed

3/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seed

3/4 teaspoon turmeric

Combine sugar, vinegar, and spices. Pour over thinly sliced cucumbers. Refrigerate and shake every day for five days. These keep “indefinitely” in the refrigerator.

Rockbrook’s Hot Chicken Salad

Submitted by Iris Clark for Recipes and Remembrances, printed by Rockbrook United Methodist Church in 1999.

4 cups cooked, cubed chicken

2 cups thinly sliced celery

2 cups bread cubes

1 cup toasted chopped or slivered almonds

1 teaspoon salt plus 1 teaspoon MSG

1 tablespoon minced or chopped onion

1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup mayonnaise (“NOT salad dressing”)

2 cans cream of chicken soup

1 cup grated sharp cheese

2 cups crushed potato chips

Combine chicken, celery, bread cubes, almonds, salt, MSG, onion, lemon juice, mayonnaise, and soup. Pile lightly into “Pam’d” 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Top with cheese, onion, and chips. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

Green Vegetable Salad (Pictured above)

Submitted by Kathy Jones for My Favorite Recipes, printed by St. Mark Baptist Church in 1984.

1 head cauliflower

2 heads broccoli

1 container cherry tomatoes, cut in halves

1 jar sliced mushrooms, drained

1 jar green olives, stuffed with pimentos.

Mix the vegetables together in a large bowl. For dressing, combine red wine vinegar, 2 packets Italian dressing seasoning, and 1 bottle of oil/vinegar Italian dressing. Pour over the vegetables.

This article was printed in the July/August 2017 Edition of 60Plus.

Turkey Soup

November 26, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It’s the perfect way to warm up on a chilly day. Try this easy turkey soup that can also add a welcome, new twist to Thanksgiving leftovers.

For more healthy recipes, visit HealthyKohlsKids.com. The Healthy Kohl’s Kids program is a partnership between Children’s Hospital & Medical Center and Kohl’s Department Stores to educate children and parents about healthy nutrition and fitness.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup diced carrot
  • ½ cup diced celery
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, with liquid
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 can (15 oz) great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups (about 16 ounces) cubed cooked turkey
  • ½ cup cubed zucchini
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley

Preparation

  1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened, about 4 minutes.
  2. Stir in carrot, celery, pepper, oregano, and basil. Cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes with their liquid, water, broth, beans, and turkey and stir. Cover saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
  4. Add zucchini and parsley and cook until zucchini is cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes. Serve.

Yield: 8 servings

 

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 165, Fat: 2g, Saturated Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 47mg, Sodium: 528mg, Carbohydrates: 14g, Fiber: 4g, Protein: 21g

* Nutritional information is based on ingredients listed and serving size; any additions or substitutions to ingredients may alter the recipe’s 
nutritional content.

Thanksgiving on the Rocks

November 25, 2013 by

I love to cook, but the Thanksgiving production in my kitchen has lost its luster. On top of that, I’m not great at cooking gigantor birds, I don’t like stuffing, and it’s physically and emotionally impossible for me to make gravy. There, I said it.

My life changed a few years ago when I discovered a Thanksgiving secret. So let’s just keep this one between us, okay? Most grocery stores offer delicious pre-made turkey dinners. I saw this “secret” advertised in the newspaper. Most include a turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry relish. (Try buying your Thanksgiving grocery list for under a $100). Some also offer other sides you can choose from. But since I love to cook to relieve stress, not induce it, I get the dinner and make a couple of our favorite sides—usually green bean casserole and pumpkin pie.

Last year, I called a pal who had her in-laws in town on Thanksgiving Day. I could hear the sweat dripping from her head, pots clanking, kids screaming—and I’m pretty sure she cussed out her husband for being in the kitchen. When I mentioned the pre-cooked turkey dinner and that I just had to heat it up, her response was a shriek. “YOU CAN DO THAT?!” Yes, you can.

Here’s what you do. You secretly order the turkey dinner, pick it up, stash it, dish it on your china, and your family is none the wiser. You save money, everyone eats, and you don’t have the annual meltdown in the kitchen this year because all of the yelling about how the football game muffled the sound of the oven timers, and now the turkey is overcooked and the pie is burned. There’s not enough whipped cream to fix a burnt pie. Trust me, I’ve tried. You get none of that shame, and all of the glory with the pre-cooked dinner. We’ll all just keep it to ourselves, and go from there.

By the way, when you have time, money, and hands freed up from all that cooking, you can do some or all of these:

  • Serve dinners to the less fortunate.
  • Donate money for dinners to the Food Bank, Together, or other local agencies committed to fighting hunger.
  • Play with your kids.
  • Go for a run or workout before you eat (because you don’t have to tend to all that stuff in the kitchen).
  • Spend the rest of your Thanksgiving budget on Black Friday, or better yet, a nice bottle of wine.
  • When’s the last time you watched the entire parade?

 

Read more of Murrell’s stories at momontherocks.com.

J’s on Jackson

October 28, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Ask Jay Siers what the best thing is on his menu.

“Our filets.” This is said with finality.

The owner of J’s on Jackson will have his medium rare, thank you. Carrots and asparagus on the side, please, with a little seasoning and butter. Possibly accompanied by a glass from one of the Old Market steakhouse’s 300 bottles of wine.

20130923_bs_3038

General manager John Thompson is well-versed in the type of restaurant Jay Siers wants J’s on Jackson to be. Thompson began working with Siers in a consulting capacity last fall for his Norfolk steakhouse.

 

Siers’ confidence in his steaks stems from the fact that J’s on Jackson sources and cuts all of its meat through its own steak-cutting operation, Platte Valley Meats, in Fremont. “It gives us much better quality control than if we just tried to source meat on the open market,” Siers says, “and it’s almost 100 percent Nebraska beef.”

Platte Valley Meats seems a natural addition to Siers’ empire. J’s on Jackson is, after all, his third restaurant. Dedicated patrons can find a J’s Steakhouse and Winebar in both Norfolk and Fremont. “Our core menu’s pretty much the same,” Siers says, “but I wanted this one to be a little different.”

J’s on Jackson manages to have a traditional steakhouse feel (you know the type: dark wood, white tablecloths, heavy bar) without completely closing off diners from the bustle of the Old Market. The dining room overlooks 11th Street, and a small patio affords fantastic people watching on Jackson.

While you’re out there, consider the chef’s patio special of the evening. “It’s usually a unique appetizer, like Chesapeake Bay oysters,” says John Thompson, the restaurant’s general manager. For dinner, try the nightly feature. J’s on Jackson differs from traditional steakhouses in that it serves a composed plate rather than a la carte, so your pork filet might come with a cherry remoulade sauce and a side of pureed sweet potato.

 

Of course, with Zeb Rogers in the kitchen, who knows what will be featured on any given night. “He’s dying to do a stuffed squid,” Thompson comments, “but the market’s a bit high right now.” The restaurant’s executive chef was a sous chef at several restaurants in Minneapolis before moving to Omaha, where he became executive chef at 801 Chophouse and then Mark’s Bistro. He finally joined forces with Siers and Thompson at J’s in 2012.

“He’s been here since we opened,” Siers says. “He’s an amazing guy, and he has full latitude over the menu. He can do whatever he wants.”

That’s another twist at J’s: Even if you’re not in the mood for a steak, chances are you’ll find something to tempt the palate. The restaurant offers seafood fresh from Omaha’s own Jacobson Fish Co. and makes its gnocchi and pasta sauces in house. “It’s not that we have so much,” Siers says, dismissing the idea that the menu’s variety would indicate a lack of focus. “We don’t have 16 chicken dishes. We just tried to cover everything.”

And if it’s still not quite what a diner needs?

“They’ve never said no to a special request,” says Kim Kanellis, a regular at J’s. As a sales and marketing rep for an insurance company, she frequently entertains clients at the steakhouse. “If they have it, they’ll do it.” During one particular business lunch, a fellow diner wasn’t finding a vegetarian option on the menu that appealed to her. “So they asked her some questions and made a Portobello sandwich up for her,” Kanellis recalls. “Fabulous service. That’s what it’s all about there.”

It doesn’t sound like Siers is willing to rest on his laurels though. When asked if he has plans for a fourth restaurant, his quick response is, “Always.” The details are still being hashed out, but look for something in the way of a raw bar in southwest Omaha sometime this spring.

How to Ride the River City Star

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The strains of “Folsom Prison Blues” as played by a one-man band is the perfect soundtrack to a riverboat tour. I bet there’s rich folks eating/In a fancy dining car/They’re probably drinkin’ coffee/And smokin’ big cigars. You are not those rich people, and this is not their sophisticated evening. This is where you embrace the river rat heritage bestowed upon you by dint of being in Omaha.

For the past eight years, the River City Star has hosted 60- and 90-minute cruises up and down the Missouri River from early April through mid-October. Just north of the Lewis and Clark Visitors Center and off of Gallup Drive, plastic palm trees and tropical trinkets guide you down a gangplank to a two-story riverboat. On blistering summer days, the kitschy décor fits.

Sightseeing tours happen every Sunday, no reservations required (but you really should anyway). Lunch and dinner cruises do require reservations and feature a cash bar and live entertainment, either by Win Lander or Joey Gulizia. Bartender Katie serves up Watermelons, exactly the drink that was so popular at the now-closed Anchor Inn. “It’s the drink on the river,” says Tami Bader, director of sales. “And there’s not a bit of watermelon in it.” Vodka and a few other liquors form the secret recipe.20130515_bs_6243_Web

Arrive. Early. If your dinner cruise is at 6:30 p.m., that means the River City Star pulls away from the dock at 6:30 p.m. Get there 15 minutes ahead of time to pick up your tickets at the office and get settled on the boat. Top floor definitely, if it’s a sunny day.

Take the time to soak in your surroundings. Stand at the back of the boat as it pushes off and watch as the twin John Deere diesel jet-drive engines froth up the water for the first time. If there’s a speaker on the sightseeing tour or live music during the dinner cruise, listen to it all. Try to get Lander to tell you why he doesn’t play Elvis.

The River City Star chugs north on the Missouri past the Illinois Central swing bridge, now permanently swung open. “The only way to see it now is from the boat,” Bader says. At Narrows River Park in Council Bluffs, the boat turns south to go underneath the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, breeze past the Downtown Omaha riverfront, and make a final turn just before Harrah’s Casino.

Captain Stephen Hosch.

Captain Stephen Hosch.

Depending on the day, your captain might be Stephen Hosch or Ken Merlin. Captain Hosch isn’t shy about divulging his knowledge of the river. As the River City Star trundles past Freedom Park within the first few minutes of the cruise, he waves his hand to encompass the variety of navy relics on the Nebraska shore. “That’s the Marlin there,” Captain Hosch says. “A ’50s training sub. And the Hazard over there, that’s a minesweeper from World War II. It supported a convoy in Okinawa. It was one of the few steel sweepers.” Incidentally, the USS Hazard is listing a tad these days, after floating on the 2011 flood that reached her on-shore resting place. When the flood finally receded, the Hazard settled back down at a bit of a tilt.

The Missouri is an adaptable lady, but if you look closely, you can still see the damage from the flood a couple years ago. Captain Hosch points out that the eddies swirling between manmade jetties and flood-deposits of sand may produce holes 20 feet deep underneath the river’s surface.

The Loess Hills are in perfect view at this point of the cruise, all golden with evening sun and accented by the earthy smell of the Missouri. As the River City Star turns south, a completely different view presents itself, the Downtown Omaha skyline.20130515_bs_6355_Web

It’s about this time that you should really head down to the buffet (if you’re on a dinner or lunch cruise) to enjoy some grilled barbecue chicken or roast beef, roasted potatoes or perhaps green beans with almonds. If you eat quickly, you can be done in time to see pedestrian reactions when Captain Hosch lets a kid sound the foghorn underneath the Pedestrian Bridge. Stay above deck to see how many swallows’ nests you can count, neatly lined up in the hundreds underneath the lip of the I-480 overpass.

On the way back north to the River City Star’s dock, Captain Hosch points out a channel cut into the Iowa bank. It may look like one of the Missouri’s natural changes in character, but the captain says it’s manmade, a place for catfish and sturgeon to lay eggs in safety. He’s seen deer, beaver, catfish, and huge paddlefish on his many tours up and down Omaha’s section of the river. “And have you seen all these geese?” he asks. “Looks like they’re all out dating tonight.”

The River City Star is inspected by the Coast Guard annually and certified for 149 passengers. Find the latest information on cruise times and prices at rivercitystar.com.

Kith

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“I think there’s something about sharing a meal together that gets rid of a lot of nonsense,” says Brigitte McQueen, director of The Union for Contemporary Arts. “Those conversations are what bring us together. It levels the playing field.”

In late January, The Union, an organization that provides studio fellowship programs for six months at a time, hosted its first monthly Kith dinner. It was an informal potluck shared by artists, local residents, and perfect strangers, heralded by nothing much more than a Facebook event. Why would a group like that come together at 24th and Burdette in a simple ranch building usually dedicated to the arts?

“The arts have not always been a conversation in North Omaha,” McQueen says. “A lot of the people who live in this area don’t think art is for black people or that black people make art. And I get why those thoughts are held, because you don’t really see it. Why would you go out of your way to engage with it? You change that,” she adds, “by making artists more visible in the community.”

When McQueen first posted the invitation on Facebook for a free community potluck at The Union, each of the 30 spots were spoken for within two hours. When she mentioned it later in The Union’s newsletter, people asked, “Can we just come?” So McQueen eked out space for 50 people around the Union’s common room. “I worked that space in a way I didn’t even know was possible,” she says a touch proudly.20120803_bs_2517

The artists in residence had their studios open, so during the cocktail hour, guests milled around. The food was all on one table, beautifully set with flowers and china. Old R&B music played in the background. The gathering began around 6 p.m., and it was about 9:30 p.m. when the last person left.

The first Kith dinner yielded such beauties as Thai fish curry and Italian sausage lentil stew. McQueen, who studied at a pastry school, made a chocolate stout cake. Tim Shew, her husband and a chef at La Buvette, made a five-cheese mac-and-cheese casserole with toasted breadcrumbs on top. “People bring their A-game,” McQueen adds, still obviously impressed. “This one woman showed up with these cupcakes, and everyone was like, ‘Where’d you buy them?’, and she said, ‘Oh no, I made them.’ They were these caramel toffee…amazing. Beautifully done.” One couple brought a bottle of Bailey’s for the coffee at the end of the night.

Karin Campbell, curator of contemporary art at the Joslyn Art Museum, says, “I remember sitting in The Union’s main room pondering the fact that maintaining a community is really not rocket science. All it takes is a little bit of willingness to leave the house. It’s refreshing to sit at a table with living, breathing human beings.” Also, she confessed, there were Samoa cupcakes. “Mind. Blown.”

With the summer weather, there will be barbecues and outdoor movie nights. Hours will switch up from brunches to late cocktail parties and back again in order to make Kith open to every schedule.

“I think there’s something about sharing a meal together that gets rid of a lot of nonsense. Those conversations are what bring us together.” – Brigitte McQueen

Whatever the theme, whatever the time, the gatherings have only two rules: Everyone brings something to share, and you don’t sit next to someone you know. There are no cliques, no circles. Everyone interacts with everyone else. “It’s not just a bunch of artists sitting in this pocket,” McQueen says. “The conversation starts out being about art, but it ends up being about, say, politics.” Or films. Or food. Or about what it will take to make North Omaha thrive again.

“The things that separate us,” McQueen says with emphasis, “are stupid. And they are stupid things that have been in place for generations.” With Kith, she’s inviting residents of the area to interact with people who might be coming into North Omaha for the first time in a setting that guests can’t help but associate with comfort, coziness, and conversation.

Artist in residence Victoria Hoyt sums up the appeal of Kith: “When you sit down for a meal, you talk about things you wouldn’t standing up in a gallery or chatting in a bar. You can go beyond small talk and make meaningful connections.”

Restaurant Review: Mantra Bar & Grille

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Where Maple Street passes through the Benson neighborhood is arguably one of the most exciting urban revitalizations currently happening in Omaha. It seems like every month there’s a new retail store, restaurant, or bar opening up. In spring of 2012, Mantra Bar & Grille became the latest restaurant to part of this thriving Benson area. Mantra owner Mac Thompson, no stranger to the Omaha restaurant scene, is well-known for his other, highly regarded restaurant, Taxi’s Grille & Bar.

Located at 6913 Maple, Mantra is toward the west end of the budding Benson scene, affording patrons plenty of parking—something which is very scarce five blocks further east. From the outside, Mantra has a very smart look to it with an inviting patio and artsy facade. Inside, the restaurant is drop-dead gorgeous with a modern, industrial look to it that’s well-designed and really catchy. There’s a bar that runs the entire length of the restaurant, as well as several flat screens for watching sports. The sound on the TVs is pretty much off, so you can hear the well-curated playlist of classic rock (which I just happen to love) played at a comfortable volume. The restaurant has booths along one wall; in the center, brushed-aluminum tables add to the restaurant’s striking appearance.14 January 2013- "Mantra" in Benson is photographed for Omaha Magazine.

The menu at Mantra has a nicely balanced variety of selections. There’s an assortment of small plates, salads, sandwich, light entrees, and some very enticing specials. Many of these menu items look very familiar to past meals I’ve had at Taxi’s, which by all means is a good thing.

On a recent visit, my dining partner and I started with the Dijon Shrimp Appetizer ($9.50). These were served in an escargot-style dish and were drenched in garlic butter and topped with bubbling havarti cheese. It was served with some of their fresh-baked sourdough baguette. The combination was incredible! We also tried the Bacon and Tomato Flatbread ($8.95). This concoction featured a perfect thin crust, goat cheese, roasted tomatoes, pepper bacon, and some kind of a maple, balsamic drizzle. This is one stellar dish and now, one of my personal favorites.14 January 2013- "Mantra" in Benson is photographed for Omaha Magazine.

For dinner, I ordered the Blackened Tuna Tacos ($14.95) off the specials list. This dish is comprised of three tacos made with small corn tortillas, cole slaw, green salsa, avocado, grated jack cheese, and a generous portion of flash-seared tuna. It also comes with some Mexican-style rice and beans. These were some of the best fish tacos I have had in some time. My dining partner tried the Chicken Piccata ($17.95). The tender chicken breasts were seasoned and cooked perfectly. The piccata sauce was well-executed, making this a memorable dish as well. For dessert, we tried the Pistachio Cake French Toast ($6.50). It’s served with ice cream and maple syrup. After a couple of bites, it was obvious why this is their signature dessert. All I can say is, be sure to save some room.

The service at Mantra was spot-on. Our server was very knowledgeable about the menu and made some excellent recommendations. We were never left waiting for anything, nor did we feel rushed. The beer and wine list features some great selections, and there’s also a full bar with some interesting-sounding signature cocktails. All of these things combined to make for an excellent dining experience, and one that I’m ready to repeat.

Cheers!

Mantra Bar & Grille
6913 Maple St.
402-933-1666
mantraomaha.com

RATING (5 Stars Possible)

Food & Beverage: ****
Service: ***1/2
Ambiance: ****
Price: Moderate
Overall: ****

Cantina Laredo

November 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann and Cantina Laredo

Looking for a warm atmosphere during the cold winter months to get away with your girlfriends for some drinks and mouthwatering food? Look no further than Cantina Laredo in Midtown Crossing!

This Mexican restaurant boasts a relaxed dining area with a cozy fireplace, upscale bar scene, outdoor patio, private dining room (no room fees!), and seven flat-screen TVs. As for the fare, Cantina Laredo creates beautiful plates of Mexican gourmet made with traditional techniques. Anyone familiar with traditional Mexican cuisine will be taken back to a past vacation along the Mexican coast or countryside. The authentic experience is also made complete with a wide variety of imported tequilas and Mexican beers.

Margarita special, Her'Rita

Margarita special, Her’Rita

Try the chips and top-shelf Guacamole appetizer (made fresh tableside) with a Casa ‘Rita (house margarita), which is a premier blend of Giro Silver Tequila by Sauza, Cointreau, and fresh-squeezed lemon and lime juices. Or indulge in the most popular entrée, the Enchiladas Veracruz—chicken enchiladas filled with spinach and Monterey jack cheese topped with tomatillo sauce, marinated vegetables, and queso fresco. And, of course, you can’t forget about the rich Mexican Brownie sizzled in Mexican Brandy Butter with your choice of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream for dessert!

If you’re just meeting up for drinks, however, and feel like mixing it up, ask for the Her ‘Rita, which was carefully created to celebrate women making a difference in Omaha! The authentic Mexican cocktail combines a premier blend of Giro Silver Tequila by Sauza, Triple Sec and fresh-squeezed pomegranate, lemon and lime juices to create a delicious anomaly of flavors to please any woman’s palate.

Cantina Laredo featured entree, Enchiladas Veracruz

Cantina Laredo featured entree, Enchiladas Veracruz

Every Thursday from 4pm to close, Cantina Laredo hosts a Ladies’ Night with half-off house margaritas and wine by the glass for every woman who walks in the door. And Happy Hour runs from 4-7pm on weekdays with large house margaritas for just $5!

Cantina Laredo
120 S. 31st Ave., Ste 5107
402-345-6000
cantinalaredo.com