My multi-talented friend Chris B. invited me and several others to the second annual foodNow local food experience under the 12th Street Bridge in the West Bottoms of Kansas City, Missouri, on August 27, 2011. I had no idea what foodNow was, but who wouldn’t want to eat an elegant dinner under an old bridge in one of Kansas City’s most historic areas? Chefs from many Kansas City restaurants prepared a three-course dinner from produce from the area. The event was a fund-raiser for Beans and Greens – Nourishing Neighborhoods with Local Produce , Greater Kansas City Food Policy Coalition and Get Growing KC.
The tables were set on the original cobblestone street where farmers brought their produce for sale. I’m glad I was wearing flat shoes. Some women wearing more fashionable footwear were a little wobbly on the cobblestones. Nearby the bridge are old warehouses, which now have a new life hosting “haunted houses” that attract thrill-seekers every fall. Also in the area is Kemper Arena and the site of the American Royal. Each table had a different menu. Chef Michael Turner of the Classic Cup prepared the delicious dinner for my table. There was a silent and a live auction. Unfortunately, my table was far from the auctioneer. An old bridge may be charming, but the acoustics were not that great. I could hear my table-mates, though, and that made for a very fascinating evening.
The 12th Street Bridge was built in 1915 and is now undergoing a major rehabilitation. The West Bottoms (official name Central Industrial District) is an industrial area immediately to the west of downtown Kansas City, Missouri at the confluence of the Missouri River and the Kansas River. The area is one of the oldest areas of the city and is home to Kansas City’s early agricultural markets.
Originally called the “French Bottoms,” French trappers and Kansas Indians traded here centuries ago. French Bottoms sounds a lot more appealing, doesn’t it? Steamships traveling upstream on the Missouri river offloaded their goods at the Bottoms to provision those immigrating west and for trade with Mexico over the Santa Fe Trail. The advent of the railroad increased the importance of the area. Major floods have engulfed the area (1903, 1951 and 1993), which have diminished the area’s commercial and residential importance. You could say river affluence has lessened the area’s influence.