The Anchor: Chicken wing expert, Strong Ale purveyor

Anchor owner Schane Gross, feeling confident about her wings.

I’m baaaaacccckkk. My basement is no cleaner, but my tan is a bit bronzer and should last at LEAST until Halloween.

Lots of food stuff happened while I was gone, including both the Midwest Beerfest, which I attended, and the Wichita Wagonmasters Downtown Chili Cookoff, which I did not attend because I was out of town. (But I will have the results here later.)

I return with news about The Anchor, 1109 E. Douglas, which not only swept THREE categories at the Midwest Beerfestchicken wing contest a week ago but also is putting on a little beer fest of its own this weekend.

First, the wings. I was one of the judges at the chicken wing contest, and the entries were better than ever this year. We had a hard time picking the best wing because they all were so good. Judge Jason Febres of Taste & See was particularly enthusiastic about a wing with a chocolatey sauce made by Tallgrass Country Club chef Ben George. And we all loved George’s Asian-y, sesame-seed coated wing, too.

Chicken wing judges, from left: Harrison Schenk, Guy Bower, me and Jason Febres.

But in the end, the best wing was a pan fried, crispy, straight forward version served by The Anchor. Owner Schane Gross told me it was just the restaurant’s standard wing recipe, and if that’s the case, I’ll be at The Anchor for wings soon.

A sampling of the competing wings.

The Anchor also won the People’s Choice award. George and his sesame wing got “Most Creative,” and The Anchor also won “Spiciest.”

On Saturday, the bar also is putting on its annual Strong Ale Fest, which offers samples of super potent beers. It’s from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, and admission is $15, which includes a souvenir glass. You can see a list of the beers that will be included on the Strong Ale Fest web page.

Flying Stove’s Schauf wins Iron Chef contest

Judge/emcee Mark Davidson with the newly crowned Iron Chef, The Flying Stove's Rob Schauf.

There’s a new Iron Chef in town.

On Saturday morning, I helped judge the 10th annual Iron Chef competition at the Old Town Farmers Market, a competition that pits local chefs against each other in an on-the-spot cookoff, using a “secret ingredient” that’s revealed just before they start.

My cojudges and I —  who included KSN’s morning duo Mark Davidson and Leon Smitherman and local foodie Joe Stumpe — gave the championship wooden spoon to a new competitor — The Flying Stove’s Rob Schauf.

This was Schauf’s first time participating in a local chef-off, and he had some pretty tough competition in Bocconcini’s Nathan Toubia, Tallgrass Country Club’s Ben George, and defending champ Paul Freimuth of The Hyatt. Those three are among Wichita’s most amiable chefs and participate in nearly every cookoff in town.

The judges sampling more delicious food than should be legal before 10 a.m.

The secret ingredient was long beans, and after a shaky start (he appeared frozen by indecision at times), Schauf created a plate that made the crunchy beans the star. He cooked beef rare and topped it with the sauteed beans and served it alongside a potato puree. The judges were fighting for the last bites.

Customers at the Flying Stove rarely see Schauf, who is the culinary brains behind the food truck. He’s always inside, his back to the public, churning out the gourmet food while his friendly, chatty brother Jeff mans the window. He had a big cheering section at the competition, and afterward, The Flying Stove opened on the edge of the Farmers Market to a line 50 people deep.

Here are a few more photos from the event. Read More »

Local chefs to throw down Saturday, Iron Chef style

The Hyatt's Paul Freimuth will defend his Iron Chef on Saturday morning at the Old Town Farmer's Market.

The 10th annual Iron Chef Competition at the Old Town Farmers Market is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the market at First and Mosley.

The competition pits local chefs against each other, cooking live with a “secret ingredient” they learn about just as the competition begins. The reigning champion, Paul Freimuth from the Hyatt’s Harvest Kitchen/Bar will be there defending his title. His competition will be Nathan Toubia from Bocconcini Italian Eatery, Ben George from Tallgrass Country Club, and — in a public appearance first — Rob Schauf from The Flying Stove. (The chef is notoriously shy and usually lets his brother and partner, Jeff, do the talking and appearing.)

The Flying Stove will serve in Old Town Square that day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. The Old Town Farmer’s Market is open from 7 a.m. to noon.

Velvet Cream Bakery’s bite of heaven

Kelly Duggan, owner of Velvet Cream Bakery and the winning dessert maker at Saturday's Cocktails & Cookies event.

Saturday night’s Cocktails & Cookies event at the Drury Plaza Broadview once again sent me into a sugar coma, but I regained consciousness in time to gather all the pertinent information about the Chef of the Hour, Kelly Duggan.

Duggan is the owner of Velvet Cream Bakery, and her cookie truffle was the winning dessert at the event, in which local chefs try to create the best dessert using Girl Scout Cookies as one of the ingredients. This is the second year I’ve helped judge at the event, which is a fundraiser for Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland. It’s a tough job…

Duggan, who started her bakery out of her home two years ago, created an amazing bite of lemon heaven she called a “cookie truffle.”

She used the Lemonades Girl Scout cookies, combining them with cream cheese for a soft center that she encased in white chocolate and topped with a limoncello lemon curd. (She’s posted the recipe on her blog.)

My fellow judges, KSN personality Barbara Baan and Old Chicago East manager Sean DiGiovanni, and I were pretty united in our love of her citrus-y creation, which packed a lot of flavor into a little package.

Duggan also told me that soon she will begin selling her cake pops and cake truffles out of W.O.W. Cakes, a wedding cake business at 2724 N. Amidon.

Cocktails & Cookies had an awesome invention called FanCam, sort of a social media photo booth. Here are me and my date, the lovely Katie Grover.

All the desserts were pretty fabulous, and other entrants included Chef Ben George of Tallgrass Country Club and Adam Courtney of AVI.

You’ll have another chance to sample Duggan’s creations at next month’s Death by Chocolate, an Exploration Place fundraiser scheduled for March 31.

I’m a judge at that one, too, so I’m already prepping for my next sugar coma.

Midwest Beerfest: The most fun I’ve had before 4 p.m.

Beerfest was absolutely packed. This photo is courtesy of my co-judge, Sierra Scott.

Saturday’s Midwest Beerfest was… well, it was kind of amazing.

It was packed — so packed with loopy beer lovers that at points, it was sort of hard to move around.The afternoon had a crazy party vibe. Any time someone would drop and shatter a tasting mug (which was more frequently as the afternoon progressed), the whole crowd would stop, raise their mugs and cheer. At one point, Ronnie “The Danceman” Choy played Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” and at the appropriate moment, all the attendees stopped and sang along: “SO GOOD! SO GOOD! SO GOOD!”

Our array of wings. Bubba's was No. 3 -- the one with the lime.

I was there in an official capacity — as one of four official judges for the chicken wing contest that organizers added last year. This year, they had us judge blind so we couldn’t be swayed by which restaurant cooked which wing. But apparently we like what we like. My co-judges (Sierra Scott, her main man Harrison Schenk, and Good Life Guy Bower, chose the same winners this year that we chose last year.)

Our overall favorite was again the cinnamon-infused, meaty wing cooked by Bubba of Bubba’s Nekked BBQ. The most creative award went to chef Ben George of Tallgrass Country Club, who cooked a nice Thai wing coated with sesame seeds and cilantro. (He also submitted a wing so horrifically spicy that several judges and crowd members were seen writhing in pain. When I gave him a good talking to later, George laughed and said, “They weren’t that hot last night.”

Sierra and I, moments before Ben George's spicy wing set our mouths on fire.

The judges: Sierra, Guy Bower and me.

Two-time defending chicken champ Bubba Leffew, owner of Bubba's Nekked BBQ. Look behind Bubba and you can see his grandson, Bubba's little sleepy sous chef.

More chef shuffling

David Wirebaugh, Ben George, Terry Johnson and Jeremy Wade at this summer's Iron Chef competition at the Old Town Farmer's Market. Photo by Old Town Farmer's Market.

If you follow restaurants in Wichita, you know that our pool of local chefs is constantly shifting in and out of restaurant jobs. They work here for a while. They work there for a while. They open up their own restaurants. They go back there. They try here again. Rinse. Repeat.

Over the weekend, I found out about a few more moves in the never-ending revolving door of Wichita chefdom. Ben George, who was really turning things around at The Anchor — both in terms of food and service — left there in December after Tallgrass Country Club made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, recruiting him as their food and beverage director. Now, The Anchor is using some of Ben’s former assistants to keep the kitchen going. (I also hear that Anchor owner Schane Gross is now looking at April as a start date for her long-awaited remodel.)

I also heard over the weekend that Gaslamp Grille & Lounge has a new chef: Terry Johnson, who’s worked at restaurants such as Cibola and Yia Yia’s and regularly wins chef cookoffs around town, is heading the Gaslamp kitchen now.

Iron Chef Wichita

Iron Chef David Wirebaugh from Harvest Kitchen/Bar.

Iron Chef David Wirebaugh from Harvest Kitchen/Bar.

The Old Town Farmers Market will be the site on Saturday of the 8th annual Iron Chef Competition, which pits local chefs against each other in a live, action-packed, mystery ingredient-filled competition.

This year’s competitors are Chef David Wirebaugh, the head chef at the Hyatt’s Harvest Kitchen/Bar; local caterer and chef-about-town Jeremy Wade, The Anchor’s Ben George, and last year’s champ, area chef Terry Johnson.

A “secret ingredient” will be revealed at 8:30 a.m. (last year’s was onions), and the chefs will have until 9:45 a.m. to shop the Farmers Market for ingredients and create a dish. Judges are Guy and Beth Bower and Sierra Scott.

The Old Town Farmers Market takes place from 7 a.m. to noon at First and Mosley streets in Old Town.