Celebrating at Caenen Castle

When I was searching for a restaurant in the Kansas City area to celebrate finishing the Heartland 39.3-mile half-marathon series, I never expected to come across a restaurant in a castle. Who’d have thought there was a castle in the middle of our nation’s heartland?

It turns out there’s not only a castle located just outside of Kansas City, in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, but it contains a renowned restaurant, Harvest, which is owned and operated by celebrity chef Renee Kelly.


Pecan and swiss chard toasty (top), and socca bread with mushroom duxelle and warm sheep cheese.

On the morning of May 14th we completed our challenge by running our fourth half-marathon race within a five-week period, and it was time to celebrate. The Running With The Cows Half-Marathon, which was an extremely hilly (and windy!) course, had left us tired and very hungry. The Harvest menu looked amazing, and we wanted to try everything. We started with two appetizers; pecan and swiss chard toasty, and socca bread with mushroom duxelle and warm sheep cheese.

The appetizers were generous portions that could have been a meal by themselves. The pecan and swiss chard toasty resembled a thick grilled cheese sandwich, but with a warm pate covered in melted swiss cheese. The socca bread was a cross between a flatbread and a pancake, very hearty and full of flavor that was complimented by the mushroom and sheep cheese.

I ordered a glass of Malbec while we perused the rest of the menu. Our server, Juan, was very friendly and gave us some insight into the menu and the various ingredients that we didn’t recognize. Chef Renee Kelly has always been very focused on using only fresh ingredients in a pure farm to fork experience.

Mixed greens

Jon and I decided to split the mixed green salad that was tossed with cranberries, golden raisins and apple slices. I’m not typically into salad dressing at all, but the citrus vinaigrette was perfectly light and sweet.

Sweet chili glazed chicken
rabbit saddle braised radishes mushroom risoto
Roasted rabbi

After the salad, we were already starting to feel a little full but moved on to the entrees. Jon ordered the sweet chili glazed chicken with roasted carrot, pea shoots, and millet pilaf. He really liked the chili glaze because it brought just the right amount of spice to the flavor of the roasted chicken. He also enjoyed the millet pilaf and vegetables.

I had an off-menu special – roasted rabbit saddle with mushroom risotto and spring vegetables. I’d never had rabbit before in my life and thought it was a good time to be adventurous. The rabbit was so tender that the meat fell right off the bones. The rabbit meat resembled the dark meat of a chicken, but it tasted gamier. The dish was nearly like a stew, with the basting juices mingling with the mushroom risotto and vegetables.

The only part of the dinner we weren’t as impressed with was the ending. We moved from our table to have our desserts at the bar in the next room over. It was a nice little bar, giving us a different perspective of the restaurant, although the stools were slightly challenging to sit in comfortably.

Us Inside
Sitting at the bar tucked away behind the staircase.

The bartender wasn’t nearly as friendly as our server, Juan, had been; in fact he totally ignored us. This is definitely not a restaurant where you’d want to eat at the bar. And unfortunately, our desserts didn’t offer the remarkable conclusion that our amazing dinner deserved.

strawberries and cream and sugar cookies
Strawberries and cream
chocolate smore
Chocolate s’more

Jon had the strawberries and cream, which was merely whipped cream and strawberries with a couple of hard sugar cookies. Granted, the strawberries were picked out of the garden that day, but it seems as if something more creative could have been done with them.

I had the chocolate s’more, which was a serious choco-disappointment. It was comprised of a small dollop of chocolate mousse, some tiny squares of flourless, not to mention tasteless, chocolate cake and three chocolate chip cookies that not only tasted store-bought, they seemed very stale. Not a good experience for this experienced chocolate connoisseur.

Dessert and the bar experience aside, the evening was wonderful, and we loved having dinner in a castle. It was built in 1907 by Remigius Achile Caenen, an immigrant from Belgium who styled the castle after one located in Chavaniac, France. Click here to read more on the history of Caenen Castle.

Coolness Factor:  We both gave Harvest a 4.5.  It would have been a perfect 5, but the dessert and the service at the bar brought it down a notch.

Coolness Factor is a 1 to 5 rating with 1 being “this restaurant needs help!” and 5 being “this restaurant rocks!” – factoring in food, atmosphere, staff and more. 

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