Weekend of eating: Loaf Off, Palette to Palate

Chef Don Lucero with his winning loaf, which he cooked in an angel food cake pan.

The amount of eating I did this weekend is shameful, but it was all in the name of charity. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself (and my scale) this morning.

It started Saturday with the Fourth Annual Loaf Off, a meatloaf competition that was a fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation of Kansas. My co-judges and I sampled 15 different meatloaves prepared by both home cooks and restaurant chefs (Tallgrass Country Club’s Ben George and the Hyatt’s Paul Freimuth among them).

The competition was at The Anchor, 1109 E. Douglas, tasters crowded both sides of the bar so thoroughly, it was difficult to move around the bar. In the end, we could not resist the meatloaf prepared by Don Lucero, who’s the chef at Via Christi hospital on Harry and also happened to win last year’s competition. (Clearly, the man knows his meatloaf.)

My tray of samples. The winning loaf has the bright yellow mango on top, near the bottom left.

Lucero, whose recipe included ground chuck, veal and buffalo, Italian sausage AND bacon, also won the People’s Choice Award. Today, he told me that he’s stepping down as a competitor in next year’s competition (gotta give someone else a chance) and join the judges’ panel instead. He generously shared his recipe for this year’s loaf, which you can find at the bottom of this post.

After I’d digested all that loaf, I headed off Saturday evening to Palette to Palate, an art and wine auction at the Drury Plaza Broadview Hotel that’s a fundraiser for KETCH. The event is only in its second year but has grown exponentially and was one of the most fun parties I’ve attended in a while.

Bid! Bid! Bid! Bid!

The giant ballroom in the Broadview was positively packed with people, all sampling wine and appetizers prepared by restaurants such as Luca Italian Kitchen, Larkspur, Harvest Kitchen/Bar, Cero’s, Bocconcini, Newport Grill, Corporate Caterers and more. When they were all nice and fed and watered, attendees bid on art, lots of wine and other fabulous packages in a live auction. (A chance to tag along on a restaurant review with me was among the silent auction items, and I spent the evening hovering around the bid sheet, bullying people into bidding MORE MORE MORE MORE.)

Thankfully, my stomach gets a vacation until March 31, when I’ll be a judge at Death By Chocolate.

Here’s Chef Lucero’s meatloaf recipe, which could feed an army. My suggestion is you divide it by one fourth to make a batch at home.

Chef Don Lucero’s “Wild Child” meatloaf

(Makes four angel-food cake pans)


10 lbs ground buffalo

10 lbs ground veal

10 lbs ground chuck

5 lbs Italian sweet sausage, casings removed and crumbled

1  lb bacon, cooked and chopped

¼ cup Mr. Bacon BBQ seasoning

¼ cup garlic sea salt

3 tablespoons curry

6 cups Italian Parmesan garlic bread crumbs

1 lb shredded pepper jack cheese

1 lb shredded bacon cheddar cheese

2 cups craisins

2 cups of roasted chopped pine nuts

6 eggs

3 tablespoons freshly ground Italian seasoning

3 oz. onion soup mix

3 oz. shallots, diced

3 large yellow bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, and chopped

3 large red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, and chopped

2 (10 oz.) cans diced tomatoes with habanero peppers (Rotel)

½ cup habanero Tabasco

1 pint shiitake mushrooms

2 cups diced roma tomatoes

24 oz. prosciutto (You can substitute pancetta, black forest ham or bacon)


2 gallons Mr. Bacon’s Crimson Blaze Habanero BBQ sauce

2 cups of fresh diced mangos


Adjust oven rack to middle position; preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slit the casings of the sweet Italian sausage from end to end with a knife, peel it off, and discard it. In a medium bowl, mix together allthe meat. Cook bacon in sauté pan and then crumble in pan.  Using same pan with bacon and fat, sauté all the vegetables until well-combined.  Let cool and combine seasonings, vegetables, craisins, and meat in large tub.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Firmly pack the meat mixture into an angel food cake pan filling pan with meat mixture leaving at least 1 inch gap from top.  Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of loaf reads 150 degrees, 55 to 65 minutes. Remove meat loaf from oven. Glaze top with sauce, place Black Forest ham layer on top of loaf.  Then spread half of glaze evenly over ham with rubber spatula; place back in oven and cook until glaze bubbles and begins to brown at edges, about 5 minutes. Remove meatloaf from oven, about 5 minutes more. Let meatloaf cool about 20 minutes before slicing.  Internal temperature should be at least 165 degrees when done.  Garnish with diced fresh mango.