Melad Stephan buys Caffe Moderne, puts Hopping Pita on hold

The Hopping Pita is closed for now. Future: Uncertain.

Melad Stephan’s Empire Restaurant Management group is in flux at the moment as he tries to prioritize the needs at his various businesses, he said.

About 10 days ago, he said, he finalized a deal to completely buy out Janet and Grant Rine, the founders of Caffe Moderne at 300 N. Mead. Stephan partnered with them in June of 2011 and has been running the restaurant ever since. Now that it’s all his, he’s going to start using its kitchen for his Empire catering business and stop using the one at Revolution Rock Bar.

Another change: He’s put the Hopping Pita, a food truck he started with chef Roni Attari in April, on hold. He wants a bigger, more efficient truck, he said, and he’s put his original truck on Craigslist, asking for $20,000 or the best offer he can get.

He’s also not sure if Attari is still planning to work for him. The chef was interviewing for another job, he said, and he hasn’t heard what the outcome was. (I’ve left two messages for Attari but haven’t heard back.)

Stephan says he plans to reopen the Hopping Pita eventually but that it’s not at the top of his priority list right now.

“I’m so busy, I don’t know which direction I’m going these days,” he said.

As for Caffe Moderne, Stephan said he plans to keep the name and the concept the same. He may eventually get a new sign and plans to add new menu items for fall.

Stephan also owns Sabor and Oeno Wine Bar in Old Town Square. He closed his fine dining Italian restaurant, Luca Italian Kitchen, in August.

Stay tuned for updates on the fate of The Hopping Pita.

Events for oenophiles in June

There’s lots of wine to be consumed in June, whether you prefer yours with a four-course dinner or a side of yoga.

Here are some events to put on your calendar.

1. Wine and Yoga: Oeno Wine Bar at 330 N. Mead has started a weekly yoga class that also features a wine tasting in its champagne room. It’s staged every Monday at 7 p.m. and features an hour of yoga led by Olga Khakova followed by light hors’ douevres and three wine samples. Admission is $15 a person, and reservations are recommended by calling 316-440-5000.

2. Bocconcini wine dinner: The next wine dinner at Bocconcini, 4811 E. Central, is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Sunday. It’ll feature four courses paired with wines from Banfi. For reservations, call 316-613-2523.

3. Dinner for Friends: Taste & See, 3825 E. Harry, will be the home of a 6:30 p.m. June 17 fundraiser dinner for Positive Directions. Chef Jason Febres will prepare a five-course dinner, and two wine pairings will be provided by Standard Beverage. Tickets are $60 or $75 for front-row seats. A cash bar also will be available. Reservations are required by calling 316-263-2214, extension 108.

4. Cocktail Tasting: Auburn Spirits is putting on a cocktail tasting from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. June 18 Tuesday at Rolling Hills Country Club, 223 S. Westlink. It’ll include mixology lessons on mixing summer spirits plus samples of six cocktails. Tickets are $20 and include the drink recipes. Reservations are required by June 17 by calling 316-440-1111.

Oeno gets Cajun on Saturday night

Oeno, the wine bar at 330 N. Mead, will put on its annual Cajun buffet, featuring music by the Mudbugs Cajun & Zydeco Band, on Saturday night.

The buffet will feature gumbo, a crawfish boil with corn and potatoes, red beans and rice, dirty rice and more and will cost $20 a person, which includes the cover to see the band. Those not taking part in the buffet will pay $5.

The buffet starts at 7 p.m., and the band will play from 8 to 11 p.m. For more information, call 316-440-5000.

Valentine’s meal: a week, three days away

This week, I’m busy gathering up information on all the special Valentine’s Day meals being offered around Wichita, and it seems like there are more than usual this year.

The options range from fancy prix fixe meals at places such as The Ambassador’s Siena Tuscan Steakhouse and the Kansas Star Casino’s Woodfire Grille to a funky cheese and beer pairing/ movie screening by Tallgrass Film Festival at the Anchor. A couple of places are putting on wine dinners, including Oeno Wine Bar, which is calling its “Crush.”

Look for the completed list on this blog by Wednesday and in the paper on Friday, then make your reservations.

E-mail me if you are aware of an event that should be included.

January wining and dining

The Cabernet Sauvignon will be flowing at Hereford House on Thursday.

Two wine dinners are coming up, and both have my Monday morning taste buds on high alert.

One is an event scheduled for Thursday at Hereford House, inside the Terradyne Country Club in Andover and put on by the Wichita chapter of the American Institute of Wine & Food. 

The event will feature Casidy Ward from the Hidden Ridge Vineyard, who will pour the vineyard’s well-regarded Cabernet Sauvignon, along with several other wines. The event also will feature a four-course meal plus appetizers and dessert.

It’s $7o for AIWF members and $85 for non-members. Call 316-682-5502 for reservations and information.

Oeno Wine Bar at 330 N. Mead also is planning a wine tasting called “Indulge” and scheduled for Jan. 26. It’s $35 a person and features a three-course tasting, each course paired with wine, plus dessert. For reservations, call 316-440-5000.

Eat a pig, have a beer, meet a chef

November, the most delicious month of the year, is starting off deliciously with several interesting dining events.

I love the logo Oeno Wine Bar, 330 N. Mead, came up with for its Pig Out Swine & Wine dinner, scheduled for 7 p.m Saturday.  will feature all the best parts of the big, including a pig ear salad, crisp pork belly and bacon and maple gelato. It costs $35 a person, a three of the courses will be paired with wine. It starts at 7 p.m. For reservations and information, call 316-440-5000.

A few days later, Oeno’s sister restaurant — Caffe Moderne, which sits across the plaza at 300 N. Mead, is putting on a Tallgrass Beer Dinner featuring beer from Tallgrass Brewing Company. It’s $35 a person and starts at 7 p.m. Thursday For information, and reservations, call 316-260-1199.

Chef Aaron Whitcomb during his last class at Cooking at Bonnie’s Place

Also, I’d recommend the Nov. 15 cooking class being put on at Cooking At Bonnie’s Place,  9747 E. 21st St., by Chef Aaron Whitcomb of Denver, who is the executive chef for Newport Grill. I attended his last class this summer so I could write a story, and I learned tips from him I still use today. Plus, the food was delicious.

This one will start at  6:30 p.m., and attendees get to see Whitcomb prepare a meal and then sample it for themselves. They also get the recipes. He’ll post the menu soon. Admission is $55 a person. Make reservations at www.cookingatbonnies.com.