Chef Michael Foust has always been about the farmer. He’s a huge supporter of local purveyors and it shows across his menu. From Farm-to-Table to even Farm-to-Cocktail, he uses local ingredients, including herbs and berries to create delicious concoctions that leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. Having owned The Farmhouse in the River Market for many years, he’s moved onto a similar concept on 39th Street. I’ve dined here before. Their grilled cheese and tomato soup has always been a craving of mine. It’s so simple yet SO delicious, especially on a cool fall day.
Black Sheep – Oveja negra de la familia – is a metaphor we’ve all heard. Chef Michael has said he’s the Black Sheep of his family, having forgone a traditional career and followed his dreams as a chef, instead. And like me, his heart is tied to Spain, especially the Basque country (the area of San Sebastian) where he derives a lot of his inspiration. He’s a master of his craft and puts so much love and passion into every ingredient. Having dined there to try his latest creations and concept, it did not disappoint.
I always begin by noting how I feel when I walk into a space. “What’s the vibe?” is the answer I’m looking for. At Black Sheep, it’s a rustic space with polished features made up of an eclectic crew of passionate, free-spirited and talented people who have been with Chef Michael for years. I love knowing that I’m supporting local and it gives me a well of KC pride. The host stand is adorned with vines and plants and the chalkboard with the daily specials is always so colorfully written, with all the details needed to make an informed decision. The hidden gem of this place though, has got to the be the rooftop. It’s a beautiful little oasis above the hustle of 39th street. With only about 6 tables, it’s an intimate (yet spaced) area to enjoy the sunshine or balmy summer evening with a craft cocktail or two.
The 39th St. Poet is a sexy J.Riegar Whiskey sour topped with a smooth Malbec wine. It’s inspired by the story of an old Spanish singer who long ago was drinking away his sorrows at a bar when his glass cracked and shards of glass entered his mouth; it did not phase him as he said, “The shards of glass in my mouth are better than the kiss of the treacherous woman on my lips.” and he continued to drink. The cocktail is dark and stormy, with the Malbec topper acting as dark red blood – a tragically beautiful story with a touch of noir that can be appreciated by the poet in all of us. Ask Shawn to tell it for you when you’re there, he’s oh so very good at it. The Black Sheep Gimlet sings a bit of a happier tune with Toms Town Botanical Gin, Butterfly Pea Flower, Simple Syrup and a touch of lime to create a beautiful lavender cocktail with such incredible flavor, I could see drinking a pitcher by the pool (Summer 2021, Chef?) and calling it the best day ever.
I was invited to Black Sheep for a sneak peek at Chef’s new “Flock of Sheep” Family Meals and let me tell you – so delicious. We started out with the Korean-style Fried Chicken. Now, I don’t eat chicken often but I had to do my foodie due diligence and try it so I could pass on my knowledge and BOY HOWDY. I wanted more. That chicken skin alone was terrific. I could eat a bucket of it. He double fries it with potato starch and tosses it in a mix of fish sauce and spices that creates a wonderfully, slightly sticky, oh-so-flavorful and crispy chicken wing. He paired it with cucumbers in umami brine and Kimchi with long beans. I would order a family meal and dine on that myself very happily.
Our next treat was the Farm to Taco: Smoked Pork Rib, Melon & Cactus Salad, Black Beans, Tomatillo Salsa and Yoli Tortillas. OK so I don’t eat chicken that much and I never ever eat Pork. I am 99% sure this was only the second time I’ve ever had it in my life. It looked so pretty and smelled so good that I made it happen. First off, the tortilla was beyond amazing and I want to buy them in bulk myself. Made with Squid Ink (!!!) they added a slightly earthy, briny flavor that I didn’t know I needed. With fresh cilantro, cotija cheese and impeccably marinated pork they were pretty outstanding. The melon and cactus salad is something I will be trying to recreate in my own kitchen, too.
Sweet tooth anyone? I cannot bake for the life of me. It’s an affliction I have so I outsource my baking to others who know what they’re doing. If you haven’t seen my Instagram photos and videos, you need this visual. The Basque style Cheesecake is the cheesecake I thought only existed in dreams. No, I couldn’t have even dreamed of this. This is better. You think I’m being dramatic? Go try it for yourself and THEN talk to me. I dare you. It’s a tasty dare so who is really winning here? The flavor and sweetness is all in the nice golden caramelized crust and the center is made with sour cream and goat cheese. It has a great mouthfeel and stays light and fluffy. It can only be cut with FLOSS, that’s how light it is. Honestly, it reminded me of Angel Food Cake with the creaminess of Cheesecake. He only makes this about once a week so you have to jump on the opportunity when you see it posted on the menu.
If you happen to be there on a night when that’s not on offer, you can try the Chess Pie. Chocolate pie, in truth, does not excite me. I wanted more of that cheesecake, to be honest. However, THIS pie is like a brownie. A beautifully rich brownie with a light and flaky crust. It’s a blend of both worlds and WOW. It’s not overly sweet but just sweet enough It’s the Goldilocks of pie. I finished the entire thing and asked them to box a piece up for me for later – along with a slice of cheesecake since you know, they were already doing it. It’s in my fridge now but by the end of this post, it will be in my tummy. Don’t judge.
Chef Michael’s “Flock of Sheep” Family Meals will be work-shopped every Saturday night with the staff. After taking stock of what’s on inventory from the local farmers (as their menu changes each week) they will create a delicious and affordable family meal for you that will be ready for Wednesday. It will always be different but always delicious. You will have a new option each week for your family so you can spice it up without the hassle! You can keep up with the offerings on their social media or their website. Support local. Eat local. Live local. All the local stuff. It’s Black Sheep on 39th and it’ll be your kitchen-away-from-your-kitchen. Baaa -bye for now.