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 »

Everyone loves a pastry chef

My story for this week’s Go! section, which prints in the morning, is about Kira Ottaway, a young pastry chef and Derby native who is mixing up decadent creations at both Luca Italian Kitchen and GreenAcres Market.

I became aware of her when her mom called to note that I’d left out mention of the desserts in my review of Luca. I immediately decided to write about Kira, not only because Wichita has so few female chefs but also because she has one of my dream jobs. Making dessert for a living? Every day? What could be better??

When I went to talk to Kira, it was the morning of Valentine’s Day. She was busy in the Luca kitchen coating brownies in beautiful chocolate ganache. I had to dance around as I watched to avoid the frantic cooks trying to prepare sauces and breads for the busy dining day. Chef Gianluca Sciagata was in the back wielding a huge knife. I love seeing behind the scenes at a restaurant, and the Valentine’s Day vibe was particularly fascinating.

Kira was earnest and sweet and very sincere. I hope you enjoy reading about her as much as I enjoyed writing about her.

Win tickets to A Night on the Red Carpet

The third annual “A Night on the Red Carpet” party is scheduled for Feb. 26 at Abode Venue, 1330 E. Douglas, and the Eagle has two pair of tickets to give away.

It’s a fun, black-tie optional party that this year will feature food from Carrabba’s, Larkspur and Luca Italian Kitchen plus drinks, a showing of the 84th Annual Academy awards, local celebrities on the “red carpet,” live music and a live and silent auction. Today, I was promoted to emcee of the party (eeeeep!!!!!) after Sierra Scott declared herself indisposed.

If you want to enter to win a set of tickets, visit the Kansas.com Facebook page and scroll down till you find the giveaway. All you have to do is hit “like” on the post. We’ll randomly choose winners at noon on Feb. 20.

The party doubles as a fundraiser for Episcopal Social Services. Tickets are $75 a person or $850 for a table of 10. More information about the party can be found at http://www.esswichita.org

The picture with this post, taken at last year’s party of me and my friend, Kim, is featured on the website about the event, I discovered today. The odd thing about this party: Although I always have fun, I leave having no idea who won the Oscars. Oh well. That’s why DVRs were invented.

Nine restaurants shared recipes for “official” Wichita cookbook

If you’ve lived in Wichita for very long, you’ve either sampled or cooked a recipe from the Junior League’s popular and well-circulated 1995 cookbook, “Women of Great Taste. It has a picture of the Mona Lisa spearing a tomato with a fork on the cover and many very good recipes inside.

Now, the Junior League has a new cookbook out. It’s called “Pinches & Dashes: Recipes & Life Measures” and includes recipes for everything from special-occasion dinners to fast weeknight meals.

The formerly most popular Wichita cookbook

It also includes recipes provided by nine local restaurants: Caffe Moderne, Chester’s Chophouse, Freddy’s Frozen Custard, Newport Grill, Luca Italian Kitchen, River City Brewery, Sabor, Watermark Books & Café and YaYa’s EuroBistro.

The book is $28.95 and is available at places such as Watermark Books and The Plaid Giraffe or online at jlwichita.org. Proceeds will go toward organizations that combat child abuse.

And get this — Mayor Carl Brewer has named the book the official cookbook of Wichita. This is a relief to me because I have always wondered what our city’s official cookbook was.

A full week of Scotch, wine and courses

Several local restaurants are doing their part to help you get your stomach expanded and your tolerance increased just in time for Thanksgiving.

During the next few days, three wine events and a Scotch tasting are planned at local restaurants. Here are some of your choices:

Chapada Chop House, 2142 N. Tyler Road: The new restaurant is putting on a single malt Scotch tasting with guest speaker Robert Sickler at 6:30 p.m. tonight. The event will feature five Scotch whiskeys and heavy appetizers. Admission is $35 a person. Make reservations at 316-201-4694.

Hangar One, 5925 W. Kellogg: The restaurants monthly Wine Flight Dinner is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday and will feature five courses with wine. Admission is $39.99 a person. Make reservations at 316-941-4900.

Carrabba’s, 3409 N. Rock Road: Carrabba’s monthly wine tasting also is on Wednesday. It’s at  6:30 p.m. and will include five to six wines paired with five to six small plates. It’s $35 a person. Call 316-315-0777 for reservations.

Luca Italian Kitchen, 301 N. Mead: The restaurant’s “Terra” dinner is at 7 p.m.  on Thursday and will feature four courses paired with wines. Tickets $65 a person at 316-262-3232.

Know of any others coming up? Let me know and I”ll put them on my wine and beer events 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…

Question of the week: Best WichItalian dish

Mickey Afsharpour with Capellini De Angelo at Marchello's.

This week, I’ve written my dining story about the Italian food renaissance that’s underway in Wichita. After a long period of losing our lasagna purveyors, we’re making a comeback. Luca Italian Eatery opened two weeks ago, and by the end of the summer, we’ll have Italian Bistro and Bocconcini as well.

It got me thinking about the delicious Italian dishes served now in Wichita in places such as Luciano’s, Sweet Basil, DeFazio’s, Marchello’s and more.

Which local Italian dish is your favorite? Tell me the specific dish and which restaurant it comes from.

Also, throw my nomination in the hat for Marchello’s melty, amazing lasagna.

Make your nomination in the comments section below.

A look inside Luca

The lunch serving of gnocchi at Luca Italian Kitchen.

Today was the first day for lunch at Luca Italian Kitchen, the new Italian restaurant where Uptown Bistro used to be at 301 N. Mead.

I went to check out lunch and was overall pleased with my gnocchi, pillowy potato puffs mixed with bites of homemade mozzarella and covered in homemade red sauce and basil. It was $11.

The inside was bright and attractive, and the place was packed. And the natural light was begging me to take pictures. So I did.

Luca's dining room is bright and cheery at lunchtime.

A peek at the Luca menu

Luca Italian Kitchen, the new restaurant Melad Stephan opened Friday in the former Uptown Bistro space at 301 N. Mead in Old Town Square, has been getting buzz all weekend.

Four or five local foodies either e-mailed me or told me over the weekend that the food was very good, and all credit the talents of chef Gianluca Sciagata, for whom the restaurant is named. (He makes his own mozzarella, people.)

I’m looking forward to trying it, especially the bistecca Tagliata and the proscuitto e rucola pizza. (Take a look at the full lunch menu and the full dinner menu.)

Starting Wednesday, the restaurant’s hours will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays. Tonight and Tuesday, the restaurant is open only for dinner starting at 5 p.m.

Call 316-262-3232 for more information.

New restaurant, new patio, new owner

Luca Italian Kitchen in Old Town Square should be open in about 15 days.

There’s all kinds of news in Melad Stephan’s dining world

Stephan, who owns Oeno and Sabor and the soon-to-open Luca Italian Kitchen in Old Town Square, plus Press out east at the Waterfront at 13th and Webb, recently sold one of his restaurants — Egg Cetera, the breakfast restaurant at 242 N. Mosley that he’s owned since June of 2005. (I’m working on getting information on the new owner. So far, all I know is that his name is Manuel.)

“I just need to not worry at 6 o’ clock in the morning,” Stephan said of his desire to sell the breakfast and lunch restaurant. “I have enough worries from 9 to 2.”

I drove past Luca today, and it’s coming along nicely. Stephan says he hopes to have it open by June 14 or 15. When I visited, workers were painting shelves, and when I peeked inside, I could see that Stephan is reconfiguring the space to make it look different from its former incarnation as Uptown Bistro. The menu is coming together, created by Gianluca Sciagata, the restaurant’s new Italian chef, who moved here from Aspen, Colo. Stephan says he’s most excited about tasting the chef’s homemade mozzarella and homemade pastas.

Sabor's pretty new patio, which faces Old Town Square.

Also, Stephan finally has his patio at Sabor opened, with seating for about 25. It’s a very pretty little patio, and Stephan says he has approval to put one on the front side of Luca as well. He also has obtained approval to expand his Oeno patio all the way back past the side of his new banquet room, and once he prices fencing, he’ll get started on that project.

Once Stephan sends me the Luca menu, I’ll share more details.