24 Hours in Paola: A quick farm-to-table family tour

Paola – it sounds so far! But when looking for a quick, fun, inexpensive getaway from the city, it is the perfect stop.

We wanted to take a family adventure to Paola and Casa Somerset for years, but jumped at the chance Labor Day weekend. We took the 40-min journey to Paola and found ourselves worlds away from the city.

Once we were off the highway we saw beautiful yellow and purple wildflowers, sheep, cows, plenty of sunflowers and camels. Yes, camels! We had no idea that there were camels in Kansas, but saw a few basking in the late summer sun.

We turned onto Somerset Road and found ourselves facing a beautiful three-story Italian-style mansion complete with a vineyard, lake, herb garden and wedding chapel. Casa Somerset is also KC Healthy Kid’s only B&B Carrot Gold partner. Our kids were so excited, they said, “Mom we are going to stay in a mansion!” and they jumped out of the car and ran inside.

Carrot Gold Map

Mike and Christine Hursey, owners of Casa Somerset, have created a dreamy farm-to-table getaway.

When we caught up with the kids, we went on a tour of the property and picked out our rooms (there are four beautifully appointed, individually themed rooms from which to choose), and took some time to visit with Mike and Christine Hursey, owners of the casa and leaders of the slow food, farm-to-table movement in the Midwest. After we got settled, we started chatting with Mike about the slow food movement. He was in the middle of processing honey from his honeycombs while Christine made deviled eggs for our dinner. The eggs are from a neighbor down the road.

I wanted to talk more, but dinner was at 6:00 and we needed to mosey if we were going to get to see the tiger feeding at Cedar Cove and then stop at NightHawk Winery just down the road.

We got to Cedar Cove, just a few minutes away from Casa Somerset, for the animal feeding at 2:00. We toured grounds, visiting with the outgoing volunteers that told us that many of the animals they acquired were once pets or former circus performers. A few came from zoos that were not able to keep the animals after the economic downturn of 2008. After learning about lions, tigers, wolves and bobcats, we drove just a few miles to NightHawk Winery where we played yard games, tried some local wine, and local root beer (for the kids) and checked out the scene.

The winery is beautiful. It is meticulously landscaped with shade trees, a butterfly garden and plenty of yard games. We played a round of Frisbee golf, then watched the kids play a few rounds of backyard Jenga while we sipped a glass of their Firefly blend. We could have stayed until sunset and eaten a farm-to-table meal at the vineyard, but we needed to boogie to get back in time for dinner at Casa Somerset.

We got back to Casa Somerset and the aromas coming from the house were making my mouth water. The kids ran outside to play with Bella, a 150 pound St. Bernard, and Crystal, an adopted farm dog from across the road. The kids and dogs ran through the vineyards, visited the turtles in the lake, explored the woods behind the house, and they all (kids and dogs) came back hungry and ready for dinner!

Dinner was wonderful. We had deconstructed hamburgers, all of the ingredients coming from less than 100 yards away. The kids ate all of their veggies and even asked for more. If you have never experienced farm-to-table, the flavor is nothing like what you get in the grocery store. Think of the taste as high definition food–– everything is enhanced to tickle your senses. We had homemade gelato for dessert.

Mike and Christine know a thing or two about food. Mike has worked under the direction of Laura Caponetti of the Cooking School of Tuscania, Italy, he attended the Cambridge Culinary School and has participated in classes with Chef Jasper Mirabile, a James Beard award winner and 4-star chef. Christine has impeccable taste, knows wine and ties everything together.

After dessert, we excused the kids to run around the property and play an epic game of hide and seek on over 6 acres of property.

While they were playing, we spoke about Kansas City’s local farm-to-table movement, the future of farming and how KC Healthy Kids is working to make sure kids can experience fresh food and learn about the importance of farming early in their lives. We spoke about agritourism, and farm tours to get more kids knowledgeable about our food systems and we brainstormed ways to get city kids and families to experience the farm.

Take a chance, and take an adventure to Paola. This mecca for slow food and the farm-to-table movement is just under an hour from Kansas City. You just might get to meet food heroes like the Hurseys, who together run Casa Somerset Bed and Breakfast. Together they are changing perceptions of farm-to-table, one guest at a time.

Carrot Gold is a network of locally owned restaurants and institutions that are setting the standard for local food purchasing, sustainable kitchen practices and healthy menu options.  

– Sarah Shipley

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