Monthly Archives: May 2012

Question of the week: Best restaurant products for home use?

Pat and Don and their amazing corner-cutting pizza crust.

At last night’s fun dinner at Pat and Don Hysko’s house, Pat shared her secret about buying Knolla’s pizza dough raw whenever she wanted to make homemade pizza. Her theory: If a restaurant can sell you something it takes a while to make (or that you can’t make any better) and it’s inexpensive and good quality, why NOT cut a corner when you can?

I realized that I do that with several things. If I make Pad Thai, for example, I purchase spring rolls from Saigon. You can’t make naan for your Indian meal better than Passage to India can. Buy it there! My friend, Kim, always has several bottles of Le Monde’s fattouch salad dressing in her fridge. And who doesn’t buy N&J’s pitas when serving a Mediterranean meal?

Are there any restaurant products that you like to buy to use when you’re cooking at home? Let me know what they are and why you like them so much.

Share your find in the comments section below.

Hanging out with a famous chef

Last week, I got an invite from local foodies Don and Pat Hysko to come to their house for a pizza-on-the-grill party. The occasion, they said, was that a chef friend of theirs would be visiting from Las Vegas and would be doing the cooking. They were sure I’d enjoy it.

I never turn down an invite like that. When I walked in their house last night, the chef looked awfully familiar. And I quickly learned it’s because I’ve spent a whole lot of time watching him on television.

Rick Moonen  owns Rick Moonen’s rm seafood, a fancy restaurant at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

He also was a contestant on the first two seasons of Bravo’s  “Top Chef Masters” and a judge on “Top Chef: Las Vegas,” only my favorite season of “Top Chef” ever.

Don Hysko and Rick Moonen, charring peppers for our grilled pizza.

He and the Hyskos go way back and spend time together whenever they can. Moonen likes visiting Wichita, he said, and spoke fondly of a trip to Bomber Burger on a previous visit.

But last night, he was grilling pizza.

The Hyskos arranged bowls of toppings such as mushrooms, fresh basil, anchovies, fresh corn, arugula and more.

They bought raw pizza dough at Knolla’s, which is one of the best cooking tips I’ve picked up in a while. It’s inexpensive and very good.

Pat Hysko and Rick Moonen, contemplating the crust.

I watched in amazement as Moonen performed an expert, lightning fast basil chiffonade and enjoyed having him coach me through assembling my own pizza. They turned out beautifully and were soooooooooooooo very good.

Best of all, Moonen was nice and approachable and fun to talk to. He didn’t think he was too important for Wichita and blended in well in a group of people that included other local foodies such as Joe Stumpe, my colleague Carrie Rengers, local chef and cooking teacher Jackie Smith, and Tiffani Price, the lead instructor of hospitality management at Butler County Community College.

You can read more about Moonen in the April issue of Saveur magazine.

Anyone want to go to Vegas?

One of the tasty finished products. I love grilled pizza, and this one had a nice char on the underside.

Me with Rick, his food stylist girlfriend Roni Fields, and Don Hysko.

Me with my grilled pizza creation, which was Moonen-approved. (After I let him know this approval was essential for me to continue living.) I chose mushrooms, pepperoni, basil, lots of cheese, lots of sauce and a pretty orange-hued Hawaiian salt.

Taste & See expanding, adding dinner

It started as a cooking school and party venue. Then last year, executive chef Jason Febres started serving lunch at his Taste & See at 3825 E. Harry.

Now, he’s about to achieve a long-held goal of adding dinner to his offerings.

Starting on June 1, Taste & See will be open for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Febres said he will be serving a long list of tapas plus lighter options such as sandwiches and fish tacos. The heavier entrees on his menu, which he’s perfecting right now, will focus on global cuisine — Italian dishes, Spanish paella, Argentinian steaks, etc. Febres, who has a full bar, also will serve several exotic drinks, such as sangria, Limoncello and Brazilian caipirinhas.

Taste & See’s dining room recently has been remodeled, and there are now more booths, tables and a bar. Febres is moving his cooking classes and private parties to an adjoined room with 1,200 square feet, which is being fitted with a kitchen and should be done this summer. He also hopes to add patio dining this fall.

Taste & See will continue to serve lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. For more information, call 316-771-7393.

Movie scenes for foodies

Photo via

Toward the exciting conclusion of “The Avengers,” which I saw in 3-D earlier this week, Robert Downey Jr. as “Iron Man” goes on a random, Robert Downey Jr.-esque rant about shawarma.

In the middle of a major battle, Iron Man pauses to reflect on the Middle Eastern meal that’s well-known in Wichita.

“Have you ever tried shawarma?” he asks Captain America. “There’s a shawarma joint about two blocks from here. I don’t know what it is, but I want to try it.”

During a scene in the closing credits, the super heroes do indeed gather for a shawarma-fest, a scene that has apparently resulted in a run on shwarma in Hollywood.

Foodie moments are included in all sorts of movies currently in theaters.

“The Five-Year Engagment,” starring Jason Segel and Emily Blunt, incorporates a food truck that serves some pretty tasty looking tacos  into its plot. And “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” which opens in theatres today, has a full on food truck war in it.

Watch for these delicious moments if you go to the movies this weekend.

A whole lotta ribbin’ going on

My camera is still sticky from taking this picture. Not exactly sure how to solve that problem.

Last night, I served as a judge at the Wichita Ribfest. I’m still a little sticky.

The judging was pretty serious. I wasn’t allowed to discuss the ribs with my co-judges as we sampled, and we didn’t know which ribs came from which booth. Ribfest organizers aren’t announcing the winner until Saturday. (So much for my plan to tell you which ribs to get if you go this weekend.)

The panel of judges, which also included Mayor Carl Brewer and Wichita Thunder assistant coach Jason Duda, was given two ribs from each of the six vendors to sample. I ate only half of each rib delivered, knowing I would need to pace myself to get to the end.

My co-judges, who included Thunder assistant coach Jason Duda, left, and Mayor Carl Brewer.

They were all different. Some were smoky. Some were sweet. All were sticky and saucy. The winner (I wish I knew who made it!!) was a basic rib with a nice glaze and a smoky flavor — refreshingly not oversauced.

The psychology of the Ribfest is pretty interesting so far. At lunch on Thursday, people all were lined up to get ribs at two booths while the other four booths had no lines at all. I stopped and asked a few people why they chose the line they chose, and all said they picked it because it was the longest so they assumed it must be the best. Another person said he chose the booth with the most championship flags. Though this logic seems faulty, there’s really no other way to decide which ribs to buy, I realized, so people were using the only information they had.

Meals cost between $7 and $10. Beers are $3 for a can or $4 for a cup.

The Wichita Ribfest continues from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. today and Saturday. Live music is scheduled to go on all day both days. Admission is $4 or a Wichita River Festival button. Admission is only $2 if you go from1 1 a.m. to 2 p.m. today.

Country band Gloriana will headline tonight at 9 p.m. “American Idol” finalist Casey James plays at 4 p.m. Saturday. For more information and a complete lineup, visit the Wichita Ribfest website.

It’s chat day

I may be a little grumpy and hungry during our chat today. I’m not going to eat lunch in anticipation of the RIB JUDGING I’m doing at the Wichita Ribfest at 4:10 p.m.  (Well, maybe I’ll get just a little snack.)

Join me at 1:30 p.m. to talk about ribs, the best chewing ice and anything else that comes to mind.

See you then.

Just opened: Olives & Pitas

For a long time, Syed Jillani has talked about putting in a new restaurant in the space at 756 N. Tyler adjacent to his fabulous Indian place, Kababs. It formerly held Red Mesa (may it and its amazing salsa and cilantro pesto enchiladas rest in peace) and anyone who visited Kebabs and needed to use the restroom traipsed through it on the way.

Last week, he opened Olives & Pitas in the space. (As my friend, Katie, said, “Now we finally know what the … meant after Kababs. Hahahahahaaaaaaaaaaa)

It’s a Mediterranean restaurant that features various chef stations where customers can choose toppings for their shwarma or flatbread pizzas. The menu, which also includes items such as sandwiches, salads and hummus, can be seen here.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. For more information, call 316-351-7709.

Question of the week: Best restaurant ice?

I love Sonic ice so much, I buy it by the bag in the summer. This Sonic employee thought I was crazy when I asked to snap his picture.

I love ice. Especially ice that chews well. Sometimes, a restaurant has ice with such a perfect texture, I’ll go just for the ice.

I know I’m not the only one. There’s a whole Facebook page dedicated to “liking” Sonic ice. (Which I do. And which I have.)

Even more than Sonic ice, I love the ice at Taco Pronto, which is so very crushed, it’s the texture of a sno cone, which pairs perfectly with a diet coke. Or even with water.

QuikTrip’s crushed ice is nice, too, and I always fill my cup allllllllllllllllll the way to the top. And Freddy’s Frozen Custard recently announced that it had swapped out its old ice for chewin’ ice.

Here at The Wichita Eagle, our ice machine died several months ago. A large number of employees still bemoan this fact daily. At the moment, I’m chomping away on a cup of ice from my lunch at When Pigs Fly, and I’m pretty sure it’s driving my neighbor Katie insane.

My question this week is directed at my follow ice lovers. Which Wichita restaurant’s ice is best? What makes it so good?

Let me know in the comments section below.

Jalapeno’s should open on Friday

A few weeks ago, I told you that Pimiento, the Mexican restaurant that opened last summer in the former Quizno’s space at 738 N. Waco, had been sold to Hector Hernandez of McPherson.

Hernandez now has a new sign up at the restaurant, and he hopes to open it on Friday with its new name, Jalapeno’s.

He had a restaurant in Dodge City called Jalapeno’s from 2007 to 2010, and it was known for its giant hamburgers. Hernandez will offer the same menu here and also will serve tacos, burritos and other Mexican dishes.

The hours will be 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Once open, Jalapeno’s can be reached by calling 316-425-5189.

Local breweries celebrating American Craft Beer Week

It’s American Craft Beer Week, an annual nationwide celebration of locally brewed beers. And Wichita’s two local brewers – River City Brewing Co. at 150 N. Mosley and Wichita Brewing Co. & Pizzeria at 8814 W. 13th St. are celebrating with specials all week.

They’ve even paired up to create a local mega brew, which both will serve on Friday.

River City’s observance of the week includes daily beer and food specials. Each day, the restaurant will feature a different beer from its collection and sell glasses — normally $4 — for $1.50. The food special will incorporate the beer of the day into the recipe. For example, today’s beer is the Old Town Brown, which was used to make the rich cheese sauce on today’s Philly cheese steak sandwich.

Wichita Brewing Co. & Pizzeria also is offering beer specials all week. Today, it has $2 Porter pints (normally $4), and on Wednesday, IPA pints will be $2.

On Friday, both breweries will offer a beer called ICT Conspiracy, which they teamed up up to create. It’s a mixture of River City’s Belgian Triple and Wichita Brewing Co.’s IPA that’s described as light in color but very hoppy.

OH, and if you want a free koozie (and who doesn’t?) all you have to do is stop into River City today and sign the Declaration of Beer Independence, which demands life, liberty and the pursuit of hops.