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.

Next week’s Celeb & Chef Cookoff one of the fun fundraisers

The 11th annual Celebrity & Chef Cookoff, a popular fundraising event for the Orpheum Theatre, is just a week away, and I’m pretty excited for this one.

I get to be a judge this year, which means I’ll help my co-judges, local chef Tanya Tandoc and AIWF’s Beth Bower, choose the best cuisine prepared by teams of Wichita celebrities paired with Wichita chefs. (Above, see a video I co-produced from the 2010 event.)

Over the course of the year, I visit several foodie fundraisers, and this one is among the most fun. It’s full of good drinks, good food and — best of all — the excitement of watching local chefs in action. The celeb/chef teams compete “Iron Chef” style to come up with the best dish on the spot. A secret ingredient is revealed at the beginning of the contest.

This year’s chefs include Nathan Toubia of Bocconcini Italian Eatery, Peter Moretti of the Wichita Marriott, Kevin Derks of Newport Grill, Ben George of Tallgrass Country Club, Jake Lippincott of The Petroleum Club, John Fitzthum of The Candle Club, Marshall Roth of Treat America at Beech Activity Center and defending champ Jason Febres of Taste and See.

Among the celebs who’ve agreed to help cook: U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo and Jody Horner, president of Cargill Meat Solutions. My bud Bonnie Bing will emcee.

The event, which also will include prize drawings and auctions, is scheduled for 6 p.m. next Tuesday, June 12, at the Wichita Marriott Hotel, 9100 E. Corporate Hills Drive. Tickets are $75 a person and available at the Orpheum’s website or by calling 316-263-0884.

Two beer dinners and a wine dinner

Three more chances to sample beer, wine and food for one price are approaching over the next couple of weeks.

On Thursday, Mike’s Wine Dive at 4714 E. Douglas is putting on a “Luck of the Irish” Bushmills Irish whiskey and beer tasting. It will start at 7 p.m. and will feature Irish hors d’oeuvres plus samples of several Bushmills whiskeys plus beers such as Smithwicks, Harp and Guinness. Admission is $30 a person, and reservations are required by calling 316-613-2772.

On Sunday, Bocconcini Italian Eatery at 4811 E. Central is offering a wine dinner that features five courses paired with five wines. The main entree course is a porcini rubbed filet with grilled asparagus and risotto, paired with an Allegrini Palazzo Delle Torre. It starts at 6 p.m. and is $65 a person. For reservations, call 316-613-2523.

Then, on March 27, Ya Ya’s at 8115 E. 21st St. is having a “Be Green” Anderson Valley beer dinner. The restaurant will offer five courses, each paired with an Anderson Valley beer. It’s $60 a person, and reservations can be made by calling 316-634-1000.

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.

Read More »

Question of the week: Biggest dining development in 2011?

Bocconcini Italian Eatery was one of many restaurants that opened in Wichita in 2011.

My story for Friday’s dining page in Go! is a look back at many of the most exciting/upsetting/oddball developments on the Wichita restaurant scene in 2011. From openings (Tanya’s Soup Kitchen, A.V.I.) to closings (Kwan Court, Johnny Carino’s) to undeniable trends (frozen yogurt, anyone?), the year was anything but dull.

My question for you: Which event did you think was the most interesting or significant? You can read my story for ideas or nominate your own.

Answer in the comments section below.

Sugar Sisters has reopened in Delano

The new Sugar Sisters awning

Hello! I’m back, and I have some sweet news.

Sugar Sisters, the restaurant and bakery that used to operate in the space at 4811 E. Central now occupied by Bocconcini Italian Eatery, has reopened at 917 W. Douglas in Delano. The business closed last January after struggling with finances and service issues.

But owner Kelli Sykes said that’s all behind her. She opened the doors on Dec. 16 and has hired cheerful, energetic people to work with her, she said. She’s serving a more streamlined menu, the star of which is the giant bierocks (served with or without cabbage) that were a hit at the previous Sugar Sisters incarnation. You can check out the full menu, which also includes salads, quiches and several sweet treats, by clicking here.

Sugar Sisters hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. There’s seating inside for about 14.

For more information, call 316-519-3814 or visit the Sugar Sisters Facebook page.

Now open: Ciao Italian Kitchen

I’m getting a lot of questions about Ciao Italian Kitchen, the new restaurant that opened a couple of weeks ago in the space at 1720 N. Webb Road left vacant by Press. (And Sabor before that. And Piztro’s before that.)

I spoke yesterday with owner Guillermo Perez-Munoz,who told me that the restaurant opened on Sept. 29. Ciao is still waiting on its liquor license but in the meantime is serving a menu filled with Italian comfort food dishes such as lasagna, chicken Marsala, gnocchi, pizza and more. You can see the full menu here. Warning: It’s huge.

Perez-Munoz has remodeled the interior a bit, he said, moving the bar and adding booths. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. You can reach the restaurant by calling 316-613-2426.

Can I be honest with you? With the opening of Bocconcini, Luca Italian Kitchen, Italian Bistro and now Ciao, I’m getting a little concerned about all the Italian food eating on my horizon, calorically speaking. It’s a tough job…

Learn to cook with the pros

There’s all sorts of cooking school awesomeness going on in Wichita over the next couple of weeks.

One is over at Cooking at Bonnie’s Place, where on Tuesday, chef Nathan Toubia of Bocconcini Italian Eatery will demonstrate how to make some of his specialties, including pancetta-wrapped shrimp, polenta cakes with red garlic sauce and panna cotta. His class is at 6:30 p.m. and costs $45 a person. To make a reservation, visit Bonnie’s website.

Another is the Taste of Home Cooking School, which is in its second year at Hartman Arena. The show is from 3 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 14, and will feature cooking demonstrations, shopping and prizes geared for home cooks. Tickets are $15 at the door or $12 in advance at Ashley Furniture Home Store, 10711 W. 21st N. or at Furniture on Consignment 4502 E. 13th St.

Bocconcini’s first wine dinner

Bocconcini Italian Eatery, the popular neighborhood restaurant at 4811 E. Central owned by Nathan Toubia, is putting on its first wine dinner at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.

It’s $65 a person and will feature a five-course meal, each course paired with a wine. Among the dishes: a cured salmon salad with shaved fennel and orange, and braised short ribs on a bed of fresh spaetzle.

Advance credit card payments are required by calling 316-613-2523. If you think you can handle it, you can drool over the full menu here.

Question of the week: Wichita’s best pasta dish

This week, I’m reviewing Bocconcini Italian Eatery, a charming and popular new Italian restaurant at 4811 E. Central that offers a nice list of pasta dishes. (Though none of them are spaghetti and meatballs. In fact, red sauce is rare on Nathan Toubia’s menu.)

This week’s question: Which Wichita restaurant serves the very best pasta dish, and what is it?

Please describe your nominee in all its saucy detail in the comments section below.