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.

New culinary program having a sweet opening

Warren Brown

Until recently, inspiring professional chefs who wanted to study close to home had to go to Johnson County Community College’s culinary arts program.

But as of this fall, there’s one in Wichita, too. Butler Community College recently added a Center for Hospitality and Culinary Arts. The program results in an associates degree, and classes are held in the recently rennovated Boston Rec Center at 6655 E. Zimmerly in Wichita.

On Tuesday, those interested can tour the building during an open house and also can see a baking demonstration by lawyer-turne-dbaker Warren Brown, the founder of CakeLove and onetime host of the Food Network show “Sugar Rush.”

The open house is from 2 to 4 p.m. with a ribbon cutting at 2:30 p.m. and the demonstration following.

The new culinary arts program is lead by executive chef John Michael, a wine expert and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. The school has a board of advisers that includes several local chefs and foodies, including Tanya Tandoc of Tanya’s Soup Kitchen, Freddy’s Frozen Custard owner Scott Redler, Beth Tully of Cocoa Dolce and Scott Nicholson, the general manager of the new Fresh Market.

Heroes has CHOCOLATE COVERED BACON

Beth Tully somehow FAILED to mention something pretty pertinent to me when we were discussing her rare Peruvian chocolate last week.

Tully’s Cocoa Dolce recently has teamed up with Heroes Sports Bar in Old Town to create an intriguing dessert option: chocolate-covered sweet pepper bacon.

Heroes started selling pre-wrapped slices of its famous sweet pepper bacon, coated in chocolate and dusted with sea salt, about a week ago. They cost $3.50 each or $9 for three strips.

I’m a sweet-n-salty-aholic, so this idea appeals to me. If you can’t get to Heroes, you could try out this recipe for bacon brownies, which I made for a River Festival fireworks party in May. Worth every calorie.

For more information, call Heroes at 316-264-4376.

Cocoa Dolce stocking rare chocolate

These decadent ganache-filled treats are shaped and colored like the rare cacao pods the chocolate comes from.

When Beth Tully asks you if you want to come sample some very rare out-of-this-world chocolate, you don’t say no. At least I don’t.

This afternoon, I went to visit with Beth, owner of Cocoa Dolce Artisan Chocolates at 2132 N. Rock Road, about a new line of chocolate she’s just started selling that’s made from some rare beans cultivated in Peru. She’s the only chocolatier in Kansas who has the stuff.

Beth Tully with her rare chocolate creations.

A friend of hers discovered it while on a visit to Peru in 2007. He came across a tree on a farm in Peru’s Marañón Canyon that was still producing rare white chocolate beans, growing in colorful football shaped pods. The beans were once thought to be extinct.

The beans, called Pure Nacional, produces an intense, 68 percent bittersweet chocolate that has a floral aroma with citric, coffee and spice notes. It’s mellow, though, with almost no bitterness. It’s the rarest of all chocolates, Tully said.

Tully has turned her stash in to “Fortunato No. 4″ chocolate bars, which cost $5 apiece, and beautiful ganache-filled chocolates, which are $3.50 apiece or come in a package of 6 for $20.

The chocolate was very good, and I had to stop myself from gobbling down more than one of the ganache-filled treats. I can’t wait to pair the bar with a glass of red wine.

Tully  just started selling the chocolate in her shop a few days ago and — bonus — she also sells glasses of red wine. For more information, call 316-866-2906.

Question of the week: Best bite of chocolate?

I’m still swooning from my Death by Chocolate experience, which has inspired this week’s question: What’s your favorite bite of chocolate in Wichita?

One of mine comes from Cocoa Dolce, who makes these amazing little dark chocolate champagne balls, coated on the outside with just the right amount of crunchy sugar. I also love the dessert called “Something Chocolate” at Redrock Canyon Grill. It features a square brownie stuffed with a square hunk of ice cream, all drowning in hot fudge.

Where does your must-have chocolate come from in Wichita? Answer in the comments section below.

Death by Chocolate: I didn’t die

Velvet Cream Bakery's Kelly Duggan, right, is on a roll lately. Not only did she win the top prize at Cocktails & Cookies last month, but she also got judges' choice at Death By Chocolate.

Saturday’s sixth annual Death by Chocolate event was, as always, a good time, even though my sugar crash was pretty severe.

Vendors go all-out for the event, which allows attendees to sample gazillions of chocolate creations, all beautifully displayed and adhering to a pirate theme. It’s a tad overwhelming, not only for the eyes but for the digestive system.

I served on a very interesting panel of judges assembled by the very interesting Joe Stumpe that included Tanya Tandoc of Tanya’s Soup Kitchen, Bonnie Aeschliman of Cooking at Bonnie’s Place, and Chuck Giles, the owner of Neighbors Bar & Grill.

We were pretty unanimous on the winners.

Judges’ Choice went to the amazing Kelly Duggan, owner of Velvet Cream Bakery. She also was the winner at Cocktails & Cookies last month, and it’s becoming apparent she knows her sweets. Her Death by Chocolate entry was an array of chewy and perfect macaroons in several flavors, including orange and lime margarita, Limoncello and Mayan chocolate.

Cocoa Dolce, which brought rum shots encased in chocolate, won not only “Most Creative Use of Chocolate,” but they also won the People’s Choice award.

Best Presentation went to Buckingham Cakes, which put out a beautiful display of beer-infused mini-cupcakes. (I tried one flavored like Blue Moon, one of my favorite brews.) And the Best Savory award, given to one of the few vendors offering non-dessert items, went to Two Brothers BBQ, which offered a delicious barbecue sandwich served with chocolate sauce.

Here are a few more pics from the event, courtesy of my date, photog Jaime Green.

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Death By Chocolate is Saturday

If there’s a good way to go, this is it.

Death by Chocolate, a sweet annual fundraiser for Exploration Place, is this Saturday at the venue, 300 N. McLean.

I’ve attended the past two years, and I can attest that this event offers the impossible:

Too. Much. Chocolate.

Last year's panel of chocolate judges included, from left, Brett Harris, Tracy Cassidy, Joe Stumpe, yours truly, Suzanne Perez Tobias and Kathy Deane.

Death by Chocolate features people all dressed up roaming the common areas of Exploration Place and sampling chocolate treats from some of Wichita’s best sweetmakers: Cocoa Dolce, Connie’s Cookies, Freddy’s Frozen Custard, the Airport Hilton, etc.

This is a place where you’ll find no-bakes next to cupcakes next to cookies covered in edible glitter. Last year, we sampled a creation we haven’t stopped thinking about since: Melted chocolate and bacon sandwiched between two pieces of French toast and topped with powdered sugar.

Though I was supposed to be a judge at the event again this year, a family obligation has taken me away, and I am pretty upset about it. Suzanne has promised to sneak a few chocolate morsels into a Ziploc baggie in her purse.

Tickets are $75 a person and include access to chocolate, non-chocolate appetizers, three open bars serving wine and beer, live music, a fashion show and a viewing of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. (As if anyone cares now! Hrmph!)

For tickets visit the Exploration Place website or call 316-660-0671.

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.

Sample the Shockolate

Shockolates_Horiz_optLocal chocolatiere Cocoa Dolce has partnered with Wichita State University for a very tasty new project with a very clever name — Shockolates!

It’s fun to say, especially of you say it with a French pronunciation (like the movie starring Juliette Binoche.)

Cocoa Dolce owner Beth Tully, who went to WSU, has created three ways to enjoy Shockolate — in milk chocolate bar form, as a solid chocolate “Wu on a Stick,” or (my preference) in a little variety box that includes six pieces, including the famous champgange ball and a chocolate bite meticulosly painted with a the image of WuShock. I taste tested them, you know, for quaility control, and can report with confidence that they taste as good as they look.

They’re available at the Cocoa Dolce store in Bradley Fair, online at www.cocoadolce.com, in the WSU Bookstore and at concession stands in Charles Koch Arena during WSU athletic events.

On Saturday, Cocoa Dolce will put on a launch party from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Bradley Fair store. Attendees can have their pictures taken with WuShock, sample Schokolates and get WSU mementos. Admission is free.

Ahem, Beth Tully, how about Jayhawkolates next?