#CCCCO Third Leg: Kansas City and Santa Fe
Chronicling the third leg of the 2023 Cross Country Craft Chocolate Odyssey #CCCCO – Kansas City to Santa Fe, via Lamy, NM.
As I mentioned in my previous Chronicling post (click on the card below if you haven’t read it yet) I arrived in Kansas City at around 10:00 pm on Easter Sunday Eve.
Because Union Station was in the early stages of being kitted out for the NFL Draft, the normal traffic patterns in and out of the station were disrupted and there was no signage. So, rather than walking less than 500 meters, I took an Uber to my hotel on Grand at 20th, conveniently situated near the station and a block east of the (free) KC Streetcar line.
The night was not as restful as I had hoped ... what I took to be the drumming of a loud band nearby turned out to be the clatter of the wheels of freight trains. Not as bad as in My Cousin Vinny – but enough to interrupt my sleep irregularly.
Easter was a day I carved out for myelf with nothing on the calendar except exploring downtown Kansas City and getting some BBQ. I awoke late, availed myself of the breakfast buffet in the hotel, and headed down (north, actually) Grand Street towards the River Market district, intent on getting an up-close-and-personal view of the Missouri River.
Sadly, that did not happen as there was no obvious pedestrian route to get to Riverfront Park.
Dating back to 1857, the River Market plays an important role in the history of the city. Today there is a mix of permanent businesses – at least one produce vendor, a butcher shop, a specialty coffee shop, some restaurants, a souvenir store – temporary stalls, and on this Easter Sunday, a flea market. By the time I got a decent coffee (much better than the hotel) and consumed it leisurely, the market was just beginning to get busy and really come alive.
There’s not much else to report about Sunday. I took the KC Tram back to the hotel and indulged in the luxury of a nap and just relaxing. I found out the place I really want to go to for BBQ was closed on Easter Sunday. (All of the places on my shortlist were closed. Because. Easter Sunday.) So I made do with some perfectly adequate but nothing special BBQ at a place within walking distance of the hotel, treating myself to some really good beer from local Boulevard Brewing. I returned to the hotel early because Monday was going to be a very long day.
I started my day at 09:00 with a business meeting at one of KC’s highly-recommended local specialty coffee shops, Messenger Coffee (which is in a multistory building and features rooftop seating), and had a pastry – an almond croissant – from the co-located Ibis Bakery.
I did not plan this, but Messenger/Ibis was just down the street from my hotel and just around the corner from the original factory/retail shop of Christopher Elbow. I first met Christopher in NYC while he was still the pastry chef at the American Harvest restaurant. He was in town taking classes and we had lunch at Les Halles where he shared his confections with me and his plans to set out on his own. Before I left NY I loosely arranged a visit.
The original plan was to meet Christoper at the shop. The actual schedule has me visit the shop (which opens at 10:00) after my meeting and then then head to the production facility where we would catch up.
Next Stop: Encore Coffee (and Chocolate)
Mike King came to my attention as a regular participant in ChocolatLifeLIVE episodes as well as being a contestant (and Bronze medal winner in the milk chocolate category) in the recent Craft Chocolat Challenge. By the time I was ready to leave Christopher Elbow’s place it had pretty much stopped raining and by the time I arrived at Encore it was pushing lunch.
Encore started out as a specialty coffee roaster only, but during COVID lockdowns Mike added craft chocolate to his repertoire as a way to differentiate Encore from the other coffee-only roasters in the area. His coffee roastery/chocolate workshop is in modest digs in an industrial strip mall in Grandview, a short Uber south of downtown. Mike roasts his cocoa in the same roaster he uses for his coffee and makes his chocolate in small melangers.
We shared some of the chocolate I picked up in Cincinnati from Maverick, and I picked up some Encore bars to share further on down the road. The conversation about chocolate took many different directions with Mike sharing his experiences growing a small craft chocolate business and the challenges he’s facing being located in the Kansas City market. We also talked about equipment (especially the roaster), approaches to scaling, beans, and ideas that take advantage of KC’s culinary traditions.
As emerged from my conversation with Paul Picton at Maverick, it’s clear that even though Missouri is also home to two early influential craft chocolate makers (Askinosie and Patric) Missouri is not a destination makers tend to visit.
In my estimation this is something the craft chocolate community needs to address in order to grow. And it’ something I am considering how to address as a part of the future of TheChocolateLife.
After dinner, I had some time to kill before I headed back to Union Station, so I spent it at the hotel, where I had checked my bags for the day, on the computer.
While my train was scheduled to depart at 1o:00 pm, I had the foresight to head to Union Station early, figuring that Uber drivers would likely be as confused as I was about where to drop me off at Union Station.
I was right, and I ended up being dropped off across from a parking lot where there was no access to the station, with zero signage. Fortunately, a security guard noticed I was someplace I should not have been. Unfortunately, the security guard was not a local – he was from Texas or somewhere hired just for the period of the NFL draft. After about twenty minutes, during which period I was becoming increasingly antsy about making my train, I was finally guided to an entrance to the station.
Inside I was lost as the signage (what little there was) again let me down again. I eventually made my way train side where I boarded another overnight train, the same SW Chief line (same train, different day) I had taken to KC from Chicago. I settled into my Viewliner seat (no one was seated next to me, thankfully) and as we left the station I set the alarm on my phone to wake me in time to catch the sunrise in the lounge car.
Amtrak – On to Santa Fe!
On to Lamy, NM ... Gateway to Santa Fe
Travel time from Kansas City to Lamy, NM (the train doesn’t actually stop in Santa Fe) was about fifteen hours – as I mention above, most of those hours are through the state of Kansas before cutting through a corner of Colorado before entering New Mexico.
There was one rest stop (in La Junta, CO), about 08:00, with enough time to get off the train and walk a couple of blocks to get a real café latte – much better than I had any right to expect at that time in tiny town like La Junta, CO – made on an actual espresso machine by a barista who knew what she was doing.
Though there is a well-known chocolate destination in Santa Fe (which I did visit), that’s not the only reason I made the stop. My original intent was to travel to Denver by bus from Trinidad, CO (and then back to pick up the train). That plan had to be scrapped when I learned the bus did not run the day the train stopped in Trinidad on the way to Santa Fe.
Scrambling, I took a look at r/t bus options Albuquerque <> Denver and found they also did not run every day. I don’t know anyone in ABQ but I had a dear friend in Santa Fe I had not seen in many years and so I reached out and was invited to stay for a day or two. The timing was perfect, and it would give me an opportunity to visit the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, too. (I am a fan of much of her body of work in part because of her connection to the photographer Edward Stieglitz, which is the route by which I came to appreciate her work.)
Maybe I had been in Santa Fe as a child. It’s possible, but I don’t remember. Even if I had it would have been more than 50 years ago and whatever I thought I knew then would not have prepared me f or the Santa Fe of today. And, I found that Google Maps did not give me any proper sense of the true scale of the metro area.
I was fortunate that my hosts had a spare vehicle so I was able to come and go (they lived about a ten-minute drive SW of downtown) each day.
While it is okay to take photos in most rooms in the O’Keefe Museum, by the time I arrived it was fairly cloudy and most of the galleries were fairly gloomy. The galleries were underlit to begin with and so taking good photos was a challenge. Surprisingly (and happily), none of the large lily paintings – the ones I think most people would be familiar with – were on display. On the walls were pieces I had seen in books but never in person and it was possible to get very close to most of the works and see the detail of brushstrokes, which I always appreciate.
Before arriving in Santa Fe, I learned that my original plans for visiting Denver were falling through. After taking a look at the schedule, I decided it did not make sense to make a nine-hour bus trip each way and spend two nights in a hotel to make one, maybe at most two visits in the Denver metro area was not something I wanted to force. I’d just have to make the trip at some other time.
So, I took the commuter train from Santa Fe to Albuquerque, a pleasant trip of about ninety minutes. Conveniently, the powers that be in ABQ concentrated all of the public transit in the same downtown location. I checked my bags at the ticket office and, with about four hours in front of me, I headed out to find lunch and explore a little of downtown ABQ.
That exploration, along with the trip from ABQ to Flagstaff, the final leg of my journey on Amtrak, will be covered in the next (and final installment) in my Cross Country Craft Chocolate Odyssey series.
Other Prior Posts in the #CCCCO Series
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