Picks of the Season

 Kyle Anderson's hot Italian sausage sandwich (photo from Baela Rose)

Kyle Anderson's hot Italian sausage sandwich (photo from Baela Rose)

For today's Dandelion, chef Kyle Anderson is returning to his roots in more ways than one. First, there's his homecoming to Omaha, but that's kind of old news. Although the chef has worked in many U.S. cities since graduating from Denver's Johnson & Wales in 2001, he's been back in town for a few years now. In fact, his beautiful restaurant, Baela Rose, celebrated its one-year anniversary earlier this summer.

But today also marks a return to the lunch counter concept for Kyle, who, with his wife Rose, operated a gourmet sandwich shop in Berkeley, CA from 2010-2014. To judge from Baela Rose's current lunch menu, where thoughtfully-considered sandwiches take a starring role, today's lunch might go down in the sandwich hall of fame.

"The Italian sausage that we're serving today has been on our lunch menu at the restaurant for about a month, and it's my favorite sandwich right now," Kyle says. "I want more people to order it, so I decided to bring it to Dandelion."

He's also bringing his wife's favorite sandwich -- a Caprese, but with a twist. "Of course tomatoes and basil are so plentiful right now, and so delicious, and we're using mozzarella from Branched Oak farm. But we're also adding an eggplant jam which brings a sweet, smoky earthiness to it, and some awesome local arugula to give it a little spiciness."

Kyle is excited about the collaboration between chefs and farmers that has grown since the last time he worked in Omaha. "Farmers and chefs have a lot of respect for each other. We both work really long hours and we're both interested in keeping those dollars local," he says. "We're constantly on the phone, texting back and forth, who has what. But we really develop a personal relationship with our producers."

In addition to the ten or so farms that he sources for Baela Rose, Kyle grows some things in his own garden. "We try to dial in to what we're serving at the restaurant, and what isn't too time-intensive to grow. We're growing a lot of herbs, tomatoes and peppers right now, but we're also doing our first run at raspberries and gooseberries and rhubarb. Plants like that take a long time to develop plentiful fruit, but hopefully we will have them on the menu in the future."

 Kyle's daughter Baela, for whom his restaurant is named, in their garden (photo from Baela Rose)

Kyle's daughter Baela, for whom his restaurant is named, in their garden (photo from Baela Rose)

A future that he hopes will see more Omahans dining in chef-owned restaurants -- and not just for special occasions. "There’s a lot of talent in this city, and we want diners to continue to realize that and visit on a regular basis. We try to keep it affordable so that families can come in and eat at Baela Rose and not feel like they're breaking the bank, " he says. "Food doesn’t have to be expensive and really shouldn’t be."