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  • Friday, December 07, 2018 9:25 AM | Anonymous

    California-based Black Bear Diner has been spreading to the Midwest with more than a dozen locations set to open in the next year, including one in Independence.

    The new metro location is scheduled to open in the fourth quarter, just south of the new Lion’s Choice at South Little Blue Parkway and Interstate 70.

    The menu includes chicken fried steak, chicken apple sausage, corned beef hash, specialty omelets and scrambles, pancakes, waffles, French toast, a variety of Benedicts, breakfast burritos, biscuits and gravy, pecan-crusted trout, chicken pot pie, slow-cooked pot roast, house-made meat loaf and steaks.

    The entire menu is served all day so customers can order pot roast at 8 a.m. or pancakes at 8 p.m.

    A California restaurant chain known for its homestyle comfort food is heading to the Kansas City metro, The Kansas City Star reports.

    Black Bear Diner plans to open a restaurant in Independence near Lion's Choice. It features a variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner options such as the Bigfoot chicken fried steak and eggs; burgers and sandwiches such as The Gobbler which features roasted turkey, avocado, tomato, mayonnaise and cranberry sauce; prime rib; homestyle fried chicken; housemade meatloaf and slow-cooked pot roast. 

    Founded in 1995, Black Bear Diner has grown to 118 locations in 11 states.

  • Friday, December 07, 2018 9:22 AM | Anonymous

    The new Aspen Dental office at 3901 South Bolger Drive expands dental care access in the Independence community when it opens on Thurs., Dec. 13. The office is located in Jackson County – which has been designated as a dental health professional shortage area by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    Read the complete story from the Kansas City Business Journal

  • Wednesday, December 05, 2018 9:30 AM | Anonymous

    From the Kansas City Business Journal - James Dornbrook

    A new distillery being planned in Independence is led by an engineer and an attorney who created and patented a process called "Endless Aging."

    Dennis Evans, an engineer in Lee's Summit, teamed up with Nashville attorney John Whitfield to found Evansfield Distillery. They're putting together the distillery at 13621 E. 42nd Terrace S., which is southwest of Interstate 70 and Noland Road. The plan is open in early 2019 and release rum and whiskey from its tasting room as soon as it opens.

    The Evansfield spirits will be unique due to the patented "Endless Aging" process, which involves placing a wooden medallion in each bottle to age the whiskey.

    "It's a whole new road to travel for manufacturing whiskey," Whitfield said. "It has been an engineering headache to figure out how to get the medallion into the bottle with the spirit. Dennis is an engineer and created a two-piece bottle, designed for the medallion to sit upright. We put the medallion in, put the bottle together, fill it with spirit and seal the bottle for sale. We're also putting a filter in the neck to catch any particles when you pour it."

    A new kind of 'oaking'

    Distillers have been using wood chips, dowels and other products and processes to speed up the aging process for about 100 years. It's a technique known as "oaking." However, it's never been offered in a commercial format the way Evansfield is planning, where the wood stays in the bottle to allow the consumer to determine whether the oaking process continues or not.

    Adding a charred wooden medallion to the bottle gives the spirit a golden color and has a mellowing effect. The process happens much faster than the traditional method of aging in a charred oak barrel because more of the spirit is in contact with the wood. Whitfield said the process is designed for one week of oaking with a medallion to equal about one year of traditional barrel aging.

    Aside from being faster, wood aging in an airtight bottle doesn't lose any spirit to evaporation. Barrels aren't airtight, which results in evaporation, a process commonly known as the Angels Cut. There is a trade-off, though. Bottle aging isn't affected by the changing seasons like barrels are, where the shift between cold and hot weather pushes the spirit into and out of the staves of the barrel slowly, imparting sugars from the wood and allowing the chemical reactions to happen more naturally.

    Slow-roasted ... wood?

    But Evansfield developed advanced methods to overcome the traditional issues with bottle oaking. For one, it isn't charring the wood — it's roasting it.

    "I always wondered why people spend so much time perfecting their recipes only to throw it in a burnt barrel," Evans said. "Think about putting bread in a toaster. The reason you like that toast brown is because the grains convert to sugar and caramelize, giving you nice flavors. If you burn the toast, you probably wouldn't eat it."

    Evans started studying the process for roasting coffee beans. He learned that the reason beans are roasted slowly is to crack the structures holding the sugars, allowing them to leach out, then more heat is added to caramelize it.

    "So we put our wood in an oven and roast it slowly to open up the fibers and caramelize them slowly," Evans said "Then we soak the wood to open the grains and release the cellulose structures. That's how we get to the structures that hold sugars better. Instead of burning those sugars, we're slowly releasing the sugars and then caramelizing them."

    Evansfield plans to let its bottles sit about three weeks before releasing them, and will date the bottles so buyers know how long each has been aging. Evansfield also plans to offer a variety of wood medallions for aging, which will create subtle differences in the flavor.

    "What makes it unique is that the medallion gives us flexibility to experiment with different wood types that most whiskey producers aren't able to use," Evans said. "The reason they can't use them is because some of the woods aren't as dense as oak and you end up with a barrel that leaks all the time."

    Reusable products

    Another unique aspect of bottle aging is that once the bottle is emptied, it can be reused. The medallion will work several more times, so customers can buy unaged whiskey from Evansfield, refill the bottle and start the process all over again.

    Evansfield will offer several whiskey varieties: A corn-based mash in the style of Jim Beam or Jack Daniels; a blend of corn and rye; a rye whiskey; a moonshine sold at 140 proof; and a spiced rum that will be aged and seasoned in-house.

    Evansfield will start out selling spirits from its tasting room and then work on getting products into bars, restaurants and stores throughout the Kansas City area. The price hasn't been set yet, but it probably will be in the $35-a-bottle range.

    "We're confident the reception will be good," Whitfield said.

  • Friday, November 30, 2018 7:32 AM | Anonymous

    From the Examiner By Bill Althaus 

    Mark Acton didn’t need to look at the menu for the new Lion’s Choice sandwich shop, at 4049 S. Little Blue Parkway in Independence.

    “When you come to Lion’s Choice,” the Independence resident said, “you order roast beef – the best roast beef.”

    His wife Lynnette nodded in agreement.

    “I wanted to look at the menu, because they offer a lot more choices than I expected,” Lynnette said, “but I got roast beef – and it is delicious.”

    Lion’s Choice CEO Mike Kupstas grinned at their comments.

    Mike Kupstas, the CEO of Lion’s Choice, says the new location in Independence should do well. The company, based in St. Louis and favorite there for decades, is moving into the Kansas City market. 

    “We hear that all the time,” said Kupstas, who found out that Mike Acton discovered Lion’s Choice when he called St. Louis home for five years. “Our roast beef is ridiculously good – but I hope they will try some of our other menu items, too.”

    The restaurant opened this week. Hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, with breakfast served from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and lunch from 10 a.m. until close. The company also is opening a site on 135th Street in Olathe.

    As he glanced around the restaurant, which did not have an empty table on this busy Tuesday night, Kupstas talked about the reason for expanding from St. Louis to Independence.

    “This was just a natural location,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many times we’ve visited guests in our St. Louis stores who drove up from the Kansas City area to fill their car with our great sandwiches.”

    “Well, now we’re saving them that trip.”

    Lion’s Choice was founded in 1967 by a group of friends who wanted to open a quick-serve restaurant that offered an alternative to the burger chains. The first store was in Ballwin, Mo.

    “They wanted to provide a healthy alternative, the type of roast beef that Mom would cook at home,” Kupstas said. “We slow roast our roast beef three hours. We go through a three-step process with our french fries that includes brining, blanching and cooking them, and they are special.”

    The Independence restaurant is one of the first locations to serve breakfast, and also features a display for breakfast pastries and grab-and-go items.

    It also has a food truck that grabbed the attention of the Actons and many other patrons.

    “I saw the food truck on Noland Road and was so excited when I found out that Lion’s Choice was coming to Independence,” Mark Acton said.

    That’s just the response District manager Rick Orf was hoping for.

    “We had the food truck at First Fridays in downtown Kansas City when it was 103 degrees, and it was worth every minute,” said Orf.

    “We believe we are going to make a real impact in Independence and the Kansas City area.”

  • Tuesday, November 20, 2018 9:37 AM | Anonymous

    From the Examiner by Mike Genet 

    Independence Power & Light ratepayers – all of them – will get a small rate reduction within a couple months.

    The City Council unanimously approved a resolution Monday directing the city manager to implement a 2 percent decrease for all utility classes. Officials anticipate the cuts should go into effect within 60 days, and City Manager Zach Walker said he hopes they can do by the end of the year.

    The rate cuts will lead to about $2.7 million less annual revenue for IPL, offset by eliminating 30 vacant positions over the past two years. Also, the general fund would receive $272,000 less annually in PILOTS (payments in lieu of taxes) that come from 9 percent of each utility bill. With the current budget year about half complete, that would amount $136,000 for the remainder of the 2018-19 fiscal year.

    “We know based on what we’ve done the last couple years, we have the ability to do this 2 percent reduction today,” Walker said, adding that last fiscal year city staff maneuvered around an unexpected $300,000 expense from a municipal court software malfunction.

    “There’s a number of budgetary management things we can do,” Walker said. “It is a number I feel confident my staff and I can work around.”

    The unanimous vote received some raucous applause from much of the crowd that filled council chambers Monday until after that vote.

    Council Member Mike Huff originally had planned for a resolution to implement recommendations from a 2015 cost-of-service study, including a 2 percent reduction for industrial and commercial customers achieved through a simplified rate structure, along with a fixed cost of service that would be part of each electric bill, replacing a lower minimum charge. He revised his resolution after last week’s Public Utilities Advisory Board meeting.

    The fixed cost was not part of Monday’s resolution. City staff said they anticipate working on a simplified rate structure based on a recommendations from Burns & McDonnell’s upcoming coming cost of service rate study. Part of Monday’s resolution calls for Walker to present preliminary findings from that study on Dec. 10.

    Huff has said he ultimately would hope to get a 10 to 12 percent cut across the board. He credited Walker and Mark Randall, assistant city manager and utilities director, with making the rate-cut deal possible.

    “They worked their tails off on this,” Huff said. “I asked for the moon on this and didn’t quite get it.”

    “Tonight was a big night, and we all know there’s big decisions ahead,” Mayor Eileen Weir said, referring to digital smart meters for city utilities that is back for consideration and possibly closing the Blue Valley Power Plant soon.

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