Monthly Archives: February 2012

Question of the week: Wichita’s best cookie

What with Valentine’s Day and Girl Scout Cookie delivery time, cookies are everywhere these days.

I can’t stop thinking about them, which isn’t just a seasonal problem for me. It’s a constant problem.

My question of the week: Which local baker or restaurant makes the best cookies? I have a few nominees, including the amazing frosted sugar cookies baked at Connie’s Cookies and the crumbly, not-t0-sweet French butter cookies made at bakeries such as La Galette. 

Who, besides your mom, bakes your favorite cookie in Wichita? Answer in the comments section below.

Where to get your Lenten fish

Newport Grill in Bradley Fair

Even though Wichita is no where near an ocean, we still have some decent fish and seafood in town. We even have several restaurant’s whose No. 1 focus is fish.

Recently, I’ve heard from several Lenten observers who are asking for alternatives to Long John Silver’s. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Long John Silver’s, home of the fabulous hushpuppy.)

Here’s a list of ideas.

FINE FISH DINING: Wichita has two finer restaurants whose focus is fish: The upscale Newport Grill at 1900 N. Rock Road and the popular chain Bonefish Grill at 10250 E. 13th St. There’s also always Red Lobster, the reliable chain that has stores at 555 S. West St. and 333 S. Towne East Mall Drive:

FAST AND FRIED: Fish fans also can choose from less fancy fish places, many of which have a loyal local following. Fast fried fish is available at In And Out Fried Chicken & Fish at  447 N. St. Francis and Wichita Fish Company, 1601 W. Douglas, and Pirate Pete’s Seafood Restaurant, 1648 S. Rock Road.

SUSHI SPOTS: Wichita’s list of great sushi places keeps growing. Among the spots to consider sampling during Lent: Kanai at 12111 W. Maple, Hana Cafe at 325 N. Mead, Sumo at 11233 E. 13th St. and Wasabi, which has locations at 912 E. Douglas Ave. and 3242 N. Rock Road.

ALSO: River City Brewing Co. at 150 N. Mosley offers some of Wichita’s most popular fish and chips. Freddy’s Frozen Custard always offers fried fish sandwiches and fish and chips during Lent. And When Pigs Fly Bar-B-Que at 7011 W. Central will offer fish specials such as lemon pepper smoked salmon and BBQ tilapia tacos on Wednesdays and Fridays through April 6. And The Seafood Shop at 6470 E. Central Avenue sells not only fish and seafood to be cooked at home but also carryout fish lunches.

Fat Tuesday food and fun in Wichita

The Mudbugs Cajun & Zydeco band rockin' Heroes last year.

Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday, and local restaurants are offering up all kinds of Cajun-ified fun.

One is Heroes, the Old Town sports bar that for the past four years has offered a Fat Tuesday party to end all Fat Tuesday parties. It features local Cajun and Zydeco band The Mudbugs plus Cajun food and drinks. (The Mudbugs’ drummer is my pal and Wichita Eagle photographer Jaime Green.) The band plays from 7 to 10 p.m., and Heroes welcomes crowds of all ages for this one. I’m bringing my Mudbuggin’ 6-year-old and a posse of her pals. All day long, Heroes will be serving chicken and sausage jambalaya, Southern catfish, red beans and rice and gumbo. They’ll also serve $3 hurricanes. Heroes is at 117 N. Mosley. For more information, call 316 264-4376.

Red Bean’s Bayou Grill, a Cajun restaurant at 7447 W. 21st St., also has plans for Tuesday. They’ll be passing out Mardis Gras beads to customers, plus serving oyster shots and beignets on Tuesday evening. For more information, call 316-721-4100.

Da Cajun Shak at 6249 E. 21st St. also plays to welcome Fat Tuesday revelers. The staff will be dressed up, the restaurant will be decorated and beads will be distributed. Reach Da Cajun Shak at 316-260-1486.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Wanna see a little Mudbugs video? Keep reading.
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Big weekend for celebs at the Donut Whole

Comedian Kathy Griffin on Sunday with Donut Whole employee Breanna Cox.

The Donut Whole, the shop at 1720 E. Douglas that specializes in colorful and creative cake doughnuts, spent much of its weekend catering to celebs who were in town.

At about noon on Sunday, comedian and television star Kathy Griffin, who was in Wichita to perform at the Cotillion, popped into the shop. She ordered three doughnuts, then ordered four more to go, said co-owner Michael Carmody. (Round one: strawberry malt, chocolate streusel and a peanut butter/pretzel. Round two: sandwich cookie, S’mores, chocolate crunch and caramel sea salt.)

“I watch her show all the time on Bravo so I knew instantly who it was, but I didn’t want to make a big deal about it,” said Breanna Cox, the employee who first spotted Griffin. After a while, though, she and another employee approached the star and had a fun conversation with her, Cox said.

People who attended Griffin’s show later on Sunday night reported that she went on and on about the doughnuts while on stage. “We made extra doughnuts today just in case we got a flood of newbies,” Carmody told me this morning.

Also this weekend, the Donut Whole catered doughnuts for George Strait’s crew at Intrust Bank Arena. Carmody said that the shop is regularly asked to help fill “riders,” which are visiting artists’ list of requests outlined in their contracts. Also on Saturday, Carmody said, arena employees stopped in to pick up a half dozen Sunshine Citrus Crunch doughnuts, a request from Strait’s co-headliner and Kansas native Martina McBride.

Wonder if word of Wichita’s doughnut dominance will spread to Jason Aldean?

Scoping out the Mega-QuikTrip

The new coffee bar at the new QuikTrip.

A friend used to call QuikTrips “the Disneyland of convenience stores.”  And that was YEARS AND YEARS before the actual Disneyland of convenience stores opened in January  at 625 S. Hillside.

I finally stopped into the new QT this morning to see what all the fuss was about, and WOW. The QuikTrip of the future is pretty amazing, and I didn’t really think QuikTrips could be improved upon.

The most impressive additions I saw included an entire wall dedicated to every flavor of iced tea an iced tea fan could dream up, from blueberry to mango. The number of colorful “freezoni” options, QT’s version of a slurpee, was staggering. That section of the store looked as though a frozen rainbow had exploded.

There’s also a new counter, staffed by an employee who can make specialty coffee drinks, fresh smoothies and ice-cream mixes. I didn’t see anyone taking advantage of that option this morning, but it’s tempting.

The store is huge, and you have to hunt a little to find what you’re looking for. The check out counter was set up in a straight line rather than an L-shape, which isn’t in improvement, in my opinion. I like the classic setup, where you can stand on either side of either cash register and feel like you’re closer to the front of the line.

The new store has all the fresh foods, both hot and cold, stocked in the other stores in town. Though alas, the Mega-QT STILL stocks only Miracle Whip, no mayo, in its grocery section. Why? There is no explanation I can accept.

If you’re out and bored and thirsty this weekend, I’d definitely recommend you make a stop at the new QT. It’s as close to Disneyland as we’re gonna get.

Big oyster dinner is Tuesday at St. James

Miles and miles of oysters.

I learned to love oysters on the half shell while vacationing in Florida last summer, so this event appeals to me.

On Tuesday, St. James Episcopal Church is putting on its annual oyster dinner, which features miles and miles of all-you-can-eat oysters on the half shell, breaded and fried oysters, oyster stew, beer and wine.

The event, a fundraiser for Episcopal Social Services, involves 100 church volunteers and 500 pounds of fresh-shucked oysters. Usually, around 400 people attend.

The church offers two seatings — one at 5:30 p.m. and one at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $45 in advance by visiting the church office at 3750 E. Douglas or calling by calling 316-683-5686. They’re also available at the door for $50.

Everyone loves a pastry chef

My story for this week’s Go! section, which prints in the morning, is about Kira Ottaway, a young pastry chef and Derby native who is mixing up decadent creations at both Luca Italian Kitchen and GreenAcres Market.

I became aware of her when her mom called to note that I’d left out mention of the desserts in my review of Luca. I immediately decided to write about Kira, not only because Wichita has so few female chefs but also because she has one of my dream jobs. Making dessert for a living? Every day? What could be better??

When I went to talk to Kira, it was the morning of Valentine’s Day. She was busy in the Luca kitchen coating brownies in beautiful chocolate ganache. I had to dance around as I watched to avoid the frantic cooks trying to prepare sauces and breads for the busy dining day. Chef Gianluca Sciagata was in the back wielding a huge knife. I love seeing behind the scenes at a restaurant, and the Valentine’s Day vibe was particularly fascinating.

Kira was earnest and sweet and very sincere. I hope you enjoy reading about her as much as I enjoyed writing about her.

Question of the week: Chicken enchiladas with red sauce?

A reader named Kim wrote me with the following query: “I am a huge fan of chicken enchiladas, particulary the kind with red sauce, although I love all versions. Where can the best chicken enchiladas in the area be found?”

I’m not a fan of the red sauce so I don’t have an answer for Kim. Can you, readers, help us out?

If you don’t know where to find a great chicken enchilada with red sauce, what is your favorite local enchilada?

Answer in the comments section below.

Five fun food-and-drink fundraisers

It’s fundraiser season, which is my favorite season. Over the course of February and March each year, several organizations put on fancy parties that include food, wine and frivolity. If you want to go (trust me, you DO want to go), it’s time to get your tickets. Here are the ones I know about.

Cocktails & Cookies: This annual fundraiser, scheduled for 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Drury Plaza Broadview, benefits Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland. It includes heavy hors d’oeuvres, sweet cocktails and desserts prepared by local chefs using Girl Scout Cookies as a main ingredient. Tickets are $100 a person at cocktailsandcookies.org. I’m a dessert judge at the event, so I’ll see you there.

Uncorked Wine Tasting and Auction: This event also is on Feb. 25 at the Derby Public Library in Derby and raises money for the Derby Community Foundation’s Community Enrichment Grant Program. It will include food from local restaurants, wine tasting stations, Cocoa Dolce chocolates and an art auction. Tickets are $35 a person and available at the Derby Welcome Center, 611 N. Mulberry, Ste. 200, or by calling 316-788-9815 or by e-mailing admin@derbycf.org.

A Night on the Red Carpet: The third annual Oscar-night party, a fundraiser for Episcopal Social Services, is on Sunday, Feb. 26, at Abode Venue, 1330 E. Douglas. It’s a fun, black-tie optional party that this year will feature food from Carrabba’sLarkspur and Luca Italian Kitchen plus drinks, a showing of the 84th Annual Academy awards, local celebrities on the “red carpet,” live music and a live and silent auction. Tickets are $75 a person or $850 for a table of 10. More information about the party can be found at http://www.esswichita.org. The Eagle also has two sets of tickets to give away, which we will do at noon on Monday. If you want to enter to win a set of tickets, visit the Kansas.com Facebook page and scroll down till you find the giveaway. All you have to do is hit “like” on the post. I’m the emcee of this one, so I’ll see you there.

Palette to Palate: This second-annual fundraiser benefits KETCH and will be at 7 p.m. March 3 at the Drury Plaza Broadview. It’ll feature food from restaurants such as Luca Italian Kitchen, Newport Grill, Bocconcini Italian Eatery and more. It also offers a wine tasting and art auction. Tickets are $60 a person by visiting www.ketch.org.

Death by Chocolate: Exploration Place’s sixth annual Death by Chocolate fundraiser is a wonderland of chocolate-y goodness. It includes unlimited chocolate creations and drinks from local bakers and restaurants. It’s from 7 to 10 p.m. on March 31, and tickets are $75 a person www.exploration.org.

Now open: Todd Brian’s Brick Street Cafe & Tavern

Todd Brian’s Brick Street Cafe & Tavern is the newest tenant in Old Town Square.

It opened last Wednesday in a space at 315 N. Mead (just a few doors down from Hana Cafe) that was formerly occupied by Imbiss Grille. The restaurant is owned by Chris Tincher, a veteran of restaurants such as Amarillo Grill, P.F. Chang’s, Piztros and Ted’s Montana Grill, and he named it after his late brother.

I stopped in today, and the remodel looks nice. The dining room is clean and full of tables with wooden chairs. The menu, which you can see here, features soups, salads, burgers, flat bread sandwiches and lots of Cajun-inspired entrees, such as Voodoo chicken, Cajun meatloaf, crawfish etouffee and more. (I apologize for my low-quality, crooked scan.) It also has a full bar and drink specials.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Tuesdays and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. For more information, call 316-295-4260.