Culinary students sweep Cocktails & Cookies

Tiffani Price, the coordinator of the Butler Community College Center for Hospitality and Culinary Arts, and Gregory Cole, an instructor

I was a judge at Friday night’s Cocktails & Cookies event, a fundraiser for the Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland that asked local chefs to turn Girl Scout cookies into something even more fabulous.

They did. It was hard to choose a winner from all the peanut buttery, coconut-y, chocolate-y, mint-y goodness on the tables at the Wichita Scottish Rite Center. Places such as Cero’s, Cocoa Dolce, Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Doo Dah Diner made items ranging from cake pops to French macaroons to ice cream sandwiches. My co-judges Tanya Tandoc, Guy Bower and I were sugared to the point of delirium by the time we were finished sampling everything.

The amazing peanut buttery winner

The big winner of the evening was the brand new Butler Community College Center for Hospitality and Culinary Arts. Students and staff from the program, which launched this fall, won not only the judges’ choice category but also the peoples’ choice.

They made a perfect layered dessert that utilized three Girl Scout cookie varieties: Thanks-A-Lots, Caramel deLites and Peanut Butter Patties.

Congrats to the winners. Also, a little bit of trivia: Gregory Cole, the enthusiastic instructor who accompanied the students to the competition, is the founder of Little Bits cookie company.

Febres commits a Celeb & Chef Cookoff three-peat

Tanya Tandoc, right, announces Taste & See's Jason Febres the winner of the cookoff.

As I stated earlier, the Celebrity & Chef Cookoff, a benefit for the Orpheum that happens each summer at the Corporate Hills Marriott, is one of the must fun fundraisers put on in Wichita.

I was a judge for last night’s event, along with Chef Tanya Tandoc and Beth Bower of the American Institute of Wine and Food, and our job was hard. We had to taste the dishes come up with on the spot in 45 minutes by eight teams of local chefs paired with well-known Wichitans, who worked as their sous chefs.

The experiment Febres conducted in these test tubes was a total success.

Though we didn’t want to be predictable, the dish prepared by Taste & See’s Chef Jason Febres was definitely the best. He’s already won the past two years, so we tried everything we could think of to talk ourselves out of giving him the title again. But we couldn’t. He created a four-course tasting that included a fried egg/scallop/bacon combo and a test tube gazpacho shooter. His flavors were all clean and fabulous.

We also loved the dishes prepared by The Petroleum Club’s Jake Lippincott, who along with partner Kelly Uran of Bank of the West, made a delectable salmon and scallop duo. And the dish by Kevin Derks of Newport Grill included some amazing fried potato and brussels sprouts shavings that I’d love to eat again. His partner was Splurge magazine publisher Jody Klein.

The event also included plentiful samples of dishes from restaurants all over Wichita, including Lotus Leaf Cafe & , The Anchor, Cero’s, Two Brothers BBQ and more.

Here are a few pictures from the event.

Congressman Mike Pompeo, right, was paired with Marshall Roth, the executive chef of Treat America at Beech Activity Center.

Splurge magazine publisher Jody Klein, right, and her partner chef, Kevin Derks of Newport Grill, prepared another of our favorite dishes.

The judges: Tanya Tandoc, Beth Bower and me.

Bocconcini's chef Nathan Toubia with his partner, the WSU Foundation's Elizabeth King. The duo prepared a homemade ravioli.

Event emcees Dick Honeyman and his wife Bonnie Bing.

The Petroleum Club's Jake Lippincott, with his partner Kelly Uran, made a delicious salmon/scallop duo.

Tallgrass Country Club chef Ben George.

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.

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Cocktails & Cookies: What a sugar rush

My photography does not do this winning dessert from Hereford House justice. Also, please pardon my thumb.

I judged a fun event last night called Cocktails & Cookies, a fundraiser for The Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland that included a challenge for local chefs: Make the best possible dessert using Girl Scout Cookies as one (or more) of the ingredients.

Five restaurants entered the competition: Cocoa Dolce, Freddy’s Frozen Custard, Hereford House, Newport Grill and Cero’s.

My mission: To taste all the desserts and pick my favorite, then sit on a stage, trembling from sugar overload, and explain why I liked what I liked. What can I say? It’s a tough job…

The clear winner was Hereford House’s offering: A chocolate and brown butter banana cake with caramel sauce, brulee of bananas, and cinnamon ice cream. Chef Eric Hyre put four different cookies into the concoction, and it was amazing — especially the buttery brulee.

Here are a few other pictures from the evening:

Hereford House chef Eric Hyre shows off his creation.

Cocoa Dolce offered an amazing bite of sweet and salty chocolatey-ness called "The Kitchen Sink and the Baby, Too."

The Newport Grill team, including chef Aaron Whicomb (second from left), presented a lovely bite of lemon goodness that used the Lemonade Girl Scout Cookie.

Palette to Palate post with pictures

On Saturday, I attended Palette to Palate, a new foodie fundraiser that was co-organized by my friend and colleague Bonnie Bing. It drew more than 200 people for a wine and food tasting and an art and wine auction at the Wichita Scottish Rite and raised a whole buncha money for KETCH.

Several interesting developments came out of the evening. One was that I finally got to meet Paul Freimuth, who recently replaced David Wirebaugh as the head chef at the Hyatt’s Harvest Kitchen/Bar. He brought some fabulous little bites of food, including a polenta crouton with shrimp and Cajun remoulade (I could have eaten the whole tray of those) and a duck canape with mango chow chow and roasted red pepper cream cheese.

Clearly, he’s a good cook, and I’m happy to see that Freimuth is going to make the same kind of effort Wirebaugh did to get involved in charity events.

Chef Paul Freimuth in polenta action.

I also spent some time talking to local restaurateur Melad Stephan, who provided over mini beef Wellingtons, hummus and more from his Uptown Bistro. He had some interesting things to say, which I hope I can elaborate on later this week.

Newport Grill had some great shrimp and eggrolls at the event, and Cero’s and Cocoa Dolce sent over lots of chocolate. The Corporate Hills Marriott sent over a massive ice scupture and put out a raw oyster bar that also included shrimp shooters (above.) And Monica of Monica’s Bundt Cakes provided a nicely decorated KETCH cake.

It also was fun to watch people bidding big money on expensive bottles of wine. Local wine expert Jamie Stratton was there, guiding people through the process.

The group hopes to make the Palette to Palate and annual event, so start saving your auction pennies now.

Melad and me.

KETCH president an CEO Ron Pasmore, Bonnie, Kathy Krumsick and her husband Herb Krumsick, who co-chaired the event with Bonnie.