While developing our special Heartland issue, we stumbled on lots of great edible goods from Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma, some of which found a permanent place in our kitchens. Here’s a guide to sourcing our favorites, from coffee to cured meats.
There are all sorts of wonderful coffees roasted in the region. The Omaha restaurant The Grey Plume house-roasts smooth, rich Las Chiapas Roast from shade-grown fair-trade organic beans grown by cooperatives in Chiapas, Mexico. Kansas City’s Oddly Correct Coffee comes with tasting notes labeled on the back for beans like sweet Ethiopian Gelana Abaya, which has hints of berry and cocoa. Housed in a former Kansas City fire station, Broadway Roasting Company roasts fascinating beans including nutty, earthy Indian Monsoon Malabar. Stored in a well-ventilated warehouse during the monsoon season in India, the beans evolve and age thanks to the rain moisture floating in the air. Helen Rosner At their 52-year-old Omaha shop, second-and third-generation father and son team Ken and Matt Stoysich make more than 140 styles of sausages. Stoysich sausages include the smoked Polish links of Ken’s parents’ homeland and other traditional European varieties; innovations incorporating ingredients like Swiss cheese, or in the case of the “round Rubin” sausage, corned beef, Swiss, and sauerkraut; and fruit-flavored novelties like the fresh “cherry bomb” and smoked peach sausages. Helen Rosner Sea salt caramel ice cream with chocolate-covered bacon and praline pecans, anyone? Dundee, Nebraska’s eCreamery allows you to customize and name your own frozen treat by choosing from gelato, sorbetto, or ice cream bases, which change daily according to the season and availability. Helen Rosner In 1931, the Sifers Candy Company of Merriam, Kansas, created Valomilk candy cups by accident: Too much vanilla was added to a batch of marshmallows, producing a liquid marshmallow filling that was then, to avoid wasting the batch, poured into milk chocolate candy cups. The “flowing center” candy is deliciously messy. Handcrafted, unfiltered George Paul vinegars are made from grapes and other fruits grown in Nebraska’s Sandhill region. Regional chefs love the stuff, and the outstanding quality and complexity is indeed apparent in the raisin and honey notes of the Emilia balsamic, the fruity, grassy Prairie White, and the pure, sweet-tart raspberry vinegar made from nothing but fresh berries. Helen Rosner In 1917, J.J. Simon and his son B.A., two Latvian immigrants, opened Table Supply Meat Co., a custom butcher shop, in downtown Omaha. This humble business bloomed into Omaha Steaks, which nowadays ships everything from poultry to seafood to desserts to 2 million customers annually. The signature products, of course, are the namesake items, all of them hand-trimmed from grain-fed, naturally aged beef and vacuum-wrapped for prompt shipping. Helen Rosner Founded by Lithuanian immigrants Vytautas and Stefanija Mackevicius, Omaha’s Lithuanian Bakery has been turning out Old Country-style breads and tortes since 1963. Specialties include the savory sourdough rye, flavored with onion and ground caraway seeds, and komis brot, or pumpernickel, a moist, dense loaf made of rye and pumpernickel flours. Helen Rosner Tucked inside a gas station, Oklahoma Joe’s Bar-B-Que specializes in the slow-smoked style of Kansas City barbecue, topped with molasses-based, sweet-spicy sauce. The Original Bar-B-Que sauce (center) gets a fruity edge from tamarind power, while the tangy, peppery Bubba’s Hot Vinegar Sauce (right) pays tribute to the barbecue style of the western Carolinas. Besides paprika, brown sugar, and garlic, the secret to Joe’s french fry seasoning is dehydrated beef broth, which adds an umami note when sprinkled on fries, onion rings, popcorn, or even vegetables. Helen Rosner Herb and Kathy eckhouse of La Quercia began hand salting, turning, and trimming cured meats in their Des Moines basement, and they’ve now been at it for more than a decade, using only humanely raised antibiotic-free American pork that also has no nitrated and nitrites. The Acorn Tamworth Spallacia, a cured pork leg, shown, is made from Missouri pigs whose acorn-rich diet produces a super-creamy, nutty meat. Helen Rosner