Restaurants are embracing March Madness

UntitledSeveral Wichita restaurants are suffering from March Madness and offering their customers special discounts during the NCAA tournament.

One is Carlos O’ Kelly’s, which once again is practically giving away its queso and margaritas on days that the Shockers play in the NCAA tournament. They call it “Queso Madness,” and it starts on Friday, the first day the Shockers play in St. Louis. Since the team will be one of 64 teams playing on Friday, all Carlos O’ Kelly’s locations will sell individual chili con queso dips for 64 cents and “Mug-o-ritas” for $1.64. Should the Shocker’s advance, the deal will be offered on Sunday again, only this time the queso will be 32 cents and the Mug-0-Ritas $1.32. The promotion continues and the food and drink gets cheaper as long as the Shockers keep advancing. The deals are good all day on the days the Shocker’s play but are good for dine-in customers only.

The Carlos O’ Kelly’s at 527 S. Ridge Circle also is putting on a fundraiser for a charity called Our Daily Bread. The restaurant will be putting on a big watch party featuring $3 jumbo margaritas, $3 big beers and $3 loaded nachos all day on the opening weekend of the tournament — from Thursday through Sunday. Customers can get $1 raffle tickets for a chance to win an autographed Shocker team basketball and will have other ways for people to donate to the charity.

Knolla’s Pizza also is offering a tournament special it calls “Pizza Madness” that’s good today through March 25. It offers $5 off a total order of $20 or more.

And Newport Grill at 1900 N. Rock Road is asking customers who visit the restaurant and have lunch or dinner before Thursday to fill out a tournament bracket in the restaurant. If they do, they’ll be entered into a drawing to win a dinner for two.

Know of any other tournament specials? Speak up.

Restaurants that are open on Thanksgiving

ILLUSTRATION: ThanksgivingWithout further adieu, I offer you the 2013 list of restaurants open and serving on Thanksgiving Day.

Most are buffets, and there are new additions to the list. Siena Tuscan Steakhouse is joining in this year, and Newport Grill, which did plated meals last Thanksgiving, also has a buffet this year.

Also open: Many of the chain diners that rarely close, including IHOP, Denny’s and Villlage Inn.

Some of the Thanksgiving restaurants take reservations. Others don’t. Peruse the list and make your plans.

Newport Grill’s wine dinner: Eight courses, 16 wines, lots of competition

Newport Grill’s Iron Sommelier dinner will feature four local wine experts battling to see who can create the best wine pairings. The dinner will feature eight courses and 16 wines.

I’m told that Aaron Whitcomb, Newport Grill’s Denver-based executive chef, will be in town for the event.

Attendees will vote on the best pairings. The event is at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Newport Grill, 1900 N. Rock Road, and costs $125 a person. For reservations, call 316-636-9555.

Check out the menu for the evening… but only if you can handle getting very, very hungry.

Read More »

New lineup of chefs at Bonnie’s Place

Chef Kevin Gillenwater of Crown Uptown will be Cooking at Bonnie’s Place.

Bonnie Aeschliman, who owns Cooking At Bonnie’s Place at 9747 E. 21st St N., has signed up a new batch of chefs to offer classes at her cooking school.

Among them is well-known local chef Kevin Derks, who heads the kitchen at Newport Grill, 1900 N. Rock Road. His class, scheduled for Tuesday, is called “A Taste of Provence Ala Newport Grill” and will include a demonstration of French cooking skills. The menu will include Provencal scallops, and Derks also will make banana pecan bread pudding.  Admission is $55, and the class starts at 6:30 p.m.

Aeschliman also has added Kevin Gillenwater, who leads the kitchen at the Crown Uptown Dinner Theatre, to her roster. His class is called “Four Season Dinner” and will include a four course dinner with one course representing each season. His class is $50 a person and starts at 6:3o p.m. on Nov. 12.

O.J. Moore also will return to Bonnie’s on Nov. 10 for a class focusing on tips and techniques he uses in his roll as executive chef at YaYa’s Euribistro at 8115 E. 21st St.. His class is at 6:30 p.m. and is $50.

The school also is offering a long list of classes that Aeschliman will cook herself focusing on topics such as appetizers, making hot rolls, Christmas dinner and Thanksgiving dinner.

To make reservations for any of the classes, call 316-425-5223.

Wichita’s 10 best restaurant patios

Happy people dining outdoors at Newport Grill

I don’t know if you all caught the Perfect Summer section in Sunday’s paper. It was a fat, 72-pager, and it was filled with lots of good restaurant news.

One story I wanted to make sure you didn’t miss was one I wrote about my favorite outdoor dining spots in Wichita.

Wichita restaurants have lots of nice patios, and the tiny window when you can properly enjoy them — after it warms up but before the flies and sweaty temperatures arrive — is closing quickly.

Check out my list, and see if your favorite patio made it. You also can read stories I wrote about the best beer and wine for summer, ideas for throwing outdoor summer foodie parties, and a list of places you can take summer cooking classes.

And if you want to get up close and personal with the Cake Face folks, you can read about their idea of a perfect picnic.

Blooms, Brews & Bloody Marys and brrrrrrrrrrs

The Flying Stove’s Jeff Schauf at last year’s Blooms, Brews & Bloody Marys

I’m excited about attending Friday night’s Second Annual Blooms, Brews & Bloody Marys at Botanica– though I’m not very excited about the non-springlike forecast. A 51 degree high on May 3? Unacceptable!

The event was fun last year and featured local restaurants such as Newport Grill, The Anchor and Scotch & Sirloin, competing to make the best Bloody Mary. The Candle Club won with a traditional concoction floating with green beans, gherkins and a hunk of beef jerky.

Those who have a $40 ticket will be invited to roam the grounds sampling each of the Bloody Marys, or if they choose, stopping for a beer. The best part: The Flying Stove food truck is catering, which means the Schauf boys will put out a whole lot of their best dishes, which patrons can just walk up and take. That’s worth the price of admission all on its own.

This year’s event starts at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Botainca, 701 N. Amidon It will include live music by Spirit of the Stairs, beer provided by Wichita Brewing Company and River City Brewery, and lots of Bloody Marys, made using sponsor Pinnacle’s vodka.

Tickets are $40 and available at 316-264-0448 or by visiting

The Candle Club’s winning Blood Mary from last year

A Valentine’s dining guide for procrastinators

If you’re one of the brave souls opting to brave the Feb. 14 restaurant crowds, I applaud you. Please let me know how that goes.

But if you’re a procrastinator — or just don’t like fighting for air on the busiest dining day of the year — several restaurants are planning to extend their Valentines Day offerings throughout the weekend. (I’m going for Bocconcini’s dinner because I simply must have that chocolate ravioli, but I’m going on Friday instead.)

Following are some of the restaurants offering specials for those who are putting off their celebrations a bit.

Abuelo’s, 1413 N. Waterfront Parkway, 316-634-2230: The Mexican restaurant is offering a dinner-for-two special good through Sunday that includes fajitas plus a choice of dessert for $29.99.

AVI Seabar & Chophouse, inside the Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview, 135 N. Waco, 316-262-3300: The restaurant is serving a $79-a-couple meal that includes choice of appetizer, salad, filet mignon with coconut shrimp or grilled or blackened salmon with coconut shrimp plus a dessert to share and one glass of champagne each. The special is available from 5 p.m. to close through Saturday, and the regular menu will be available as well. Call for reservations.

Bocconcini Italian Eatery, 4811 E. Central, 316-613-2523: The Italian restaurant is running a special four-course Valentine’s Day meal through Saturday. It’s $35 a couple without alcohol or $55 with choice of a bottle of red wine, white wine or prosecco. The dinner includes choices for each course, and among the entree options are lemon chicken, pork saltimbocca and pancetta-wrapped salmon. Call for reservations.

Hereford House, 1400 Terradyne Drive, Andover, 316-733-7800: The restaurant has a standing offer of a four-course dinner for two for $65. Call for reservations.

Newport Grill, 1900 N. Rock Road, 316-636-9555: Newport will offer a special Valentine’s Day dinner from 4 to 10 p.m. through Saturday. It’s $50 a person and includes a steak and lobster dinner, a salad and a dessert of chocolate terrine with a raspberry coulis. The regular menu also is available, and those diners can add the dessert for $6. Reservations are recommended.

Zaytun, 2020 N. Woodlawn, 316-613-2474: The Indian/Pakistani/Turkish restaurant will be serving a four-course meal for $25 a person from 5 to 9 p.m. through Saturday. Among the several entree choices are tandoori chicken masala and Australian lamb shank. Call for reservations.

My close encounter with $$ truffles $$

This is the face of a chef who’s less than 24 hours away from getting to cook with a rare and expensive ingredient.

I stopped by Newport Grill last night, not only because it was $5 martini night (and that place has some pretty amazing martinis) but also because executive chef Aaron Whitcomb was in town. I met Whitcomb this summer when I wrote a story about his fun and informative cooking class at Cooking At Bonnie’s Place, and the manager told me he’d be back in town on Tuesday. Whitcomb, the executive corporate chef for Wichita’s Newport Grill, lives in Denver and also oversees Ya Ya’s Eurobistro restaurants in Kansas City and Little Rock. He comes to Wichita every couple of months.

Whitcomb is in town this time because he’s cooking a big-deal private charity dinner tonight for 50 people who support Youth Entrepreneurs of Kansas. Because the dinner’s a big deal, he wanted to do something special, he said.

Here are the truffles. For your sake, I wish this picture was scratch-n-sniff.

He emerged from the kitchen last night gleefully cradling a small plastic container filled with rice. “Look what I got,” he said, opening the container and waving it under my nose.


But not just any truffles. Imported white Italian truffles that cost $100 an ounce. Whitcomb had nine ounces of them, nestled among the grains of rice in the container.

He’d carefully transported his $900 worth of truffles from Denver with him in his luggage and was busy dreaming up ways to use them in tonight’s dinner.

I’ve never so badly wished I was a supporter of Youth Entrepreneurs of Kansas. But I’ll settle for my up-close whiff of such a rare treat.

Question of the week: Coveted restaurant recipe?

Here's Chef Aaron Whitcomb just before he revealed his amazing scallop recipe.

Back in the day, my former colleague Joe Stumpe used to persuade local chefs to share recipes from their restaurants. He’d publish them at Christmastime as as a gift to readers. Many years, it was the best gift I got.

I attended a cooking class lead by Newport Grill’s corporate chef Aaron Whitcomb last night, and he shared a recipe for scallops with vanilla corn sauce, frisee and charred corn relish that he hinted could be added to the menu this summer. (ADD IT, CHEF!) The very valuable recipe sheet he distributed now will go in my collection along side my other very valuable chef-issued recipes.

This week’s question: What local restaurant recipe would you most like to have? I want the salad dressing from La Gallette, and now that we’re talking, Chef Whitcomb, I’d take the directions for those rock shrimp cigars, too.

Let me know what recipe you wish you had and we’ll see if we can pressure some chefs to share.

Answer in the comments section below.

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.